A New Wave of Democrats Tests the Party's Blanket Support for Israel

Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat running for Congress in Detroit, has said she will oppose aid to Israel. “No country, not one, should be able to get aid from the U.S. when they still promote that kind of injustice,” she said.CreditCreditAnthony Lanzilote for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — One Democratic House candidate has pledged that she will vote against bills that include aid to Israel, denouncing what she saw as the “injustice” of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Another wrote that “Israel has hypnotized the world” with its “evil doings.”

Still another helped write a scathing book on relations between the United States and Israel, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive political star expected to win a House seat in New York, condemned the “occupation of Palestine.”

A cluster of activist Democrats — most of them young, most of them cruising toward House seats this fall — has dared to breach what has been an almost inviolable orthodoxy in both political parties, strong support for Israel, raising the specter of a crack in the Democratic Party that Republicans could use to attract Jewish supporters.

Surging support for the Palestinian cause has already strained relations between liberal parties and Jewish voters in Europe. In Britain, the Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has been accused of anti-Semitism for a pro-Palestinian stand that has veered into statements that many see as outright bigotry. Across the United States, movements to force colleges and universities to boycott, divest investments from and place sanctions on Israel have divided some progressive students from their Jewish peers.

Now some Democrats are testing the boundaries of what has been the politically acceptable position on Israel in the mainstream parties. They include Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Muslim running for an open House seat in Minneapolis; Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Muslim running in Detroit; Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, running in a heavily Democratic district in the Bronx and Queens; and Leslie Cockburn, co-author of “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship,” who is running in a Republican-leaning district in Virginia. None of them would comment for this article.

They have not made their views on Israel a central issue of their campaigns, but they also have not held back. Ms. Tlaib, in an August interview with the liberal magazine In These Times, endorsed a one-state solution that could jeopardize Israel’s status as a Jewish state.

“It has to be one state,” she said. “Separate but equal does not work.”

Ms. Omar, who had criticized Israel’s “evil doings” in 2012, was accused on Twitter of anti-Semitism after her campaign got underway. “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews,” she responded.

Against a backdrop of a White House that has taken a series of measures explicitly targeting Palestinians — moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, slashing aid and most recently, closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington — the group’s stances are at odds with several prominent pro-Israel party leaders, setting up an interparty conflict often waged over generational lines. Republicans have already lobbed charges of anti-Semitism.

“I do worry that there are some on the extreme left of our party who adopt slogans” that are creating tensions, said Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California and a pro-Israel voice in the party.

UCI Comments - join the discussion!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: