Monday, April 1, 2019

Hypocrites, Hype, and Hope

I was a registered Democrat until 2010, when I resigned in protest of President Obama’s attitude and policies toward Israel. I felt that, during the 2008 campaign, he had misled me and others about his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and with his contention that he was a friend of Israel. Resigning from the party was a way to register my objection.  

I recently rejoined the party. Not because I have suddenly reversed my views on President Obama’s treatment of Israel, and not because everything in the party is rosy. I’ve signed back up because there is now a credible and much-needed effort to fight the attempt to move the party away from its traditional support for Israel.
The pro-Israel community needs to be embedded in as wide a swath of the political spectrum as possible. There will come a day when the Democrats will have the presidency again, and there will come a day when they will control both houses of Congress. And, while the filibuster isn’t what it once was, and while many more issues divide along partisan lines than in the past, it is still much easier to get things done, or to stop bad things, if you have strength in both parties.
Further, those who have been in the American political trenches for years recall when the Democrats were Israel’s steadfast friends and there was a large part of the Republican Party that was not supportive. Politics being as fickle as it is, that could happen again, and quickly.
So, I’ve rejoined the party and I’ve signed up with the Democratic Majority for Israel, a group of veteran Democratic leaders and operatives who are working to maintain the Democratic Party’s traditional support for Israel.
Yes, there are a few new Democratic members of Congress who are strongly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and yes it is distressing that several presidential candidates, in a transparent attempt to pander to the anti-Israel “progressives” they see as important in certain primaries, make some outrageous and inaccurate anti-Israel statements. It demonstrates that there is much work to be done.
It was heartening to see the line-up of Democrats at the annual AIPAC policy conference. Some of them made some good speeches. Also great to hear from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer that about 30 new Democratic members of Congress will be joining him on a trip to Israel sponsored by an AIPAC-related non-profit.
Still, there are disconcerting developments. Five or six presidential candidates did not show up for the AIPAC conference. Whether it was in response to MoveOn.Org’s petition leaning on them not to go, or whether it was the result of their own political calculation, it is not a good indication of their sense of where political advantage lies.

