Last July, Israel destroyed a building illegally constructed by non-Israeli Arabs in the eastern part of Jerusalem, abutting Israel’s security barrier, which blocks terrorists from infiltrating the Jewish capital from Judea and Samaria (aka “the West Bank”).
Israel commonly destroys residences that are built illegally or are the homes of known terrorists, a practice whose legitimacy has been consistently affirmed by Israeli courts, which in fact more often rule to thwart Israel’s right-leaning ruling parties in such matters.
Nonetheless, several weeks ago, more than 60 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding assurance that Israel is not using U.S. military equipment to demolish Palestinian homes.
This gesture was clearly meant to express disapproval of Israel’s legal measures to ensure the safety of its citizens, especially since it’s unclear whether any U.S. military equipment is being used for such law-enforcement purposes at all.
This was not the first time House Democrats have chastened Israel via the State Department. Last November, 106 of them signed a message protesting the State Department’s ruling that Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria are not illegal under international law (which they in fact are not).
These actions—and many others recently—highlight a growing trend in which Israel is losing its traditional bipartisan support, due exclusively to increasing numbers of Democratic legislators distancing themselves from or taking outwardly critical stands against the Jewish state.
Two leading 2020 Democratic presidential contenders—Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—even advocated cutting U.S. aid to Israel if Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are not halted.
This trend should be a wake-up call to Jewish Democrats who support Israel. For the last three years, these Jews have experienced severe cognitive dissonance as they’ve watched in horror as President Donald Trump has fulfilled every major, decades-long demand of American pro-Israel advocates.
Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, defunding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, walking away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, slashing financial support of the Palestinian “pay for slay” program, declaring Judea and Samaria “disputed” land (not “occupied Palestinian territory”), implementing U.S. education funding policies that punish anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism—Trump’s accomplishments in support of Israel are objectively unmatched by any American president.
Notwithstanding, the hate many Jewish Democrats feel towards Trump—for his boorishness, illiberality, unapologetic lying, misogyny and even some of his actual policies—blind them to the fact that Trump has become Israel’s best friend. They have refused to take pleasure in Trump’s support of Israel, and in many cases, cursed him for it.
But now things have changed. Left-wing Democrats—like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Warren and Sanders—have transferred anti-Trump animus over to Israel. If Trump likes Israel, the logic goes, it’s acceptable now to reveal our opposition to Israel.
As the presidential election approaches, it seems clear that neither Sanders nor Warren will be running against Trump. While Joe Biden has a long history of sympathy towards Israel, he was also vice president during one of the rockiest periods in the U.S.-Israel relationship in decades.
Admittedly, as badly as Obama treated Israel—excluding Israel from the Iran nuclear negotiations, allowing the infamous U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 declaring Israel’s communities in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria to be illegal—today’s ultra-left Democrats make Obama look like a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
So, the choice for most Jewish Democrats in November will not be anti-Israel Sanders vs. pro-Israel Trump. It will be guardedly pro-Israel Biden versus fervently pro-Israel Trump. Given that choice, it’s fair to predict that most Jewish Democrats will stick with their party—even as it slides into increasingly hostile anti-Israel positions.
The greater question, then, is not who pro-Israel Jewish Democrats will vote for in November. Rather, it’s what they will do today and over the next seven months to rescue their party from the impending anti-Israel takeover, led by the likes of Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Omar.
It seems certain, for example, that this year’s Democratic convention will be the scene of fierce battles over the party’s stance on Israel in its official platform.
Despite Biden’s past support of Israel, he’s not strong (or determined) enough to beat back those on his left-wing who want to declare Israel’s communities in eastern Jerusalem and in Judea-Samaria illegal, who want to cut U.S. funding to Israel—or who perhaps wish to characterize Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as “racist” (echoing a recent Sanders’s trope).
One thing should be clear to every Jewish Democrat—a fact they must own—is that they are about to lose their party to powerful forces that threaten Israel’s well-being and even survival.
Nobody is arguing here that you vote for Trump. That’s a complex personal choice. No, the challenge today to Jewish Democrats who claim to support Israel is, what are you doing to stop the complete takeover of your party by anti-Israel forces? What will you do to keep support of Israel bipartisan in this country?
Any pro-Israel Jew who allows without furious protest the hijacking of their Democratic Party by the rising anti-Zionist juggernaut will be guilty of betrayal of their people and their ancestral homeland, Eretz Yisrael.
What’s at stake in the coming election is not simply whether Trump or Biden wins, but rather, whether the United States will continue its bipartisan support of what Obama frequently called “our unbreakable bond with Israel.” If Jewish Democrats fail to exert sufficient influence on their party, the fate of the Jewish state and the Jewish people will be harmed irreparably.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.