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 TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed 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 OmarNew York man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Omar Ilhan Omar calls out Buttigieg campaign for Douglass Plan stock photo: 'Not ok or necessary' Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field 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 TlaibAyanna Pressley introduces extensive criminal justice reform resolution Ethics panel extends probe into Tlaib Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field 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 EllisonProgressives ramp up fight against Facebook Judge threatens to put prison officials in same uncooled cells as inmates Minnesota students file federal lawsuit against school district alleging 'deliberate indifference' to racist incidents MORE (D-Minn.), Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment MORE (D-Ill.), Andre CarsonAndré CarsonLive coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death MORE (D-Ind.), Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 House Democrat urges anti-Trump resistance within administration to come 'out of the shadows' Ten notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.), Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenIf we want to save earth, we need to change how we eat Trump administration suspends oil and gas production on 130 plots in Utah after challenge Why fear should not blind us to the promise of AI: A healthy dose of optimism MORE (D-Texas), Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersHouse passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell White House, McConnell come out against House bill on Ex-Im Bank Divides over China, fossil fuels threaten House deal to reboot Ex-Im Bank MORE (D-Calif.), and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHouse to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill US must lead the charge on global reproductive rights — not stand in the way Congress should lift the ban on medical cannabis access for military veterans 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 PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill Overnight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary 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.