Essential Loyals

Paul Findley died at 98 last week. The former Republican Representative from Illinois was nicknamed “Arafat’s Best Friend in Congress” after a 1978 meeting with the archterrorist in Damascus seduced Findley into rethinking his previously mainstream political positions. Findley forever blamed AIPAC and the Jews for his 1982 election loss to Dick Durbin until the day he died; he became and remained one the the most ardent anti-zionists in the US.

Findley’s passing led to some musings among friends: is contemporary anti-zionism and antisemitism really a function of party? Findley is an exception among Republicans, to be sure–even considering more recent examples like Walter Jones, who got squishy after the Iraq War went south and decided to blame the Jews, and Justin [H]Amash, who didn’t really have credible GOP bona fides anyway. But does anyone remember the 1992 election, with HW Bush and his staffers James Baker III, Brent Scowcroft and John Sununu pushed concerned voters into the Clinton column? Or how even the otherwise stalwart Reagan administration employed Caspar Weinberger, who couldn’t get over his last name and took it out on actual Jews?

However, after further review, the exceptions prove the rule: while there have been anti-semites and anti-zionists in the Republican party–some prominent ones, even–on the whole the party has been solidly pro-Zionist and even Judeophilic at an institutional level since at least 1980, if not before.  Contradistinctionally, the Democrats have done a 180: while it’s possible that even a significant majority of Democrats currently in office and the donor class still harbor Zionist sympathies, the party is philosophically and institutionally heading in the direction of the now fully Corbynized Labour.

It might be difficult to pinpoint when this trend started. While the 1988 Atlanta DNC had essentially been co-opted by Jesse Jackson and his minions C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, who used the convention floor to showcase the most blatant PLO support seen at the time, that trend proved short lived: the 1992 DNC in New York was exponentially more Jew-friendly (which may have been of a piece with Clinton’s effectively sidelining Jackson, not least after the “Sister Souljah moment“.) 

One might view the trend of increased sympathy for Palestinians as having become more entrenched starting with the Durban conference in 2001, when the gauntlet was essentially thrown to anyone left of center that their liberal bonafides were contingent upon their hostility to Israel, and 2003, when the antiwar movement–particulary ANSWER and their allies–threw down the same gauntlet. The Democrats followed: viz. John Kerry, who as Senator had an almost 100% rating from AIPAC before 2002, effectively became a spokesman for Palestinian initiatives as Secretary of State, to the point that even the Israeli left accused him of perfidy and incompetence during the Gaza War of Summer 2014.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and the ongiong hard left socialization of the party’s progressives put this trend on steroids, and that has been no more exemplified by the ascendancy of Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar as intersectional heroes, and most recently the lockstep manner in which the Democratic party has reacted to Israel barring them from entry.  On the one hand, there are tweets from Rep. Ted Lieu decrying ostensible double loyalties of GOP politicians both Jewish and Gentile, while not a word about Rep. Tlaib sporting a Palestinian flag; on the other, the Democrats considering some form of censure for Israeli officials for the by citing the historical analog of Saudi Arabia being forced to allow Congressman Henry Waxman to enter that country in 1975 displays their (likely willful) failure to understand history, parallels and analogies. [And they wonder why the public school system is falling apart.]

The fact that President Trump tweeted at the Israelis accusing them of showing weakness for even considering granting entry to Tlaib and Omar wasn’t done to further his own political agenda at the Israelis’ expense: it was to provide them cover for what they should have done in the first place. The mistake of the foreign ministry was in not telling the rest of the Democratic delegation ahead of time that Tlaib and Omar would never be welcome. Trump’s tweet confirmed that the ban was a joint US and Israeli interest; entry was a Democratic party interest, not a national one. 

In fact, Jewish Democrats are the ones doing the cowering. Witness how Tlaib backed off from her tear-stained request to visit her grandmother when other Palestinians accused her of being a “sellout”.  She has nothing to fear from Jewish Democrats: they can’t leverage her, and most Jewish progressives don’t want to let other Jewish Democrats even try.  As long as they don’t demand the most draconian form of censure for Tlaib, Omar and all of their allies, and work singularly toward making them permanently political radioactive, Jewish Democrats have no kick about anything the President has said about disloyalty. Politically neutralizing the squad is an American interest, never mind a Jewish one. The Jewish Democrats’ dilemma is less Solomonic than meets the eye, and the events of this past week have shown that: if they are more preturbed by the ostensible “insults” to Omar and Tlaib than they are by Omar and Tlaib’s ongoing insults of both Americans and Jews, they have shown where their ultimate loyalties lay: with their party, uber alles.

About the Author
Jon Taub is an ex-Upper West Sider, now-married Riverdalean who has two MA's, plays three instruments, and consults for biostartups.