On Israel, fear Obama, not Palin
American Jews are attacking Sarah Palin's Zionist credentials - while ignoring far larger questions about Obama's
To judge from the screams of horror from certain Jewish quarters, anyone would think that Torquemada was about to open a branch of the Inquisition in Washington DC.
No matter that the office of Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin has been shown to have an Israeli flag stuck in the corner (ok, it could be a bigger flag -- but hey, this is Alaska). No matter that the Chabad organiser for Alaska, Rabbi Josef Greenberg, has praised Palin as a steadfast supporter of Israel and the Jews. No matter that her presidential running-mate John McCain is fervently pro-Israel.
No, this cuts no ice with Marc R Stanley, chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, for whom Sarah Palin is a threat. Why? Well, he foamed in the Jerusalem Post, she has never even been to Israel! She has absolutely zero foreign policy experience!
So what? Barack Obama has been to Israel only twice, the first time two years ago as a rookie senator and the second two months ago - to counter claims that he had zero foreign policy experience, a fact that became painfully obvious from the gaffes he made on that trip.
The next Palin crime in the eyes of her Jewish critics is that she's an evangelical Christian. Now this, it seems, is a real stinker of a crime. It turns her, apparently, into what one Guardian writer described as "the Jews' worst nightmare". Some people might think that others have a superior claim to that title. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example. Maybe even the Guardian itself.
But no, the honour goes to the woman with the Israel flag in her office. That's because - as so many American Jews believe - evangelical Christians only support Israel because they believe it will bring about the end of days and the return of Christ to earth, at which point the Jews will all convert to Christianity.
Well, I don't know about you but I'll take my own chances on that one.
It remains the case that (apart from the fact that only some of them believe this end of days stuff anyway) evangelical Christians are among the most fervent supporters of Israel - more so, indeed, than many Jews. If it wasn't for this passionate endorsement by such a large chunk of the American public, it is doubtful whether successive American presidents would themselves support Israel as much as they do.
But look, scream Palin's detractors: Palin actually sat in church while a preacher, David Brickner, claimed that terrorist attacks on Israelis constituted God's "judgment of unbelief" upon Jews who hadn't embraced Christianity. This is held to be as damaging for her as Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright, who supports the Jew-hating Louis Farrakhan, his black supremacist Nation of Islam and Hamas, was for him.
But Brickner runs "Jews for Jesus". Yes, that is a despicable organisation. Yes, it is troubling that he preached in Sarah Palin's church. But he was a one-off visiting preacher. To equate that with Obama's 20-year membership of a black power-supporting church and his close relationship during that entire period with a mentor who supports Louis Farrakhan is clearly preposterous.
Yet American Jews appear to have airbrushed all such questions about Obama out of the picture. Leaping instantly to denounce Sarah Palin, they are silent on Obama's church, his pastor and assorted members of his staff who belonged to the Nation of Islam.
They are silent on his observation that "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people". They are silent on the fact that virtually every prominent member of his foreign policy team (with the exception of the recently arrived Dennis Ross) is hostile to Israel.
Stanley further claims that Palin "lavished praise" on the American anti-Israel maverick Ron Paul and that there is "controversy" over whether she supported the even more anti-Israel Pat Buchanan. But she had merely praised Paul's "independence" at the end of an interview on energy policy; and the McCain camp has denied she ever supported Buchanan.
Is it not perverse to hype up such thin evidence to condemn Sarah Palin for attitudes towards Israel while ignoring the vastly more serious questions about Obama on this score?
The real reason, I suspect, probably has more to do with issues rather closer to home. As Stanley complained, Palin was "against reproductive freedom", didn't believe that climate change was man-made and was said to think that "creationism" - the belief that the world was literally created in six days - should be taught in state-run schools. As a result Palin was "totally out of step" with American Jewish public opinion.
So the real issue isn't Israel at all. It's the self-image of American Jews as social liberals - which means they would vote for Caligula's horse if it ran on the Democratic ticket.
Double standards, anyone?
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist