Are The Progressive Democrats Going Too Far Regarding Israel?

Elad Simchayoff

Thoughts following the backlash against AOC scheduled appearance at a memorial for Yitzhak Rabin

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: official website

It all started with an announcement that left many people surprised. APN (Americans for Peace Now), the US branch of the very left-winged Israeli NGO “Shalom Achshav” (Peace Now), excitedly celebrated that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be speaking in a virtual event honoring the memory of the late Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin. Moments later, social media went into a frenzy.

“This shows total contempt for Palestinians lives” followed a tweet. “Who’s up next in this campaign of historical revisionism? Begin?”, asked another. The comments kept pouring. Dozens of pro-Palestinians or anti-Israel activists showed their disappointment and even anger at AOC’s decision to appear at the event.

After 24 hours of fierce backlash, AOC commented and seemed to be backing down from her commitment to participate.

This was followed by dozens of pro-Israeli comments asking the congresswoman to attend the event as originally planned and not to heed to the criticism. “You make peace with your enemies, this is what Rabin did”, said one tweet. “Rabin stood strong & signed the first agreement with the Palestinians... I hope you’ll have the moral courage to attend”, commented a former MK from Israel’s left party “Haavoda”.

Days later, the congresswoman annouced that she will not participate in the event.

For the past several years Israel and the Democratic party have been drifting further and further apart. In recent years, especially since President Trump took office, it seems that the long-standing agenda of Israeli governments to stay above the inner-American political debate is now a thing of the past.

It might be due to pressure coming from President Trump, it might be a gamble taken by PM Netanyahu who possibly decided to “put all of his chips” on Trump after the very rocky relationship between him and former President Obama. It might actually be both. The fact is that the relations between Israel and the Democratic party are worse than ever, and not getting better.

A recent poll showed that while 61% of the Republicans hold favorable views of the Israeli government, only 26% of the Democrats share the same sentiment. 67% of the Democrats said they hold somewhat/very unfavorable views of the Israeli government.

The trend is even more apparent when looking at the younger generation. Those who defined themselves as Democrats and are aged between 18–29 were the group who saw the Israeli government in the least favorable way compared to any other group asked.

Israel and the younger generation of the Democratic party are at an unprecedented crisis.

This trend is understandable when looking at the current political climate. PM Netanyahu has been constantly boasting about his “special relationship” with President Trump. During his election campaign, Netanyahu had billboards with pictures of him and Trump. His cooperation with the US President is one of the main selling-points Netanyahu highlights in almost every opportunity.

Trump, in turn, is using the praise from Netanyahu as political leverage. Recently he said in a campaign rally that he “moved the US embassy to Jerusalem for the evangelical Christians”.

Netanyahu and Obama had many clashes. The Israeli PM’s critics said that Netanyahu's greatest advantage, as being the most popular Israeli leader in the US, was gone. The bond with Trump brought back the image of Netanyahu as he would like to portray it. The close relations also benefited Trump, allowing him to achieve his greatest achievement while in office.

As the bond between Netanyahu and Trump grew stronger, the historical connection between Israel and the Democratic party grew weaker. With plans to annex parts of the west bank, the Nethanyhu-Trump partnership seemed to be taking steps that would change the middle east forever, and in a completely opposite fashion to that aspired by liberals both in Israel and the US.

A very symbolic moment occurred in the photo-op before the signing of the “Abraham Accord”. Netanyahu was sitting, embarrassed, next to Trump while the American President was using the phrase “sleepy Joe” over and over, bashing his Democratic opponent.

And so, as the ever-growing gap between Democrats, particularly young Democrats, and the current Israeli government is concerning yet understandable, the backlash regarding Former Israeli PM Rabin is much more surprising.

It is true that Palestinians and Israelis have a very opposite way of looking at history. One side’s independence day is another’s nakba day (day of the catastrophe). Rabin was, indeed, a solider and army chief who fought wars. He did take a hard stance on the Palestinian uprising, the Intifada.

And yet, Rabin was the first PM to reach an agreement with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), and shake hands with its leader Yasser Arafat. The two, together with President Clinton, won the Nobel peace prize for their efforts.

The signing of the Oslo Accord. Bill Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat at the White House. Photo: Vince Musi / The White House

This highly controversial agreement led to Rabin’s assassination by a right-winged Jew who wanted to bring the peace process to a halt. Rabin, a once decorated man-of-war gave up his life on the altar of peace.

Rabin, and the Rabin’s legacy, is proof that even those who grew up fighting can pave the way to peace. He was a good enough partner for Arafat — himself, far from being a peaceful freedom fighter as some try to portray — and yet in certain circles of the Democratic party, Rabin is not a good enough model of the importance of peace.

The organization that is holding the memorial event is a very debated NGO in Israel. Right-winged activists are calling Peace-Now “traitors”. A big part of Peace- Now’s activity is to fight settlements. Their website has a “settlement watch” monitoring new settlements being built. However, for some progressive circles of the American left, this organization is not left enough and should be banned.

By rejecting the Israeli left the young generation of the Democratic party is basically giving up on any connection with Israel as a whole. If an organization criticized by the right for fighting settlements, and a PM who gave his life for peace with the Palestinians is not something they could live with, who would they accept? Which Israeli leader would be considered good enough?

AOC is, as seen by many, the face of the Democratic party’s future. She has criticized Israel before, and yet this is different. Her decision to withdraw from the Yitzhak Rabin memorial event is significan. This sends a clear message on the intentions of the younger generation of the Democratic party towards Israel. AOC’s decision shows that the young progressive American Democrates will only accept some kind of fantasy Israeli left movement that would never, and could never, actually exist.

Comments / 0

Published by

I love writing about what I love. Journalist. Always curious. Israeli born, London based. Father, Husband, and a dog person.


More from Elad Simchayoff

Comments / 0