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No blue sky between Republicans and Democrats on Israel

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As we prepare to watch the Democrats roll out their plan for America this week, it’s instructive to consider how the issue of Israel and the Palestinians plays out on the domestic policy stage.

In a July 19th New York Daily News opinion piece “The GOP is playing a dangerous game with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform Jewish movement, wades into the controversy as a mainstream American Jewish leader concerned about our country’s support for Israel. He was not happy about what he saw coming out of Cleveland:

“The Republican Party’s platform excludes language for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, a serious divergence from a quarter century of U.S. foreign policy. This could be a dangerous foreboding of where the Republicans are headed.”

Rabbi Jacobs goes on to warn that abandoning the two state solution “would subject Israel and the Palestinians to an endless cycle of violence.” Turning away from two states, he writes, is “a dangerous turning point,” citing with approval the fact that the Democratic platform is sticking to its story about supporting “two states for two peoples.”

But ironically, the Republicans have actually got it right: their current platform, rather than departing from U.S. policy on Israel, is actually a more accurate reflection of four decades of U.S. support for Israel’s expansionism at the expense of Palestinian rights. Every negotiation brokered by the United States has effectively ignored Palestinian rights with respect to territorial sovereignty, refugee rights, treatment of prisoners, access to natural resources, and freedom of movement. Since the 1970s, when the Likud government under Menachem Begin took power, every successive U.S. administration has acted not as a neutral party but as “Israel’s lawyer,” acceding to terms set out by Begin and every successive Israeli government—terms that have all but eliminated the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The dirty secret is that, despite its language on the international stage, Israel has never been interested in or willing to accept a sovereign, independent Palestinian state on its borders. Israel’s goal in every negotiation, as well as in its actions on the ground, have been aimed at achieving control over, if not outright annexation of, the entire territory from the Mediter­ranean to the Jordan. Except for one instance (interestingly under the administration of Bush senior), no U.S. administration has ever taken effective steps to stop this program. In fact, we have supported Israel at every turn, diplomatically and with massive financial assistance. The Democrats will continue to chant the “two states” mantra, but it has become a dangerously fruitless process, as Israel’s policies of annexation, settlement and control continue in violation of multilateral agreements and international law.

Rabbi Jacobs wants us to accept more of the same. He claims to support Israel, but the policies he advocates will serve only to guarantee continued conflict and insecurity for the Jewish state. When will Rabbi Jacobs wake up to the reality that only nonviolent direct action will bring the politicians – both in Israel and the U.S. and Europe – around? Why is he so afraid of BDS, a nonviolent effort by Palestinians to secure their rights to live in peace and equality with the Jews of Israel? What word in “Montgomery bus boycott” does Jacobs not understand? Why is he not eager to have the world do for Israel what it did for South Africa two generations ago, rescuing South Africans—white and black—from the evil of Apartheid that was poisoning their country?

Ironically, Rabbi Jacobs is doing what he accuses the other side of doing, by seeking to delegitimize BDS, casting it as radical and anti-Israel. He links the Republicans to right wing evangelicals: “The extreme right supporters of one state sadly mirror the extreme left supporters of BDS, who are also one state supporters who aim to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.” It’s a classic straw man tactic, allowing him to position mainstream Judaism as the moderate left, pursuing—you guessed it—the two state solution.

Rabbi Jacobs uses words implying compassion for the “Palestinian souls” suffering under the current situation, but in pursuing the real object of his piece—stopping BDS—he is denying the Palestinians the right to legal, nonviolent action. And he wants to discourage Americans, including increasing numbers of Jews, as well as Christians across the theological spectrum, from supporting the Palestinians in this effort. In fact, BDS is gaining support on a global basis, which is the reason for the increasingly strident and desperate cries from Rabbi Jacobs and others that it is “anti-Semitic” and has as its object the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Jews and Christians alike are coming to the realization that a state that truly expresses Jewish values would not look like the Israel of today. Something has to change, for Palestinians and Jews alike, and BDS is the best tool we have for bringing that change about.

In a bid to outdo the Democrats in the “I love Israel” department, the Republicans have staked out their “pro-Israel” position—a now familiar practice in every Presidential election. We’ll hear more of the same this week in Philadelphia, if the Democrats allow the issue to surface at all (we’re talking kryptonite for Party unity). But the political impact of BDS is gaining steam: the growing global campaign is causing more and more people to question our no-strings-attached support for Israel. That’s why Rabbi Jacobs and others like him are up in arms about it. That’s good news for the BDS movement. At historical moments like this we recall Gandhi’s words:

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you—and then you win.”

Mark Braverman

Mark Braverman serves on the Advisory Board of Friends of Sabeel North America and is National Program Director for Kairos USA. He is the author of A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine, Jericho Books, 2013.

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7 Responses

  1. Ossinev on July 26, 2016, 1:25 pm

    “Rabbi Jacobs goes on to warn that abandoning the two state solution “would subject Israel and the Palestinians to an endless cycle of violence.”

    What the dear Rabbi is actually afraid of is JSIL losing its status quo fig leaf = the 2SS charade the main pillar of which has been US bi- partisan support for the past 50 years and his beloved Chosen People potentially being thwarted in their systematic settlement and ethnic cleansing programme.

    • oldgeezer on July 26, 2016, 2:54 pm


      Spot on. Zionists have fought tooth and nail against a 2SS for the better part of a century. It has only become a popular refrain from them now that have made such an approach practically impossible. The only reasonable solution of a 1SS scares their diapers off of them. And the major plus side of crying for a 2SS is that it gives them more cover and time to steal, dispossess and ethnically cleanse even more territory. A rogue state run by lawless theives.

