Democrats must remain honest regarding stance on Israel

On Nov. 16, 2012, Democrat politician Ilhan Omar tweeted out an accusation against the state of Israel, stating, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them to see the evil doings of Israel” (Twitter, @IlhanMN, 11.16.2012). Six years later, the tweets resurfaced, resulting in widespread accusations of anti-Semitism against Ms. Omar, who won her bid to replace Keith Ellison in the United States House of Representatives just a few short weeks ago.

Representative-elect Omar’s allegations against the state of Israel play into traditional anti-Semitic tropes. Historically, anti-Semites have accused Jews of engaging in world conspiracies of a similar nature: In 2003, former head of the Klu Klux Klan David Duke wrote a book titled “Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question,” detailing the existence of a Jewish supremacist conspiracy to commit genocide against the Palestinians (Anti-Defamation League, “David Duke,” 2013). In June 2018, conspiracy theorist Philip Giraldi penned an article that tied the Israeli government to a “worldwide conspiracy to promote threats to keep big national security-based government well-funded and in place” (Veterans Today, “Understanding Jewish Power,” 06.13.2018). The idea of Jews and the Jewish state using their influence to manipulate world affairs is not new, and it is difficult to view Omar’s statements as anything besides anti-Semitic.

Disappointingly, the Representative-elect’s response to the claims of anti-Semitism was lackluster at best. She said, “These accusations are without merit. They are rooted in bigotry toward a belief about what Muslims are stereotyped to believe.” She at no point apologized for the misguided tweet (The Times of Israel, “Woman running for congress in Minnesota rejects anti-semitism accusations,” 06.08.2018). Yet, that is not the focus of my ire today. I am not as concerned about one anti-Semitic member of the House of Representatives as I am about a general trend of left-wing Democrats being dishonest regarding their views on Israel in order to pander to voters. If the Democratic Party wants to abandon Israel and the Jewish people, let it do so openly.

Representative-elect Ilhan Omar expressed opposition to the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement during her primary campaign. She stated, “It is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within the region. I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution” (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Ilhan Omar, who once called Israel an apartheid regime, wins congressional primary in Minnesota,” 08.15.2018).

She didn’t hang on to this position for long. Following her victory in November, Omar changed her view, saying that she believes in and supports the BDS movement. While she does add that she still expresses reservations about the effectiveness of the movement, this remains a disappointing deviation from the beliefs she espoused during her campaign (Muslim Girl, “Ilhan Omar: Why Advocating for Palestine is Not Anti-Semitic,” 11.2018).

But it’s not just Omar who has flipped on this issue when politically convenient. If anything, her reversal in positions serves as one of the less extreme examples. While she changed her position on the BDS movement, much of her rhetoric stayed the same. As Batya Ungar-Sargon pointed out, “Despite her statement, it’s clear that Omar’s support for the BDS movement isn’t a call for a single, non-Jewish state where Israel is. She still believes in a two state solution one for Jews, one for Palestinians” (Forward, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Flip-Flopped on Israel. Ilhan Omar Did Not,” 11.15.2018).

A more blatant flip-flop comes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In an interview with PBS in July 2018, then-candidate Ocasio-Cortez said, “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution” (Forward, “What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Really Thinks About Israel,” 07.16.2018). In an interview just two days later, she backpedaled, refusing to tell journalists from Haaretz whether she supported a two-state solution. As Haaretz pointed out, this was not the first time that she had changed positions on Israel. (Haaretz, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Vows to Learn and Evolve on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” 07.18.2018).

Rashida Tlaib, who recently became the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, made a similar shift. Prior to the Democratic primary, then-candidate Tlaib expressed pro–two state solution views in order to appeal to J-Street, a pro-Palestinian organization that distinguishes itself by its support for the continued existence of Israel. She expressed to J-Street that she endorses a two-state solution and continued U.S. aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That position evaporated after she won the primary. Just a few days after her victory, she stated, “This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work” (Haaretz, “From Two States to One: Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib Shifts Position on Israel,” 08.16.2018). This is perhaps the most blatant of these sudden position changes: She pandered to J-Street for their endorsement during the primary and then immediately flipped positions when she no longer needed them.

If the progressive wing of the Democratic Party plans on shifting away from its traditional support for the continued existence of the state of Israel, I would hope it would at least have the basic courtesy of going about it honestly. In doing so, the American Left not only turns away from Zionism but also away from the Jewish people in general. It is essential for those Jews who want to maintain a progressive movement that is inclusive of Israel to express caution in approaching candidates and weeding out anti-Semites and those who attack the legitimacy of the Jewish state from those who have valid criticisms. If we don’t enforce honesty and transparency, then the pro-Israel Left in America may die very, very soon.

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