CRIT­I­CIZE

Jerusalem Post - - FRONTLINES -

left-wing, base votes by at­tack­ing Is­rael. For Demo­cratic groups to pre­tend like this is a made-up wedge is­sue is au­da­cious,” Strauss told JTA.

”Make no mis­take about it, Scott Wal­lace, Les­lie Cock­burn, Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, and other can­di­dates at­tack­ing Is­rael, one of our clos­est al­lies and the only democ­racy in the Mid­dle East, is bad for US-Is­rael re­la­tions. It is also a bad po­lit­i­cal strat­egy,” Strauss added. “We proved this when we ed­u­cated the vot­ers of PA-01 about the fact that the foun­da­tion that Wal­lace was in charge of, and which bears his fam­ily name, gave hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port BDS and ter­ror­ism against Is­rael. The pres­ti­gious Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port moved his race from toss-up to lean Repub­li­can and specif­i­cally cited our ads in their write-up.

“We will con­tinue ed­u­cat­ing vot­ers in many other dis­tricts about the anti-Is­rael be­hav­ior of Democrats, be­tween now and Novem­ber,” Strauss promised, ref­er­enc­ing the midterm elec­tions.

Halie Soifer, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Jewish Demo­cratic Coun­cil of Amer­ica, said there is no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween Zion­ism and Demo­cratic pol­i­tics, main­tain­ing that the Demo­cratic Party con­tin­ues to best rep­re­sent Jewish in­ter­ests.

“Given Pres­i­dent Trump’s align­ment with neo-Nazis and in his politi­ciza­tion of Is­rael as a par­ti­san is­sue – not to men­tion his rad­i­cally right-wing do­mes­tic agenda – we are con­fi­dent that the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the Jewish elec­torate will con­tinue to sup­port Democrats in the up­com­ing elec­tion,” Soifer said. “JDCA is sup­port­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates who share our pol­icy plat­form and values, and we have, in some in­stances, spo­ken out against can­di­dates who are not aligned with our views. JDCA is proudly serv­ing as the voice of pro-Is­rael and so­cially pro­gres­sive Democrats, and we will do every­thing in our power to en­sure that the Jewish com­mu­nity’s values are rep­re­sented in the midterm elec­tions.

“Ev­ery elec­tion, Repub­li­cans at­tempt to use Is­rael as a par­ti­san wedge is­sue, and ev­ery year they fail to get a ma­jor­ity of the Jewish vote. This year will be no dif­fer­ent. The more Jewish vot­ers who go to the polls in Novem­ber, the bet­ter the re­sult will be for Democrats.”

Al­though anti-Is­rael at­ti­tudes cer­tainly ex­ist within pro­gres­sive cir­cles, some lib­eral Jews be­lieve they are on the mar­gins.

“I be­lieve that sup­port for Is­rael re­mains as strong among both Repub­li­cans and Democrats as ever,” said Rabbi Jack Mo­line, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­ter­faith Al­liance and the for­mer head of the Na­tional Jewish Demo­cratic Coun­cil. “With some few ex­cep­tions on both sides of the aisle, the no­tion of a na­tional home­land for the Jewish peo­ple is ac­cepted and se­cure. How­ever, just as peo­ple who were for­merly on the mar­gins of both par­ties are now con­sid­ered part of a big tent, ideas that were once mar­ginal in Is­rael are be­ing en­ter­tained by main­stream lead­ers.

“For a lib­eral Zion­ist like me, ob­ject­ing to bad pol­icy in Is­rael is an in­di­ca­tion of deeper con­cern, not lesser sup­port,” he said. “Con­sider it a vic­tory for the re­ac­tionary Right that hon­est dis­agree­ment with the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion has been suc­cess­fully de­picted as be­trayal.”

Daniel Shapiro, the for­mer US am­bas­sador to Is­rael un­der pres­i­dent Obama, said there is no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween lib­eral values and Zion­ism, which he said “is the ex­pres­sion of the wholly le­git­i­mate right of the Jewish peo­ple to sovereignty in their an­cient home­land.