Some have minimized this slight by pointing out that candidates are invited to speak at AIPAC’s policy conference only during election years. True. However, most of the presidential candidates are senators or House members and, whether candidates or not, legislators typically clamor to attend lunches, dinners, and meetings with delegations from their states and districts, in addition to the Tuesday lobbying meetings at the Capitol. They do this because they perceive the delegates as influential opinion leaders and/or donors.
Legislators and candidates are not easily discouraged from attending such meals and meetings. In fact, it generally would take chains to stop a candidate from getting near potential votes and donations. They are like dogs trained to hunt. Rather, these presidential candidates calculated that the cons of attending outweighed the pro’s, at least at this stage of the campaign, and/or the pro-Israel community will forget and forgive the slight.
They shouldn’t.  If legislators can’t show up as usual to talk and listen, they cannot be depended on to give the pro-Israel community a fair listen, let alone support, when there is real pressure on the other side.
AIPAC is riding a rough road: It tries to maintain its bi-partisan tradition at a time when just about everything divides along partisan lines, with many seeming to relish the hyper and often hateful exchanges that mark the divide. It now seems to be the conventional wisdom, fueled by the folks at J Street and their brothers and sisters to the left of them, that AIPAC is listing heavily to the right and that liberals and progressives don’t feel at home in their midst.
In columns that seemed to have been written before the conference began, columnists Tom Friedman, Dana Milbank, and Peter Beinart slammed the conference for slanting right in a big way. To read them, there was very little difference between the attendees of the AIPAC conference and a CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) get-together or an Adelson family Bar Mitzvah celebration.
Accept for one minor problem: the facts. As mentioned above, Democratic legislators and speakers attended in abundance. Moreover, the panels featured a broad spectrum of viewpoints. For example, one panel featured a former negotiator for the Palestinian Authority. That’s not exactly silencing alternative viewpoints.
My attendance virtually and my survey of four liberal, Democratic friends who attended physically indicated that they felt right at home and that AIPAC was doing all it could to emphasize bi-partisanship. Rabbi Noah Farkas of Encino, who certainly appears to have the requisite progressive bona fides, seems to feel that the conference was a comfortable place to be.
A former partner of mine was fond of saying that “There are many ways to say ‘F…k You.” Former President Obama found a  clever, not-so-subtle way: He hosted a get-together for Democratic freshmen members of Congress on the Monday night of the policy conference, a key night. Classy.
Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until World War I. It was a geographic region, not an independent state with definite and permanent borders. In 1916, during the war and before they had won, Great Britain and France carved up the anticipated spoils in secret. Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s George-Picot, a congenital liar and a drunk, were given the assignment.
Their work, largely arbitrary and with little or no consideration of family and tribal loyalties, politics, or geography, has been the source of much of the region’s turmoil and grief for a century. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the war, France received a “mandate” from the long-dead League of Nations to govern France and Lebanon. In this case, “mandate” means they stole it fair and square.
Syria achieved independence from France in 1946. By virtue of Sykes and Picot, it controlled the Golan Heights for exactly 21 years. For those 21 years it continuously used the Heights to harass Israelis with guns and rockets. Israel captured it in a defensive war in 1967 and has ruled the area for 52 years. Israel’s rule over the Golan Heights has been the longest of any sovereign nation since the Ottomans and more peaceful and democratic than any power since the 1500’s.
The area has thrived under Israeli rule. It is prosperous, with agriculture, wineries, and bed and breakfasts. The Druze communities are building like crazy. The region is peaceful, and the Syrians have been prevented from using the Heights to easily target Israeli civilians below.
Israel formally annexed the Golan in 1981. President Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty last week. Much of the media, the European Union, the pundits, the diplomats, the world, cry foul. According to them, this recognition is going to threaten the peace of the region. The NY Times headline: “Trump Bolsters Netanyahu but Risks Roiling Middle East.”
Yes, without this recognition of reality, the Middle East is an oasis of peace and not “roiling” one bit.
What peace? The peace that prevailed under Hafez al-Assad, the despotic father of the current despot who showered bombs from the Heights onto Israeli towns and farms and who murdered Syrian communities that dared oppose him? Or the peace of the son, Bashar, who has murdered a half million of his citizens and displaced 11 million more in his attempt to hold onto power?
The peace promised by Iran, which has propped up Bashar and is persistently trying to attain a permanent presence on the Golan and that consistently calls for Israel’s annihilation? Or the peace of ISIS, that wonderful would-be caliphate that reveled in burning a Jordanian soldier alive, drowning innocents in cages, and decapitating American journalists?
Do the Western media, Human Rights Watch, American progressives, and other organizations that profess to care about human rights inordinately pick on Israel? Are they obsessed with the only Jewish-majority country in the world?
Why does the NY Times have article after article, op-ed after op-ed, most overwhelmingly negative, focused on this country of nine million? Why, of all the countries of the world, does the far left hold Israel up (inaccurately) as the manifestation of all that was and is wrong with Western colonialism?
Of all the people in the world facing displacement, impoverishment, and genocide, why is it that the Palestinians, who are in fact increasing in population and arguably have brought much of their suffering upon themselves, receive so much more attention than so many other peoples who are truly facing dire straits due to little or no fault of their own? Do all those who profess to so care about the Palestinians really care, or do they only care when it satisfies their desire to bash Israel?
The latest developments seem to suggest that many of those who profess to care so much about the Palestinians only do so when their unfortunate conditions can be laid at the doorstep of Israel, justifiably or not.
After years of living under Hamas’ oppressive rule, under a regime more concerned about terrorizing Israel than providing basic services to its people, Gazans are publicly protesting. Groups have organized demonstrations. Palestinian reporters have courageously chronicled protests as well as the restrictions and intolerable conditions that Gazans are living under. Seventy-five journalists have been jailed. Torture is reportedly widespread.
Heard much about all of this? Heard anything at all? Nothing on CNN International. Or the BBC. How about from the NY Times, which seems to be on the scene if a Palestinian stubs his or her toe and it can be attributed to Israel? The Times has had one article on the repression, admittedly a comprehensive one.
Have you heard much or anything about the persecution and killing of Palestinians in Syria? About Palestinian women being raped and tortured and killed?
Ironically, it’s a NY Times op-ed writer, Brett Stephens, who summed up just how much all those who profess to care about the Palestinians really do if their suffering cannot be laid at Israel’s doorstep. In summary: They don’t.

