In the wake of the worst mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust and a surge in antisemitism in the United States, the next generation of Democratic Party policymakers is united by one concern: the Biden administration is too supportive of Israel and too tough on Hamas.
That’s the conceit of three separate staff revolts chronicled in stories published this week in The New York Times.
At the U.S. State Department, more than 100 junior-level diplomats signed what Axios described as a “scathing” memo that echoed the antisemitic pro-Hamas rhetoric being heard at demonstrations in the streets of American cities and on college campuses. It actually accused the president of “spreading disinformation” in his Oct. 10 speech in which he denounced the atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7. It went on to advocate for not only a ceasefire that would leave an unpunished Hamas in place as the rulers of Gaza but actually endorsed the idea that there should be an exchange of “hostages” in which the Israeli men, women and children kidnapped by the terrorists would be treated as morally equivalent to Palestinians who have been convicted of murder.
The Times reported that two separate letters—one signed by more than 400 political appointees and staff members working at 40 different government agencies, and another by 1,000 employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development—also protested Biden’s support for Israel and demanded an immediate ceasefire that would similarly spare Hamas.
Yet rather than rebuke staffers who were publicly seeking to undermine administration policy and the U.S.-Israel alliance, Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to this revolt as if he were a beleaguered college president besieged by unruly students who needed to be assured of his concern for their feelings. He circulated a meek letter acknowledging that “the suffering caused by this crisis is taking a profound personal toll” on government staffers.
And instead of strongly defending Biden’s support for Israel, Blinken signaled that he was worried about young Democrats who want to discard the alliance. “We’re listening. “What you share is informing our policy and our messages.” That promise, which seems to signal a possible shift away from support for the Jewish state, should alarm Israel and its supporters.
Another revolt is one among Democratic Party congressional staffers. According to the Times, more than 100 of those who work on the Hill for the Democrats staged a theatrical walkout from their jobs in which they delivered 10,000 blood-red, pink, orange and yellow carnations—the number of Palestinian civilian casualties claimed by Hamas—were laid on the base of the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The stunt, carried out by staffers wearing masks so as to loosely conceal their identities, was on behalf of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which, they claimed, Democratic voters are clamoring for. Though unlike the State Department screed it also called for a release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas, the point of their effort was to demonstrate their opposition to the stands taken by many of their bosses in favor of Israel.
Accusing Biden of supporting genocide
Speaking on their behalf was Jeremy Slevin, a senior advisor to the openly antisemitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), as well as Waleed Shahid, a former congressional aide and “progressive activist” who said that “the old guard of the Democratic Party has an outdated view of how unconditionally supportive their own voters are of Israel.”
Also chiming in against pro-Israel Democrats was a group of 500 former staff members of the 2020 Biden presidential campaign, who warned the man they helped elect that his backing for the Jewish state’s efforts to defeat Hamas means “your legacy will be complicity in the face of genocide.”
The congressional staffers, described as almost all under the age of 35, may have no power now, but the Times wasn’t wrong to claim that they are their party’s future. Such people have traditionally provided the next generation of members of Congress and government policymakers for both political parties.
The same is true for the lower-level diplomats at the State Department, though the organizer of that letter was not able to conceal her identity for long. According to reports, she is Sylvia Yacoub, a foreign-affairs officer in the Bureau for Near East Affairs, the department that deals with U.S. policy towards Israel and its Arab neighbors. Throwing caution to the winds, Yacoub posted a blistering attack on Biden for his backing for Israel on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter (in posts she subsequently labeled as private), accusing him of being “complicit in genocide” for “supplying assistance to the government that is indiscriminately attacking innocent Gazans.”
Not everyone who works for Democrats agrees.
One of the most conspicuous exceptions was Adam Jentleson, the chief of staff for Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.). Fetterman is a left-wing Democrat best known for his struggles to carry out his duties as a result of suffering a stroke shortly before he was elected, and for flouting official decorum by wearing hoodies and shorts to the Capitol. But Fetterman has been stalwart in his support for Biden’s pro-Israel policies, even to the point of mocking a crowd of anti-Israel demonstrators at the Capitol by waving a small Israeli flag at them.
