Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Has the Left Betrayed the Jews?: A Discussion Continued


{Cross-Posted at Israel Thrives}

There are political realities that become so large over time, and thereby so normative, they just seem to fade into the wallpaper and remain virtually undiscussed. Likewise, there are political realities that have such painful consequences if directly addressed that people avoid doing so by avoiding recognizing the reality of it.

I am more and more convinced that this is the situation that liberal American Jews find themselves within the progressive movement and the activist base of the Democratic Party.

My thesis is that the progressive movement, and the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic Party, has betrayed its Jewish constituency through accepting anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as part of the larger coalition.

In the previous piece I offered four pieces of evidence.

1) That the larger progressive and Democratic blogs and journals express, at worst, a true hatred for the Jewish state and, at best, a comfortable acceptance of that hatred.

2) The ongoing agitation of anti-Semitic anti-Zionists within large Democratic and progressive venues such as Daily Kos, the Huffington Post, and the UK Guardian.

3) The polling which consistently shows that Republicans and conservatives are far more well-disposed to Israel than are Democrats and progressives.

4) And the fact that Israel is the only country on the face of the planet in which progressives discuss whether or not it should ever have come into existence and whether or not it should continue to exist.

Fizziks has been kind enough to engage my argument in an effort to refute it.

While Fizziks' argument is strong enough to give me some pause, I do not believe that he has actually succeeded in refuting my argument. Part of the reason for this is that the question is not whether I am entirely right or I am entirely wrong. The question really is, to what extent, or to what degree, is the above true? Is it true enough that we need to discuss it and re-orient our politics accordingly.

I believe it is.

Fizziks' effort to refute my thesis takes the form of attempting to diminish the significance of a blog like Daily Kos by arguing that it is not representative of the progressive-movement or the Democratic Party, that national political figures within the Democratic Party tend to be pro-Israel, and that there are elements on the right who also discuss whether or not Israel should have even come into existence.

Fizziks writes:

In short, Daily Kos, and these other places like HuffPo, are rarified worlds that do not, a present, reflect the real world of the Democratic Party. Daily Kos is at present full of deranged keyboard warriors, most of whom are not even Democrats, and has a presently active readership of maybe 10,000 people. It has no prestige or power in the Democratic establishment anymore, and its' views, as evidenced by my co-op example above, do not reflect the views of the base of the Democratic party.

There are several problems with this seemingly strong argument. The first is that my thesis says nothing about national politicians, nor about the Democratic Party as a whole. It is specific to the progressive-movement and the activist base of the party. Furthermore, although I neglected to stress this earlier, it is not even just about the blogs like Daily Kos or the Huffington Post. It is also about anti-Zionist trends within academia and the hatred spit at Israel on prominent American universities, about anti-Israel NGOs that seek to perpetually defame that country or paint it in the worst possible light, and about the the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS), a movement that has become institutionalized within the larger progressive-left.

Fizziks points out that BDS has been, thus far, unsuccessful and he is right. For the most part BDS has been unsuccessful as Jon Haber tends to stress in Divest This!  But this does not suggest that anti-Zionists have not become part of the constituency of the progressive-left or have not embedded themselves within the activist base of the Democratic Party. The evidence for this goes far beyond any two or three political blogs and is clearly evident in the things mentioned above, the universities, the progressive journals, the NGOs, and the BDS.

So, there is simply no question that that the progressive movement, and the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic Party, has accepted anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as part of its larger coalition. The only real question for those of us bold enough to engage it is whether or not this constitutes betrayal of its Jewish constituency. It doesn't even matter if Republicans and conservatives do this, as well, because we are not discussing them. They are also far less relevant, on this question, to American Jews because American Jews tend to be progressives and Democrats, not conservatives and Republicans.

My conclusion, as someone who pays close attention to the Israel-Palestine discussion within progressive venues is that, yes, the progressive movement and the activist base of the Democratic Party has betrayed its Jewish constituency via an acceptance of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. That they have accepted anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as part of the larger constituency is irrefutable. Those of us who pay attention see it on a daily basis. I tend to write about Daily Kos, because I come out of Daily Kos, but even if prominent political blogs like Daily Kos or the Huffington Post or the UK Guardian represent "rarified worlds," which given their size and taken together, I do not believe that they do, this does not explain away the presence of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism on the campuses and within the "human rights" organizations.

Until friends of Israel, Jewish or otherwise, are willing to recognize this situation and acknowledge it and discuss it, we can never actually address the issue in a manner that will be helpful. We cannot create strategies and tactics until we are ready to acknowledge that the situation exists.

I want to thank Fizziks for taking the time to address the issue, despite our disagreement, because this is the only way we can even begin to move forward. It has to start with a recognition of political conditions as they are.

Only then can we determine what they mean and what to do about it.



fizziks said...

I feel like you changed the topic mid-debate, to something that one couldn't possibly disagree with.

I thought we were debating whether Jews should abandon the Democratic party. I didn't think we were debating whether the far left has betrayed the Jews.

On the later question, the answer is obvious, it is hell yes, and there can be no debate. If that was the topic, then we wasted our time because we already agree.

But I thought the topic of contention was whether Jews should abandon the Democratic party in light of this, which would involve exploring and debating the things that I tried to explore, namely 1) the connection, or lack thereof, between the Democratic party and the far left, 2) the record of the Democratic party politicians and mainstream supporters on Israel, and 3) whether the Republicans are any better.

Those were the three topics that I tried to explore. And I made my case that 1) the far left has relatively little influence in mainstream Democratic party politics, and most of the far-leftist examples you cite do not seriously consider themselves part of the Democratic tent, 2) mainstream Democratic party politicians and people are supportive of Israel, and 3) part of the Republican 'base' has its own problems, with Ron Paul pulling 20% support. So therefore, Jews have no reason to abandon the Democratic party.

Mike L. said...


I want to take this slowly, I think.

I mean, we're chewing over ideas that are greatly important to the Jewish people, if not American people, more generally.

My wager with Volleyboy1 is that Barack Obama, who received around 80 percent of the Jewish vote in '08, including my vote, will receive 65 percent or under this November.

If I turn out to be right, it will mean that a significant percentage of Jewish Americans are either seeing something that they do not like about this president or about his party or about his political movement.

I would like to suggest that the hatred that we see spit at Israel from Democratic and progressive venues may have something to do with this.

In any case, I will respond to your points, if not tomorrow, then within a few coming days.


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