NOTE: Middle East Eye published my latest story about the Gaza massacre and embassy dedication. Please read and share on social media. It was also republished by CommonDreams.
I’m going to say something somewhat radical, but I frankly don’t care much about what the new Pew Report says about Republican support for Israel. Although I think that the Democrats aren’t worthy of being the ruling party in American politics, Republicans are far less worthy. Their politics are increasingly tone-deaf and marginalizing. Gradually they could become a permanent minority party until there is some seismic shift like the one that killed off the Whig Party and gave rise to the Republican Party in the 1850s.
At any rate, as support for Israel rises among Republicans the Party becomes increasingly bizarre and extremist. So in some senses they, Israel and the GOP, were meant for each other. But they (especially the GOP) will become increasingly irrelevant in U.S. national politics. That’s why in some ways I don’t care how much support the “Jewish state” has among the far-right Party.
What really interests me is what the numbers say about Democratic support for Israel. And it doesn’t look good. By almost every yardstick, the Party, especially its liberal-progressive wing, is losing its love affair with Israel.
Here are some of the most riveting poll results:
- Over the period from 2001 to today, Democratic support for Israel has declined by almost one-third, from 38% to 27%. But if we look at those results over a more recent period, they’re even more striking: those Democrats reporting greater sympathy for Israel than the Palestinians declined from 43% in 2016 to 27% today. Today, 25% of Democrats sympathize more with the Palestinians.
- Among liberal Democrats the drop is even more precipitous: from 33% in 2016 to 19% today. That’s a drop of just under 50% over a two-year period! More than twice as many liberals sympathize with Palestinians over the Israelis: 35% vs 19%.
- These two findings may be the most critical in the entire report for several reasons. First, because young people tend to identify overwhelmingly with the Party’s progressive wing. Second, because the general trend inside the Party is for the liberal wing to attract greater support than the centrist wing. In other words, in the battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: the old folks favored Hillary but the young folks favored Bernie. Finally, older Democrats tend to be much more supportive of Israel. As their mortality increases, the views of younger Party supporters will predominate.
- But even among moderate-conservative Democrats support for Israelis has declined from 53% in 2016 to 35% today.
- Young people (both Republicans and Democrats lumped together) sympathize slightly more with Israel than the Palestinians (32% vs 23%).
- Only 18% of Democrats have a favorable view of Bibi Netanyahu. Even among Republicans his support is barely a majority at 52%.
- Nearly half of Democrats say Trump favors Israel too much.
- The poll finding that I find most out of touch with current Middle East reality relates to the two-state solution: 58% of Democrats believe two-states is a viable option. 60% of young people of both parties believe in two-states. Among those who support the Palestinian cause over Israel support for two-states is even higher: 64%.
All this reflects a continuing romance with liberal Zionist feel-good notions. Given how little the general public really knows about the absolute direness of the current situation, I suppose this outcome shouldn’t be surprising. But it does indicate how out of touch the American public is with reality on the ground.
Much of this may be attributed to two factors: the Israel Lobby’s powerful ability to manipulate the political and media discourse by suppressing views that are overly critical of Israel (viz. the national campaign to declare BDS anti-Semitic and to make expressions of support for it illegal); and the media’s willingness to spout the company line when it comes to Israel.
Pro-Israel Media: the Fix–and the Smear–is In
A perfect example of this is an “exposé” in today’s Forward written by, Aiden Pink, a former staff member for The Israel Project who has also published at the Shalem Center’s (Likud Party think-tank) publication, the Tower. The article purports to show that a progressive Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate, Scott Wallace, (bio) who just won his Party’s primary election, is anti-Israel.
This is potentially important because the district went Republican last year and because it has a huge number of Jewish voters. The Forward’s smear is a feeble attempt by the Republican Jewish Coalition to create a whisper campaign questioning Wallace’s commitment to Israel.
Here are the facts: Wallace ran the Wallace Global Foundation for over a decade. With $140-million in assets, it which supports environmental and voting rights causes. Among the non-profits it has supported are Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. From 2003-2018, while Scott Wallace ran the foundation it donated $300,000 to these and other Israel-related causes. This is a tiny fraction of all the foundation’s giving over that period.
