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 TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' 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 OmarBiden compares Trump to George Wallace Padma Lakshmi on Trump's handling of 'send her back' chant: 'It's Charlottesville 2.0' Trump defends response to rally chant: I did not 'lead people on' 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 TlaibBiden compares Trump to George Wallace Padma Lakshmi on Trump's handling of 'send her back' chant: 'It's Charlottesville 2.0' Trump defends response to rally chant: I did not 'lead people on' 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 EllisonFormer Sanders aides launch consulting firm Minnesota AG will defend state's abortion restrictions despite personal views Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups 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 CarsonLawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions Is the collusion theory dead? MORE (D-Ind.), Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud New York Democrat on Ocasio-Cortez, other progressives: 'Primaries go two ways' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question MORE (D-N.Y.), Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenTrump says he won't watch Mueller testimony The Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week MORE (D-Texas), Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Maxine Waters says her committee will call in Zuckerberg to testify about Libra MORE (D-Calif.), and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Congress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran 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 PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US 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.