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.
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.