In an October 1974 cable to Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, following passage of his legislation helping Soviet Jews emigrate, Israel's Foreign Minister Yigal Allon wrote that "your efforts in this matter manifest once again your deep understanding of our needs and your constant support of the cause of Israel." What a difference 35 years make.
Nowadays, liberal members of Jackson's party routinely cast votes against Israel, while the leftist commentators supporting them relish vilifying the Jewish state. Whether it's blasting the settlements, criticizing Israel's Lebanon or Gaza conflicts, or deferring sanctions on Iran, the American Left is more unified than ever in its opposition to Israel and its policies.
Nowhere has this disturbing trend emerged more clearly than in the recent debate in the US House of Representatives over a resolution calling on the president to "oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the 'Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' in multilateral fora."
The resolution chastises the UN Human Rights Council for "one-sidedly mandating the 'fact-finding mission'" by Justice Richard Goldstone to focus only on supposed Israeli wrongdoing while "mak[ing] no mention of the relentless rocket and mortar attacksâ€¦by Hamas and other violent militant groups in Gaza against civilian targets in Israel." It recites in painstaking detail the myriad factual, inferential, and legal errors that readers of this page well know render Goldstone's report fatally flawed.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, earned an overwhelming 344 votes. But 36 members of Congress, all but three of them Democrats, voted against the resolution, while another 20 members voted "present," or abstained; thus, more than 20% of Democrats refused to support the bill.
SO WHAT'S motivating these Democrats, almost all of them from the party's liberal wing, to stand up for the Goldstone Report?
During the debate over the resolution, most of the naysayers spoke of the need to bring the parties together at the negotiating table, asserting that condemning the report signals to the world a lack of seriousness by the US about resolving the conflict. How the deeply problematic Goldstone Report could possibly facilitate peace was left unsaid, but this argument at least seems to have been presented in good faith.
More disconcerting was the praise for Goldstone, dutifully parroted by almost all those contesting the resolution.
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who spearheaded the opposition, inquired "what is there to fear about Judge Goldstone? [He] has a stellar reputation."
The first Muslim member of the US Congress, Ellison took care to highlight Goldstone's Jewish bona fides: "He is famous for apprehending Nazi criminals in Argentina and for serving as a chief prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals. He is a self-described Zionist. He serves as a trustee at Hebrew University in Jerusalem."
Other congressmen forthrightly hurled blame at Israel. Ohio's Dennis Kucinich noted that "today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt. Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist." "How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East," Kucinich went on, "if we tacitly approve of violations of international law and international human rightsâ€¦by white-washing a legitimate investigation?"
Rep. Brian Baird of Washington mentioned his "twin 4-year-old boys at home. When I kiss them goodnight, they look for all the world like these three little Palestinian children. I don't know that father, but I can imagine his grief."
Meanwhile, Minnesota's Betty McCollum, said that "American-made white phosphorus shells were used by Israel in civilian areas causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth?"
Yet others indulged in outright fantasy. Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts said the report "makes an important recommendation: that it is incumbent upon both Israel and the Palestinians, in particular Hamas, to carry out credible investigations into actions by their forces that led to the harm and loss of civilians." And California's Sam Farr quoted a "Jewish constituent" who told him that "Israel will not have peace and security until Palestinians have hope."
FORTUNATELY FOR Israel - and the US - centrist Democrats from heavily Jewish districts and virtually all Republicans stood tall for the Jewish state during the debate.
Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, quoted an article by Hebrew University's Moshe Halbertal arguing that the report's "objective is to prepare a general indictment of Israel as a predatory state that is geared toward violating human rights all the time." Democrat Gary Ackerman of New York labeled the findings a "pompous, tendentious, one-sided political diatribe."
Across the aisle, Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, a Republican, noted that the report "ignores the extraordinary steps taken by Israel to minimize civilian casualties, often putting its own soldiers at greater risk to do so." Likewise, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, recalled her recent visit to Israel and stated that, "when surrounded by enemies and people who think nothing of suicide bombing innocent civilians and launching hundreds of rockets across the borders, self-defense becomes paramount."
Still, the American Left exerts an increasingly powerful grip on the Democratic Party when it comes to Israel, and liberal members of Congress have grown ever more unapologetic about their views.
Perhaps fittingly, when I reached out to Rep. Bob
Filner, a Jewish liberal Democrat in the San Diego area, to get his explanation for why he opposed the resolution, my calls and emails went unanswered. Scoop Jackson's gazing down from heaven, slowly shaking his head.
The writer is an attorney in San Diego and a Republican activist.