Roll back the Trump tax cuts! Abolish ICE! Single-payer healthcare for all! IMPEACHMENT! These are just some of the radical agenda items Democrats are running on as the 2018 midterm election season is in full force. Though, the progressive party has just added another one in attempt to woo potential votes – save Palestine, down with Israel!
The anti-Israel animus among Democrats has risen recently, a move that was seen as an extreme political risk for decades. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28 year-old, first-time candidate who just upset 10-term incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley (NY-14), incorporated harsh criticism of Israel’s actions into her campaign message. She condemned the recent “massacre” in Gaza, and is now calling on the Democratic Party to focus on the struggle of Palestinians as a top agenda item.
“There is no justification,” Ocasia-Cortez tweeted. “Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”
She said, insofar as the “massacre” of Palestinians is concerned, she hopes her, “peers have the moral courage to call it such.”
Around 58 Palestinian protesters were killed on the Gaza border as they clashed with Israeli solders on the day the American embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails attempting to harm Israeli forces, but Democrats apparently believe that lobbing fire bombs over an international border is a sign of peace.
The Republican Jewish Coalition fired back at Ocasio-Cortez, calling her victory, “a harbinger of the decline of Democrats’ support for Israel,” according to a report from ABC. Nevertheless, her sentiment for the people of Palestine and complete distaste for Israel show a pattern within the Democratic Party, one which condemns anyone and anything that is not completely in line with their authoritarian-like belief system.
While vying for the Democratic nomination during the 2016 presidential election, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) condemned Israel, slamming their intervention in Gaza as “disproportionate,” and called on the U.S. to, “treat Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” despite the fact terrorist organizations consider Palestine a friendly place.
Sanders’ political organization “Our Revolution” supported another anti-Israel candidate in South Carolina – Mal Hyman – who said Israel’s security forces have been acting in an “unconscionable” manner, leading to the “massacre” of Palestinians. Although he lost the Democratic primary, he said recently that, “More people are seeing the need to speak out and be a bit more frank with their criticisms. We are seeing a surge of response from progressives on this issue.”
When it comes to a response, Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic candidate attempting to flip Virginia’s Fifth District “blue,” has written the book on anti-Israel sentiment. Co-authored with her husband, the book entitled “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship” is even seen by some Democrats as going too far.
The New York Times completed a review of the Cockburns’ prose in 1991 which stated:
“‘Dangerous Liason’ might have been a useful study. Instead, their book, supposedly a history of the secret ties between Israel and the United States, is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake. Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”
Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democratic candidate running to replace the congressional seat vacated by the retiring Keith Ellison (MN-5), has gone even further, doubling down on her nasty anti-Israel rhetoric in which she said Israel has “hypnotized the world” and committed “evil doings” in a tweet from 2012.
One of Omar’s tweets states, “may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Public opinion polls reveal a shift in national thoughts on the Israel-Palestinian dichotomy, but pro-Israel sentiment vastly outweighs that of Palestinian likability. A Pew Research poll stated 54 percent of Americans sympathize more with Israel, with just 19 percent siding with the Palestinians in the Middle East dispute. Even among Democrats the Israel-Palestine split is 43-29, respectively.
As Democratic voters continue to drift away from their previously strong support for Israel, rank-in-file elected Democrats have been slow in supporting Palestine. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) still has steadfast pro-Israel stances, being one of just four Senate Democrats to vote against the Obama-era Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015.
Now, however, Democratic candidates have become less afraid of the political repercussions of criticizing the Israeli government. Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Democrats have increasingly seen the conservative Netanyahu Administration as one that has an opposing set of values.
“Democrats, even separate from the partisan issue, have basically seen [the Palestinian] issue as part of their value system,” Telhami explained. “They increasingly see their values as not a part of the values of Israel.”
Unfortunately, anti-Israel rhetoric has become mainstream in the Democratic Party, as Palestinian issues and values are now considered the “fringe” of the party. The party’s fairly dedicated support for the Jewish state began to fracture during the Obama Administration as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with the American President became increasingly apathetic as the two had fervently different values systems. As well, considering Republicans are on the side of Israel, the resistance movement from Democrats sees anything supported by conservatives as a threat to human rights.
Campaigning with an anti-Israel rancor is risky, especially because it doesn’t really equate to anything in the legislative agenda for constituents – just resistance against Republicans and the Trump Administration. This was noted by the swift condemnation that came after Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet and others whom have shown animus towards the Jewish state, signaling that Democratic candidates should expect backlash when criticizing Israel.