  2. Citizen on July 26, 2016, 1:29 pm

    I hope I see that kryptonite before I die. Just once in my long life, I’d like to see a real factual discussion of the US-Israel “special relationship” & its impact on US, Palestinians, the ME world, on primetime TV news. As it stands, US main media does not deserve any Constitutional protection because it does not serve to aid informed consent of the US public, and is thus, an anti-democratic instrument instead of the core arm of our democracy.

    • jd65 on July 27, 2016, 9:59 am

      Hey Citizen:

      US main media does not deserve any Constitutional protection because it does not serve to aid informed consent of the US public, and is thus, an anti-democratic instrument instead of the core arm of our democracy.


      In the case of issues relating to “Jewish identity” and Israel/Palestine (I/P) politics (among other issues), it feels that commonality and true majority attitudes have been obscured or marginalized nearly to the point of oblivion. Yes – a marginalized majority view is not an oxymoron. The existence of this seeming contradiction stems from most of today’s consumed media being more concerned with generating higher ratings/sales through sensationalistic “lowest common denominator” programming than it is with informing the public through in-depth, contextualized stories about issues that effect people directly. This programming and publishing tends either toward extremes or misleading simplifications, and comes in essentially two forms:

      Form #1: Simplistic, longish sound bites posing as investigative news stories. One or two-minute-long de-contextualized reports about the I/P “peace process,” Operation Cast Lead, or “clashes” between Israeli soldiers/settlers and West Bank Palestinians do nothing to inform the general public about what’s actually happening. These reports actually obfuscate rather than illuminate when presented in such a diluted and simplistic manner. The obvious practitioners of this form of news are all the major television networks, CNN, and NPR. These networks have the additional problem of being generally touted and perceived as the best sources of information available. Embracing this perception reinforces one’s acceptance of their drastically incomplete (or overtly incorrect) explanations of world events as being thorough and balanced. Most of the reports these networks and stations produce merely show the public what the issue/event is without informing about the issue. And when it comes to the I/P conflict, even their “what” of the conflict is often incorrect. It’s like a game of show and tell – without the tell. Watching these news programs for an understanding of the I/P conflict is like skimming the preface to Grey’s Anatomy for a thorough understanding of the workings of the human body.

      Form #2: Transparently shrill, bullying hysteria filled with divisively shallow and repetitive talking points and buzzwords. The obvious and most egregious abusers of this extremist style of editorialist “infotainment” journalism are various opportunistic talk radio blowhards like Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, and to a somewhat lesser extent Fox News attentionists like Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham. Increasingly, it seems with many of the most important and polarizing socio-political issues, the loudest voice is often mistakenly perceived as the majority voice. This media phenomenon of regularly presenting the loudest voice instead of the majority voice is what creates this “marginalized majority.”

      These two media forms above are the news equivalents to McDonalds or porn. The consumer is tricked into thinking they’ve gotten the real thing for cheap and fast. These news forms are as mind numbing, unhealthy, lazy, and easy to consume as a Big Mac. They’re also comparatively just as lazy, cynical, and simplistic to produce – making them similarly profitable.

  3. amigo on July 26, 2016, 7:21 pm

    It is clear that the zionist entity is behind the “DemoRepub ” party decision to omit any reference to “Occupied Palestine “in “it,s ” platform .These people should ask said entity , what is the status of this “unoccupied Territory.Is it part of Israel and if so , when will all the citizens be given equal rights.

    I guess , I ask too much .Wouldn,t want Sheldon Adelson to get p—-d off and withdraw his moolah from the American political process.

  4. JLewisDickerson on July 28, 2016, 5:40 am

    RE: “Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform Jewish movement” ~ Braverman

    SPECIFICALLY: Rabbi Rick Jacobs is president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

    RECALL: “Reform Jewish leader offers alternative to Presbyterian divestment: meet Netanyahu” | By Alex Kane | Mondoweiss | June 20, 2014

    [EXCERPT] The Jewish establishment brought out a big gun Thursday to oppose a measure that would see the Presbyterian Church divest from three corporations that contract with the Israeli military. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Union for Reform Judaism, told Presbyterian delegates that there was something better than divestment: a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. . .

    . . . Jacobs, a leader in Reform Judaism–the largest Jewish movement in the U.S.–is set to meet with the rightwing prime minister next week [two weeks before Operation Protective Edge was launched* ~ J.L.D.] . . .

    SOURCE –

    * FROM WIKIPEDIA (2014 Israel–Gaza conflict):

    [EXCERPT] The 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge (Hebrew: מִבְצָע צוּק אֵיתָן, Miv’tza Tzuk Eitan, lit. “Operation Strong Cliff”)[note 3] was a military operation launched by Israel on 8 July 2014 in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.[note 4] Following the IDF Operation Brother’s Keeper, Hamas started rocket attacks, targeting Israeli cities and infrastructure, resulting in seven weeks of Israeli operations. The Israeli strikes, the Palestinian rocket attacks and the ground fighting resulted in the death of thousands of people, the vast majority of them Gazans.[16][27] . . .

    MY QUESTION FOR RABBI JACOBS: While I have considerable respect for Rabbi Jacobs and Reform Judaism, I must ask whether he “signed off” on Operation Protective Edge during his meeting with Netunyahu (Operation Protective Edge having been launched by Netanyahu just a couple of weeks after Jacob’s meeting with Netanyahu). Was the timing purely coincidental?
    Enquiring minds mimes desperately want to know!

    • JLewisDickerson on July 28, 2016, 6:11 am

      P.S. The Presbyterians should thank their lucky stars that they were not lured to a meeting with Netanyahu a mere two weeks before he launched Operation Protective Edge!

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