A Welcome Tension: AOC, the Democrats, and Palestine

So it looks like decades of activism are finally, very gradually, starting to pay off in the form of polarization within the Democratic Party over Israel and Palestine. This didn’t happen by activists’ genuflecting before the prevarications and dogmatism of the mindlessly pro-Israel wing of the party, including Joe Biden. It happened through open, unapologetic confrontation.

Time for “centrist” or “moderate” Democrats to face it: Joe Biden is not much better than Trump, Bush, or any of the Republicans on this issue. He’s got plenty to say about “Israel’s right of self-defense” without being explain why Israel’s actions are defensive, and little or nothing to say about whether Palestinians have any rights worth respecting. If Trump was the Bull Connor of Palestinian rights, Biden is its unreconstructed George Wallace. Like the defenders of yesteryear’s Jim Crow, and yesteryear’s apologists for endless tolerance for apartheid South Africa (e.g., Ronald Reagan), Biden and his “moderate” colleagues have to be made to pay a price for their evasions. Hats off to the likes of AOC and Rashida Tlaib for speaking truth to complacent, self-assured power enabling an apartheid state.

While we’re at it, consider the hypocrisy of Zionist ideologues like Daniel Gordis, quoted in the Times article above. On his view, and views like it, support for Palestinian rights–the belief that black or Palestinian rights matter–is “identity politics” in the pejorative sense of that term that prevails on the political Right in the United States. But Zionist ethnocracy is not.

The sad truth is that Zionists are the ones who invented American identity politics. Contemporary identity politicians got their playbook from the likes of the American Jewish Congress and American Israel Political Action Committee. and people like Daniel Gordis et al have built whole careers on it. Zionism is, after all, the doctrine that Judaism is a political identity, a doctrine shielded from scrutiny by the further convenient dogma that anyone who opposes Jewish political identity is an anti-Semite whose reputation can be destroyed at will, i.e., canceled. If that isn’t “identity politics” or “woke politics” in exactly the form that the Right professes to oppose, then nothing is. But don’t expect intellectual integrity or consistency from the likes of Gordis, defending Zionist identity politics out of one side of their mouths while attacking non- or anti-Zionist identity politics out of the other. It’s not identity politics they’re out to attack, but Zionism they’re out to enshrine.

Instead, expect thuggery of the kind associated with Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent defamations of AOC. Reckless, indiscriminate resort to the “terrorist” and “anti-Semitism” cards is about all that the apologists for Israeli militarism and occupation have left to play. Anyone who resists the occupation, or shoots back at the Israeli military, is a “terrorist.” Anyone who declines to give Israel their “full support,” or simply rejects the ideology at its heart, is an anti-Semite. The gambit is getting old, and starting, slowly, to die an ignominious death, at least within Democratic Party circles. It’s about time. Thank the much derided, much defamed, and little appreciated activists who made it happen, the people who put the “progress” in progressive politics. Someone had to do it. Let’s not forget the someones who have.

4 thoughts on “A Welcome Tension: AOC, the Democrats, and Palestine

  1. If nothing else is being accomplished, at least it seems there are now more voices on the American Left delivering the same consistent message, and emphasizing how each time they repeat it, that no effective rebuttal has been made since the last time. I have never followed the Arab-Israeli conflict closely, but until now I don’t recall a time in my adult life when there was quite as much will on the Left to challenge deeply held American dogmas about Zionism and the Middle East. There are plenty of other issues where I part with the progressives and side with the moderates, but even when I don’t agree with people like Bernie Sanders, I have to point out that his being consistent and steadfastly vocal on his issues has already brought about a lot of change, in spite of a relative lack of success on the conventional scoreboards of winning elections and getting bills passed. If they’d just sought to be co-opted into some agreeable middle, a lot of their program would not be as much a part of the Democrat agenda as it currently is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for highlighting that. I’m a great admirer of hers, and was happy to see the Times devote that much sympathetic space to her. I happened to drive through her home village, Beit ur al Fouqa, the last time I was in the area, in 2019. It’s on Route 443, which goes to the airport.

      I don’t have time to write it up now, but when I do, I’d like to write a post calling attention to the wild contrast between Americans’ enthusiasm for boycotting Russia (and their wholehearted sympathy for Ukraine) versus their attempts to criminalize the boycott of Israel (and their fundamental hostility to Palestine).


      Ukraine has been under occupation for less than two weeks. Palestine has been under occupation for 55 years. Our involvement in Ukraine has (in my view) been problematic, but not remotely comparable to our blanket support for Israel throughout its occupation. And the destruction of Gaza (or for that matter, Beirut in 1982) has been fully as brutal as anything we’ve seen so far in Ukraine. I don’t know how much longer those double standards can last. The letters I’ve written to my state legislators, taking issue with NJ’s laws against BDS, have either gone unanswered or been met with evasions and circumlocutions. My hope is that efforts like Tlaib’s will call attention to the double standards involved, and help break them down.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s