“If there are those in the Demo­cratic Party or the pro­gres­sive coali­tion who mis­un­der­stand that – there may be some, but we tend to ex­ag­ger­ate the phe­nom­e­non – it is in­cum­bent on peo­ple like me to ed­u­cate them about Is­rael’s in­her­ent le­git­i­macy,” he said.

The larger di­vide, Shapiro said, re­lates to the Pales­tinian is­sue, not Is­rael’s ex­is­tence.

“An Is­rael that is seen as still seek­ing to keep a re­al­is­tic two-state so­lu­tion alive, where its se­cu­rity needs are met and it is rec­og­nized as a Jewish state – and even though Pales­tinian lead­ers have not yet met their obli­ga­tions to make that out­come pos­si­ble – will not have trou­ble re­tain­ing the broad, bi­par­ti­san sup­port it has his­tor­i­cally en­joyed,” he said.

Rabbi Jill Ja­cobs, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of T’ruah: The Rab­binic Call for Hu­man Rights, said the Pew study was flawed, in­so­far as it sug­gested that sup­port for ei­ther Is­rael or the Pales­tini­ans im­plies a lack of ad­vo­cacy for the other.

“The ques­tion of whether one is pro-Is­rael or pro-Pales­tinian is a false di­chotomy. We need to stop ask­ing ques­tions, in polls and oth­er­wise, that sug­gest that one must choose be­tween the hu­man rights of Is­raelis or Pales­tini­ans,” Ja­cobs said. “The only de­fen­si­ble po­si­tion is one that stands up for the hu­man rights of both and in­sists that these are not in con­flict.

“That means work­ing to­ward two states, and op­pos­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion and the growth of set­tle­ments that en­trench it. This is the po­si­tion of the Is­raeli Left, who should be the nat­u­ral part­ners for the Demo­cratic Party – in con­trast to the Repub­li­can Party, which has al­lied it­self with Likud, the Jewish Home [Bayit Ye­hudi] Party and the rest of the pro-set­tle­ment, pro-oc­cu­pa­tion hard Right.”

Yet oth­ers see the Democrats’ con­tin­ued em­brace of pro­gres­sive fig­ures and Is­rael crit­ics like Oca­sio-Cortez, Omar, El­li­son, Sar­sour and Mal­lory as fur­ther di­vorc­ing their party – Amer­ica’s lib­eral party – from Is­rael, leav­ing lib­eral Zion­ists – a ma­jor­ity among Amer­i­can Jews – in po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

“Demo­cratic base vot­ers are more hos­tile to Is­rael than at any point in decades, which will pro­duce a less sup­port­ive House Demo­cratic cau­cus next year,” John­son said. “As the 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­maries take shape, it’s easy to imag­ine more ide­o­log­i­cally flex­i­ble con­tenders (such as Kirsten Gil­li­brand or Ka­mala Har­ris [the Cal­i­for­nia se­na­tor] sharply crit­i­ciz­ing Is­rael to boost their stand­ing with pro­gres­sive ac­tivists.

“Lib­eral Zion­ists,” John­son warns, “will need to more ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate how Is­rael’s poli­cies on women’s is­sues, LGBT rights and civil rights are con­sis­tent with a Demo­cratic Party in­creas­ingly ori­ented around iden­tity pol­i­tics.”

A Wider Bridge, a pro-Is­rael LGBT group, in­sists that it is do­ing just that: mak­ing the pro­gres­sive case for Is­rael.

“Is­rael has long re­ceived broad sup­port from both Democrats and Repub­li­cans. I be­lieve that is still true to­day,” said Ronit Beza­lel, the group’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. “Much of our work at A Wider Bridge is to make the case for Is­rael among pro­gres­sive al­lies. We do not be­lieve that sup­port of Is­rael ex­cludes the con­cerns raised on be­half of the Pales­tinian peo­ple.” •

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