Opinion

The Democratic Party won’t be out-Israel’d this fall

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The Democratic Party is not going to get out-Israel’d this fall.

Yesterday, Kamala Harris had a conference call with 1800 Jewish Democratic donors and assured them a President Biden will never condition aid over any “political decisions that Israel makes and I couldn’t agree more.” Biden-Harris will show “unwavering support” for Israel. And Biden backed the “largest military aid package” to any country when the Obama administration signed that $38 billion MOU in 2016.

The fact is that despite deep misgivings about Israeli human rights violations in the Democratic base, the Democratic Party has brilliantly and effectively squelched the issue as a possible wedge in the coming election.

Yesterday the Republicans sought to drive the wedge with an ad of four Jewish Democrats voting Trump. But just look at the ad. It’s pathetic. It’s not going to convince anyone.

The Republicans might have been able to drive the pro-Israel wedge if Israel had gone through with annexation this summer. But Israel came to its senses when it realized annexation would have been a giant headache for the Israel lobby. It would have divided the lobby’s big organizations, and Joe Biden would have come out against annexation and the Republicans would then have tried to paint him as the second coming of Jimmy Carter, abandoning Israel.

But if annexation was in the Republicans’ electoral interest, it wasn’t in the lobby’s interest to see the issue made into a partisan football. So Israel swallowed the annexation issue.

The Democrats have a unified line at the top now. Israel is a progressive cause. The self-determination of the Jewish people in their ancient land is something to be celebrated, and we are going to keep pretending we are pushing for a two state solution.

As we continually remind Democrats, Progressive Democrats don’t believe these ideas. They think the two-state solution is a cruel charade for a reality of apartheid, that Israel’s political culture is overwhelmingly rightwing, and that Jewish national “self-determination” is an excuse for rampant discrimination against a Palestinian minority. But the Democratic establishment doesn’t care; those voices will not be heard inside the party and progressives are falling into line. Bernie Sanders spoke for 8-1/2 minutes at the Democratic convention, emphasizing the urgency of defeating a dangerous president, but he was a good soldier and didn’t bring up the Palestine issue.

Senator Kamala Harris visits an Iron Dome missile defense battery in Israel, November 2017. (Photo: Office of Kamala Harris)
Senator Kamala Harris visits an Iron Dome missile defense battery in Israel, November 2017. (Photo: Office of Kamala Harris)

The Democratic leadership is terrified by the Israel question because they are afraid it will alienate Jewish donors, and yes, also Jewish voters in Florida (where Jews make up 3 percent of the population) or Pennsylvania (2.3 percent). Though it’s hard to believe Jewish voters would make a difference in Ohio (1.3 percent), and Michigan (0.9).

The progressive street doesn’t like the Democratic stance, but what power does it have right now? Liberal Zionist Rabbi Jill Jacobs lately lectured progressives on how they have to embrace Israel as a “progressive” cause despite its flaws lest they alienate Jews.

While Israel is likely the most divisive issue in the progressive world, setting a litmus test that one cannot consider oneself pro-Israel, or support two states, would divide the vast majority of Jews from the left. Not what we need when fighting white nationalism. . .

She emphasized that Jews like Israel:

Remember that vast (>90%) of American Jews are committed to long-term stability of Israel AND majority oppose current govt & occupation and support two states. Progressive left sometimes forgets part 1. . . All Jewish organizations, and all organizations that truly care about the future of Israelis and Palestinians should speak out loudly for the human rights (incl right to self-determination) of both peoples.

We will tell you that it’s progress that only 90 percent of American Jews are devoted to a Jewish state. That’s down from the 95 percent another liberal Zionist touted last year, and the 99 percent of a generation ago. But it’s still not enough to move the needle for the Democratic Party. Jews are an essential part of the Democratic coalition, especially in the party establishment.

We’d like to think that the Democrats could both fight for Palestinian human rights and fight Trump. The polling is clear that young Dems and Democrats of color want a discussion of Israel. Peter Beinart has come out for one state. Isn’t it time to talk about what the endless fake “peace process” has meant for Palestinians?

But the party is simply too fearful about losing the Israel lobby to go near this. It is going to suppress the debate to hold on to major funders and older Israel supporters, including media figures. If Donald Trump is promoting his Jewish family members, so is Kamala Harris.

The Democrats are selling a mythic Israel in this race. An Israel where the Labor-Meretz bloc is going to come out of the grave with its seven seats in the Knesset and resurrect the two-state solution. An Israel that is not committed to rightwing leaders, whether you call that Blue and White or Likud. An Israel that doesn’t support Trump by 56-18 percent, according to Haaretz, and hated Obama.

Biden has no plan to deal with that Israel except, “Send a message to Bibi, I love him.” He is against annexation but he won’t make a peep when Israel expands the West Bank settlements/colonies. He can’t acknowledge that the two-state solution is dead, even if many Democrats, particularly among the young, are pushing for that awareness. He makes a point of kicking Linda Sarsour to show how much he likes Israel.

Liberal Zionists and the Party leadership are in denial. They haven’t read Sara Roy or Diana Buttu. They just read the New York Times‘ endless promotion of Israel as a robust democracy. They will tell you they had a big victory over Netanyahu with the annexation.

So the issue has been politically squelched. For now.

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It is so depressing to read this and be reminded that the Biden/Harris ticket is hardly any different, to the Trump/Pence ticket, when it comes to Israel. It also shows just how deep rooted this unwavering support is, and that Israel cannot do any wrong (whether occupation, land theft, illegal settlements, or human rights violations) when it comes to that support. There is no hope that one party will be true to what America has… Read more »

https://ajpp.online/hasbara/ Sir Isaac Albert Isaacs, Member of Parliament, High Court judge, and 9th Governor General of Australia wrote in 1946 that ‘the honor of Jews throughout the world demands the renunciation of political Zionism’. “In his book titled ‘Palestine: Peace and Prosperity or War and Destruction? Political Zionism: Undemocratic, Unjust, Dangerous’, Sir Isaac explained his objections to political Zionism,…’ EXCERPT:  “Isaac Isaacs, born in Melbourne to Jewish parents of Polish heritage, understood the fundamental injustice… Read more »

I don’t usually like to use generational stereotypes, but in this case the problem is partly generational. I think older liberals are still caught in the mindset that one has to walk on eggshells when it comes to criticizing Israel lest one cross over into antisemitism. Older people think in terms of Israel being something one has to support because of the Holocaust. The other day I saw someone on Twitter arguing that it was… Read more »

My primary concern is not between now and election day, but during a Biden administration. Although I would like to see Israel put the brakes on the settlement expansions on the West Bank, I do not foresee that as achievable given the facts of Israeli and American politics. But in regards to the Gaza Strip I think it is achievable to reach a modus operandi on the Gaza Strip that would improve the living standards… Read more »

I believe the old axiom of “Better the Devil I know, then the Devil I am going to get” truly sums up this election and these candidates. As a Palestinian American, who has watched in frustration, for almost five decades, of the pandering to the Israeli lobbyist by the two major political parties, has been more then disheartening it has been disorienting. For Americans of Palestinian descent the curtain has been pulled down on both… Read more »