With their presence and silence, they are lending their support to the anti-Palestinian racism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his openly fascist governing partners.
Early in the trip, the delegation posed for a photograph alongside Netanyahu and Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs.The smiling photo-op points to a profound and ongoing problem with anti-Palestinianism within the Democratic Party.
The current enthusiastic visit to Netanyahu and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Israel highlights the willingness of congressional Democrats to embrace and fund racism in a way that would have been unthinkable in the late 1980s with apartheid South Africa.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who is heading the delegation, supported Israel’s ethnocratic system in a statement quickly promoted by AIPAC.
“We reiterate our ironclad commitment to the safety and security of Israel and to the existence of Israel as a prosperous and Jewish democratic state.”
It’s a troubling endorsement of Israeli apartheid. And his comment about “shared democratic values” exposes as a lie the Democrats’ claims to be serious about battling racial discrimination.Jeffries also repeated casual anti-Arab racism he has employed previously.
“The two things that bind our countries together relate to shared democratic values and shared strategic interests related to the very tough neighborhood Israel lives in.”
Notably, the metaphor of a “tough” or “dangerous neighborhood” itself has racist overtones. This terminology is often used to justify or excuse police brutality in predominantly Black urban areas in the United States long deprived of public and private investment due to government segregation policies.
When used in the context of Israel, it serves in a similar manner to normalize and justify US support for Israel’s brutality against Palestinians and aggression against neighboring countries.
Jeffries added, “The need to ensure we maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge will still be with us, regardless of where Israel lands in terms of the judicial reform effort.”
Jeffries has tolerated Israel’s denial of equal rights for Palestinians for many years, funding it all along. Now he has indicated his support for Israel will continue even as Israel’s anti-democratic practices turn inward as right-wing extremists seek to remake the judiciary.
The overhaul of a judiciary that already provides a legal fig leaf to most of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians will make the expansionist country not just even more anti-Palestinian, but more likely to deny or limit the rights of dissenting Israeli Jews as well.
The insistence on continuing to finance the Israeli military puts Jeffries, and by extension much of the Democratic Party, fully in league with Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir and self-described “fascist homophobe” Bezalel Smotrich – even as they claim to disagree with some of their policies.
With a few exceptions, anti-Palestinian racism unites Democrats across the racial lines of an increasingly diverse party. For most, it’s not so much bigotry that motivates them, but political self-interest and a willingness to promote policies they know will entrench the racial discrimination faced by Palestinians.
In other words, while many right-wing Christian Zionists in the Republican Party support Israel unconditionally as a matter of true faith, Democrats support Israel largely for cynical and unprincipled reasons. It’s hard to decide which is worse, but the fact is that the dire consequences are the same for Palestinians.
New generation of anti-Palestinians
Predictably, the new generation of Democratic leadership is proving every bit as willfully pro-Israel as its predecessors.
Indeed, Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild signaled in March that financial support would continue no matter what.
“I believe the Biden administration has either signaled or actually said that they will not condition aid to Israel on what happens with the judicial system there. I think that’s the current Biden administration position on it.”
She added, “I would not be among the defectors. I would continue to vote for support for Israel.”
Israel, then, can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of many congressional Democrats. The support for funding Israel’s apartheid war on Palestinians is nothing new, but the willingness to fund Israel as even its ethnocratic Jim Crow-style “democracy” intended for Jews only breaks apart is something of a surprise.
These Democrats may try to convince themselves that they’re standing with Israel rather than racist demagogues and war criminals, but they’re fooling themselves. Their spinelessness is bound to lead to an even more dangerous place, one with predictably ugly consequences as Palestinians are further dispossessed and as more Israeli Jews get a taste – albeit a much smaller one – of the authoritarianism Israel has always reserved for Palestinians.
“I wanted to thank you for your position on antisemitism, for your position on the mendacious attack on Israel as an apartheid state, for your support for Israel’s security and for supporting the President’s effort to expand the peace.”
He also plugged a Saudi-Israeli deal which would presumably require Saudi Arabia to normalize Israeli apartheid.
According to Netanyahu, “There is a physical infrastructure element that exists in a Saudi-Israeli peace that has been there but has been defied by politics.”
“Politics” is a striking euphemism for Israel’s ethnic cleansing and occupation of Palestinians which has dampened Saudi Arabia’s enthusiasm to fully embrace Israel, notwithstanding indications that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is very open to that possibility.
AIPAC’s affiliated “educational” organization, the American Israel Education Foundation, is coordinating the trip.
Gila Milstein, spouse of Adam Milstein, is an AIEF board member. The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation provides financial support to AIEF as well as a raft of other anti-Palestinian organizations.
Adam Milstein is an anti-Palestinian activist, convicted tax evader, and spreader of anti-Semitism directed at George Soros, another pro-Israel donor who is a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and some liberal causes.
That sort of anti-Palestinian sentiment combined with ugly attacks on liberal Jews with whom Adam Milstein disagrees is very much in keeping with Israel’s direction.
Congressional Democrats are here to finance Israel during its attacks on both groups.
I had figured they would only be supportive of funding the attacks on Palestinians. But they came for the anti-Palestinianism and stayed for the attacks on protesting Israeli Jews, many of whom had no qualms about discriminating against Palestinians.Quite frankly, I underestimated how compelling congressional Democrats would find an Israel that was not just an apartheid state but a right-wing authoritarian state for Israeli Jews as well.
All the “Jewish democratic state” rhetoric was evidently just convenient propaganda. There’s no bottom to what Democrats will accept when it comes to Israel.
Bad for dissenting Israeli Jews, it will be far worse for Palestinians.
While the Democrats have always enthusiastically funded Israel’s crimes, the current visit will allay any Israeli fears that party leaders will soon translate into policy their base’s growing support for Palestinian rights. Nor are they prepared to stop the funding because of anti-democratic moves against Israeli Jews.
Netanyahu can be assured that the Democrats will continue to fund whatever brutality Israel perpetrates against Palestinians in the days ahead. The Democrats will fully own the horrifying consequences of their support.
These consequences may have been expedited on Monday when Jeffries accepted Netanyahu’s contention that Israel is a “liberal democracy” and stated his belief that Netanyahu “doesn’t condone violence, no matter where it originates.”
Jeffries, who sees right through Donald Trump’s lies, added with breathtaking complicity – he’s too plugged-in to be termed naive – “I take him at his word.”The burden is now on grassroots Democrats, already in favor of conditioning military aid to Israel, to vote out the anti-Palestinian politicians. That effort to vote out deniers of Israeli apartheid will be more difficult with AIPAC PAC funding Democratic challengers to candidates and incumbents raising concerns about Israel’s actions.
Voters are likely to become ever more disillusioned with a Democratic primary process in which conservative pro-Israel PACs successfully defeat progressive candidates willing to stand up for Palestinian rights.The visiting Democrats are sending a clear message that they are unwilling to put limits on how far Israel can pitch into racism and authoritarianism and still receive US military aid.
Palestinians, whether under occupation, dispossession or both, won’t be the least bit surprised. They’ve been eyewitnesses to the Democratic Party’s complicity and hypocrisy for decades.
- Congressional delegation
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Ron Dermer
- Itamar Ben-Gvir
- apartheid South Africa
- Hakeem Jeffries
- anti-Palestinian racism
- anti-Arab racism
- Bezalel Smotrich
- Democratic Party
- Republican Party
- Susan Wild
- Biden administration
- israeli apartheid
- Jim Crow
- Saudi Arabia
- Mohammad bin Salman
- American Israel Education Foundation
- Gila Milstein
- Adam Milstein
- Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation
- George Soros