The Democrats and Israel

Feb 19, 2019 · 42 comments
Billy (Illinois)
I love this show, but this episode makes me want to stop listening. As you yourselves explain in great detail, aipac has funded the u.s. government massively for decades, and has used their money to shape American policy to be favorable to Israel. That is all the Congress woman was talking about, and yet you went along with slandering her as an anti Semite. That is shameful, and irresponsible journalism.
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
I am amazed at how good Israel is to the Palestinians. Israel delivers hundreds of truckloads of food & supplies to Gaza every day even though Gazans persecuted Jews for centuries & have fired thousands of rockets & mortars at innocent Israeli civilians. Israeli doctors treated 180,000 Palestinians last year. Israel even treats members of Hamas in Israeli hospitals.
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
How is life for Israel’s Arab minority? Khaled Abu Toameh, the Arab journalist who reports for the Jerusalem Post, U.S. News & World Report and NBC News, talking about life for Arab Israelis: "Israel is a wonderful place to live ... a free and open country.” Arab women in Israel live longer than Arab women in any Arab country. Arab babies in Israel have lower infant mortality than Arab babies in any Arab country. Hadassah University Medical Center in Israel established a registry for Arab donors of bone marrow and stem cells to facilitate life-saving transplants. The registry at Hadassah Hospital is the only one in the world for Arabs and will no doubt save the lives not only of Arab Israelis but also of some citizens of Arab countries, not a single one of which has a registry of its own.
RM (Las Vegas)
Wouldn’t it be weird if the New York Times invited a Palestinian to discuss the side of the occupied and dispossessed. It would be even weirder if the NYT presented Palestinians as a people made up of individuals with aspirations for human rights, justice and self-determination rather than an angry mob of terrorists. I wonder if the NYT will ever admit to Israel’s war crimes and state sponsored terrorism in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere or Israel turning a blind eye to Jewish terrorist in Israel and occupied Palestine with those few charged and convicted getting lower sentences than teenagers throwing rocks or a girl slapping soldiers for shooting her cousin.
HH (New Hampshire)
How did you not talk to anyone from Jewish Voices for Peace. Kudos for mentioning that evangelists are supporting Israel so that Jesus can come back, but what is unsaid in that scenario is that (Jesus comes back, Rapture happens and) unless they accept Christianity, Jews go to hell for eternity. That ultimately makes it possibly the most anti-semitic approach to the question of Israel and should be reason enough for some to doubt what sort of position they must be taking to welcome such strange bedfellows.
Johnl (Nyc)
These folks are our elected representatives and should answer to their constituents. Israel is not part of the United States; just utterly dependent, and is not so important to our country. Unless you count theAIPAC money and Adelson and Singer and Bramen illegal meddling in how our government works. Look at israel fighting with the rest of the word;UN votes?and know it’s time to get in step within our allies and look out for OUR country, not AIPAC
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@Johnl What does Hamas want to do after it defeats Israel? When the rocket attacks first began against Israel, a senior Hamas leader, Dr. Yunis Al-Astal, published an article in the Hamas journal, Al-Risala, where he compared Hamas’ al-Qassam rockets to the Manjaniq catapult which the Prophet Muhammad used against the Jews of Khaybar. The fall of Khaybar, he explained, opened the gates of the Byzantine Empire to Muslim conquest and was the first step towards the fall of Constantinople. Now, the fall of Israel, he said, would open the gates of Europe to Islam and lead to the fall of Rome. Hamas MP and cleric Al-Astal proclaimed in 2008, “We will conquer Rome, and from there continue to conquer the two Americas and even Eastern Europe” (Al-Aqsa TV, April 11, 2008) It’s in our interest to have Israeli soldiers fighting Hamas over there rather than needing to have American soldiers fight Hamas over here.
Elliot (Chicago, IL)
While I am grateful for the NYTimes' recent bravery with regard to covering Israel-Palestine in recent weeks and years, I am disappointed that this relatively nuanced history of the U.S.-Israel relations fails to account for the suffering of Palestinians under Zionism from well before the hard-right-turn of Israeli politics after the Oslo Accords. Since its invention, Zionism has sought to eradicate the indigenous Palestinian population. In the words of Theodor Herzl, "We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country....Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly." This process of expropriation, combined with violent attacks on Palestinian villages and terrorist attacks by Zionist brigades on the British Mandate powers, constitute a long history of Zionist violence beginning well before the 1947-8 Nakba, which you refer to in the podcast as the "war of Israeli Independence." In the future, it would be less disingenuous of you to begin the story of Zionism's ethnonationalist ideology at the beginning of Zionism itself, not merely as a late turn in its recent political history. Of course, it took until 13:57 for the episode to mention Palestine, immediately followed by sound bites of stone-throwing and terrorist attacks.
