I’m a Student and I’m Not Afraid of Where My Party’s Headed


By Jacob T. Marder

Ed. note: This column is a response to Sophia Rodney’s op-ed “I’m a Student and I’m Afraid of Where My Party’s Headed.”

Like Sophia Rodney, I am proud to be an American Jew. I am a Democrat. And I am proud to stand with my Israeli and Palestinian peers for self-determination, peace and health. But unlike Rodney, I do not allow Israel to be the deciding factor when it comes to determining where I fall on the political spectrum.

Rodney cites two issues of concern. One is President Joe Biden’s stated intention to return the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. In fact, between 2015, when the deal was agreed to, and 2018, when former President Donald Trump unilaterally walked away from it, Iran had complied with its requirements. This judgment was rendered not only by the respected International Atomic Energy Agency, which had responsibility for monitoring the JCPOA, but also the U.S. State Department. The deal was never intended to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and its malign activities in the region, rather to remove the nuclear threat that poses the greatest existential threat to Israel.

Since the U.S. walked away, Iran, feeling it was not obligated by the deal if the U.S. was not bound by it, has moved closer to nuclear breakout. President Joe Biden wants to return to the deal to roll back Iran’s nuclear program. He also wants to strengthen the deal and expand its scope to include those problems not addressed back in 2015. That would be good for Israel, and good for the United States and our other allies in the Middle East.

Rodney also cites worries about “The Squad,” a group of Democratic congresswomen — including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who advocate for climate justice, health care and human rights. These legislators, especially Ocasio-Cortez, are often characterized as being “extreme,” a description that only serves to normalize the excesses of the far right. In reality, Ocasio-Cortez and others have been at the forefront of fighting white supremacy in the U.S. and battling human rights violations abroad.

Meanwhile, there is a dangerous extreme in people like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently claimed “Jewish space lasers” caused forest fires, and in far-right claims about “globalists” and “the Rothschilds.” Those on the far right incite violence backed by white supremacist groups, making Jews of so many intersections afraid for their lives. How can they be compared to someone like Rep. Cori Bush, who is standing up for racial justice everywhere? The only thing the left incites is calls for justice, equality and human rights.

Like Rodney and many people in our community, I care about Israel and its fate. But political participation, whether voting in elections or donating to campaigns, should not be determined on a single-issue basis. Worrying about my student debt, the future of education, white supremacy and fascism keeps me up at night. Why would I only think about Israel policy, when my life is dependent on the party in power in the U.S.? Sure, it’s fair to have disagreement on Israeli foreign policy, but should that be the sole factor in choosing a political party?

Our country just experienced four tumultuous years, topped off by an insurrection. I believe that the president we have now is dedicated to getting the pandemic under control using science, rebuilding our shattered economy, and healing the wounds of a deeply polarized society, so unlike Rodney, I am not worried about my party. And given that both parties support a Jewish state and neither one has cut back aid to Israel — but only one party unequivocally denounces far-right white supremacy — the choice for me is clear.

Jacob Marder, a student at Temple University, is an intern with Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, frequently advocating for education policy, climate justice and racial justice.


  1. Jacob, any voter can be a single issue voter. That’s our individual right. For example, if one’s single issue was pro choice on abortion, which led one to vote mostly for Democrats, one wonders if you would still denounce single issue voters. That you so vehemently disagree with that basic principle that voters can prioritize what’s important to them is concerning. But that you apply this rejection of the plausibility of being a single issue voter when it comes to Israel basically is a concession that Republicans are stronger supporters of Israel than are Democrats. I applaud Sophia Rodney and share her concerns about where the Democrats are headed on issues concerning Israel’s safety.

  2. Jacob probably has little Jewish education or sense of self pride. For him, it’s the progressive agenda & everything else is the sea.

  3. I always find it interesting that when you point out to a progressive Jew how strongly President Trump supported Israel, and how progressive leaders consistently have supported BDS and the Palestinians, the inevitable response is “I’m not a one issue voter” or “well, what about US policy?”
    The fact is, this line has become an excuse for the Progressive Jews to justify the Democrats move away from Israel and their lack of support for her. We can talk about President Biden’s views until the cows come home, but when he had 8 years with Obama to accomplish things, he failed. He has still failed to reach out to Netanyahu since he has taken the presidency, not exactly the characteristic of a good friend.
    On domestic issues, again, you are kidding yourself about the Squad. In fact, rarely have I seen a more rosy picture of them then the one that you have created. They are virulently anti Israel and strongly pro Palestinian. Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are both anti Semitic. All of them are socialists who seek the complete rewriting of American history to recognize it’s white supremacist roots and a complete remaking of modern American society. If Donald Trump was America First, they are truly America Last. Suggesting that the left only incites calls for human rights and justice for all is so ridiculous that it’s silly. Did you miss the 3 months of riots and looting this summer throughout our cities? These were far left rioters. BLM and antifa, extremist groups both, come from the left, and enjoy far wider support of their extremists views among main stream progressive Democrats then right wing nationalists enjoy among Republicans. Unfortunately, Sophia Rodney was right. The Democratic Party is going in the wrong direction in far more ways then just Israel and it is time for Jews to wake up to this reality. No underrepresented group sees, or will see, Jews as a marginalized group. Do we need to wait until we are cancelled, or until our friends in the Squad, or on the progressive left, decide that we are unfairly privileged to wake up? I hope not.


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