Yossi Kuperwasser
Brig.-Gen. (res.)
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The Democratic Party’s attitude to Israel: 3 lessons from Tlaib and Omar

US progressives lost sight of Israel's core democratic values when those who take an extremist, anti-Semitic approach co-opted liberal messaging
Reps. Rashida Tlaib, left, and Ilhan Omar at a rally with Democrats in the Capitol, March 13, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, via JTA)
Reps. Rashida Tlaib, left, and Ilhan Omar at a rally with Democrats in the Capitol, March 13, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, via JTA)

Regardless of whether the Israeli decision to deny two new Democratic Congress members, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, an entry visa to visit “Palestine” (a state that does not exist in reality and according to Israel and the United States), for a tour that was clearly intended to demonize Israel, was wise and justified or not, the most important aspect was what it revealed about the relations between Israel and the Democratic party in general and its Jewish supporters in particular.

Instead of confronting the anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist and Israel-demonizing messages of the two congresswomen, the Democrats preferred to point fingers towards Israel and compensated for that attitude by promoting, together with the Republicans, House Resolution 246 that condemned the BDS movement and its sinister message and called for a two states for two peoples solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict.

What did that response tell us? First, that liberal Democrats fear the progressive wing of the party so much that they don’t dare to criticize its position on Israel. When progressive Democrats slander Israel and Jews, the liberals, including many real friends of Israel, look for sophisticated ways to confront them that water down their criticism. The outcome is that the emboldened progressives dare to promote more anti-Israel moves, like Senator Warren’s threat to cut aid to Israel if it does not stop settlement construction and the legislation regarding the alleged abuse of Palestinian children that was promoted in Congress by Betty McCollum, following the work of DCI-P, one of many NGO’s closely related to the American designated terror organization, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The second lesson to be learned is that the current US political feud is affecting the liberal Democrats’ attitude toward Israel more than any other factor. The animosity to President Trump is so immense that it overrules the basic support liberal Democrats have towards Israel. This makes it harder than ever for Israel to remain a non-partisan issue. It has not become impossible, as manifested in the wide support for HR246, but it is not as easy as it used to be in the past. This negative attitude is exacerbated by the harsh criticism and antagonism towards Prime Minister Netanyahu, both because of his close relations with Trump and because for so long he was wrongly portrayed as almost solely responsible for the stalemate in the peace process and for tensions in the relations with the Jewish communities in the US, most of which support the Democratic party.

The third and most disturbing lesson is that the extreme progressive Democrats and their allies (some of whom are Israeli or Jewish and some are Palestinians related to terror organizations or supporters of radical islamic ideology) who try to delegitimize and demonize Israel have managed to inculcate into liberal speech about Israel a set of mantras that a growing number of liberals use now when they speak about the conflict, without questioning their veracity.

Once you use these mantras (“Israel is, or bound to become, an apartheid state or lose its Jewish identity,” “Israel tortures Palestinian children” — nonsensical claims detached from reality), you may think that Israel is motivated by the need to hide its terrible attitude towards the helpless Palestinians and therefore Tlaib and Omar are right.

Had the trip taken place Israel would have been expected to use it to reveal the truth about the conflict, to refute each of these mantras and to unmask the BDS movement that is supported by the progressives. Even without the trip, Israel has to do this.

I still believe that many liberals can be convinced that these mantras are wrong, but there is good reason to be disturbed by the way many liberals adopt this intentionally malignant vocabulary, and by their seeming unwillingness to go beyond The New York Times and The Guardian and read anything that challenges those mantras.

What is happening in the British Labour Party is an example of what may yet strike other liberal parties in the West. The Tlaib and Omar trip was just one more warning of the urgency for Israel and liberals to fight together against the dangerous winds that are blowing from the extreme progressives. It should not be difficult. Israel really stands for democratic and liberal values, whereas the progressives, and their Palestinian allies, stand for the exact opposite as well as supporting anti-Semitic and violent attitudes. But since the liberal vocabulary is already deeply contaminated with the concepts of the extremists, this battle is not going to be easy.


A version of this article was published on Fathom, the journal of the Britain Israel Communication and Research Centre.

About the Author
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is an Israeli intelligence and security expert. Formerly, Kuperwasser served as the head of the research division in the Israel Defence Force Military Intelligence division and Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Kuperwasser is currently a Senior Project Manager at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs specializing in the security dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
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