Democrats must stand up for Israel

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise across the globe and at home, it is critical that the Democratic Party, whose progressive wing has become avowedly hostile to Israel, and some of whose prominent figures have maintained ties with Louis Farrakhan, fully and unequivocally disavow anti-Semitism in all forms and recommit its support for the Jewish State.

The waning support shown by the Democrats for Israel comes at a time when anti-Semitic incidents are increasing in the United States, as dramatically illustrated by the massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue last month. Last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.” These are not isolated horrors in our nation. The Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017, along with a 258 percent increase in the number of white supremacist propaganda incidents on college campuses.

In Europe and elsewhere, the picture also is darkening. A report from the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University found anti-Semitic feelings on the rise globally, while attacks have grown more brutal. Commentators in the United States tend to blame Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE and his supporters on the “alt right” for resurgent anti-Semitism. However, what concerns us most is the rise of anti-Semitism among progressives, including top Democrats.

The progressive left seems determined to undermine the “special relationship” between America and Israel, the only truly democratic ally the United States has in the Middle East, and also exhibits increasingly anti-Semitic tendencies. During her campaign, congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) decried the “occupation of Palestine,” which prompted the liberal Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz to refer to her as “the embodiment of the Democrats shifting away from Israel.”

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Haaretz is not wrong here. Ocasio Cortez is a darling of the Democratic Socialist faction of the Democratic Party which, in a state of “jubilation,” according to Chip Gibbons of the Democratic Socialists of America, passed a resolution in support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement at its 2017 convention. They chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Uttering these same words, which is code language for many Jews that stands for the destruction of Israel, recently cost CNN political analyst Marc Lamont Hill his job with the network.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement demands, among other things, that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories and remove its West Bank security wall. If such proposals were enacted, the survival of Israel as a free state would be imperiled. Democrats cannot stand for this.

Congresswoman-elect Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarJohn Oliver torches Meghan McCain over Seth Meyers dust-up 'SNL' mocks Jeanine Pirro's support of Trump: 'He is the Michael Jordan of presidents' Omar introduces bill sanctioning Brunei over anti-homosexuality law MORE (D-Minn.) has criticized the “evil doings” of Israel and has claimed that the Jewish State has “hypnotized the world.” The victory of Congresswoman-elect Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure Top House Dem calls to launch impeachment inquiry if McGahn skips testimony Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution MORE (D-Mich.) in the 13th district of her state suggests a “shifting public discourse that Palestine activists have played a role in shaping,” says Omar Baddar, deputy director of the Arab American Institute based in Washington.

This is a shift that should be lamented, not applauded. Among Democrats, opposition to Israel extends beyond the Democratic Socialists of America to mainstream officials, many of them longtime figures in the party. Earlier this year, it was revealed that seven House members, Keith EllisonKeith Maurice EllisonDemocrats face new civil war in primary fight 18 state attorneys general call on Justice Dept to release Mueller report Keith Ellison: Evidence points to Trump being 'sympathetic' to white nationalist point of view MORE (D-Minn.), Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisRestore Pell Grant eligibility to people in prison Pelosi joins other Dem leaders in support of Chicago Symphony Orchestra strikers Democrats must stand up for Israel MORE (D-Ill.), Andre CarsonAndré CarsonHouse passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions Is the collusion theory dead? Religious affiliation in new Congress under-represents US population, poll finds MORE (D-Ind.), Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksLobbying World Treasury expected to miss Dem deadline on Trump tax returns Congress should look into its own taxes and travel, not just Trump's MORE (D-N.Y.), Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenTop House Dem calls to launch impeachment inquiry if McGahn skips testimony Tlaib blasts arrests of pro-impeachment protesters on Capitol Hill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems MORE (D-Texas), Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Maxine Waters: Trump 'has done everything that one could even think of to be eligible for impeachment' Maxine Waters: Parts of Trump immigration plan are 'very racist' MORE (D-Calif.), and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeOvernight Health Care: HHS issues rule requiring drug prices in TV ads | Grassley, Wyden working on plan to cap drug costs in Medicare | Warren to donate money from family behind opioid giant Dem lawmaker shares video of herself dancing to Beyonce for Dance Week Lawmakers renew push to create American Latino Smithsonian museum MORE (D-Calif.), met with Louis Farrakhan, the notoriously anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam. That seven elected Democratic officials have friendly ties to Farrakhan, a man who should have no place in the party, is stunning.

Let us be clear. We are not suggesting that Ocasio Cortez, Omar, Tlaib or any of their progressive comrades are responsible for the clear rise of anti-Semitic attacks or other incidents of anti-Jewish hatred. But we live in volatile times in which the rhetoric of these Democrats, along with their policy proposals, are playing a role in making the Jewish community more vulnerable. In a study last spring on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Schoen Survey Research found that trivializing or minimizing the uniqueness of the Holocaust materially impedes the public efforts to resist intolerance and anti-Semitism.

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Ocasio Cortez recently suggested that migrants heading to the United States from Central America should be considered refugees in the same way as “Jewish families fleeing Germany” during the Holocaust. These public remarks were widely and rightly panned for its attempt at moral equivalency, but it was damaging, nonetheless. Given these kinds of sentiments on the American left, it is not surprising that much of Israel has aligned itself with the Trump administration, which it sees as its ally and protector, in stark contrast with its feelings about the current Democratic Party. This shift began during the Obama administration, which had a frosty relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has accelerated since President Obama left office.

What a tragic transformation of the Democratic Party that, under President Truman, led America in boldly recognizing the newly created state of Israel in 1948. What a shift from the Democratic Party that we grew up in and worked in during the first four decades of our careers including, for one of us, serving as a senior political adviser to President Clinton, whose administration held a close relationship with Israel.

As a party, Democrats look toward the 2020 elections with hope for more gains in Congress and even reclaiming the White House. To have a chance of doing so, they must first reposition themselves as a reasonable center left party, instead of the increasingly reckless left wing party that they resemble today. There are numerous steps that they can take to do this. One of the simplest is to recommit, publicly and proudly, to support for Israel. This is an important step that would also put the party back on the right side of the struggle for freedom and democracy across the globe.

Democrats must again make clear to voters, and to the world, that they are a pro-Israel party. Senior Democratic leaders Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.) and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.) should use their bully pulpits to reject all connections to anti-Semites like Farrakhan and, more crucially, to reject and renounce without conditions the anti-Israel agenda of the Democratic Socialists and other progressives. It is time for the Democratic Party to reclaim its proud heritage of tolerance and support for Jewish people everywhere. Renewing its commitment to Israel is the place to start.

Douglas E. Schoen is a longtime political consultant who served as a pollster for President Clinton. Andrew J. Stein is a former president of the New York City Council and a former president of Manhattan Borough.