Left progressive antisemitism must be a US electoral 'wedge' issue

As the Democratic primaries approach, leading candidates seem to be reinforcing their anti-Israel credentials to appease their progressive base. Antisemitism already is a 'wedge' issue - although Democrats are urging voters to ignore it.

Matthew M. Hausman, J.D., | updated: 06:57

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The left’s anti-Israel agenda has been energized recently by radical politicians using their Congressional visibility to slander the Jewish State and its supporters with classical slurs and stereotypes.  Simultaneously, there has been an increase in antisemitic agitation among progressives invoking blood libel imagery and repugnant myths of disproportionate Jewish wealth, influence, and disloyalty.

Such is the backdrop against which Democrats are urging Jewish voters not to treat Israel as a “wedge issue” during the 2020 election season, though what they are really asking is for Jews to ignore the pro-BDS, anti-Israel, and antisemitic vitriol being spewed by reactionaries who influence party doctrine and to overlook party leadership’s appeasement of the left and disregard of hateful prejudice.  

By lamenting the use of Israel as a “wedge issue,” Democrats are acknowledging that it already is and that their base’s hostility towards the Jewish State is motivated not by policy concerns, but by antisemitism.  And just as they did in 2016, they are enlisting Jewish party loyalists to promote the fiction that conservatives pose a more serious threat to fellow Jews, despite public opinion research indicating that antisemitic sentiment is prevalent among radicals, progressives and left-wing Democrats.  The same surveys suggest conservative Republicans are more likely to support Israel and condemn Jew-hatred. 

The antisemitic Squad

These trends help explain some recent disturbing Democratic behaviors, including the failure to censure Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their inflammatory rhetoric and for validating antisemitic public figures like Louis Farrakhan.  Examples of moral disingenuity abound, as when Democrats criticized the Netanyahu government for blocking Tlaib and Omar from a planned trip to Israel that was to be sponsored by an anti-Israel organization. Supporters of the congresswomen were unconcerned that their proposed visit was neither planned as part of an official Congressional delegation nor intended to serve any legitimate governmental purpose. 

The Israeli government had initially agreed to allow Tlaib and Omar entry into the country, but withdrew its approval after determining they would not be part of the scheduled Congressional delegation and that their itinerary was intended to disparage Israel and promote boycotts.  The purpose of the trip was no surprise considering it was to be partially sponsored and coordinated by Miftah, the anti-Israel organization founded by Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO Executive Committee member and outspoken Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions advocate, who was barred by the State Department from entering the United States last May.


Liberal support for Tliab or Omar – or for any who express contempt for Israel, condone violence against Israelis, or spread loathsome stereotypes – suggests that party loyalty and disdain for President Trump often outweigh any sense of Jewish fealty or recognition of antisemitism on the left. 
It seems incongruous that Democrats who express concern about Jewish voters could defend Tlaib or Omar in light of their aspersions against Israel and sponsorship of House Resolution 496, a bill essentially supporting the antisemitic BDS movement.  Though that bill was defeated in a rare display of bipartisanship, its limited support came mainly from progressive Democrats, including Tlaib, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez. Liberal support for such politicians – or for any who express contempt for Israel, condone violence against Israelis, or spread loathsome stereotypes – suggests that party loyalty and disdain for President Trump often outweigh any sense of Jewish fealty or recognition of antisemitism on the left. 

Despite progressive hostility regarding Jewish national rights and affinity for traditional conspiracy theories, Democrats argue their support for Israel and opposition to prejudice are unshakable; and when mentioning leftist antisemitism at all, they chalk it up to aberration or misunderstanding. 

Anti-Jewish bigotry is not limited to the “hard left,” however, but rather has infected the party’s mainstream: 

  • Congressman Ted Lieu of California, for example, evoked the ancient canard of Jewish disloyalty with a tweet questioning the allegiance (and demanding the resignation) of David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel;  
  • Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, implicitly impugned Israel’s integrity when they snubbed last year’s AIPAC conference. 
  • Not a single Democrat vying for the party’s nomination criticized Bernie Sanders (who has falsely accused Israel of killing thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza) for using Linda Sarsour as a campaign shill
  • None have defended Israel against apartheid claims that are facially absurd.  

According to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute of 2002, apartheid is a humanitarian crime “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”  Considering the freedoms that characterize Israeli society – where Arabs are professionals, judges, and legislators and have a higher standard of living than anywhere in the Arab-Muslim world – it is unconscionable when Democrat politicians refuse to defend Israel against spurious charges of racist oppression.  

