Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Hillary Clinton’s Hawkish Stance Riling Critics on the Jewish Left

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is coming under fire from Jewish anti-war activists who say that her centrist position on Iraq could cost her the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

In the latest sign of the growing discontent among left-wing activists, Jonathan Tasini, a product of the Labor Zionist movement, launched a bid to unseat Clinton in New York’s Democratic senatorial primary next year. Tasini, who has been endorsed by the country’s most prominent anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan, says his main reason for running is to criticize Clinton’s support of the war.

No serious political prognosticator believes that Tasini will be able to parlay the increasing anti-war sentiment among Democratic voters into a victory over Clinton. Some observers say, however, that the rising anger over the war could trip up Clinton in the presidential primaries, if she chooses to run for the White House — which is why, they say, she wrote a 1,600-word letter explaining her war stance, sending it electronically to supporters November 29.

“Clearly her stance is causing her problems,” said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College. “That’s the meaning of the 1,600-word missive to her supporters. Can the left mobilize enough to damage her? In the short run, no. In the long run, it depends on what happens on the ground. If it turns out to be a quagmire, her current and past stances put her in a hard spot.”

Among Clinton’s critics on the left are two leading anti-war rabbis associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, Michael Lerner and Arthur Waskow.

Lerner, who for a time advised Clinton on spiritual matters when she was first lady, told the Forward that the senator was “trying to position herself as a militarist” on the war in order to combat the Republican accusations that as a Democrat and as a woman she is “soft” and “unpatriotic.” But, Lerner said, Clinton’s pro-war position did not comport with what he knows to be her true “inclinations.”

He predicted it would “backfire for her politically.”

“She’s not going to be able to generate the excitement around her presidential candidacy if she continues to position herself as a female Lieberman,” Lerner said, referring to one of the Senate’s most hawkish Democrats, former vice presidential and presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.