I want to add to Jonathan Tobin’s excellent post about the Democratic Party’s move away from support for Israel, which is, in turn, a result of the party’s lurch to the Left.
As the New York Times puts it in its story, “A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.”
What triggered this attention is the appointment of two anti-Israel figures on the party’s platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, who on Wednesday “denounced Israel’s ‘occupation’ of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government.”
These appointments laid bare a steady shift in the Democratic Party, whose members have been less willing to back Israel’s government than in years past. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, self-described liberal Democrats were twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israel than they were only two years ago. Forty percent of liberals sympathized more with Palestinians — the most since 2001 — while 33 percent sympathized more with Israel.
What explains this troubling trend? A friend of mine puts it this way: The Left thinks in terms of oppressor and oppressed, and in those terms it’s much easier for them to see the Palestinians as the oppressed than the Israelis, and arguments about who is at fault or who refuses to come to the table don’t change the basic power relations of a powerful, wealthy, successful society facing a weak, poor, failed one. It suggests the Left’s entire oppressor/oppressed framework often is misguided, but that’s just how liberals tend to think.
What’s wrong with this progressive construct is that it is morally offensive and empirically insane. One can sympathize with the suffering of individual Palestinians while also recognizing that Palestinians, not Israel, have brought these miseries upon themselves.
To quickly review the historical record: For those who blame the so-called “Israeli occupation” for Palestinian hostilities, it needs to be pointed out yet again that the PLO, an organization committed to the destruction of Israel, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel controlled the West Bank or Gaza. The entire Palestinian movement, from its inception to this day, is based on vanquishing the Jewish state.
This was evident in August 1967 when Israel’s offer to return all the land it had captured during the 1967 war in exchange for peace and normal relations, was rejected out of hand by Arab leaders meeting in Khartoum.
It was evident on the day Yasir Arafat signed the Oslo accords in 1993 when he addressed the Palestinian people and justified his action as the first step “in the 1974 plan,” referring to a phased plan whose goal was the ultimate eradication of Israel.
It was evident at Camp David in 2000, in Taba in 2001, and again in 2008 when enormously generous offers – Palestinian statehood, the division of Jerusalem, the return of the West Bank and Gaza – were rejected by the Palestinians, often followed by an intifada.
Add to this a Palestinian leadership that has been characterized by mind-boggling corruption and a steadfast refusal of Palestinian leaders to challenge a culture of incessant and murderous anti-Semitism. Despite Israel’s repeated efforts to bring about reconciliation, then, Palestinians have never made their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.
The problems of the Palestinians are real and tragic, and when abuses against innocent Palestinians occur, including by Israelis, they should be condemned. But the entire situation in which that suffering arises is by now, after decades of spurning offers and deals that Israel was willing to accept, in essence, a creation of the Palestinian leadership. They have brought this misery upon themselves by refusing to compromise and accept the existence of a Jewish state. And the best thing that those who profess to care about the Palestinian cause could do is to speak honestly to the Palestinians about their leaders’ role in their plight. Yet those on the American left are not only not willing to do this; they have chosen to aim their fire against the Jewish state, pretending Israel is responsible for the travails of the Palestinian people.
This is a grotesque lie, the slander of one of the most venerable nations in history, a country that is bone-weary of war and done everything within its power to bring about peace. But that cannot happen unless and until the Palestinians jettison its malignant ideology, its rejectionist mindset, its burning hatred for Israel and for Jews.
The fact that an increasing number of Democrats and liberals cannot see this is evidence of an intellectual and moral corruption that runs deep and wide.