Now that Palestinians are once again”protesting” on the Gaza border, missiles and incendiary devices are targeting Israeli civilians, Palestinians are attempting to breach the border, one can be assured the press is on the spot to cover and criticize Israel’s response. CNN International and English-language France 24 are reporting on it pretty much hourly. 

It’s just a matter of time until Bernie Sanders weighs in, once again using inaccurate statistics and invoking his mistaken understanding of the doctrine of proportionality in war.
Now that things have gotten very heated, and Israel has responded with bombs on Hamas installations in Gaza, the media is all over the story. But Israeli communities on the Gaza border have been targeted virtually continuously with little or no coverage.
About two weeks ago two missiles hit not border communities but the center of Israel. Hamas said they were “a mistake.” Really? Setting a missile launcher so that a missile goes two to three times as far as usual can be a mistake? That’s about as good as “the dog ate my homework.”
Apparently not wanting the situation to escalate, some in the Israeli defense establishment seemed to accept this explanation. Israel responded by targeting some buildings. Hamas’ leadership, brave souls that they are, went into hiding.
About a week later, another missile from Gaza hit the center of Israel, destroying a house, injuring seven, including two babies, and killing some dogs. If the family had not gotten to its shelter in time, they probably would be dead.  This time Hamas said it was possibly due to “bad weather.” No kidding.

Israel has an election on April 9th. Likud, led by legally and politically embattled Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, is in a virtual dead heat with the newly formed Blue and White Party led by former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid (There is a Future) leader Yair Lapid. Regardless of which party wins the most seats, it appears that the parties on the right have a better chance of forming a coalition than those on the center and left.
Many Israelis would like to see a change in government. They would like a government not tainted by corruption, one that will initiate the beginnings of a separation from the Palestinians and, if peace and security can be assured, a road to a Palestinian state.
The right counters that Israel now gives as much autonomy to the Palestinians to run their lives as security needs permit, and that if Israel were to withdraw from the territories as it did from Gaza in 2005, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and much of the rest of Israel would be subjected to the near-constant bombardment and terror that the South now experiences. They point to the two missiles that were a “mistake” and the one that was due to “bad weather” as just a taste of the future.
And the convincing response to that argument is ? ? ? ?
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


  1. Good luck with that Alan ! you’ve got a rocky road ahead.

  2. You are my friend but you are dreaming of the old times and won't let go of a party of Anti-semites!@!

  3. Good post. Very comprehensive.

  4. I really appreciate this perspective. The irony of things is that Trump has done some long-awaited moves for Israel, but he is such a goniff that I can’t support him or any of the degenerate Republicans who will not stand up against him. Your position to work within the Democratic party to advocate for Israel is a reasonable one. Thanks for sharing this. I intend to look at the Democratic Majority for Israel website to get a better understanding of this issue.

  5. Trump's support( out of Iran deal- Jerusalem - Golan Heights) pretty impressive.

  6. Always informative as usual.

  7. Well said. Whatever party we have traditionally been a part of must be continually challenged to stay true to the principles on which our country was founded. We must all make sure that the people we have supported in the past know that we see and hear what they do and say and that we have supported them because of what we thought were their stated principles and positions.

  8. Reasoned and understood. Let’s the future developments too as the current demos are in sync on the presidential trail. Biden may be the exception but he’s under big pressure from the party’s left. Also good president Trump was not the focus here but facts and reason. I read every word. You’re right we need strong Israel advocates within each party. Time will tell.

  9. Outstanding. I certainly agree with just about every word. Perhaps my hatred of trump shadows my judgment but I still think his abrupt recognition of Golan by tweet was much more about himself and painting the Dems as anti-Israel than Israel itself and since Israel cannot and will not ever relinquish control of Golan, does this act have any real significance?

    Certainly seems like Hamas is doing everything in its power to help Bibi win re-election which can only be interpreted in one way.

  10. Outstanding column, Alan! As a centrist Democrat, I especially like your judicious treatment of the troubles within the party, Keep it up!

  11. I would have read the entire posting but "my dog ate my computer (I had already finished my homework)". It was a mistake probably due to bad weather.

  12. I’m always impressed that you still have the fight for right in you!! And I almost always agree. We need some moderate Democrats in Congress to move things back on track!

  13. You are one very smart man. I couldn’t agree more. The way to win is not to run away in anger and leave the wolves to devour the remains. The way is to follow Jewish principles and stay and teach… enlighten!