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The Latest Progressive Assault on Israel

The attack failed, but it may succeed next time

Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty
• June 3, 2019 4:07 pm

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Make no mistake: at the California Democratic Party's state convention over the weekend, progressives advocated the destruction of Israel, trying to make the Jewish state's demise a stated principle of the party. The draft resolutions that the progressives proposed for debate are not simply "anti-Israel" or "critical of Israel," as the media has described them, but rather something much more nefarious—and deadlier.

Forces within the progressive, far-left wing of the Democratic Party introduced six resolutions, which, according to the party's Resolutions Committee, are "intended to be general statements of our principles." These measures may not be official policy, but they reflect the party's thinking, ideology, and direction for the future. In other words, the resolutions matter and are telling, especially when the majority of the party's presidential candidates are in attendance, as was the case in San Francisco this past weekend.

Much of the public criticism of the California progressives' assault on Israel focused on one specific draft resolution, which tied the Israeli government to the heinous shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue in October. This measure is absurd and abhorrent—how the hell is the world's only Jewish state, whose fundamental purpose is to protect the Jewish people, indirectly responsible for the attack?—but three of the other resolutions are more troubling. As the Jewish News of Northern California reported, one resolution demanded a Palestinian "right of return," which mandates that the Arabs—and each and every one of their descendants—who fled what is now Israel during the failed Arab war of 1948 to destroy the Jewish state, should be allowed to return to the land. The two other resolutions called for returning the Golan Heights, a strategic region on Israel's northern border, to Syria, which previously controlled it.

Taken together, these resolutions comprise a call to destroy Israel. Indeed, it would be suicidal for Jerusalem either to accept the right of return or to return the Golan to Syria, let alone to adopt both policies simultaneously. As David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel, explained last year:

Just in case anybody forgot, demanding a "right of return" to Israel for tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants is nothing less than a call for the destruction of Israel by demographic means. No Israeli government could accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position is that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

And, as I explained in March regarding the Golan, since 2011,

Iran deeply entrenched its forces and its proxies in Syria, while Sunni jihadist groups like the Islamic State spread throughout the country. Israel recognized the obvious reality: if Syria regained control of the Golan, the Jewish state's worst enemies would be in prime position to attack. With its strategic line of volcanic hills, the Golan gives Israel an absolutely essential topographical advantage. Moreover, Mount Hermon provides the Israeli military critical intelligence. Ceding the Golan to Syria now would be suicidal, allowing the likes of ISIS and Iran to target tens of thousands of Israelis.

Not to mention that Syria is ruled by President Bashar al-Assad, who has spent the past eight years slaughtering about 500,000 Syrians while displacing millions more of his own people. Moreover, recall that Israel captured the Golan from Syria in 1967, when Syria was waging a war to destroy the Jewish state. Israel's annexation was, and remains, fundamentally a national imperative of self-defense, not some belligerent, imperial act.

Stating publicly that Israel should both give up the Golan and submit to the right of return is nothing less than demanding that Israel shove a loaded pistol in its mouth and pull the trigger. The progressives who supported these resolutions either knew what they were doing, which is of course deplorable, or they were ignorant, thinking they were backing some cause of social justice in support of the Palestinians. But the problem with the latter is that, if the progressive vision for Israel came true and thousands—perhaps millions—of Israelis suffered, no history book would absolve them because of their ignorance. They would be complicit, plain and simple.

The other three resolutions do not have the same violent policy implications, but they are still shameful and revealing. According to the Jewish News of Northern California:

One [resolution] included original language that required the Democratic Party to oppose "all efforts to stigmatize and suppress support for Palestinian human rights by falsely conflating it with anti-Semitism." Another suggested Israel has a legacy of "settler colonialism," while still another would have required elected party officials to include equal-time visits to Palestinian territories whenever visiting Israel, and should contact the state party’s Progressive Caucus or Arab-American Caucus to plan those trips.

The first resolution is a further example of progressives couching their hostility toward Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric as legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. Moreover, the measure highlights a common progressive talking point: that pro-Israel voices accuse others of anti-Semitism to protect Israel from criticism, fearing honest, public debate about their views. The second resolution would be laughable if so many people did not buy the lie that Israelis are colonists. Jews lived in Israel 3,000 years ago and have always considered it their homeland, maintaining a presence in and intensely deep ties to the land throughout their 2,000 years of forced exile. And, of course, if the Palestinians had not completely rejected every Israeli or international peace offer ever made, then they would have their own state. The third resolution is just silly. Israel is a vibrant democracy, a great place to visit as a tourist, and an essential strategic partner of the United States. Elected American officials have numerous reasons to visit the Jewish state. They should also visit the Palestinian territories to learn about the situation on the ground, but there are simply fewer reasons to do so. To force elected officials to devote equal time to both areas is just a waste of time, an empty, symbolic gesture to try to show "fairness" when, in reality, it would not make any significant difference.

Fortunately, the progressives failed in their malicious effort. The Resolutions Committee substantially rewrote all six resolutions, softening or deleting the language demonizing Israel, and passed four of them. The original authors withdrew their names and co-sponsors and withdrew two of the resolutions. "I'm pleased that the committee decided to reject those resolutions [as originally written]," said California state Sen. Ben Allen, who chairs the state's Jewish Legislative Caucus. "I thought they were divisive and I'm glad we're now able to move forward."

Andrew Lachman, a member of the Resolutions Committee and president of the Los Angeles-based Democrats for Israel, said the committee was "satisfied" with the outcome. He added that, while the original resolutions "made some valid points," some went "beyond what the Democratic Party stands for."

The anti-Israel—and, as I have previously argued, anti-Semitic—progressive movement may have lost the battle in San Francisco over the weekend, but it is still fighting the war for the heart, soul, and brain of the American political left. And they appear to be winning that war. Progressives who share the sentiments expressed in the original resolutions—such as Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)—are clearly the loudest voices on the left, and increasingly the most influential. Just look at how the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are stumbling over each other to get further to the left, hoping to appeal to the party's progressive base.

The more moderate, center-left faction, against whom the progressives are waging ideological warfare, is losing influence. Does anyone seriously think that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) is the leader or voice of the Democratic Party? No, of course not. Such figures may want to impose more pressure on Israel, but they fundamentally recognize the importance of the American-Israeli alliance. The progressives do not; in fact, they see strong support for Israel as one of the great sins of American foreign policy. So, yes, the progressives failed to pass their resolutions, the latest effort to destroy Israel as the Jewish state, but they may not fail in the future, when the center-left establishment is rendered totally impotent. As Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, said after the original resolutions were changed: "Sadly, this is not the last time we'll see efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel."