Abortion Compassion Israel Barack Obama is the clear choice

I was a Hillary supporter — not because Sen. Clinton is a woman, but because I liked her policies and record.

Now, as an American, a woman and a Jew, I am firmly in the Obama-Biden camp.

Sen. John McCain is a firm pro-lifer, having voted against choice more than 120 times. His running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

This view potentially conflicts with Jewish law, which holds that when there is a threat to the life of the mother, her life takes precedence over that of her fetus, and leaves abortion decisions up to a woman and her rabbi.

However, McCain’s views on abortion are not my primary reason for opposing him.

The Torah repeatedly instructs us to care for the “widow, orphan, poor and the stranger.” It is fundamental to Judaism that those who are blessed with more have an obligation to help those who have less.

How then could I support McCain, who has voted against the minimum wage at least 10 times, whose health-care program would leave millions uninsured and who would tax the health insurance benefits we now receive from our employers? How could I support someone who supports more tax cuts for the very wealthy and almost nothing for the middle class or the poor?

Then, of course, there is Israel.

Obama’s record has earned him praise from AIPAC and Israeli leaders, as well as condemnation from Palestinian leaders. The recently defunct, solidly pro-Israel New York Sun declared in an editorial earlier this year: “Mr. Obama’s commitment to Israel, as he has articulated it so far in his campaign, is quite moving and a tribute to the broad, bipartisan support that the Jewish state has in America.”

Leaders in Israel from Ehud Barak to Benjamin Netanyahu do not fear Obama’s commitment to Israel. Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader, told the Jerusalem Post that he was “impressed with Obama’s understanding of the Iranian threat,” and that he and Obama agreed on the importance of “preventing a nuclear Tehran.”

What about the famous “experience” difference? David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, compared his recent interviews with McCain and Obama.

On his whirlwind visit to Israel, “McCain, one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs, chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview,” Horowitz wrote, and “looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.”

Horowitz’s meeting with Obama was markedly different. Obama “spoke with only a single aide in his hotel room.” (The aide’s one contribution was to suggest that Obama and Horowitz switch seats, so the Post photographer would have better lighting.)

Obama did not lack for Mideast advisers. Dennis Ross, President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East and one who is widely respected for his knowledge and commitment to a secure peace settlement, and Daniel Kurtzer, the former ambassador to Israel and former Yeshiva University dean, were “hovering in the vicinity,” Horowitz wrote, but they were not in the room. Horowitz observed that Obama “knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects.”

Many Jews, myself included, were deeply disturbed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s most controversial comments and glad that Obama forcefully and publicly denounced them.

Finally, let’s talk about race. While no one should vote for Obama simply because he is black, the fact that a black man is a nominee for the highest office in the land is an affirmation that at long last, some of the final barriers of discrimination are crumbling. For Jews, it is another reminder of the blessings this country has offered them and other minorities.

For me, the choice is clear. Barack Obama for president.

Deborah E. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of “History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving.”

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