Jentleson summed up the current situation when he wrote on X that “Hamas just *broke a ceasefire* to slaughter innocents. Some think Hamas will now magically abide by a ceasefire. Some of us think this is unrealistic & offers up more innocents for slaughter.”
But that sentiment is not shared by others who work for Fetterman. Jentelson warned Fetterman’s staffers that while they could sign anonymous letters criticizing his stands on Israel, doing so openly and undermining the senator’s position was “prohibited.”
But it’s clear that most of the people working on the Hill, even for left-wingers like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose support for Israel has often been equivocal, are deeply unhappy with those senators’ decisions to oppose both Hamas and calls for a ceasefire that would essentially save the terrorist group from the consequences of the atrocities they committed.
A generational divide
The generational divide among Democrats when it comes to Israel has never been made starker. And it ought to worry those who are touting the recent return of a bipartisan consensus in favor of Israel since Oct. 7 as proof that the alliance between the two nations is secure.
Among officeholders, the number of progressives who are willing to openly oppose Israeli efforts to defeat Hamas is limited to members of the expanded congressional “Squad,” such as Omar and her friends, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who was censured by the U.S. House of Representatives last week for her support for the terrorists; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.); and others such as Cori Bush (D-Mo.).
But just as the ranks of grassroots Democratic activists in deep blue states tilt hard to the left, the same is true for staffers on the Hill and at Foggy Bottom. This group is largely the product of elite educational institutions where intersectional ideology predominates—the notion that falsely analogizes the Palestinian war on Israel to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Immersed in the toxic myths of critical race theory that mislabels Israel as a “white oppressor” and “apartheid” state, young Democrats are shocked by the way that the aging leaders of their party, like Biden, cling to policies they consider a vestige of America’s past. So it comes as little surprise that following the lead of woke academics who spew antisemitic rhetoric, they are aligning themselves with a viewpoint that sides with the Hamas terrorists against the Jewish state.
It might be possible to dismiss hard-core “progressives” currently serving in Congress as an insignificant minority. But the fact that so many of the people who work even for the most centrist Democrats embrace the woke mindset in which Zionism is falsely demonized as a form of racism is a harbinger of the future collapse of what is left of the pro-Israel wing of their party. Simply put, almost all of those who make up groups from which future Democratic congressional candidates will likely be picked, as well as those who are looked upon as the next generation of senior-level foreign-policy staffers, have bought into the most vicious lies about Israel and its supporters.
As the Times has already noted, while Republicans remain lockstep supporters of the Jewish state during this crisis, Democrats are splintering over Israel. This is costing Biden support among left-wing activists and minority voters who make up his party’s base. The collapse of Democratic enthusiasm for his re-election is widely attributed not so much to concerns about Biden’s age as it is to his support for Israel.
That explains why Biden and Blinken have backtracked on their pro-Israel positions as they make contradictory appeals for Israel to slow down or halt their assault on Hamas altogether, even as they continue to back the idea of Hamas being eliminated. And as the war against Hamas drags on with Israeli forces methodically taking out the terrorist group’s strongholds, it seems only a matter of time before Biden caves to his left-wing critics and seeks to use American leverage to halt the anti-Hamas offensive.
The last pro-Israel Democrat
Whether Biden stands his ground or not, it’s increasingly obvious that he will likely be the last Democratic president who will support the alliance with Israel. A party whose activist base—and cadres of future candidates and officeholders—are made up primarily of those who hate Israel for ideological reasons is an increasingly hostile place for anyone who thinks Democrats should stand in defense of the one Jewish state on the planet against its bloodthirsty foes.
That’s a scary thought for liberal Jews, who are increasingly out of touch with most of those who make up their party’s activists. They may have thought they could remain in sync with the Democratic base by endorsing the antisemitic Black Lives Matter movement and the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion that, in practice, grants a permission slip to Jew-hatred. But the events of the last month have demonstrated how wrong they were about that.
Biden’s presidency looks to be the last gasp of support for Israel as the intersectional wing of the Democrats continues on its long march to take control of government, academia and even corporate institutions. The future of the party on the Hill and at the State Department is ready to discard Israel. The only question is: Will liberal Jews who are not ready to give up their identity and faith still stick with a political party in thrall to antisemites, even as the next generation of Democrats throws them overboard?
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.