Why Is­rael shouldn’t give up on the Democrats

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES - • By DANNY AYALON

Ear­lier this week, thou­sands of miles from Is­rael, mil­lions of Amer­i­cans went to vote in the midterm elec­tions. The out­come has given the Demo­cratic Party a ma­jor­ity in the United States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Th­ese re­sults are not nec­es­sar­ily a ref­er­en­dum on the poli­cies of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, as he might be re­elected in two years, as was the case for many two-term US pres­i­dents who wit­nessed their own party lose the midterm elec­tions. Th­ese re­sults are, how­ever, a wake-up call to Is­raelis like my­self.

For the last few years, we have seen a grow­ing trend of Democrats be­com­ing less sup­port­ive of Is­rael and a rad­i­cal Left that is ve­he­mently anti-Is­rael. In fact, re­cent polls and statis­tics have shown that Democrats are be­com­ing more and more sym­pa­thetic to the Pales­tini­ans. This is not the case among tra­di­tional es­tab­lish­ment-based Democrats, who have long been con­stantly sup­port­ive of the strong Is­rael-US re­la­tion­ship. Rather, this de­cline of sup­port is found mostly among new­com­ers and mil­len­ni­als within the Demo­cratic Party who iden­tify with the party’s so-called “pro­gres­sive” base.

Th­ese new Democrats, many of whom were elected this week to Congress, come from the far Left, led by Bernie San­ders, and hold opin­ions based on con­cepts of pro­gres­sive so­cial equal­ity. It is usu­ally th­ese Democrats who are dis­con­nected from Is­rael, it­self a so­cially pro­gres­sive democ­racy. In or­der to solve this oxy­moron, we must first ex­am­ine the core root of the prob­lem.

The pro­gres­sive move­ment within the Demo­cratic Party has been hi­jacked by the Pales­tini­ans and their col­lab­o­ra­tors, with the false nar­ra­tive that the Pales­tinian cause is a pro­gres­sive one. This in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity has turned groups such as Black Lives Mat­ter and Code Pink – which have noth­ing to do with the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict – into anti-Is­rael or­ga­ni­za­tions.

In re­al­ity, the Pales­tini­ans are not pro­gres­sives, whereas Is­raelis are.

Real pro­gres­sives sup­port women’s rights. The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity de­nies women’s rights. Women do not hold any se­nior po­si­tions in the govern­ment of the PA or in Gaza. Is­rael, on the other hand, has sev­eral fe­male cabi­net min­is­ters and deputy min­is­ters, fe­male chief jus­tices of the Supreme Court, and a par­lia­ment where one-third of its mem­bers are women.

Real pro­gres­sives sup­port LGBTQ rights. The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity de­nies rights to mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. Both the PA and Ha­mas for­bid any such ac­tiv­ity among their peo­ple. Is­rael, on the other hand, holds Gay Pride pa­rades both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem each year that are at­tended by hun­dreds of thou­sands of par­tic­i­pants. Many Is­raeli govern­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing diplo­mats and mem­bers of Knes­set, are mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity and proudly ex­press their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion freely here in Is­rael. Ad­di­tion­ally, Is­rael grants asy­lum to many LGBTQ Arab Mus­lims.

Real pro­gres­sives sup­port re­li­gious di­ver­sity. The PA for­bids re­li­gious di­ver­sity. Pales­tini­ans are pro­hib­ited un­der their own laws to sell land to Jews, Chris­tians, or any non-Mus­lims. This is a crime pun­ish­able by death in both the PA and in Gaza. No syn­a­gogues ex­ist in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries and no new churches have been built there since the Oslo Ac­cords. Is­rael, how­ever, has cit­i­zens from mul­ti­ple faiths, who all live freely and prac­tice their reli­gion openly in Is­rael, where the Chris­tian and Arab Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties are grow­ing and thriv­ing.

REAL PRO­GRES­SIVES sup­port and aid refugees. The PA per­pet­u­ates and cheap­ens the mean­ing of the word refugee, and con­sid­ers all Pales­tini­ans to be refugees. The refugee pop­u­la­tion has there­fore grown from 450,000 to five mil­lion. Some­one who was born in Paris, lives in a man­sion in Brus­sels, and holds both an EU and a Jor­da­nian pass­port is still con­sid­ered a refugee ac­cord­ing to UNRWA.

Is­rael, on the other hand, ac­tu­ally works to aid real refugees, like those flee­ing Syria. Is­rael built a field hospi­tal on its north­ern bor­der es­pe­cially for Syr­i­ans, who now have a place to go and re­ceive treat­ment. Is­rael has ac­cepted the heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity of tak­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees from Africa, whom Is­rael’s Arab neigh­bors refuse to ac­cept.

There­fore, any­one who iden­ti­fies as a pro­gres­sive should by def­i­ni­tion be sup­port­ive of the lib­eral demo­cratic State of Is­rael and op­posed to the racist theoc­racy of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

Is­rael has not done enough outreach to Democrats and pro­gres­sives. We must re­dou­ble our ef­forts to show them that their val­ues are Is­rael’s val­ues and their cause is Is­rael’s cause.

Is­rael has a great friend in Pres­i­dent Trump and in the Repub­li­can Party. How­ever, the Democrats are an equal party in the Is­rael-US re­la­tion­ship.

As Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the United States, I did ev­ery­thing I could to en­sure that Amer­i­can sup­port for Is­rael would re­main bi­par­ti­san. I met reg­u­larly with both Democrats and Repub­li­cans, and very of­ten with both of them in the same room. Many of Is­rael’s strong­est sup­port­ers in Amer­i­can his­tory were and are Democrats, in­clud­ing Harry Tru­man, Joe Lieber­man, Joe Manchin, Bob Me­nen­dez and many more.

I wit­nessed first-hand so much love for Is­rael among Democrats over my decades of ser­vice to the Is­rael. Their sup­port of Is­rael is cru­cial and has proven that Is­rael is not a “par­ti­san is­sue.” Stand­ing with Is­rael crosses the aisle of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in the United States.

The new pro­gres­sive Democrats are grow­ing in num­bers, but are still the mi­nor­ity of their party. Most of the Democrats in Congress re­main friends of Is­rael. We must pre­serve that friend­ship and must never al­low the Demo­cratic Party of the United States to be­come like the Jeremy Cor­byn Labour Party of Eng­land. We must ed­u­cate th­ese new mem­bers of the Demo­cratic Party about Is­rael, its con­tri­bu­tions to so­ci­ety and its plu­ral­is­tic democ­racy. We must give them the in­for­ma­tion and tools to speak up for Is­rael within their own party set­tings. We must dis­pel the lies and ex­pose the au­to­crats who speak of pro­gres­sive­ness.

There must be an in­ten­sive, mo­bi­lized ef­fort by the Is­rael Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton and by pro-Is­rael or­ga­ni­za­tions to forge close re­la­tion­ships and part­ner­ships with Democrats, par­tic­u­larly with the younger ones who iden­tify as pro­gres­sive. Anti-Is­rael rhetoric should find no place in a pro­gres­sive so­ci­ety. By telling the truth and cre­at­ing a more in­clu­sive di­a­logue, we can save the bi­par­ti­san­ship of the Is­rael-US re­la­tion­ship.

I refuse to give up on the Democrats. You should, too.

The au­thor is a for­mer deputy for­eign min­is­ter and was Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the United States.


BILL­BOARDS CALL on peo­ple to vote in Ari­zona be­fore this week’s midterms.

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