Jeff Robbins

US Democrats’ vanishing act on defending Israel

Those who voted for Obama and care about Israel may have an uncomfortable choice to make

On Nov. 19, 2012, as Hamas rockets from Gaza rained down on Israeli civilians, an overflow crowd of 2,000 rallied on Israel’s behalf in Brookline. Then-Governor Deval Patrick, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III and other Democratic luminaries spoke supportively of Israel’s dilemma: it could either endlessly endure attacks on its civilians by those pledged to annihilate it, or try to stop those 
attacks and inevitably harm Palestinians in the process. The rally got lots of media coverage.

The next day, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, eyeing a potential Senate bid, called longtime Jewish supporters. “I need a rally of my own,” he told one, asking that a pro-Israel rally be organized in his congressional district before the week was out, to be headlined by him. Despite the fact that a rally had just been held and it was Thanksgiving week, a second rally was organized to feature Markey. At the event in Lexington he regaled the audience with applause lines both true and familiar to Markey-watchers. “If Hamas puts down its arms there’d be peace,” Markey intoned. “If Israel puts down its arms, there’d be no more Israel.”

In July 2014, Hamas once again launched thousands of rockets at Israel, which found itself in precisely the same dilemma as it had 20 months earlier. It faced intensified criticism from the left as its attempts to stop the rockets resulted in the deaths of Palestinians.

A rally supporting Israel’s right of self-defense was scheduled in Boston. By now, Markey had ascended to the U.S. Senate seat to which he had aspired. Those whom he had begged to host a pro-Israel rally less than two years earlier asked him to appear. Markey, who was in Boston at the time and had no scheduling conflict, never returned their repeated phone calls or emails.

By then, the Democratic left had turned on Israel. Markey, well-known for holding his finger up to gauge the direction of political winds, no longer wished to be publicly associated with Israel. When a longtime supporter implored a top Markey staffer to ask the senator to
stand with Israel at this critical time, the staffer replied: “Do you think Eddie should do it?”

“Eddie” did not do it. But “Do you think Eddie should do it?” is emblematic not merely of Markey’s disappearing act on Israel, but of the disappearing act of other Democratic politicians, taking their lead from an Obama White House that has been not merely infantile in its disdain for Israel and its circumstances, but whose disdain has turned downright ugly.

The administration’s use of a barnyard obscenity to describe Israel’s democratically-elected prime minister, its demagogic suggestions that by raising concerns about a deal that will eventually give Iran nuclear weapons Israel and its supporters desire to march America to war, and the president’s snide accusation that Democratic senators with real reservations about his Iran deal were servicing their “donors” are but examples of the derision a Democratic administration has leveled at the Jewish state.

Nor will the specter of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s glaring down Democratic congressmen for applauding Netanyahu’s speech to Congress be soon forgotten. Her explanation after the Israeli prime
minister detailed the potentially historic flaws in Obama’s proposed Iran deal was at once phony and idiotic. “I was near tears throughout the prime minister’s speech,” she insisted, then added the speech, in ways she declined to identify, was “an insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

A MoveOn.Org wing that seems determined to prove not only that they have indeed inhaled, but that they are inhaling still, is poised to take hold of the Democratic Party. If they do, they will place moderate Democrats who care about Israel in the uncomfortable position of distancing themselves from the party they have long supported.

About the Author
Jeff Robbins, a former United States Delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in the Clinton Administration, is an attorney in Boston, Massachusetts