Originally published March 27, 2023
A recent Gallup poll showed a seismic shift in how Democrats view the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This shift was no mere accident. It is the result of a highly coordinated and expensive effort by activist political groups that seek to undermine and destroy the lone Jewish state under the guise of compassion and equity for a marginalized group.
For decades, both major political parties openly supported the Jewish state and demonstrated that support with declarations and funding. Of course, there were other motives besides merely loving the Jewish people or feeling guilty about the Holocaust. Israel was a key ally in the region at a time, during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was making inroads into the Arab world. Israel continued to provide valuable intelligence on terrorist organizations, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. Israeli innovation led to a strong cooperation in the technological sphere between firms in both countries. Israel is not just an ally; like many other countries around the world, it is a mutually beneficial and strategically useful ally.
Israel is also an ally that requires more attention than do many others. Spending most of its existence beside nations that have rockets pointed at it—and the remainder having hostile terrorists operating within them—Israel does not suffer the problems that European allies have. Additionally, since Israel is not a part of NATO, funding for the security of Israel does not get funneled through another organization; more concrete attention must therefore be paid. America has largely footed the bill for world security since the end of World War II, either through NATO, the United Nations, or direct intervention. For U.S. military aid to Israel, the vast majority of funding ends up being spent back in America, so the passage of the aid packages through Congress has historically been smooth and bipartisan.
In fact, this support for Israel in Congress has been nearly universal until very recently. Major Jewish organizations like AIPAC have worked hard to keep the U.S.-Israel relationship bipartisan—so much so, in the case of AIPAC, that the group often draws criticism from both the Right and Left. Enter the group J Street, the anti-AIPAC, which is now firmly entrenched in leftist policies, directly funding Democratic candidates for office and pushing its own policy agenda. In both Congress and the public arena, J Street has achieved many of its goals.
In a 2014 paper researchers Amnon Cavari and Elan Nyer examined nearly 40 years of congressional legislation related to Israel. According to their findings, there was a shift in the 2000s, in terms of how Congress dealt with issues related to Israel.
“The results reveal three findings. First, that members of Congress have recently increased their interest and involvement in issues relating to Israel. Second, that congressional activity relating to Israel follows the general trends of congressional activity and involvement in foreign affairs. And third, that there is a growing amount of incoordination between Democrats and Republicans in how they express their support for Israel.”
The authors’ research was confined to, as they describe it, “538 resolutions covering four decades of congressional activity.” They sought to disprove the claim that there was a large, growing demonstration of reduced support from the Democratic Party for many years. But they actually proved it to be true at one particular point: the 111th Congress, which was sworn into office in 2009. This was the first Congress during the first term of Barack Obama‘s presidency, and the first Congress sworn in after the formation of JStreetPAC. From the 93rd Congress in 1973 to the end of the 110th Congress in 2008, there is remarkable parity between the two political parties, reaching a high water mark in 2008. In 2009, during the 111th Congress, Republican support for Israel remained steady, but Democratic support declined dramatically. This perfectly coincides with the founding of J Street in late 2007 and the founding of JStreetPAC the following year.
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Note that the aforementioned report came in 2014, which is well before some of the most radical anti-Israel Democrats came to power. The fort was then held by radical anti-Israel activists such as Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), who put forward multiple House resolutions condemning Israel. That anti-Israel mantle was picked up by Ellison’s direct successor, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and other “Squad” members such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), and others. They all follow the same J Street playbook.
The playbook is a very simple one—shout until you’re hoarse that you love Israel, and then do everything you can to undermine its security. Lessons that Israel learned after the Oslo Accords debacle and the false mythology of “land for peace” are ignored by J Street. Israel’s unilateral decision in 2005 to forcibly remove Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and hand it over to the Palestinians has brought nothing but pain and misery, yet J Street now seeks to replicate that in an area 16 times larger.
J Street and its ideological allies market these ideas to naive university students with a relentless barrage of inflammatory rhetoric, using terms like “occupation” and “apartheid.” They have invested millions of dollars in college campuses, where teenagers are far more inclined toward radical activism than any other age group. In the 15 years since the founding of J Street U, the campus organizing arm of J Street, the group has achieved its desired result: The recent Gallup poll showing Democratic sympathy for Israel at a new low.
From Gallup: “After a decade in which Democrats have shown increasing affinity toward the Palestinians, their sympathies in the Middle East now lie more with the Palestinians than the Israelis, 49% versus 38%. Today’s attitudes reflect an 11-percentage-point increase over the past year in Democrats’ sympathy with the Palestinians. At the same time, the percentages sympathizing more with the Israelis (38%) and those not favoring a side (13%) have dipped to new lows.” Independents still side more with Israelis at a rate of 49% to 32%, while nearly 8 in 10 Republicans favor Israelis, 79% to 11%.
The college students of 2008 are in their mid-30s now, and they have been told for a long time that the sole reason for Palestinians’ suffering is the existence of a Jewish state in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland. This has led to increased hostility toward a key regional ally from members of Congress and Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as leading Democratic politicians follow the prevailing political winds. One can only fear that Gallup’s polling data will next suggest partisanship surrounding even Israel’s right to exist.
Moshe Hill is a political columnist and analyst. His work can be found on www.aHillwithaView.com.