Tensions rise among Democrats over Israel while the left defends the Palestinians


In 1988, when James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, prompted Democrats to include a mention of Palestinian sovereignty in their platform, party leaders responded with a clear warning, remembering: “If the word P is even on the stage, all hell will explode.” To avoid an angry confrontation At the conference, the issue was shelved without a vote.

Now with Violence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories As the issue was brought back to the forefront of American politics, divisions emerged between the leadership of the Democratic Party and the activist wing of public opinion. While the Biden administration deals Growing conflict As a highly sensitive diplomatic challenge involving an old ally, the rising left is seen as a painful issue of racial justice deeply intertwined with US politics.

For these activists, Palestinian rights and the decades-long conflict over land in the Middle East are linked to causes such as police brutality and immigrant conditions at the US-Mexico border. Party activists fighting for racial justice are now spreading messages against “colonizing Palestine” using the hashtag #PalestinianLivesMatter.

With President Biden in the White House, traditional American support for Israel is hardly questionable from a policy perspective; He made clear his support for the country throughout its nearly 50 years in public life. However, the terms for discussion are changing in democratic circles.

On Thursday, a group of prominent progressive members of Congress demonstrated a rare break with party unity, and made fiery speeches in the House of Representatives accusing Mr. Biden of ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and “siding with the occupation.” Alexandria Representative Ocasio Cortez of New York directly challenged the President who Has confirmed Israel has the right to defend itself. “Do the Palestinians have the right to stay?” I asked in an impassioned speech. “Can we believe that? If so, then we are responsible for that as well.”

Less than 24 hours later, on Friday, nearly 150 prominent liberal organizations issued a joint statement calling for “solidarity with the Palestinian population” and condemning “Israeli state violence” and “superiority” in Jerusalem.

The statement was signed not only by groups focused on Middle Eastern issues and Judaism but by groups dedicated to issues such as climate change, immigration, feminism and racial justice – an indication that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved further afield for the liberal faction of the party. World of Foreign Policy.

“The party’s base is moving in a completely different direction from where the party’s institution is,” said Mr. Zoghbi. “If you support black lives is important, it won’t be difficult to say that Palestinian lives matter as well.”

Leaders of the largest pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, say they are confident of their support from the White House and Capitol Hill, noting the continuing congressional support of several billions of dollars in aid to Israel annually. Before Mrs. Okasio Cortez and other liberals took the House of Representatives room on Thursday, other Democratic lawmakers offered their “steadfast and unwavering support” for Israel.

Rep. Ted Deutsch, a Florida Democrat, said in a speech, “Please don’t be fooled by the false choices: Israel or Hamas.” “If I am asked to choose between a terrorist organization and our democratic ally, I will stand with Israel.”

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment on the left’s criticism.

For decades, both sides have provided almost total support for Israel, with words such as “occupation” and “Palestine” considered outside the scope of acceptable debate in official Washington. But the left-wing Democrats are no longer ashamed of such conditions.

“We oppose our money that goes to fund military police, occupation, oppressive regimes and violent trauma,” said Rep. Cory Bush from Missouri, who is active in the “Black Lives Matter” program now in her first term in Congress, in her speech on Thursday. “Until all of our children are safe, we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and Ferguson.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, a Palestinian-American from Detroit, referred to herself as “a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians really exist, and that we are human,” before condemning the “Israeli apartheid government” from the House of Representatives.

The debate within the Democratic Party reflects a long-running split between American Jews, a predominantly democratic and secular group, embroiled in their own struggle over how to view Israeli-Palestinian tensions. An older generation sees Israel as a primary lifeline in its midst Global anti-Semitism is growingMeanwhile, young voters struggle to reconcile the right-wing policies of the Israeli government with their liberal values.

a The survey Last week, it was found by the Pew Research Center that two-thirds of American Jews ages 65 and over described themselves as romantically attached to Israel, compared to 48 percent of Jewish adults under the age of 30.

“The rise of identity politics has made this almost inevitable,” said Daniel Gordes, senior vice president at Shalem College in Jerusalem. “It appears weak against the powerful, the disenfranchised, and the stateless against the state.”

