Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s religious life and her beliefs have become a topic of intense interest and scrutiny here — due to her recent meteoric rise from relative obscurity to Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.
Press interviews with the two pastors she is most closely associated with in Wasilla, her hometown in Alaska — the Assembly of God and the Wasilla Bible Church — say her foundation and source of guidance is the Bible, and with that has come her conviction to act as God’s servant.
“The churches that Sarah has attended all believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible,” Janet Kincaid, who has known and worked with Palin for the last 15 years, told reporters. “Her principal ethical and moral beliefs stem from this.”
One of the music directors at the church, Adele Morgan, who has known Palin since she was in third grade, told reporters the Palins moved to the nondenominational Wasilla Bible Church because its ministry is less “extreme” than Pentecostal churches like her previous church, the Assembly of God, which practices speaking in tongues and miraculous healings.
Some Jewish groups, meanwhile, have raised concerns about Palin since the announcement that she would be on the Republican ticket.
Just last week, Sen. Joseph Lieberman “helped introduce Palin to officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading pro-Israel lobby,” noted The Washington Post on Friday.
“In a meeting Tuesday, the day before she delivered her primetime address at the Republican National Convention, Palin assured the group of her strong support for Israel, of her desire to see the United States move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and of her opposition to Iran’s aspirations to become a nuclear power,” said The Washington Post.
Curiously, The Washington Post repeated the AIPAC tidbit at the bottom of the same story.
“One of Palin’s few meetings this week with outside groups was with AIPAC, a sign of how politically important it is for the GOP ticket to demonstrate its support of Israel,” noted the newspaper.
“We had a good, productive discussion on the importance of the US-Israel relationship, and we were pleased that Gov. Palin expressed her deep, personal commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel,” AIPAC spokesman Josh Block told The Washington Post. “She also expressed her support for the special friendship between the two democracies and said she would work to strengthen the ties between the United States and Israel.”
Israeli newspapers have already vetted the Republican candidate for veep. “Palin displays an Israeli flag in her office window despite the tiny Jewish population in her state. Republicans say, ‘That says it all.’ An online video interview of Palin that is currently making the rounds appears to put to rest liberal rumors that she is no friend of Israel,” notes a recent article in Israel Today. “In the interview with Alaska HDTV, an Israeli flag is clearly seen hanging near the window of Palin’s office.”
Israel National News blogger Tamar Yonah points out that these appearances of the Israeli flag are made more significant by the fact that the video “was not made by a Jewish organization, nor is (Palin) speaking before a Jewish audience or catering to any Jewish vote.”
Palin has yet to travel to Israel, and she traveled outside the US for the first time last year.
The Israel-based Jerusalem Post recently called her “an odd choice” for the job.
“Palin is another story. She is an exceedingly odd choice for a party which has spent the better part of the past year loudly exclaiming that it was reaching out to Jewish voters and made much to do about considering two Jewish legislators — Joe Lieberman and Eric Cantor — as vice presidential possibilities.
“First, Palin has absolutely no foreign policy experience — it is ironic that McCain has spent his spring and summer telling Americans that the most important characteristic he is looking for in a vice president is an individual who is ready on day one to assume the presidency. Moreover, Palin has never visited Israel and besides signing a pro-Israel resolution passed by the state legislature, she has apparently never spoken out or focused on the Jewish state.”
And the Israel-based Ha’aretz compared the newly named vice presidential nominee to her Democratic counterpart Sen. Joe Biden. The statement went on to say “The contrast with Joe Biden could not be starker and more unfavorable for the soon-to-be Republican nominee.”
In contrast, the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a very different response to McCain’s running mate selection, saying that the choice demonstrated his good judgment and commitment to challenging politics as usual.
“As governor of Alaska, Palin has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Alaska’s Jewish community. She has demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of the community and has been accessible and responsive,” said Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks.
Politico.com writes, “John McCain may have helped Obama with his Jewish problem by choosing Palin as his running mate.
“McCain and Obama are battling over a portion of the Jewish community: Older, conservative Democrats, largely in South Florida, some of whom backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. McCain’s secular, hawkish credentials appeal to many in that group, who are skeptical of Obama’s relatively short record and have been deluged with rumors about his pro-Palestinian leanings.
“But Democrats hope Palin’s social conservatism, her paper-thin record on Israel and — perhaps most importantly — her cultural roots in evangelical Christianity may be a major turnoff to Jewish voters, just as Republicans have tried to reach women disappointed that Obama didn’t choose Hillary Clinton.”
Politico.com also noted: “A prominent Obama backer, Florida Rep. Robert Wexler, has attacked Palin for appearing at a 1999 event with Pat Buchanan — who has attacked the influence of the Israeli lobby in America. And the same factors that are rallying the evangelical base to Palin may push away the Jews.”
The executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman, cited the “cultural distance” between Palin and almost all American Jews.
In the meantime, however, there’s simply little information available about Palin’s views. Two of Palin’s prominent Alaska Jewish allies, Rabbi Joseph Greenberg and businessman Terry Gorlick, told Politico.com they consider her a friend of the Jews. But they said they’d never heard her discuss Middle East policy in detail and that she’d never visited Israel, though they cited a boilerplate Alaska-Israel friendship resolution she signed.
Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico September 6, 2008.
Source: Arab News