Wallace also supported progressive book publishers like Haymarket Books which have published books by Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah and Steven Salaita. Pink neglects to point out that Haymarket has published scores of books on many other subjects which don’t interest him or the Republican hit men who fed him this drivel.
Here are the problems with Aiden Pink’s hit job. It begins with this statement about the foundation:
[Wallace] has also dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-Israel groups over the past decade, according to tax records.
He repeats the false charge here:
…Wallace [has offered] financial support for strongly anti-Israel causes….
There are numerous faulty claims here: first none of the groups listed by Pink are “anti-Israel” nor does he explain or support this claim. Second, the tax records do not make this claim either. What he meant to say was that the tax records listed which groups Wallace contributed to. Instead, he claimed (perhaps due to sloppy writing) the tax records supported his claim that they were anti-Israel.
Yet another false claim:
…The CCR is also known for its support and advocacy for BDS; they most recently garnered attention for organizing a tour of Israel and the West Bank for activists like Tamika Mallory of the Women’s March.
In fact, CCR is NOT known for either support or advocacy for BDS. Again, Pink doesn’t offer a single piece of evidence to support this statement. In truth, CCR is a legal organization. As such it takes no political positions on subjects like BDS. It offers legal support to those whose speech is suppressed including some who do support BDS. For example, CCR represents the Olympia Food Coop, which was sued by StandWithUs for its support of BDS. But the legal NGO’s representation was based on constitutional and speech grounds, not on the grounds that it supported BDS. When a lawyer argues in court on his client’s behalf, he is explaining his client’s views, not necessarily endorsing them on behalf of his law firm or NGO. THis nuance was apparently far too much for Pink.
The reporter dredges up two Jews from the entire state of Pennsylvania who raise questions about whether Wallace is electable due to his ‘suspect’ views. He interviews no Jews who have anything favorable to say about the candidate. Even the credentials of the two Jews he chooses to opine on the candidate are suspect: one is a former JCRC director and the other a self-appointed Party operative who investigates the pro-Israel bona fides of candidates.
The prevailing claim of the Forward piece is that BDS is “anti-Israel.” Again, there is no justification for this claim. BDS, despite the shreys of the Israeli government, which has declared the movement an existential threat to the State, it does not call for the destruction of Israel. Once again, it supports the Right of Return of Nakba refugees, full equality for Israeli Palestinian citizens, and the end of the Occupation. In fact, many Israelis support two of those three principles. Some even support the third, ROR. In effect, what these nonsensical smears argue is that those Israelis who support equality for non-Jewish citizens and the end of the Occupation are “anti-Israel.”
By the way, Scott Wallace is the great-grandson of one of the greatest progressives produced by the Democratic Party in the 20th century, Henry Wallace. Had FDR not abandoned him due to his left-wing views, the elder Wallace would’ve become president when Roosevelt died in 1944. The 20th century might’ve been quite different had that happened.
Finally, on a broader subject: let’s be clear about one thing you’ll hear from Republican Jewish Coalition campaign propaganda. The Democratic Party is NOT anti-Israel. Not by a longshot. The Party still retains strong affinity for Israel, at least for the Israel it used to know and love. An Israel that was democratic, liberal, tolerant. As anyone reading this blog will know, this is an Israel that has long since left the scene. But Democrats, for some reason, still harbor a fondness for the old Israel and treat today’s version as if it was the same as the former one. It’s something like the fondness one might have for a long-ago fling, picturing an old romance in the golden colors of nostalgia.
What Democrats do not support is a State that is the Israeli equivalent of white supremacists. They will not support the massacre of Gazans in a hail of sniper fire. They won’t support the massive theft of Palestinian lands or the settler enterprise. They will not support the growing movement for expulsion of Palestinians or offering them a servile status. Rejecting those aspects of Israeli policy does not make the Party anti-Israel.
I say all these things not so much because I think the Democrats offer a perfect solution to the nation’s problems. They don’t. But the Republicans are far worse.