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June 24, 2021 10:40 am
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The Progressives and the Jews

avatar by Abraham H. Miller / JNS.org

Opinion

Democratic 2020 US presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders holds hands with US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) during a campaign rally at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nov. 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Caroline Yang.

JNS.org – Antisemitism in America has become so prevalent that even progressive Democrats are embarrassed. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Jew of convenience, found it necessary to say: “We have got to combat antisemitism.”

Sanders, of course, has always considered Israel’s attempts to defend itself an overreaction. When armed militants from Gaza charged Israel’s border fence during the Great March of Return only to be repelled by gunfire, Sanders was quick to describe the thugs as peaceful protesters—a statement contradicted by videos and photographs from the scene.

During the latest conflict, Sanders joined Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in a resolution to prevent replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, which intercepts rockets and missiles launched from Gaza by an organization whose raison d’etre is the obliteration of the Jewish state and the murder of Jews anywhere in the world.

And of course, for progressives, no condemnation of antisemitism, however disingenuous and late, is complete without a parallel condemnation of Islamophobia, a phenomenon that pales in comparison to Jew-hatred. Ironically, such condemnation ignores that it is often Muslims who have taken to the streets to commit acts of violence against Jews. Whether in the streets of Europe, Canada, or America, it is the action of Muslims whose hatred of Jews erupts into acts of violence.

As one alleged and arrested Muslim perpetrator in New York City said, he would do it again if he had the opportunity. He displayed not only an absence of remorse but also a desire to pursue further his hate-fueled violence. In New York City, groups that support the anti-Israel BDS movement were quick to launch a campaign to raise bail for these alleged criminals, perhaps so they could return to the streets and do it again.

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When Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) uttered her infamous antisemitic tropes in 2019, the Democrat establishment rallied around her. In the tribalism of American identity politics, it was the Congressional Black Caucus that was the front line of her defense. Instead of a resolution condemning Omar, the Democrats issued an obligatory, watered-down condemnation of hatred, once again prominently mentioning Islamophobia.

The irony was lost only on those Jews incapable of separating themselves from the Democrat Party, who rationalized the political farce by saying that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had achieved the near-impossible by getting any resolution through. If you set the bar low enough, anything can be touted as a political victory.

And so now, as then, “The Squad” has come late to denounce antisemitism, hastening to incorporate the obligatory corresponding mention of ethnic and racial hatred generally and Islamophobia specifically.

Progressives and Sanders have followed Hamas’s playbook and repeated the most outlandish and spurious allegations, that portray the Jews as the aggressors and Hamas the victims. Omar called Israeli airstrikes “terrorism,” despite Israel being the only country in the world that gives telephone notice and two hours’ warning before striking a target. Omar was conspicuously silent about the initial seven rockets Hamas launched into civilian areas of Jerusalem that precipitated Israeli retaliation.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) stood on the floor of Congress and accused Israel of trying to exterminate the Palestinian people. If that were true, Israel with its phone calls and emphasis on precise targeting was doing a terrible job of it. A more effective way would have been to mimic Hamas’s strategy by indiscriminately bombing civilian areas.

At a town hall in New York City, Ocasio-Cortez spoke of the dehumanizing conditions under which the Palestinians live, failing to note that in both the West Bank and in Gaza, it is an authoritarian, corrupt Palestinian leadership that is responsible for those conditions, which are perpetuated and exacerbated by diverting precious resources to instruments of war. Instead of building infrastructure, schools and hospitals, Hamas builds tunnels for infiltration into Israel. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s term expired in 2009, but he continues to rule in the West Bank by authoritarian decree while failing to respond to Israeli overtures of peace.

Jews not only suffer verbal and physical assaults on the streets of liberal democracies for decisions made by other Jews thousands of miles away; they also face in the Democrat Party, which they have long supported, a growing number who now attack their brethren for trying to survive. This tectonic shift in Democrat support for Israel does not bode well for either American Jews or their Israeli brethren. Nor does it bode well for the future of the Middle East.

The false characterization of Israel as colonial or apartheid ignores that Israelis have no place to go. The French and British packed up their tents and returned home from the Third World. The Israelis are not going back to Eastern Europe or to the countries in the Middle East and North Africa from which Muslims ethnically cleansed a people and its culture that long preceded Islam. With their backs to the sea, abandoned by America, they will have no choice but to fight a different kind of warfare.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter: @salomoncenter.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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