Let it go – Ocasio-Cortez is the future, not you

Jewish Democrats sympathetic to Israel are tone deaf as to how they have lost control of the party’s core voters by treasuring influence over integrity. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be wrong on the issues, but at least she believes in something.

On August 3, the Jerusalem PostTimes of Israel and other Israel oriented news organizations all publicized the visit of former New York Yankees closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera to an Israel Defense Forces base known as Michve Alon, the base where I myself began my IDF service as a new immigrant in 2005. Rivera, a Panamanian-American and the all-time leader in saves, is a devout Christian and made it clear that his visit was an important milestone in his life having met not only the IDF servicemen and women but the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and the US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Friedman.

Yet Rivera’s visit was only important to Israel supporters and Rivera fans, not to the residents of the Bronx where he had played his entire 18-year career. In fact, the only non-Israel oriented news groups that reported on the visit in the USA were bizarrely the Boston Globe (the hometown paper of the rival Red Sox) in the context of a visit by other ex-MLB players and Hall of Fame inductees, and Panamá América which obviously sees “The Sandman” as a favourite son of their 183 thousand strong community of Panamanian Americans. The visits of major athletes both past and present is regularly the subject of major publicity in Israel, but is largely ignored elsewhere unless Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions activists see their visit as a way to promote ostracism of Israel. Mainstream news organizations in the USA like The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC will not focus on positive stories around the world, least of all ones that are clear photo-ops that don’t have much bearing on the world.

Over the past month and a half, in the wake of the successful nomination of young Bronx-based activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the 14 District of New York’s congressional delegation, Jewish American activists and pro-Israel bloggers have scampered to present a front that “this is not the real Democratic Party” and that “real” liberals stand behind Israel. They have been jarred to action by her vehement pro-Palestine activism, a position that she was so enthusiastic about that when she softened it during a PBS interview in July the pro-Palestine media immediately attacked her for selling out. Within a day the 28 year-old New Yorker had to obediently crawl back to them during a long interview with Jewish anti-Israel journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

In response to this emerging force in the party, Fred Maroun, a Lebanese pro-Israel blogger that I know and respect has issued posts and blogs pleading with pro-Israel Democrats not to leave the party and #WalkAway because inevitably a Democrat will be elected president and Israel cannot afford a hostile American president:

“Those who use the #WalkAway tag should realize they’re doing no favors to Israel, and they’re putting their partisanship above Zionism. Zionists who are Democrats should stay in the Democratic Party and fight tooth and nail for Israel within that party. Abandoning the party to antisemites is a terribly bad idea. . . So if you’re an American Democrat Zionist, don’t even think about walking away. Stay and fight for your values. If you must vote Republican sometimes, just do it, but don’t abandon the Democratic party to the anti-Semitic sharks. Do it for Israel, not for me.”

For those of you that do not know already, #WalkAway is an internet movement founded by gay New Yorker and lifelong liberal Brandon Straka of Democratic voters that claim that the party is so vitriolically hateful, that they no longer desire to participate in it.

Statements like what Maroun posted illustrate the delusional atmosphere within “pro-Israel liberalism”, but he is not alone. Many pro-Israel “liberals” continue to carp about how the Democrats are “less anti-Semitic” than Republicans and that ultimately the real leadership within the party is very much pro-Israel because of the foreign aid that is sent Israel’s way thanks in part to bipartisan support in the House and Senate and the agreements of former presidents Obama and Clinton. This illustrates a basic lack of strategic thinking, as well as a low standard of what exactly true support means. The USA can continue to send billions of dollars Israel’s way, but under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama that became irrelevant as the Oslo Accords and subsequent “peace initiatives” compelled Israelis (and Palestinians) unwillingly to stay within a “peace process” that neither particularly believed in. Non-interventionists like myself and those before me like Ron Paul (yes him) have argued for years that military aid does not build friendship, it builds dependency and in fact I would now say psychological captivity.

The “But the GOP” argument. . .