In his recent book, We Stand Divided, which examines the rift between American Jews and Israel, he argues that the history of Jews and Israel should not be viewed in terms of the racial and political history of the United States. He said that Israel’s experience is distinctive because of the biblical ties of Judaism to its land and because the country was partly established as a haven from anti-Semitism after the Holocaust.

For some Jewish Democrats who consider themselves staunch supporters of Israel, the relationship between former President Donald J. Trump and right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has added a blunt party element to an already complex issue. previous president His administration closely aligned with the besieged Prime Minister He handed over a long-awaited Israeli goal to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

In contrast, Mr. Netanyahu promoted Mr. Trump among Republicans and conservative Christians in the United States, and raised his stance with evangelical leaders who wield great influence over voters who have demonstrated their role in the electoral support of Mr. Trump.

The poll showed that up to a quarter of Jews in the United States vote Republicans, a marked increase in the past several years. The impetus for this shift was largely Orthodox Jews, whose numbers remain small but continue to grow.

The Pew poll showed that among Republican Jews, nearly three-quarters of them said they felt a strong connection to Israel, while only 52 percent of Jewish Democrats expressed the same belief. Jewish Democrats are also more likely to say that the United States is very supportive of Israel.

The shifting views on Israel and the Palestinians have not gone unnoticed by Jewish democrats. In synagogue emails and private WhatsApp groups, American Jews are concerned about whether there is sincere support for Israel in the party, posting details about solidarity rallies and encouraging their members to stand together.

In his gathering in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Rabbi Shay Sherry is concerned that support for Israel has become more divisive.

With the rise of Mrs. Okasio Cortez and the left, and the “full support” of the Netanyahu government on the right, he said in an interview, there is a feeling that “liberal American Jews are under pressure.”

Like many of his subjects, he is questioning the policies of the Netanyahu government, but said that now is not the time to discuss the finer points of the policy. Last week, he sent an email to his followers urging them to “stand united against those who wage war on the existence of our one and only Jewish state.”

During his first four months in office, Mr. Biden devoted little attention To the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an intractable issue that corrupted its predecessors. But the violence in recent days, the worst in years, has proven just how difficult it is. Now, Biden is finding his administration is being hit by competing forces within his alliance.

“Neglect is not politics,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the pro-Israel and pro-peace group J Street, who would like to see Mr. Biden more involved in the region.

With the outbreak of the fighting, Biden relied on a familiar playbook: Full support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and not to mention the Palestinians. He regretted the deaths of the two sides and expressed his hope for “restoring lasting calm.”

Even human rights advocates like Mr. Zogby admit that AIPAC maintains its grip on official Washington.

“Their influence in Congress is still enormous, but they are losing the ground around them,” he said. “Can they still have a letter signed by 300 members? Of course they can. But is this the place for discussion in the party?”

Some of the country’s most generous donors for Israeli causes and democratic politics say they are concerned about new voices within their party.

“I am a democrat,” said Haim Saban, a prominent donor in the party. “Unfortunately, there is a far left wing in the Democratic Party that can use some education about what is in our American interest.” He recently joined a non-partisan organization founded by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, to strengthen ties between four Arab countries and Israel. “There should be no argument about Israel. It is the only democracy in the region and our closest ally in the region.”

In some ways, the transformation in the Democratic Party began under the Obama administration, when Democratic officials, including Biden, pressed for the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Netanyahu has defied President Barack Obama’s wishes He spoke against the deal in a joint session of CongressAt the invitation of the Republicans. This appearance angered many Democrats, especially supporters of Israel who oppose Netanyahu’s policies.

Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, suggested last week that Israel should focus more on “emotional and frank” support for evangelical Christians rather than American Jews, who he said were “disproportionately among our critics.”

But many Jewish progressives say their criticism comes from a place of love and idealism. They argue that the Israeli and American governments would be wise to eliminate some partisan language and override what they call the wrong choice of being either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian.

“What most American Jews want is to see Israelis and Palestinians live in dignity, in a just and equitable society,” said Rabbi Sharon Bruce, leader of IKAR, a large progressive synagogue in Los Angeles. “It is imperative that we support a third way, acknowledge the generational trauma and suffering of both peoples and create a just and common future for all,” she said.

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