Nora R. (Los Gatos CA)
@Elliot I am so sick of the "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" trope. And what claptrap--"Zionism's ethnonationalist ideology?" Please show me another people who have been hounded out of as many nations as the Jews. Not to mention the horrible treatment Palestinians receive to this date by their Muslim "brothers" i.e. Jordan and Lebanon?
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@Elliot The next sentence from Herzl was: "Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us",[55] In other words, Herzl was not advocating force against Palestinians. Other Zionists did not want Palestinians to leave. Racist Palestinians have been oppressing Jews for centuries, long before the first Zionist arrived. In 1839 (The first Zionists didn’t arrive until 1882.) , the British consul, William Young, said that the poor Jew in Jerusalem...lives from day to day in terror of his life....Young attributed the plight of the Jew in Jerusalem to “the blind hatred and ignorant prejudice of a fanatical populace JEWS IN JERUSALEM. New York Times December 29, 1878 Crowded together in the worst lodgings, or in the dark cellars under a synagogue building, without food, fuel, or water –even water at Jerusalem being a commodity of price – numbers died of starvation and various diseases, while others went raving mad. Those who could labor were denied employment by the bigotry of the Mussulmans and of the Oriental Christians.
ADC (Brooklyn)
I am shocked and disappointed at the way in which this podcast fails to recognize that support for BDS and the Palestinians grows out of the plight of human suffering and deprivation of civil liberties that exists in the current state of Israel. Had it rightly reflected the reality of the situation on the ground in the Middle East, and the apartheid state under which Palestinians live, then it could have more adequately addressed the distinction between being anti-Semetic and anti-Israel. One can love Jewish people and be strongly against the oppressive government and policies of Israel. Jewish Voices for Peace, for example, does just this. This podcast, rather than try to equivocate and cabin this idea that supporting human rights need not be anti-Semetic should have faced the problem of human suffering head-on rather than run from such suffering which forms the crux of the debate.
Nora R. (Los Gatos CA)
@ADC support for BDS is premised on the incorrect portrayal of Israel as a "colonialist" power that "displaced the indigenous peoples." In addition, BDS is staggeringly hypocritical in its boycott target (only Israel) whilst ignoring the "oppressive governments and policies of" [Syria/Saudi Arabia/Egypt/Jordan...and many others]
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@ADC Benjamin Pogrund “…during 26 years as a journalist in South Africa I investigated and reported the evil that was apartheid. I saw Nelson Mandela secretly when he was underground, then popularly known as the Black Pimpernel, and I was the first non-family member to visit him in prison. I have now lived in Israel for 17 years, doing what I can to promote dialogue across lines of division. To an extent that I believe is rare, I straddle both societies. I know Israel today – and I knew apartheid up close. And put simply, there is no comparison between Israel and apartheid…”
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@ADC Palestinians have been firing rockets & mortars at Jewish residential areas (a crime against humanity.) Why a boycott of Israel, but not a boycott of Palestine? Palestinians have been setting Israeli crops on fire (a war crime.) Why a boycott of Israel, but not a boycott of Palestine? Palestinians, per capita, are among the top recipients of foreign aid. They use this money to pay people to murder Jews. The more Jews they kill, the more money they get. This is racism! This is genocide! Why a boycott of Israel, but not a boycott of Palestine? Palestinians were murdering Jews before the settlements, before the occupation, before Israel. On August 29, 1929 the violence spread to the ancient Jewish community of Safed. The Arabs of and surrounding villages invade children—were attacked with knives. Women were raped. Homes and stores were looted and set ablaze. The violence in Safed ultimately took the lives of eighteen Jews and left approximately eighty more injured. Similar attacks were launched against the Jewish communities of Te d the city’s Jewish quarter. Residents—including Safed many l Aviv, Haifa, Hadera, and a number of rural villages... everything …was burned to the ground. Why a boycott of Israel, but not a boycott of Palestine?
Jon Lewis (Spokane)
It's a shame that once again the broadcast today fell into the mainline media habit of casting all Evangelicals in the same category as pro-Zionists. Although it is accurate that the 1948 creation of the State of Israel was seen by many Christians as a fulfillment of biblical prophesy, and therefore fueled their support of a Zionist platform, this is NOT the view held by all Evangelicals. It is only the more fundamentalist Evangelicals, particularly those who espouse what is called Dispensational Theology who view Israel in this way. Many of the rest of us who consider ourselves solidly Evangelical have a very different view of the current State of Israel as being somehow biblically anointed and therefore "can do no wrong." Instead, you will find many of us highly engaged in supporting the plight of the Palestinians as can be witnessed by the Christian community that has helped establish and maintain the Bethlehem Bible College which is run by and for Palestinians. What is most interesting in this current political dialog is to find those of us who are non-Zionist Evangelicals identifying with this new faction of Israel-critical Democrats.
Biz Griz (In a van down by the river)
It's ok to criticise Israel. It's not ok to use obviously anti semitic tropes in that criticism though. And it would be nice if Ilhan and the others would criticise Arab failings and misdeeds with as much vigor. They seem a touch hypocritical to be honest. Also, let's be honest, most of the criticism of Israel in the Arab/Muslim world (and much of the criticism on the left) not designed to make Israel more Democratic or more humanitarian but rather to find a way to destroy Israel and evict it's Jewish inhabitants.
wahoo lon (chicago)
your piece never gave an explanation for criticism of Israel besides the allegations of anti-Semitism. The listener hears sweeping history of the American-Israel relationship never once acknowledging the Palestinian experience or perspective of it. At one point there was a statement that some democrats have come to criticize settlements, followed by Israeli leader voices defending them, and no contextual explanation of why someone might oppose them. The podcast seems to ask if the shift among some democracts on the Israeli relationship is based on fair criticism of a foreign power or is based upon anti-Semitic bigotry. But then by providing no other explanation for the criticism except anti-Semitism, and a glossy historical review of Israel free from any mention of Palestinian suffering, you point the listener to a single possible conclusion. in the end this is a well produced propagandistic smear and a piling on. NYT editorial pages have been quick to label any criticism of Israel as bigotry. And i'm disappointed that the Daily also seems to allow no other explanation for questioning the morality of the state.
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@wahoo lon The root cause of this conflict is that Palestinians believe that they are superior to the Jews & therefore should rule over the Jews. Because the Jews don’t want to be ruled by the Palestinians, then some Palestinians believe that the Jews should be exterminated. The Palestinians say “The Jews are our dogs!” & “The Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Perspective (Kyoto)
Why does this segment seem to attribute rising criticism of Israel in the Democratic Party to "immigrants"? Why does it not acknowledge that awareness that Israel was an example of settler colonialism was apparent to many liberal Americans by the late 1960s and early 1970s? Why does it ignore that one of the most prominent figures to try to dissuade President Truman from recognizing Israel was the first Secretary of Defense, James V. Forrestal--a Democrat? (And why do I need to post these observations for a third time, in the hope that, this time, the moderators will not suppress them?)
Nora R. (Los Gatos CA)
@Perspective can you please explain how Israel was or is "an example of settler colonialism?" Who is the "colonial" power for which Israel was "settled?" This BS BDS trope makes me sick.
Jambi (Eastern Washington University)
question...inst the word Semite based on a common language? If so, couldn't I make the argument that Arabic is in that family of languages...meaning, why do Jewish people get to own the moniker of Antisemitism? Based on the definition, criticizing Arabs is also Antisemitic... right? Could I make that argument? I am really just curious...because this is not nonsensical issue...To Criticize AIPAC and call it antisemitic is like criticizing the NRA and say its disparaging to white people.
m1945 (Long Island, NY)
@Jambi Etymological fallacy is the faulty argument that the "true" or "proper" meaning of a word is its oldest or original meaning. Because the meanings of words change over time, a word's contemporary definition can't be established from its origin. Anti-semitic | Definition of Anti-semitic by Merriam-Webster feeling or showing hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a cultural, racial, or ethnic group anti-Semitic statements/rhetoric
Patrick (Albuquerque, NM)
Excellent, excellent look-back on such a complicated and important relationship. One editorial suggestion: You never introduced the journalists - I'd be interested in that.
ASP (San Francisco)
The summary of the podcast ("We look at how, after decades of unwavering commitment to Israel, the Democratic Party is now dealing with charges of anti-Semitism.") seems to imply that criticism of Israel necessarily equates anti-Semitism. I would assume that is not true, but that stance often serves to close off productive discussion of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Michael B. English (Crockett, CA)
Question: Where is the Palestinian commentator? Since this is an article about America's relationship with Israel and, yes, the Palestinian Territories that they surround and control as well, where is the Palestinian commentator?
CKG (Detroit)
Instead of another story about how these representatives' criticisms of Israel may somehow be evidence of antisemitism in the party, we need a story about how the party's long history of ignoring human rights criticism of Israel may be evidence of anti-Palestinian racism in the party.
JimW (San Francisco, CA)
Democrats seem to be doing their best to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, which is a good thing. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi... the spectacle of enfeebled incompetence is laughable and never ending.
