I am a liberal, and I proudly proclaim my support for the progressive movement taking place in the United States right now. That’s why US Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) recent speech to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) troubles me so much. McCollum mentioned Israel’s “torture” and “systematic” arrest of Palestinian children in the West Bank, urged ceasing to use “tax dollars funding Israel’s cruel, brutal and dehumanizing system of juvenile military detention of Palestinian children,” and associated Israel’s passing of the Nation-State Law with “apartheid.”
We should criticize Israel for prolonging over fifty years now a military occupation that is becoming increasingly harmful to both Jews and Arabs. The Israeli government should end this occupation as soon as it can by advancing the creation of a Palestinian state. The Nation-State Law is a step in the wrong direction, albeit is almost entirely symbolic and does very little substantively. These ultimately harm the Zionist cause.
But accuse Israel of torture, stop supporting Israel financially, and libel it with apartheid? This is going too far. Many of us are too comfortable in the company of “the jackals,” as the late Senator Daniel P. Moynihan called them following Jimmy Carter’s infamous last-minute decision to condemn Israel at the U.N. The jackals are those who jump at every opportunity to undermine Israel – or any other noble cause – with the goal of destroying it and feeding off the carnage. Moynihan was talking about certain countries that consistently voted against Israel at the U.N. I am mostly talking about anti-Israel, often antisemitic organizations like USCPR and Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS).
My friends, do not be fooled by these jackals. These organizations have ostensibly espoused noble causes any sensible liberal would support: the rights of Palestinians, ending the occupation, human rights. Unfortunately, they have turned these phrases into euphemisms for destroying Israel and hating Jews.
Many of us fall for the jackals’ tricks because we think of Israel and see only the occupation. Indeed, Zionism, Jewish nationalism and the mission of Israel, must confront the grim reality the occupation has produced or risk deteriorating. Zionism has rather always sought the miraculous liberation and invigoration of the Jewish people; it has achieved this and continues to do so. Without going into specifics, think, a vibrant democracy and liberal tradition, a booming and innovative economy, a glowing culture and diverse society. To oppose Zionism is to oppose these values. We can and should strongly support these values while criticizing the occupation.
This is not the first time we who carry the mantle of progress have fallen prone to the tricks of bloodthirsty jackals. During the American Progressive Era of the late 19th century, those who called for social justice allowed eugenicists into their ranks. Progressives have flirted with communists and racists. We need to remember that those seeking progress have always come into contact with those who would twist it around for their own gain.
We now too often enable the anti-Zionist, antisemitic jackals of today. When these jackals speak of “Palestinian rights” and a staunch progressive like Bernie Sanders echoes them, we do our cause no justice. When BDS and USCPR deceitfully package the destruction of Israel into the language of human rights and anti-apartheid, progressive organizations like J Street and progressive politicians like McCollum should be among the first to condemn and disavow them.
I call on all my fellow liberals to remove the stain of the jackals from our progressive movement. Take a strong stance against organizations deceitfully claiming to represent Palestinian liberation and human rights. Stand up more often in defense of the miraculous liberal democratic tradition that Zionism has produced. And as the midterms approach in our country, heed the words of Senator Moynihan: “so long as the ideas underlying the Carter administration’s [anti-Israel] UN policy are dominant within the Democratic party, we Democrats will be out of power.”