Let’s address the “Republicans are anti-Semites too” rhetoric. The most famous anti-Jewish Republican candidates this year are the following:

  • Illinois 3rd House District candidate Arthur Jones, a confirmed Neo-Nazi with 30 years of activity within various racist movements. What Democrats fail to mention is that this district is so solidly Democrat that it hasn’t had a GOP representative since 1975. Both the incumbent Dan Lipinski and his Democratic primary challenger Sharon Brannigan received double the amount of votes that Jones did, and he has been renounced by the entire Republican leadership.
  • Wiconsin 1st House District candidate Paul Nehlen, who has not won the primary yet, and is such a toxic personality that he was recently banned from Twitter’s anti-censorship alternative for harassing another user. Nehlen is unlikely to win the primary as he has burned his bridges with many GOP activists across teh spectrum.
  • California US Senate candidate Patrick Little, a person so lacking in self-control that he was kicked out of the state’s party convention for causing a disruption while stamping on the Israeli flag, and who lost the state’s primary election coming in 12th place.

These are the bogeymen of the Jewish liberal crowd, three candidates that either failed to be even nominated, are pariahs within the party, or have virtually no chance of being elected in Jones’ case. All of these candidates have an antagonistic relationship with the Trump Administration deeming him a puppet of Jewish or Israeli influence. The Republican Party, which as an independent I deem to be also deeply flawed although in a different way than the Democrats, is not embracing these outliers; it is actively mitigating them. Republican runner-up for the 2016 presidential nomination Sen. Ted Cruz even issued an official tweet calling for Illinois voters to support the Democrat Lipinski rather than Jones.

“The future of our party”

 Video: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on The Bill Press Show calling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “the future of our Party”. 

Let’s contrast this with the Democratic Party’s treatment of a selection of political leaders. Although these individuals are not out-and-out anti-Jewish bigots, they have long resumes of consistent anti-Israel activism that eschews the positions of those “Jewish liberal Democrats” that fit Fred Maroun’s profile:

DNC Deputy Chair and Rep. Keith Ellison has denied ties to Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam despite a documented history of activism on their behalf between 1989 and the early 2000s. (Wikimedia Commons – Fair Use)
  • Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is a former Nation of Islam activist who has since denied his association with NOI spiritual leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan is a notorious purveyor of anti-Jewish opinions including calling Jews “my enemy” in February. To be fair, Farrakhan has made numerous hateful or ridiculing statements about others like whites, women, gay people, transsexuals, Asians, Mexicans, and even Palestinians. Farrakhan has refuted Ellison’s denials of association with him, and I’ve documented the long history of Ellison’s ties to the NOI and Farrakhan as well as his deceptive statements about them here. Despite this dishonest record, Ellison was a central supporter of the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, and would eventually be the runner up for the DNC Chair race in 2017. As a consolation prize, the winner Tom Perez held a vote creating a “Deputy Chair” position for him. Though Ellison does not have any visible power within the DNC, he has been completely embraced as part of the leadership and is currently the front-runner to win the nomination for Minnesota Attorney General on behalf of the party. During the DNC chair race Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a leading liberal Israel advocate and world famous dense attorney, objected to Ellison’s candidacy and threatened to leave if he would be elected. Like all of Dershowitz’s threats it turned out to be empty grandstanding.
Cover for Leslie and Andrew Cockburn’s book Dangerous Liaison, a stinging critique of the Israel lobby. Cockburn is the current Democrat nominee for the Virginia 10th House seat. (Amazon – Fair Use)
  • Leslie Cockburn is a long-time journalist who has worked for PBS, CBS, and NBC as a foreign correspondent. She is now the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 10th House of Representatives election. In 1991 she and her husband Andrew published the book Dangerous Liason: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship. Her late brother-in-law Irish journalist Alexander Cockburn was the founder and publisher of the far-left anti-Israel magazine and blog Counterpunch and an icon within that community. The Cockburns’ book is often cited as a milestone text by anti-Israel journalistic sources, including this one from TeleSUR-TV of Venezuela. Whatever the validity of Cockburn’s work as a journalist, once must acknowledge that her election in November would put into Congress a person who would be a staunch opponent of friendly ties between the USA and Israel.
Minnesota state representative Ilhan Omar is running to succeed Keith Ellison in Congress (Wikimedia Commons – fair use).
  • Ilhan Omar is currently a Minnesota State House rep from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and a first generation Somali immigrant. Omar is currently running to succeed Keith Ellison for the state’s 5th congressional district. Omar is a dedicated supporter of the BDS movement to isolate Israel, and is the odds-on favourite to win her district in November should she win the August 14 primary as Ellison tended to win the district with around 70% of the vote over his career.
  • “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, running as a Democrat to unseat two-term incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a past supporter of BDS since 2010, and is likely to force a deep division within the Jewish community of New York between supporters of either side.
  • Ammar Campa-Najjar is running to unseat Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego area veteran anti-immigration advocate. Campa-Najjar is of mixed Mexican and Palestinian heritage and is a member of the Justice Democrats. To be fair, while he is a critic of Israel Campa-Najjar also is an opponent of the armed struggle and has renounced his own family’s past history in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
  • Abdulrahman Mohamed (“Abdul”) El-Sayed is the Health Director for the City of Detroit and is running in Michigan to succeed Governer Rick Snyder. An Egyptian-American, El-Sayed is supported by Bernie Sanders, Our Revolution, Howard Dean’s Democracy For America PAC, filmmaker Michael Moore, The Intercept writer and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, and Hollywood actor Ben Affleck. El-Sayed is trailing against Gretchen Witmer, a more conventional Democrat, and the primary is set for August 7. Should El-Sayed win he would be the first practicing Muslim to serve as a state governor, and he has expressed a very coy front with regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict while opposing anti-BDS legislation before the Michigan state legislature.
  • Apart from Keith Ellison, several members of the mostly Democrat-composed Congressional Black Caucus have courted and often received the support of the Nation of Islam and Min. Farrakhan. These include Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters of California, Andre Carson of Indiana, Gregory Meeks of  New York, and Al Green of Texas. In fact, on January 25, 2018 a photo surfaced that had been suppressed by the Nation of Islam since 2005 of then-US Senator Barack Obama smiling in a photo with Louis Farrakhan and several other CBC legislators. A number of them have since renounced those ties earning a scathing rebuke from the NOI.
  • The Women’s March, one of the main Democratic organizing groups, features on its national board Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory, all three of them vehement opponents of Israel and two of them (Sarsour and Mallory) either vocal or tacit supporters of Louis Farrakhan. Sarsour has been active in buttressing the efforts of candidates like El-Sayed as well as Ocasio-Cortez. Recently (see above) Sarsour attacked Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), a Jew himself, claiming that “Martin Luther King warned us about people like Chuck Schumer”. She was seated beside New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg, herself a Jew, on Chris Hayes’ show All In on MSBNC, yet neither of them batted an eye or objected when she said that. Sarsour had also attacked Schumer earlier for being “a white man”,  and in November 2017 she blamed the “Jewish media” for unfair coverage during a conference on anti-Semitism at The New School in Manhattan.

Why are they winning primaries?

Many Jews of varying political backgrounds are scratching their heads as to why Ocasio-Cortez and similar politicians are such a rousing success, but in reality they are viewing the phenomenon through their own lens. In 2016 some of these same liberal Jews also supported Bernie Sanders while holding their noses at his blatantly pro-Palestine platform, although if we are being totally honest many of them are themselves so inclined anyway. There continues to be a vibrant Jews for Bernie group active on Facebook with thousands of followers.

Many Jewish pro-Israel observers baffled at the mainstreaming of these pro-Palestine opinions should probably take stock of the fact that many of the same opinions are not far from the mainstream within the Jewish community itself, where there is a burgeoning anti-Israel Jewish campus forum led by #IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace. On July 12, a New York magazine Jewish writer named Abraham Riesman published “The Jewish Revolt” highlighting #IfNotNow’s  efforts to disrupt summer Birthright trips to Israel for Jewish university students.

