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Antisemitism in the House of Representatives…

It appears that antisemitism, naked hate and vicious libels against Israel have found a permanent home on the ‘progressive’ left of the Democrat party…

Indeed as Democrats have been taking a beating from pro-Israel activists ever since the May conflict with Hamas, which prompted a series of exchanges on the floor of the House of Representatives in which progressives made their distaste for Israel and its policies well known in histrionics and untrue announcements about the apartheid state of Israel — came the vote about foreign aid to Israel for the “Iron Dome” defense against the constant rocket fire from Hamas emanating from the Palestinian territories.

That is when the sentiment of Anti-Semitism started from the Democrats in the house — was compounded by the embarrassment suffered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was outwitted by members of her own caucus last month when she tried to slip Iron Dome funding into a House budget bill that raised the national debt limit. But since a considerable number of left-wing Democrats refused to vote for it because they oppose Israel, she had to withdraw it.

Two days later and after a torrent of criticism for being outmaneuvered by members of the so-called “Squad,” the House leadership submitted Iron Dome as a separate measure.

Determined to both answer the claims that their party had turned on Israel and to reassert control of their caucus on a budget issue on which freelancing is considered highly dangerous, Pelosi and her team struck back. Using all the considerable leverage and powers of intimidation at their disposal, the whip was cracked and even most progressives fell in line.

In the end, only nine House members voted against Iron Dome, a total that included eight left-wingers and one Republican, Kentucky libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie. 

Even the ringleader of the Squad, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) felt the pressure and, at the last minute, tearfully changed her vote from “no” to “present.” Though AOC subsequently apologized for a decision for what she described as insufficiently supportive of the Palestinians and critical of Israel, the lesson was learned.

Further burnishing the honor of House Democrats was the speech of Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) who accused another Squad member — Palestinian-American Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) of antisemitism for spreading the “apartheid state” lie about Israel.

After all the drama about U.S. funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system had already played out in the House, and both Democrats and Republicans were eager to pass the measure and then move on to other issues on which they could resume tearing each other apart.

So when Sen. Paul stopped the Senate’s approval of Iron Dome in its tracks, Democrats felt vindicated. It’s not surprising that Halie Soifer, the head of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, swiftly claimed in a tweet that Paul’s actions were actually more damaging to Iron Dome funding than what House progressives had done.

Some went further than that and argued that the fact that the Democrats who tried to stop Iron Dome were criticized with greater heat and with charges of antisemitism while Paul was, at least by comparison, let off with a slap on the wrist. They said that showed how distorted the debate about Israel has become.

However at this point Senator Rand Paul decided the issue was far from settled.

Exercising his prerogative to overturn a call for unanimous consent which would streamline the legislative process, he objected and placed a hold on the legislation to the frustration of just about everyone else on Capitol Hill.

Despite the attention given the Squad and its allies, some liberals contended that these events proved that not only was the bipartisan consensus on Israel holding but that any arguments that aimed at showing a real difference between the parties on the Jewish state was misinformation.

But while the Democrats attempted to assert a moral equivalence on Israel inside the two parties — this is simply untrue. If pro-Israel activists are more upset at left-wing Democrats than they are at the GOP’s libertarian outliers, they have good reason for thinking that way.

Streaks of light from Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system as it intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel this summer

Though it’s easy to lose perspective in the heat of political debate, the truth remains that the two parties have largely swapped identities over the last 60 years.

Where once the GOP was split between those who were sympathetic to the Jewish state and a much larger faction that was indifferent or hostile to it, today it is a fully pro-Israel party. Most have views on the conflict with the Palestinians that fit in somewhere between the Likud and even more right-wing Israelis like Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Even dissenters like libertarian Senators Rand Paul and Massie, who oppose aid to Israel — they do so on the ideological basis of their opposition to all foreign aid. Aside from that, indeed both men quite often speak of their admiration and support for Israel and the Jewish people.

By contrast, the Democrats, who could a generation or two ago, claim to be the home of pro-Israel opinion, are badly split on the issue. A significant portion of its left-wing base looks at Israel through the prism of intersectionality and critical race theory and believe it to be a manifestation of white privilege whose stance toward the Palestinians is no different from that of racists in the Jim Crow south in the pre-Civil Rights era.

Their dissent against the Iron Dome was merely the tip of an iceberg that betrays a growing hostility toward Israel that even some who claim to be Israel’s supporters — like the left-wing J Street lobby — are quick to note when they claim that right-wing Israeli policies are alienating Americans.

Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib attends a pro-Palestinian protest in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 16, 2021

Among the grassroots activists on the left there is considerable sympathy for the BDS movement as well as for views such as that of Tlaib, who views Israel’s existence as illegitimate. Though many Democrats disagree and are enthusiastic backers of a two-state solution that now seems more utopian than practical, there is no disguising the fact that, thanks to the increased support for intersectionality on the left, there is a real divide in the party between its establishment members and the Squad as well as many of the members of the 100-strong Progressive Caucus in the House on Zionism.

Even more troublesome is the fact that this divide seems to be largely generational, both among the activists and in the House, where the contrast between AOC and her allies and the octogenarians who still run the House leadership is too obvious to miss.

Given the popularity of the former among both the Democrats’ cheering section in the mainstream press, and, more crucially, the late night comedy shows, where people like Ilhan Omar, Tlaib and AOC are treated like rock stars, it’s not irrational to worry that, the recent vote notwithstanding, the left represents the party’s future.

President Joe Biden tours a neighborhood impacted by flooding from Hurricane Ida in New York's Queens with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

And although few pro-Israel activists are willing to say so publicly, most will admit in private that Rand Paul had a point. Israel is strong and rich enough that it ought to begin to wean itself from the constraints of American military aid, even if most of the money is spent in the United States.

While his proposal that Iron Dome be funded out of the allocation of foreign aid to Afghanistan now that it has fallen to the Taliban is a non-starter in legislative terms, it’s easy to sympathize with it and hardly equivalent to the kind of vicious libels being put about by the left about Israel’s efforts to silence Hamas terrorist missile and rocket fire.

While the Kentucky senator gave Jewish Democrats a good talking point, that doesn’t make up for the fact that a lot of liberals now buy into the arguments that falsely characterize Zionism as a form of racism.

Rather than seeking to pretend that the actions of two neo-isolationist libertarians who are allergic to spending taxpayer money on anything are just as bad as the anti-Zionism and antisemitism that has found a home on the left, Jewish Democrats need to follow Deutch’s example and concentrate their efforts on winning back their party from an increasingly influential faction that makes no secret about its disdain for Israel.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

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