As the Democratic primaries approach, leading candidates instead seem to be reinforcing their anti-Israel credentials to appease their progressive base. 

  • The Warren campaign, for example, brought aboard Max Berger, founder of the liberal group IfNotNow, whose members have attempted to infiltrate Taglit Birthright and Jewish summer camp programs to indoctrinate youth against Israel. 
  • And Pete Buttigieg stated his intention to cut aid to Israel (though as a foreign policy neophyte he articulated no credible reason for singling out Israel)
  • Warren, Sanders and other prominent Democrats made similar statements at this year’s J Street conference. 

It is important to note that:

  • Whereas most potential nominees did support an anti-BDS resolution in the Senate, they have uniformly failed to sanction antisemites within their party, who have instead been rewarded with prestigious appointments to influential committees.
  • Furthermore, the refusal of House Democrats to pass a resolution specifically condemning antisemitism or sanctioning Omar’s outrageous remarks indicates an odious tolerance for bigotry, as long as it targets Israel and comes from the left.  

Discomfort regarding Israel is systemic because most Democrats continue to cling to the two-state paradigm, though it is based on revisionist Palestinian mythology that denies Jewish history and is rejected by most Israelis. 

Sadly, Jewish liberals are often willing to ignore progressive antisemitism and instead direct their outrage at Mr. Trump (who despite his foibles is the most pro-Israel president ever to occupy the White House), while criticizing Israel for supposedly occupying “Palestinian” lands and oppressing Palestinian-Arabs.  However, “occupation” exists only in the minds of revisionist zealots and propagandists, who must ignore historical and geopolitical reality to justify their position.  

Falsified history and ignorance 

Progressives’ knowledge of Israeli history is typically sketchy and exhibits little understanding of (or respect for) the Jews’ unbroken connection to their homeland, which is supported by the historical, archeological, and scriptural records.  Moreover, their anti-Israel criticisms are characterized by a refusal to acknowledge Jewish history or the pedigree of lands comprising the modern Jewish State and territories. Instead, liberal angst focuses on the rights of Palestinian-Arabs, whose history is a contemporary political invention of questionable foundation.  The two-state fantasy seeks to restore Palestinian-Arabs to a country that never existed in a land where they never established cultural institutions, exercised political sovereignty, or exhibited any indicia of nationality or statehood.

This historical awareness is crucial for countering the revisionism embraced by progressives who impute ancient stereotypes to the Jewish State – including modern reworkings of the Blood Libel, classical global conspiracy theories, and the myths of disproportionate Jewish influence, power and perfidy.  It is also necessary for dispelling ridiculous and apocryphal claims that Palestinians are descended from ancient Phoenicians or Canaanites – assertions that are intended to imply aboriginal validity but which crumble under the weight of objective scrutiny.

The role of Jewish progressives

For generations, Americans have been rejecting normative Jewish values in favor of progressive ideals that contravene traditional Judaism.  Though most liberal Jews profess support for Israel, their true feelings should be judged not by self-serving affirmations, but by their political priorities and alliances.  Their proclamations of fidelity to Israel are contradicted by the endorsement of candidates who delegitimize the Jewish State, staff campaigns with anti-Israel activists, or snub Jewish organizations like AIPAC.  Moreover, they cannot claim fairness to Israel if they tolerate BDS, support organizations like J Street, or provide forums in their synagogues for Israel-hating artists, activists, and politicos. Or, if they believe hatred of Jews and Israel is merely a partisan “wedge issue.”  Such thinking betrays the elevation of temporal politics over authentic Judaism and concern for cultural survival.

What would Jewish liberals say if Democratic leaders were to ask African-Americans, feminists, or gay activists to disregard racism, misogyny, or homophobia as “wedge issues”?  Certainly, they would denounce such pleas as offensive and lambaste those with the temerity to make them. And liberal rabbis would be shouting from the rooftops about cultural insensitivity and beseeching their congregants to hit the streets in protest.  

So how can they accept Democratic condescension that exhorts them to ignore antisemitism within their party and excuse party leadership for trivializing the problem and protecting the perpetrators? 

Whether their obsessive political loyalties arise from ignorance, delusion, or self-rejection, the end result is always the same – the abandonment of Jewish kith and kin, the denial of history and heritage, and the devaluation of the Jewish spirit.




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