(September 23, 2021 / JNS) According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, when the Democrats withdrew from their embattled spending bill $1 billion in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, this was merely a “technicality” that would be reversed.
Some technicality! The baleful reality behind this development is that the Democratic Party is splintering over support for Israel.
The Iron Dome system has prevented thousands of rockets and missiles from slaughtering Israeli civilians and reducing their cities to rubble. Removing this funding would signify that the party no longer wished to prevent this.
Cue predictable uproar, not least among pro-Israel Democrats. Two days later, the House overwhelmingly passed a separate bill dedicated to the Iron Dome funding. Pro-Israel Democrat Rep Kathy Manning pledged that the party “will reiterate our ironclad support for our ally, Israel.”
But despite the second bill passing that support is ironclad no longer.
The fiasco was triggered by pressure from the party’s “progressive” caucus, whose members hate Israel and want it gone. They reportedly told the party leadership they wouldn’t vote for the bill if it included the Iron Dome funding.
With the Republicans continuing to dig in their heels against the bill in total, Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi caved—a moment of moral bankruptcy which subsequent actions can’t erase.
The significance of this episode doesn’t lie with the Iron Dome. It lies instead with what it tells us about the way the Democratic Party is going.
For it demonstrates that the influence of this far-left caucus is considerable. The fact that the Israeli funding was removed, albeit temporarily, was a win for the far-left that has put the “moderate” wing on the back foot.
It shows that, when it comes to the issue of Israel, the “moderate” leadership can’t control events when they have such a wafer-thin majority. As a result of this victory—although it is merely symbolic—the far-left will now have the wind in their sails, and this threatens more such battles over Israel down the line.
The fact is that far-left Democrats have had the upper hand in the party from the moment they were elected. And that’s because the leadership has persistently caved in to them.
Shamefully, it has never pushed back against “The Squad” of progressive women lawmakers despite the revolting remarks they have made—not just about Israel but also the Jews—under the risible fig-leaf of concern for “Palestinian rights.”
And, of course, Iron Dome has got nothing to do with “Palestinian rights” but is solely a means of defending Israeli citizens against attack.
The Democrats’ cave-in was contemptible; but on both sides of the Atlantic, “progressive” politics is descending ever deeper into the moral sewer over Israel and the Jewish people.
Support for Israel among the Democrats is eroding far beyond the party’s far-left caucus. This may be a small faction in the House, but it represents a wider constituency that’s too large for the party leadership to ignore.
In Britain, the Labour Party pushed out the far-left under its former leader Jeremy Corbyn, specifically over the issue of anti-Semitism. Even so, only the most egregious anti-Jewish offenders were thrown out, and some have even been allowed back in.
That’s because there are simply too many who sympathize with some or even most of their attitudes; and that, in turn, is because an alarming number on the left, both in Britain and America, subscribe to many of the diabolical falsehoods about Israel that have thrown open once again Pandora’s box of brazen anti-Semitism.
Those baying for Israel’s blood deny that this singling out of Israel for demonization is essentially the same kind of deranged treatment meted out to the Jews through the ages.
Instead, more and more on the left—tragically, including many Jews—now nod along to the evil and patently ludicrous charges against Israel of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.
When Israelis are murdered in the disputed territories of the “West Bank,” the silence from the human-rights-obsessed, “anti-racist” left is deafening. These murders are simply ignored because, to supporters of “Palestinian rights,” these Jewish victims are simply to be written out of the script of humanity.
Even to “moderate” Israel supporters on the left, there are good Israelis and bad Israelis; good Jews and bad Jews. The bad ones are deemed bad because they fight their enemies; the good ones are deemed good because they cave in to them.
The result is a vast increase in attacks on Jews, with students on campus increasingly hiding their Jewish identity.
So what should Israel and its supporters do in response?
Israel’s new ambassador to the United States, Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, has rightly said: “We are in the midst of a war of consciousness, and the State of Israel has to develop new, strong and profound tools to deal with this challenge.”
In fact, Israel has never responded adequately to this great crisis of Western thought. This is partly the result of Israel’s epic and endemic governmental incompetence.
But it’s also because of Israel’s deeply felt belief that trying to make Israel’s case to Britain and Europe, where Jew-hatred has been ingrained for centuries, is a hopeless task—while (with the exception of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understood that Israel had to appeal directly to the American public) it could take American support for granted.
Now it needs to revisit that last assumption as a matter of urgency. Yet at this most critical juncture, Israel has saddled itself with a feeble governing coalition that appears to believe that a plastic spoon should be brought to a gunfight.
Its foreign minister, Yair Lapid, is a politician so shallow that he thinks there’s nothing special about anti-Semitism. To him, it’s just another form of “hatred of outsiders”—one he actually ascribed, ludicrously, not just to the Nazis but also to slave traders, “Muslims who kill other Muslims” and those who murder LGBT people.
Accordingly, he thinks the way to deal with Israel-bashers is to “conduct a dialogue” with them. This is a foreign minister of Israel who says the way to stop Hamas terrorist war crimes is to pump money into Gaza (which he doesn’t seem to realize Hamas will requisition to redouble its attacks on Israel, not to mention on its own Gazan people who are under its tyrannical thumb).
The chances therefore of Lapid ever understanding what is needed to deal with the wider “war of consciousness” are zero.
What’s necessary above all is for both Israel and its supporters to stop playing defense and get onto the front foot instead. They need to change the paradigm.
The enemies of the Jewish people have hijacked history and language to present Israel falsely as a colonial aggressor. Jewish defenders need to re-institute the truths of history and language by associating Israel in Western minds with legality, justice and human rights, as well as Jewish indigeneity throughout all the land in question.
Jewish defenders should also target their enemies’ Achilles heel—their narcissism and belief in their own unimpeachable virtue. These Western foes can be swiftly undermined by being attacked on their own territory; by exposing them, for example, as promoting Arab colonialism, endorsing Palestinian Nazi-style Jew-hatred, supporting Jewish ethnic cleansing from the disputed territories—and, most devastating of all for such people, as being stupid and gullible.
In other words, it’s time for the Jewish world to find its fighting spirit and take the gloves off. Scant sign of that, alas. For you can take the Jew out of the ghetto; but, as is being so dismayingly demonstrated in both Israel and the Diaspora, you can’t always take the ghetto out of the Jew.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy.” Go to melaniephillips.substack.com to access her work.
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