Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Anti-Israeli sentiments are rife among Democrats"

I guess it's all a matter of perspective: if you're rabidly pro-Israel, like these writers, "evenhandedness" qualifies as "anti-Israeli."

In the past, Israel could depend upon a basic consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that it was a valuable, indeed indispensable, ally that occupied the moral high ground. The political sands, however, are shifting. Anti-Israeli sentiments are rife among Democrats - 59 percent want the U.S. to be more "evenhanded" in the Middle East - some of whom appear to be convinced that the Bush administration's deposition of Saddam Hussein was masterminded by "neo-conservatives" in Israel's interest.

Senator Joseph Lieberman's August 8 loss in the Connecticut primary, and the evident triumph of the Democrats' neo-McGovernite wing, signal trouble ahead.

Lieberman was beaten by Ned Lamont, who, as Israel's army was massacring Lebanese civilians, many of them children, turning cities and villages into rubble, displacing 20-25% of the population, deliberately targeting and destroying infrastructure like bridges and power plants, polluting the environment, and committing a long list of other war crimes, came out with this statement:
At this critical time in the Middle East, I believe that when Israel’s security is threatened, the United States must unambiguously stand with our ally to be sure that it is safe and secure...It is not for the United States to dictate to Israel how it defends itself.

I'd sure like to know who those 59% of Democrats aspiring to "evenhandedness" are. I haven't noticed a single one, with national prominence. On the contrary, Republicans and Democrats seem to be vying fiercely for the title of most vociferous champion of Israel. And Lamont looks quite willing to continue the bipartisan tradition of America's carte blanche support for Israel.

(For more on Lamont and Israel, see here.)

Meanwhile, Jonathan Tasini, who is challenging Hillary Clinton (D - Israel) in the New York senate primary race, is barred from debating his opponent on TV, because his campaign isn't considered rich enough. Tasini dared to criticize--fairly mildly, at that--Israel's conduct in Lebanon; a spokesperson for Clinton called his remarks "beyond the pale.”

No, I don't think we'll see much shift in this debate--hell, I don't think we'll even see any sort of debate--about American policy towards Israel any time soon. Not in American national politics.

Update: Billmon has a post on The War Party that I'd missed while I was away. It should be read in its entirety, but here are some excerpts I found especially sobering:

But there's one big problem with all this hyperventilating: It wildly exaggerates the anti-war fevor that Ned Lamont supposedly represents. Oh I know Ned says he's anti-war, but he only means the war in Iraq. The war in Lebanon, on the other hand, is just fine by him. And he's already pledged he'll be just as staunch a friend of Israel and the Israel lobby in this war as Holy Joe ever was or ever could be. So bombs away.


What's become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it's allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals -- all this doesn't leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democrats, or at least the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians, will support it.


I had hopes once that the Democratic Party could be reformed, that progressives could burrow back in or build their own parallel organizations (like or even Left Blogistan) and eventually gain control of the party and its agenda -- much as the conservatives took over the GOP in the 1980s and '90s.
But I think we've run out of time. Events -- from 9/11 on -- have moved too fast and pushed us too far towards the clash of civilizations that most sane people dread but the neocons desperately want. The Dems are now just the cadet branch of the War Party. While the party nomenklatura is finally, after three bloody years, making dovish noises about the Iraq fiasco, I think their loyalty to Israel, or their fear of the Israel lobby, almost certainly will snap them back into line during the coming "debate" over war with Iran.

I'd been rooting for a Lamont win over Lieberman ever since I heard of his challenge. A month ago I would have been thrilled, ecstatic, euphoric over the primary result. But after Lamont came out with those statements in support of Israel, revealing both his biases and his ignorance, and after noting the deafening silence on Lebanon at the most enthusiastic of the pro-Lamont blogs (which I no longer bother reading), I have written off the Democratic Party for good. I believe there will be change, there may even be progress, but it's not going to come from the ranks or the leadership of the U.S. Democratic Party.


Blogger Elizabeth said...

I just skimmed what you wrote here but are you familiar with Progressive Democrats of America ?

I belong to a newly formed local chapter and it seems for the most part like a bunch of progressive people. Mostly what we've been doing so far is supporting Tasini, but we are going to meet with our Congresswoman and confront her about her stands on Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and related issues (as soon as she gives us an appointment!)

PDA was formed from old Kucinich people which in my opinion makes it superior to DFA (Democracy for America) which was created by former Dean people..

10:34 PM, August 13, 2006  
Blogger Eli said...

Unfortunately, when I wrote a comment on BIllmon's post (at the "Moon over Alabama" blog where commenting on his writing takes place), to the effect that I remember back in 2004 when Billmon was a fierce advocate for the "Popular Front," "Anybody but Bush" line, he wrote back that he expected in 2008 that would be his position again. So, despite his claim to have learned something (how long does it take, for Christ's sake?) about the Democrats, in reality he hasn't learned a thing.

5:46 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...

I'm not very familiar with PDA, but it sounds like something I could potentially be part of if I still lived in the US and there was a local chapter. I don't rule out some good things coming from working within the DP to move it in a more progressive direction, but the fraction of Democrats that share my concept of a just U.S. foreign policy is discouragingly small. Any significant reform is certainly not going to come from the Nedheads or MoveOn--did you see this article by Norman Solomon, btw?

Let us know how your meeting with Clinton goes--wish I could come along! I traipsed down to Lugar's Indianapolis office a couple of times with MoveOn delegations before and after the invasion of Iraq; obviously we didn't make any dent in his thinking but it was a memorable experience and I enjoyed my fellow dissidents tremendously.

Eli, that's depressing, and surprising, about Billmon's continuing party allegiance to ABBA. His recent writing made it sound as though he'd moved well beyond that. Anyone interested in my ABBA views, see here:

2:00 PM, August 15, 2006  

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