What Progressives Don’t Get About Israel

What Progressives Don’t Get About Israel


Leonard Zwelling

Bret Stephens has become one of my favorite columnists on the staff of The New York Times. His clear-eyed, clear-headed opinion pieces seem to me neither left nor right leaning, but rather centered on common sense, which is always uncommon.

This piece in The Times on February 10 is a sterling example.

As many out there will know, Israel has become the bete noire of the progressive left. Many progressives view the Palestinians as an oppressed people whose land was stolen from them in 1948, 1967 and even now. The examples of the lefties favoring Palestinian independence are many, but the latest assault from the two new congresswomen from Michigan (Rashida Tlaib) and Minnesota (Ilhab Omar) is emblematic of where the progressives place the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now along with their pro-Palestinian stance, and their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, they are drifting toward the tropes of anti-Semitism, but denying it all the way. The traditional Jewish support for the Democratic Party is in jeopardy. The progressives blame the Jews, in Israel and in America, for the misery of the Palestinian people and the infringement of their right to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Then Stephens reveals the facts.

First, the Arabs, both those who used to live in pre-1948 Palestine and those surrounding that piece of land, had it in for Israel from the beginning. Israel has given up plenty of territory to the Arabs already and has offered more several times. But, as Abba Eban said, the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Heck, Israel gave them back the Gaza Strip only to be met not by progress in the land, but by Hamas, and the tunnels and fire balloons of more terrorism.

Second, Israel struggles with all of this as well. They have a fence that is the envy of Donald Trump because it works. It keeps out terrorists.

Third, these Arabs are anti-Semitic. Even our cab driver from the West Bank referred to the West Bank settlements as “the Jewish settlements” not Israeli. They make no distinction.

Fourth, we Jews have made a lot of progress since we were a hated minority in America. Now we are viewed as rich, controlling, and privileged by progressives. We are white oppressors. Wow, who knew?

Fifth, the Arabs who live in Israel are hardly like the blacks in South Africa under apartheid. They vote. They are in the Knesset. Are there racial prejudices that exist in Israel? You bet. I saw it first-hand at a café in the Old City and it was most unpleasant when Sabras treat Arab merchants and waiters badly.

The point is that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is risking the alienation of a traditional support group within the party with their nonsensical defense of the Palestinians, a group that is unled and under-performing.

Whether you are a one-state solution person or a two-state solution person, either way, the self-governance of the Palestinians (Arabs who lived or whose ancestors lived in what was once Palestine under the British and is now Israel and Jordan), will be determined by Israelis and Palestinians themselves, not by some left-wing politicians from the Mid-West or traditional progressive parts of the Democratic Party.

This may become a significant issue in the 2020 election. If a progressive candidate manages to secure the Democratic nomination for president and wishes to insert platform planks in favor of forced Palestinian autonomy rather than through negotiations by the parties on the ground, I will politely vote elsewhere. If it’s the AOC agenda vs. Trump, I will sit it out.

This latest progressive nonsense must be called what it is. Horse hockey. Only the Israelis and the Palestinians can settle this question. Don’t blame the U.S. for backing the only democracy in the region. It’s in the interests of America to do so.

Before all of these progressive do-gooders in America advocate for the Palestinians, a group that isn’t even a country yet, perhaps they ought to go there and see what is happening on the ground. Much like Donald Trump should have taken the deal he was given by Congress before the government shutdown, the Palestinians should have taken the many deals Israel has offered in the past. Now, they should not be surprised that Israel has moved on while they have stood still. If Netanyahu makes them another deal offer, they ought to consider taking it.

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