Opinion | Don’t Desert the Democrats


By N. Aaron Troodler

As a Jewish American and an ardent Zionist, one of the political issues that is of paramount importance to me is the welfare of the state of Israel.

Throughout my lifetime, it has been heartening to know that the U.S.-Israel relationship is valued greatly by both nations. The U.S. and Israel have historically and continually worked collaboratively on issues of mutual concern, and Israel’s status as the sole democratic U.S. ally in the Middle East has helped bolster the undying bond that exists between the two countries.

That being said, it would be extraordinarily dangerous for us to become complacent and assume that the status quo we have come to know will live on in perpetuity. We cannot be so naïve as to presuppose that every federal U.S. official harbors the same pro-Israel sentiments American Jewry has come to expect.

Perhaps nothing highlights this issue better than the current election cycle, where we have several congressional candidates with views antithetical to the pro-Israel movement.

Let’s start with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democratic candidate who essentially came out of nowhere to unseat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a shocking primary victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District. Ocasio-Cortez, a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that supports the anti-Israel BDS movement, is admittedly not an expert on Israel and it appears that she fails to grasp even the most fundamental aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Yet, that has not stopped this soon-to-be member of Congress from calling Israel’s actions to defend the Gaza border and prevent Hamas terrorists from infiltrating Israel a “massacre,” nor has it prevented her from discussing “the occupation of Palestine.” Despite her purported ignorance on Israel, Ocasio-Cortez certainly seems to have formulated rather strident opinions about the Jewish state.

We also have Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who won a primary election in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District and is running unopposed in November. Tlaib emphatically stated that as a member of Congress she will vote against any U.S. military aid to Israel. She has also made troubling statements regarding Israel.

“Americans should not be aiding any country that doesn’t support human rights. … I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice,” she said, as if to imply that Israel, a democratic nation, is “racist.” Tlaib also spoke about “Netanyahu’s apartheid policies” and proudly stated that, “I stand by the rights of people who support BDS.”

Finally, there is Ilhan Omar, who came out on top in the Democratic primary in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District and has spoken about “the apartheid Israeli regime” and remarked several years ago that Israel had “hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings.”

Does the rise of these incoming Democratic members of Congress with their disturbing views concerning Israel taint the entire Democratic Party on the issue of Israel? Sadly, it does. After all, the current trend in the Democratic Party where the liberal and progressive wing of the party has enjoyed a rapid rise and increased relevance does not bode well for Israel.

A recent study of the Pew Research Center found that the gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to sympathy for Israel or the Palestinians is larger now than it has been in 40 years. While 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, only 27 percent of Democrats sympathize more with Israel.

Let us not forget the attempt by Bernie Sanders’ supporters in 2016 to amend the Democratic National Committee’s platform to include a reference to Israel’s “occupation” and “illegal settlements.”

I would suggest that despite perturbing poll numbers and the unsettling sentiments of several isolated individuals, the Democratic Party has not abandoned Israel, nor will it do so in the future. For example, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which passed Congress with bipartisan support, earmarks substantial funds for Israel, including $500 million for Israel’s life-saving missile-defense systems and up to $50 million for efforts to combat the terror tunnels built by Hamas.

A bipartisan Congress also ensures that the U.S. sends more than $3 billion in security assistance per year to Israel. Just as the current Republican administration has been extremely supportive of Israel, it is important to remember that the previous Democratic administration was also supportive of Israel in various ways, including allocating more than $20 billion in military aid and significant financial support for the Iron Dome.

In addition, there are numerous stalwart supporters of Israel in the Democratic Party, including prominent federal lawmakers who have proudly and publicly stood together with Israel on a myriad of critical issues. We should admire and respect these pro-Israel champions, not abandon and reject them. Turning our backs on the Democratic Party is an imprudent and shortsighted approach. 

Aaron Troodler is the principal of Red Apple Strategies, LLC, a public relations and strategic communications firm.


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