There is not just a “minority” of Jewish Americans taking part in these efforts; rather, there is a well-organized, militant, core of people whose views resonate both among an American Jewish youth base devoid of spiritual or communal anchorage, as well as a broader general audience of progressive activism that finds the cause of Palestine to be an integral part of their portfolio. Prominent Jewish Americans like Noam Chomsky, Philip Weiss (of Mondoweiss) and Max Blumenthal are not just opponents of Israel, they are at the tip of the spear of the anti-Israel movement. They may not be household names among all Americans, but they are capstone figures among progressives especially foreign policy watchers. Blumethal is no spare tire off the old Ford Bronco, he also happens to be the son of ex-Bill Clinton aide and Hillary Clinton acolyte Sidney Blumenthal. These people are more keen to rub elbows with hardcore Palestine activists like Muslim convert Andrea Szremski and journalist Rula Jebreal than they are with so-called icons of the bygone liberal Jewish establishment like Dershowitz. Those that object to Jewish support for the Palestine cause should have woken up decades ago before the Dershowitz types had compromised their principles to the point of creating a vacuum that allowed the Blumenthals and Weisses to gain a larger audience within “their” party. The anti-Israel left is not sprinkled with Jewish support, it has a vanguard of it at the front.

But beyond that, the liberal pro-Israel myopia is evident in their lack of situational sensitivity to what really is going on among progressives and the rest of the liberal left. Many Americans supported Bernie Sanders as a direct consequence of the failure of Barack Obama to implement Wall Street regulation, Medicare for All, or a ban on fracking. Senator Sanders, regardless of one’s position on him, succeeded as a candidate of substance because he had coherent ideas. When a friend of mine, a middle of the road successful Jewish lawyer not known to opine typically on politics, objected to Sanders’ absence at AIPAC’s 2016 conference, he claimed that it was a direct snub and a moment of dishonesty. But Sanders was not campaigning as a representative of Jewish America, much less pro-Israel Jews, but on behalf of a threatened middle and lower class that objected to globalist trade policies. He skipped the conference for two reasons:

  1. He was more committed to campaigning in Utah that day, and in the event he would win that state as well as several other ones during that leg of his trip.
  2. If you read the content of the speech he did deliver that day in Utah concerning Israel, it’s safe to say the crowd at AIPAC would not have been happy campers (see below).

A lot of the same Jewish liberal Democrats supported Israel while simultaneously voting for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When viewing any clip of Sanders on foreign policy issues, he presented a more consistent viewpoint on opposing the War in Iraq, supporting the two-state solution, and other aspects that are important for the majority of liberals and progressives in the United States. When President George Bush was still in power, I remember distinctly that the positions of the Democratic Party were much more consistent with those of Senator Sanders today. The only difference is that he is more truthful and consistent about it than they are. I say this as an opponent of most everything Sanders stands for but as someone with a clear non-judgmental picture of why he is appealing.

When you assume. . . 

In April, through a story I’ve written concerning smearing of Bernie Sanders voters as Russian trolls, I got to know very well a number of his supporters from San Diego. Apart from that, personally I have just as many friends and acquaintances that voted for him as I do friends that voted for Donald Trump, and more Sanders supporting friends than those supporting my own personal candidate from 2016, Sen. Rand Paul. Believe it or not, they are much more focused on US trade policies, Medicare for All, reducing the defense budget, and climate change than they are on the Israel-Palestine issue.

Do these voters happen to support the Palestinians in the conflict? Usually that is the case. But the approach taken by Fred Maroun, who is well-meaning but sadly oversimplifying the issue, is to demand that Jewish Americans remain Democrats as a counterbalance solely as a consequence of the anti-Israel wave coursing through the Democrats. In his mind that is a passing trend and the party will soon return to “normal”. I know a Jewish Democrat from my neighbourhood that also praised party Chairman Tom Perez when he was elected, notwithstanding the fact that the process was completely limited to party officials and bosses, and Perez presented no concrete vision or policies. They both see these dissembling and uninspiring candidates as the real force for the future of the Democrats. They are wrong, because the actual Democratic voters are tired of that “normal” – they have clenched their jaws in irritation at that “normal” through presidents Clinton and Obama. The centrist Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Crowley that are bereft of any vision or principles are the image of a stale, uninspiring party that is not coming back.

My advice is to go independent and stop donating to party PACs, and I say this as someone that’s realized the lack of integrity of both parties on a variety of issues. Stop being a part of an institution, and start developing your own vision. Otherwise, as Perez himself said regarding the Democrats, THIS is the face of the future.

New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Wikimedia Commons – Fair use)



About the Author
Ramón Epstein writes analysis of political and social issues from a libertarian perspective. He also writes for the Hard News Network.
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