During his recent trip to Israel, US President Joe Biden was asked about voices in the Democratic Party which are critical of Israel.
In an important interview with Channel 12’s anchor Yonit Levi, Biden was pressed on the fact that some on the Left in the US have referred to Israel as an apartheid state and have called for an end to aid to Israel.
Biden said those voices were wrong and that they are only a “few” that do not reflect the majority. “There are a few of them. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend,” Biden said.
“There are a few of them. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend.”US President Joe Biden
The concern about the future of Left voices – and their influence on US politics while trying to single out Israel – is one to which we need to pay attention. Biden’s visit to Israel was momentous and important. It was a valuable visit from both a symbolic standpoint and also because of the various issues he explored while he was here.
He saw the Israel-US cooperation on air defense, as well as the new Iron Beam laser air defense system that the Jewish state is working on. He was also in Israel at a time when ties with the Gulf are growing.
However, the America of today is a changing country and domestic politics matter. The rise of some anti-Israel views is not taking place in a vacuum. It is part of a multi-decade process where generations of Americans have been told that they should single out Israel.
This takes place on college campuses where students are radicalized in standard classes as well as during events like “Israel Apartheid Week.” Israel is the only state described as currently being “apartheid.” This has no relation to Israel’s actual human rights record but is part of an agenda, set forth many years ago by some extremists who have a genocidal hatred of Israel. This isn’t about the 1967 Six Day War or the issue of settlements or the West Bank.
Even when Israel left Gaza, the voices calling Israel “apartheid” grew. Even when Benjamin Netanyahu was no longer prime minister, the extremist human rights groups sought to push the “apartheid” libel even more. So no matter who is in charge in Israel – and no matter how much territory Israel abandons – the anti-Israel lobby is going to increase its rhetoric against the Jewish state.
Biden is correct when he says that the number of members of Congress who hold obsessively anti-Israel views today is quite small. Only a few oppose further support for defense systems such as Iron Dome. But those voices are seeking to get more votes on the local level and to elect members at the state level who share their extremist views.
We must be vigilant in not taking for granted Israel’s support in the US. We must also work with the large number of Democrats who support Israel but who also have concerns. That means that US senators who have raised questions about the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and those who have concerns about evictions of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, should not be ignored.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and 81 other members of Congress urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “immediately engage with the Israeli government” on this issue. The letter, which includes 19 US senators, is important and we would be remiss if we did not engage with these members of Congress and recognize that while many support Israel, they must also be respected for their critical views.
Too often, Israel seems to shrug off incidents, such as the killing of Abu Akleh. We must keep in mind that to many people, these incidents matter.
US support for Israel is different from the kind of ties it has with many countries. It is a deep connection, one that is formed through human relationships and love in many places in the States. But that kind of close personal connection means supporters have expectations.
Israel should be listening and learning at all times. While Biden may be correct today that only a few rising politicians have a visceral hatred of Israel, that small number should be spotlighted – and we should work with those who might be influenced in a negative way by the extremists.