Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why Bi-Partisan Support for Israel has Crashed

Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison
One of the complaints I kept hearing about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to congress last year was that he was eroding bi-partisan support for Israel.

It’s true that support had been bi-partisan for many years. It is also true that Netanyahu’s address angered a lot of Democrats. Some of whom boycotted that address. Including my own Jewish congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky.

One may recall that the address was about the deal with Iran that former President Obama orchestrated. It delayed Iran from producing nuclear weapons for 10 years. Netanyahu believed it was a bad deal – paving the way for Iran to get a nuclear bomb in 10 years; removed the crippling sanctions on Iran; and released tens of billions of dollars to them - much of which was no doubt used to spread terrorism.

I believe Netanyahu was right. And so did most of congress, including some Democrats. Most Democrats however supported the deal. Reasonable people can disagree. But the Republican led congress wanted to hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a man they have tremendous respect for and whose interest in this issue was existential,  He accepted an their invitation and spoke to thunderous applause incuding several standing ovations.

I don’t really think Netanyahu can be faulted for that, depsite protestations by Democrats to the contrary. They felt that it was an insult to do the ‘end run’ around the President in order to fight him on this issue. This is when I started hearing talk about the erosion of bi-partisan support for Israel.

A recent poll has shown that this is indeed happening. From the Jerusalem Post
The difference between the proportion of Republicans and Democrats who sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians is the largest it has been in surveys dating to 1978, according to a new report.
While 74% of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, the number is 33% for Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 4-9 and published Thursday. 
Those are astonishing numbers! The question is why? Why are Democrats ‘jumping ship’? Why the spike in Republican support? What has changed to make that happen? Can it be traced back to Netanyahu’s address to congress? Well, partially, yes. Perhaps some of it can be. But it didn’t start with that. Nor did it even start with the first time the Prime Minister and the ex-President met, where Netanyahu was seen embarrassing the President by publicly lecturing him on the realities of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict. While that too contributed, that isn’t the real reason either.

What it boils down to in my view is how the liberal left views things versus how conservatives do.

At this point I want to be clear where I am coming from. I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. My positions on issues can be found variously on either side of the divide. But I do admit leaning right much more often than left. With that in mind, here is how I see things.

Liberals love to think they are more enlightened than conservatives - often referring to them as Neanderthals. They also believe they are more compassionate.. They are the ones that care most about the welfare of the underdog. This has always been true. When Israel was the underdog prior to the 6 day war, liberals had tremendous sympathy for them. While the party of big business consisting mostly of conservatives tended to side with the oil rich Arab countries. 

But now that the Palestinians are the underdog, They are the ones that get sympathy from the liberal left. Israel is no longer the underdog fearing annihilation by its Arab neighbors. Now it is Israel that is seen as a threat to the Palestinians. The left sees the Israeli support of the settlements as a ploy to to push the Palestinians out of land of Israel. Netanyahu is seen now in much the same the way Nasser was seen then. While the analogy is not exact, the parallels are clear. The threat to the underdog was all that mattered.

What liberals fail to see is context. And it is context that makes all the difference. There is a historical context; a religious context, a security context… all of which are practically ignored by the liberal left who sees only an oppressed Palestinian people with Jews as their oppressors.

Unfortunately this type of liberal group-think includes many liberal Jews as in the above-mentioned Congresswoman. The less connected they are to the Torah, the more likely they are to feel this way. especially young Jews that were raised with little to no Jewish content in their lives. These are the same young Jews on campuses who hear Israel being vilified by respected leftist academics. It should be no surprise therefore that support for Israel is eroding even among our own people... right along with their connection to Judaism as the 70% intermarriage rate would indicate.  The above-mentioned Congresswoman is intermarried.

Republicans used to be the ones that had issues with ‘the Jews’. They were the party of the wealthy upper class. They were the wealthy blue blood entrepreneurs whose soft antisemitism barred Jews from their country clubs, set quotas for Jews in ivy league universities, law schools and medical schools, barred them from certain college fraternities and sororities, and barred them from purchasing homes in certain neighborhoods.

Times have changed. It is the Republican party that is now more pro Israel than anyone could have ever imagined. The soft antisemitism has dissipated. Although there might be some residual antisemitism of that sort, Jews are now fully integrated into American culture and are not barred from anything. Why that is the case is the subject of another discussion.

The right now sees Israel in favorable light as well. They understand context. And instead of negatively stereotyping Jews as the right had in the past, they now identify Israel as an ally. When they see Israel now, they see America in microcosm. Israel is a democracy whose values are quintessentially American. And the see Israel under constant attack by the unrepentant militant Islam that rules Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. They understand that there was a Holocaust. They know about the persecution Jews have experienced throughout their history and are sensitive to it. They know about the biblical connection and respect it. 

Democrats tend to be less bible oriented. They tend towards a more humanistic approach to everything. They ignore history as in any way relevant to the situation at hand. They see only a Jewish occupier oppressing a Muslim people.  Context of any kind is irrelevant. The oppressed peoples of the world must be freed. Israeli settlements in the  West Bank are just a means of driving out an indigenous oppressed people. If you go far enough to the left, you will even hear Israel being called an Apartheid State. Sometimes they are even compared to Nazis! Although no mainstream Democrats have gone that far, one of their most respected ones, former President Jimmy Carter has called Israel an Apartheid State.

The Democratic party is therefore a far more sympathetic home for the Palestinian cause. Which is why a Muslim Democrat known for his sympathy to the Palestinian cause is now being seriously considered as the new chairman of the Democratic Party.

All of this may be a bit of an oversimplification. But I don’t think it is arguable that it is the liberal mindset that makes Democrats more sympathetic to Palestinian cause than to the Israeli one.

Meanwhile the support for Israel coming from Republican side is now unprecedented. One need only listen to the speech given in the Senate by Republican Senator Marco Rubio shortly after Netanyahu addressed them to see how strong their support is (video below). And he is by far not the only Republican that feels that way. 74% of them do.

I’m sorry that Democratic support for Israel has decreased. But I don’t blame Israel or Netanyahu for that. It was inevitable. I blame the blind support for the underdog that is so characteristic of the liberal mind. A view constantly being reinforced by that Palestinian narrative. To the liberal mind - as long as the Palestinians are the underdog, Israel will be seen as the oppressors. No matter the context.