On Friday, There was a fascinating article on the Wall Street Journal underscoring how young Jewish-Americans are encouraged to travel to Israel to connect with their “identity.” This cultural exchange program is the favored means by Jewish-Americans to promote “unity” between Jews in the U.S. and Israel. Also, this Jewish ethnic unity trip is base on a creed promoted by religious conservative Jewish-American, philanthropists and Israeli organizations to foment a sense of kinship between the US and Israel. And the mix and politics and religion has been part of American political game for all ethnic groups. But if this religious spiritual “connection” works so effectively with Jewish-Americans, why aren’t these religious experiences to develop kinship between groups of the same religion, or ethnic groups, not extended to Conservative Mexican-Americans in the US?
The idea behind these trips to Israel is “to give everybody some connection to their heritage…the program was established by Jewish philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, among others, in collaboration with the Israeli government and various Jewish communal organizations sponsor this program.” The American Israeli Political Action Committee(AIPAC) also helps to coordinate these trips.
To cement this dual-identity (Jewish-Israeli and American), Jewish philanthropists consider that spending time in Israel at a young age is essential to build a sense of cultural affinity, the younger the better. According Report, in a 2008 survey, 55% of participants felt that Israel is a “source of pride,” compared with 35% of nonparticipants. Forty percent felt that the Jewish state is a “refuge for persecuted Jews,” compared with 22% of nonparticipants.
And there is an entire industry—radio, TV, publications–within the conservative Evangelical movement promoting these cultural exchanges, even if they are not Jewish, Texas. Texas is God county; and if you have been to conservative religious gatherings in the state, you see that is usual to see an orthodox Rabbi next to the event facilitator. Also, it is usual to see an Israeli flag next to American and Texas flag. Thus, albeit these gatherings are political in nature, the religious theme is the most significant since attendees pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag at the same time that they face an Israeli flag; this positioning of both flags send the unequivocal subliminal message that the state of Israel is an inherent extension of U.S.. Furthermore, the Rabbi always precedes with a religious explanation and biblical citations as to why the American Jews and Israel–and conservative political Party in Israel (Likud party)–are the same “people”, and thus, the need of the US to protect this “same people.”
As a result, is no coincidence that many Israeli Jewish soldiers who are often interviewed for American TV, and portrayed as “heroes”, have Brooklyn accents. And war is important to build affinity. The pressure of war if one most effective way to create comradery among individual, or cultural national unity, hence the need to send young Jewish-Americans to defend Israel a young age; they will grow up with the experience of defending Israel. Which is also the main reason why an Israeli Flag is perfectly situated next an American flag in religious event; it creates a spiritual comradery. So being a good Jewish-American in defense of Israel is also a form of patriotism among conservative Evangelicals here in the U.S..
But if these religious evens in the U.S. and cultural exchanges with Israel like the Birthright program are so successful with conservative groups, why Republicans are no emulating this program with Mexican-Americans who also tend to be very religious?
The benefits of emulating the Jewish approach to promote conservative religious views and kinship among Mexican-Americans and Mexico with this approach can be of great political benefits for the GOP. However, the first impediment to developing this comradery between Mexican-American, Mexico and Conservative movement is the stringent double-standard demanded to conservative Mexican-Americans. Demands that are expected from other conservative groups.
For example, when conservative Hispanic/Latinos attend these pious events, they are expected to conform to demands for solidarity with the Jewish state, and even salute an Israeli flag. Yet, they cannot talk about sensitive issues like immigration, or even free-trade with Mexico, notwithstanding that fact Mexico and the US trade more than the entire Middle East, including Israel. Moreover, just mentioning of an immigration reform in these events, or Mexico, causes for Evangelicals “whites” attendees to shake their head as a sign of disapproval. As a result, conservative Mexican-Americans, or Latinos, are forced to reject solidarity with their brethrens in Mexico while displaying solidarity with Israel. So Mexican-Americans are expected to show a spiritual quasi-Jewish identify while denying theirs own because of the strong aversion from conservative Evangelical groups to see Mexico and Mexican-American as part of the Judeo-Christian realm.
Understandably, Evangelicals see Mexican-Americans with suspicion. But this is only because for years there has been an entire radio industry, like Glen Beck, within Evangelical movement that always portrays Mexico as Palestinians and Mexican-immigrant as potential terrorists. But this comparisons are utterly false, and merely promote by Glen Beck, and the likes, to scare good religious people and and make money. Thus, and even though trade between Mexico and the U.S. is more than ½ trillion annually and the Mexican-American population is almost 40 percent in Texas and they are Christian Catholics, conservative Evangelicals cannot conceptualize Mexico as part of the Judeo-Christian culture. But ti is only because Evangelical have been fed horrific image of Mexicans as potential Palestinian terrorist; which in itself is offensive distortion of Christian Catholic creed if you ask me. Thus, indeed, there is a double-standard for conservative Mexican-Americans who want to join the conservative movement while embracing their identity.
The ascendency of Jewish culture within the conservative movement by Jewish philanthropists and religious leaders has allowed the Jewish-Israeli identity to be embraced by Evangelicals who perceive a dual Israeli-American identity as form of patriotism in defense of Judeo-Christian values. However, this dual-identity maybe also be creating a greater chasm between Evangelical and Mexican-Americans who, though conservative, also want the right to embrace and connect with their culture without any suspicions of “unpatriotic” ethnicity just because they wish to assert the identity and religion.
I have talked to Jewish leaders, like Mike Isley, the founder of Texans for Israel, who himself often do not know why there is such a strong aversion from Evangelicals to embrace Mexican-Americans if Mexican-American culture is also a culture of Judeo-Christian values. But the answers are simple. 1) Some groups within the Evangelical movement have managed demonized the Mexican identity as Palestinian-like group. 2) Mexican-Americans in conservative circles have failed to assert their identity, forfeited such right, and consequently, are letting other religious leaders to tell them where they need to stand. But as Michale Barone argues “Self-conscious minorities tend to vote more cohesively.”
Moreover, the conundrum for Mexican-Americans of saluting and Israeli flag while avoiding their Mexican identity only keeps exacerbating the relation between the Republican Party and Mexican-American community since Latinos will perceive the GOP as a Party that only pander Evangelicals “Christian Zionist” without taking to consideration the inexorable economic relation between the US and Mexico, and its historical connection between Mexican-American and Mexico. In other words, For Mexican -Americans, if they really want more political clout, Mexico need to become their own Israel so they too can capitalize on it to create an assertive political clout by using religion to mobilize the masses and to develop comradery between Mexico and the U.S..
Religion is an inherent element of American politics; and even Irish Catholic priests used their churches to build solidarity between Irish-Americans and and the cause for an Independent Ireland from the UK. And even after the British government labeled as “terrorist”some Irish revolutionaries groups like the IRA in the 1970s, or the Fenian Brotherhood in 1900s, Irish Catholics here in the U.S., both Republican and Democrats, continued funding these groups. So religion is strong source of group-identity.
If Romney loses, this election will bring a struggle for power within the GOP. But the fact is the conservative Jewish-American and Evangelicals will not relinquish, or share, power with Mexican-Americans until Mexican-Americans show that they have a conservative base of voters too. And this is how politics have worked in Texas since Texas became an state; the elites shared power among themselves only. So, then, the question for Mexican-Americans is how many more elections they can have pretending that “my ethnicity does not matter” while they have other ethnic and religious groups asking them to supporter their own ethnic causes?Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. follow us on facebook and twitter