U.S. flags line a path during mid-term elections at a polling station in the Mount Lebanon district in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. November 6, 2018.
(photo credit: FEDERICA VALABREGA)
Earlier this week, thousands of miles from Israel, millions of Americans went to vote in the midterm elections. The outcome has given the Democratic Party a majority in the United States House of Representatives. These results are not necessarily a referendum on the policies of US President Donald Trump, as he might be reelected in two years, as was the case for many two-term US presidents who witnessed their own party lose the midterm elections. These results are, however, a wake-up call to Israelis like myself.
For the last few years, we have seen a growing trend of Democrats becoming less supportive of Israel and a radical Left that is vehemently anti-Israel. In fact, recent polls and statistics have shown that Democrats are becoming more and more sympathetic to the Palestinians. This is not the case among traditional establishment-based Democrats, who have long been constantly supportive of the strong Israel-US relationship. Rather, this decline of support is found mostly among newcomers and millennials within the Democratic Party who identify with the party’s so-called “progressive” base.
These new Democrats, many of whom were elected this week to Congress, come from the far Left, led by Bernie Sanders, and hold opinions based on concepts of progressive social equality. It is usually these Democrats who are disconnected from Israel, itself a socially progressive democracy. In order to solve this oxymoron, we must first examine the core root of the problem.
The progressive movement within the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the Palestinians and their collaborators, with the false narrative that the Palestinian cause is a progressive one. This intersectionality has turned groups such as Black Lives Matter and Code Pink – which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – into anti-Israel organizations.
In reality, the Palestinians are not progressives, whereas Israelis are.
Real progressives support women’s rights. The Palestinian Authority denies women’s rights. Women do not hold any senior positions in the government of the PA or in Gaza. Israel, on the other hand, has several female cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, female chief justices of the Supreme Court, and a parliament where one-third of its members are women.
Real progressives support LGBTQ rights. The Palestinian Authority denies rights to members of the LGBTQ community. Both the PA and Hamas forbid any such activity among their people. Israel, on the other hand, holds Gay Pride parades both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem each year that are attended by hundreds of thousands of participants. Many Israeli government officials, including diplomats and members of Knesset, are members of the LGBTQ community and proudly express their sexual orientation freely here in Israel. Additionally, Israel grants asylum to many LGBTQ Arab Muslims.
Real progressives support religious diversity. The PA forbids religious diversity. Palestinians are prohibited under their own laws to sell land to Jews, Christians, or any non-Muslims. This is a crime punishable by death in both the PA and in Gaza. No synagogues exist in the Palestinian territories and no new churches have been built there since the Oslo Accords. Israel, however, has citizens from multiple faiths, who all live freely and practice their religion openly in Israel, where the Christian and Arab Muslim communities are growing and thriving.
REAL PROGRESSIVES support and aid refugees. The PA perpetuates and cheapens the meaning of the word refugee, and considers all Palestinians to be refugees. The refugee population has therefore grown from 450,000 to five million. Someone who was born in Paris, lives in a mansion in Brussels, and holds both an EU and a Jordanian passport is still considered a refugee according to UNRWA.
Israel, on the other hand, actually works to aid real refugees, like those fleeing Syria. Israel built a field hospital on its northern border especially for Syrians, who now have a place to go and receive treatment. Israel has accepted the heavy responsibility of taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Africa, whom Israel’s Arab neighbors refuse to accept.
Therefore, anyone who identifies as a progressive should by definition be supportive of the liberal democratic State of Israel and opposed to the racist theocracy of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has not done enough outreach to Democrats and progressives. We must redouble our efforts to show them that their values are Israel’s values and their cause is Israel’s cause.
Israel has a great friend in President Trump and in the Republican Party. However, the Democrats are an equal party in the Israel-US relationship.
As Israel’s ambassador to the United States, I did everything I could to ensure that American support for Israel would remain bipartisan. I met regularly with both Democrats and Republicans, and very often with both of them in the same room. Many of Israel’s strongest supporters in American history were and are Democrats, including Harry Truman, Joe Lieberman, Joe Manchin, Bob Menendez and many more.
I witnessed first-hand so much love for Israel among Democrats over my decades of service to the Israel. Their support of Israel is crucial and has proven that Israel is not a “partisan issue.” Standing with Israel crosses the aisle of the political spectrum in the United States.
The new progressive Democrats are growing in numbers, but are still the minority of their party. Most of the Democrats in Congress remain friends of Israel. We must preserve that friendship and must never allow the Democratic Party of the United States to become like the Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party of England. We must educate these new members of the Democratic Party about Israel, its contributions to society and its pluralistic democracy. We must give them the information and tools to speak up for Israel within their own party settings. We must dispel the lies and expose the autocrats who speak of progressiveness.
There must be an intensive, mobilized effort by the Israel Embassy in Washington and by pro-Israel organizations to forge close relationships and partnerships with Democrats, particularly with the younger ones who identify as progressive. Anti-Israel rhetoric should find no place in a progressive society. By telling the truth and creating a more inclusive dialogue, we can save the bipartisanship of the Israel-US relationship.
I refuse to give up on the Democrats.
You should, too.The author is a former deputy foreign minister and was Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
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