The Israel issue is heating up in American politics, with ABC News publishing a report that progressive Democrats are increasingly willing to criticize Israel and may “reap political rewards” by doing so. The report cites four congressional candidates, in Pennsylvania, NY, Minnesota and Virginia. And it shows that Republicans are publicizing the trend, in an effort to peel away Jewish voters from Democratic ranks. ABC:
For decades it was seen as too politically risky, but this midterm cycle a growing number of Democratic candidates have begun openly criticizing some of Israel’s policies.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-time candidate who upset 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in last month’s Democratic primary, incorporated criticism of Israel’s actions into her campaign, condemning what she called a recent “massacre” in Gaza and calling on more Democrats to focus on the struggle of Palestinians.
The Republican Jewish Coalition is attacking Ocasio-Cortez and several other candidates as harbingers of days to come in the Democratic Party.
Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only harbinger of the decline of @TheDemocrats support for Israel. Ds also nominated @ScottWallacePA & @LeslieCockburn who both have a nasty history of anti-Israel animus, & of course Ilhan Omar, who’s vying to replace @keithellison
The Cook Political Report has an article about Scott Wallace’s race against a Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania’s first congressional district, saying that Wallace’s support for BDS is hurting him in the general election. Note the RJC’s characterization of BDS as “anti-Semitic.”
Wallace has the ability to self-fund but may have problems money can’t solve…
The day after the primary, the Forward published a piece documenting that the Wallace Global Fund gave $300,000 to groups supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel. Wallace says he didn’t control the expenditures and disavows BDS, but it took a month for one local Jewish Democratic group to reinstate its support for him.
On June 21, the Republican Jewish coalition began running a brutal ad attacking Wallace for owning “mansions in Maryland and South Africa” and “donating $300,000 to anti-Semitic organizations that promote boycotting Israel.” The final tag line? “At home in South Africa, too radical for us.” The ad forced Wallace to respond with an almost unheard-of June damage-control ad noting that he “lives in the house he was born in” and is a “strong supporter of Israel.”
That RJC ad is aimed at pulling Democratic pro-Israel voters to the Republican side. It says that Wallace is “so radically anti-Israel, Pennsylvania’s top Democrat Jewish organizations refusing support.”
[Leslie] Cockburn has not backed down from her criticism of the Israeli government’s actions. She still enjoys endorsements from leading Democratic and progressive groups like EMILY’s List and the League of Conservation Voters.
Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic candidate for the Minnesota congressional seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Keith Ellison, has gone a step further, defending her 2012 tweet in which she alleged Israel has “hypnotized the world” and committed “evil doings.” Omar, a Somali-American Muslim and former refugee, is looking to replace Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress.
Omar is in an August primary with several other Democrats. She has called Israel an “apartheid state”! That’s refreshing in a discourse where that truth is usually suppressed (ask Jimmy Carter).
ABC quotes Neil Strauss of the RJC lamenting the politicization of the issue– again in a bid for Democratic Jewish voters: “These [candidates] are becoming the standard bearers in the Democratic Party and it’s unfortunate.”
The piece also quotes James Zogby on the importance of the Trump-Netanyahu “marriage” in driving the trend, and Bernie Sanders:
“Bernie’s campaign was significant because, not unlike Jackson, he sort of rode a wave and realized that there was actually a wave to ride. It was a clear bell ringer that something was going on out there and that this issue was going to resonate,” Zogby said in a phone interview with ABC News.
Sanders himself has continued to press on the issue, highlighting it in his social media messaging. Last month, he released a seven-minute video featuring the voices of Palestinians living in Gaza and describing their conditions.
And Shibley Telhami:
“Those candidates who take on the Israeli government’s specific policies could be rewarded.”
Public opinion polling shows that sentiments have indeed shifted, especially among Democrats…
“Democrats, even separate from the partisan issue, have basically seen [the Palestinian] issue as part of their value system,” Telhami said. “They increasingly see their values as not a part of the values of Israel.”
This is a very unsettling issue for Democrats. NPR pointedly ignores the Israel angle in a piece on the progressive challenge to the party establishment. While at Crooked Timber, Corey Robin has a piece on the way that Sanders has transformed the Democratic Party, and Donald Johnson is the only the only one in the comment thread to mention Ocasio Cortez’s position on Gaza.
If you listen to her she is clearly in sympathy with Sanders critique of money in politics, which puts her at odds with what Clinton practiced. She is one of the few politicians ( Sanders is another) who criticized the Israeli massacre in Gaza recently. I don’t expect that position to become the mainstream Democratic one quite yet, but if it does it will be funny if people say this is what most Democrats thought all along.
“Nobody who was truly antiwar could have felt enthusiasm for Clinton, and yet so many liberals loved her,” Johnson adds.
Meantime, the Zioness Movement, a feminist group that lobbies for Israel, is trying to work on Ocasio-Cortez:
We are concerned about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s past statements regarding the tragic situation in Gaza. The terrorist organization Hamas has confirmed that 52 of the 60 casualties on the Gaza/Israel border were members of their organization.
We decry the cynical strategy employed by Hamas to put women and children in the line of fire, to exploit the compassion and empathy of all who witness the result.
While we grieve the loss of any life, we support Israel in its right–and in fact, its sovereign obligation–to protect its borders and its people.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez earned the Democratic nomination with her commitment and dedication, and she has since displayed a willingness to engage and learn.
We would welcome the opportunity to speak about the ways in which our progressive values are inherently interwoven with our Jewish and Zionist ones.