The College Democrats and the College Republicans sparred over which political party better embodied Jewish values at a debate at Hillel Wednesday night.
GW KOACH, the University’s chapter of a national Jewish student organization affiliated with the conservative movement, invited both groups to discuss human rights, social welfare and support for the state of Israel. KOACH intern Samantha Yanco moderated the debate between Brand Kroeger, vice chairman of the College Republicans, and Michael Weil, communications director for the College Democrats. About 100 students attended.
Weil, a junior who is active in GW Hillel, began the debate talking about two human rights issues – the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and torture. He said Republicans believe the government should “legalize torture” to extract information from terrorist suspects. He said this did not reflect Jewish values.
Kroeger, a sophomore, rebutted that the imprisonment of the Abu Ghraib soldiers accused of torture proves Republicans do not want to legalize torture.
“Nine American soldiers are sitting behind bars because we said no (to torture),” Kroeger said.
Kroeger discussed social action and the Jewish value of Tzedakah, or charity, by listing how many different Jewish centers receive federal aid because of the charitable work they do. He added that because President George W. Bush cut taxes, which Kroeger said alleviated the tax burden for the lower class, there is decreased unemployment and increased home ownership.
The Republican representative said that when the minimum wage increase bill came to a vote, the Democrats shot it down.
Kroeger said Republicans are more interested in teaching the underprivileged how to help themselves, rather then simply giving them financial support. He said the Democrats are interested in the latter, which is a short-term fix.
“Catch a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” Kroeger said of the GOP’s thinking.
Weil then spoke about how Bush’s tax cuts affected other social issues, such as the decrease in funding for school lunches, food stamps and healthcare.
“This is wrong and inconsistent with the values of Jews,” he said.
Yanco said it is “crucial for the Jews to keep Israel” because it is not only their ancestral home but also a safe haven today.
Weil cited many prominent Democratic congressmen to illustrate the party’s backing of Israel. He quoted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as saying, “the U.S. will stand by their ally,” in the wake of the conflict with Hezbollah this summer.
Kroeger denounced Weil’s statement, pointing out that while the Democrats initially supported Israel and condemned Hezbollah, they later were critical of Israel’s offensive inside Lebanon.
He added, “The Democratic Party has abandoned Israel.”
Kroeger concluded the debate saying Republicans were now receiving more Jewish voters than they had in the past. Weil said Jews have traditionally voted for Democrats and should continue to because he said his party has more effectively represented Jewish values.