Peter Feld (New York)
Supporting Israel is not a valid response to anti-Semitism, whose rise is fueled by racist nationalists like Trump, not critics of Israel. Congresswoman Omar said nothing anti-Semitic and the frantic response to her tweet by politicians in both parties, who are themselves part of the problem, proves its truth. For example, Sen. Schumer has said horrifically racist things against Palestinians. In 2013 he said, “every time the Arab world—the Palestinians—have risen against us, we have risen to defeat them.” And in 2018 he told AIPAC “Of course, we say it's our land, the Torah says it, but they don't believe in the Torah. So that's the reason there is not peace." We go after Ralph Northam for racist acts in his past, and we should, but how is it OK for Schumer to say things like this? How does he go on and lead the Democrats in the Senate. And who does he think he is to criticize Ilhan Omar?
Nora R. (Los Gatos CA)
@Peter Feld how is Rep. Omar's tweet that "it's all about the Benjamins," which perpetuates the twin myths that Jews control money around the world and only care about money "nothing anti-Semitic?"
David (Colorado)
Does money buy politicians? Trump seems to agree. "In the fall of 2015, Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Adelson on Twitter after rumors swirled that the casino mogul might support a rival for the Republican nomination, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “He feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!” Mr. Trump vented." New York Times Now Trump is Adelson's perfect little puppet.
David (MD)
This is a good topic for exploration but it is so badly done here that I had to turn it off. The 1980s was not the watershed moment for American Jewry's identification with Israel. That had happened earlier. Nor was AIPAC the driving force in creating the bond between American Jews and Israel. This was an organic process that would have happened had AIPAC never existed. Also, it is simply bizarre to choose to mark the start of the idea of Israel as this "small but mighty power," with the Yom Kippor war which it almost lost and then the Entebbe raid, without even mentioning the earlier Six Day war in which Israel annihilated the forces of its much larger adversaries and established its military hegemony. And this was the easy part.
s.whether (mont)
A vote for Bernie will settle this once and for all, President Bernie Sanders, the ultimate test for Democrats. The ultimate test for Americans and Democracy.
pro american (United States)
Very good audio,informative, timely and honest.
RM (Las Vegas)
@pro american this is only a good program for the woefully uninformed and those who blindly support Israel without consideration for justice or human rights.
Jambi (of the Eather)
@pro american Palestinians are Semites too.
Frank Casa (Durham)
There is a huge distinction to be made here. If the support is for the continued existence of Israel, yes it can be total, but if it means the unrestricted support of every policy that one government or another holds, the Democrats should be far from going that route.
Jeremiah Crotser (Houston)
It’s not surprising that the authors use the word “unwavering” here—its main use in political life is to describe commitment to Israel. That’s almost the only way I know the word. It’s like when you think US and Israel, that word “unwavering” just flashes in your mind. To me it’s an entirely unnecessary modifier if you take the word “commitment” at all seriously. “Unwavering” is really excessive—it says that we will support Israel even when we know it’s wrong, without regard to our own moral commitments. I don’t think that we should abandon Israel, but I also don’t think we should avoid questioning it, even when common moral sense says it is wrong. I don’t know how that came to be so unreasonable, but I think it has something to do with the idea of “unwavering.”
Ken Church (Kansas)
@Jeremiah Crotser You have nailed it, my friend.
MPD (Vienna)
To call out Israel for becoming more illiberal and failing to meet its obligations under Oslo is not anti-Semitism. Period. Palestinian failings are not an excuse for Israeli policy to expand settlements and leave the West Bank and Gaza in perpetual limbo. Omar, Tlaib and others need to be more careful in their language and be less clumsy but otherwise they are entirely right (and within their rights) to highlight that US-Israel relations are not healthy and there needs to be discussion on this openly and rationally. The United States has gone from constructive ally to enabler; the U.S. needs to hold Israel to a higher standard.
Chacha (Chicago)
@MPD what you say here strikes me as fair and not faintly antisemitic. And yet what I hear from people on the hard left often is. Yes Israel deserves to be called out but these interviewees are naive if they don’t see that it goes beyond that.
RM (Las Vegas)
@Chacha criticism of Israel and Zionism is not antisemitic. Absent attribution to Jewish tendencies or conflating Israel and its politicies with all Jews it is fair and honest. Also those who conflate Israel and the Israel lobby with all Jews most often are the lobby and its supporters. They are truly antisemites.
Chacha (Chicago)
@RM you believe what you want but my belief is that there is a form of disdain for the State of Israel that very much is antisemitism. It’s far too complex an issue to discuss in this comment, of course. And just like we defer to African American to tell us what is or is not racism, I don’t believe others should be schooling Jews on what they feel is hateful rhetoric towards them.
See also