July 21, 2019

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Forget intersectionality – being anti-Israel is a litmus test for true "progressives". Liberal Zionists seem lost.


A recent Intercept article about Rashida Tlaib included some interesting quotes from Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Palestinian rights advocates also say that Tlaib’s willingness to buck the party line on Israel reflects a restive Democratic base that supports tougher action against Israeli settlements and its military occupation. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that only a quarter of American liberals think of Israel as an ally — a number down from the 36 percent of liberals who viewed Israel as an ally in 2017.

“Palestinian rights are being integrated into the broader progressive agenda. It’s becoming almost standard that if you support single-payer health care and climate justice, you’ll support Palestinian rights,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

“The base has shifted and the leadership is going to have to shift sooner than they think,” said Vilkomerson. “The fight isn’t over yet. But that era of bipartisan unity in support of Israel really seems to be over.”

JVP isn’t saying merely that Palestinians are one of the oppressed peoples who must be lumped in with gays, women, people of color and other categories of intersectional thinking.

 Vilkomerson, who clearly equates being pro-Palestinian with being anti-Israel (see last paragraph,) is saying that hating Israel is quickly becoming a litmus test for those who want to truly be considered “progressive.” As we’ve seen in other contexts, if you are openly Zionist, you are not welcome to participate in other “progressive” events and venues, and your ability to be considered progressive altogether is questioned.

The irony is that “progressives” want to support the creation of a Palestinian state that would be misogynist, anti-abortion, anti-gay, antisemitic, with laws based on a religion, and indifferent or hostile to every other liberal cause. Furthermore, they want this state to replace an Israel where women and minorities reach the highest levels of government, where gay rights and abortion policies are as liberal as most Western European nations, where there is universal health care, a state that does more to help the environment especially in terms of water management than any other nation you can name.

What, exactly, makes being pro-Palestinian a progressive position?

Liberal Zionists need to get rid of their ambivalence about some Israeli policies and point out that the only consistent position for true progressives is to embrace Israel and to reject yet another Arab state where women and minorities and LGBTs are frightened of their own leaders.

Yet even prominent pro-Israel liberals have no idea how to push Zionism as a liberal ideal – an oppressed people throwing off millennia of their land being controlled by a series of colonialists.

Enthusiasm for U.S. support for Israel is dying out among young Americans and the two countries must gin up a high-powered educational campaign to restore it, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer told a crowd of Israel supporters Sunday.

“We need a campaign aimed particularly at the young, using the media they care about and the language they use,” Schumer said, to convince them that “Israel’s very existence is still precarious.”

Why would that be the focus of a pro-Israel campaign? It wouldn’t resonate with anyone. When the other side says “from the river to the sea” why should young liberals care?

What needs to be done is to show, in black and white, how Israel embraces progressive ideals at least as much as most Western nations do, and how a Palestinian state is opposed to every single major liberal cause.

Those are literally the only facts that should matter to those who profess to be progressive. And their decision to spurn progressive ideals for a regressive state indicates that liberal positions is not what makes them anti-Israel – but it is old fashioned antisemitism.

Also, liberal Jews need to stop apologizing for the parts of Israel that they don’t like. There are plenty of  Zionists in Israel who are liberal and disagree strongly with some Israeli policies, and yet they manage to get their points across about the fundamental justice of Zionism. One of the awardees at this year’s Hasby Awards in Israel was Nurit Baytch, who does an amazing job defending Israel on Twitter – and until she gave her speech accepting the award, I had no idea she was a member of Israel’s far-left Meretz!

American and European liberals need people who can unflinchingly defend Israel from a progressive, liberal viewpoint like Nurit does.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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