The Simchas Torah pogrom upended politics in America no less than in Israel. Prior to October 7, the Democratic Party benefited from consistent leadership at the White House and in Congress, and from consensus on major foreign-policy questions such as aid to Ukraine. The Republicans, by contrast, had for the first time overthrown a speaker of the House of Representatives mid-Congress. What remained of the party establishment struggled to maintain a pro-Ukraine consensus within the GOP. Internal division and angst plagued Republicans. Democrats were fat and happy and more than a little complacent.
Not anymore. While the Biden administration and bipartisan congressional leadership denounced Hamas’s atrocities and pledged support for Israel’s defense, the Democratic response was not unanimous. Dissident voices indulged in moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas. They suggested or stated outright that the murder and kidnapping of hundreds of civilians was a justified response to years of Israeli “occupation.” They called for a cease-fire before Israel was finished burying its dead. Their ghoulish defense of the indefensible was a reminder: The U.S.-Israel alliance now divides Democrats as much as it unites Republicans.
This dynamic will hinder the president. Joe Biden will have to confront accusations from within his own party that he is fueling “Bibi’s war.” Containing the anti-Israel caucus and providing Israel the space to win the war will be hard. Biden is a politician, not a statesman. His primary interest is self-preservation and enrichment through domestic affairs. Practically all his foreign-policy instincts are wrong. He will back Israel, for sure. Right up to the moment it becomes inconvenient.
We know who will lead the charge against U.S. support. Among the worst legacies of Donald Trump’s presidency was the rise of the far-left “Squad” of Democratic House members. The Squad is small—just eight people at this writing, five of whom belong to the Democratic Socialists of America. That is less than 4 percent of the House Democratic caucus. Yet the Squad enjoys outsize leverage.
Why? Because these Millennial Jacobins are experts at manipulating celebrity and the postmodern attention economy. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York uses social media and public outrage to extend the reach of her noxious politics. Her colleagues follow her lead.
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota revels in the controversy that surrounds her anti-Semitic tropes. Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York fundraises off such antics as pulling fire alarms to keep votes open and labeling Republicans as Nazis—a slur that he does not apply to the actual Nazis in Hamas. By violating norms and pushing the rhetorical envelope, the Squad introduces radical anti-Israel and anti-American ideas into the body politic. It forces mainstream Democrats to appease the left.
The speed with which the socialist lawmakers criticized Israel, even as the Jewish state reeled from the worst terror attack in its history, was breathtaking as well as nauseating. In separate press releases, Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Squad member Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts demanded an “immediate ceasefire and de-escalation.” Omar said the same. Bowman introduced a twist: The barbarism unleashed on Israel, he said, was another example of the “deadly violence that is killing and traumatizing generations of Israelis and Palestinians alike—including the blockade of Gaza.” Only the dimmest and morally confused mind could equate the slaughter of children with an economic embargo against a genocidal regime.
Worse yet was Squad member Cori Bush of Missouri. “As part of achieving a just and lasting peace,” she posted on X, “we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid.” Not to be outdone, the vile Rashida Tlaib of Michigan wrote on Instagram that America and Israel are behind the “apartheid system” that “creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.” Resistance, mind you. Not terrorism, depravity, or animalistic savagery. Resistance.
Blaming Jews for their own victimization is anti-Semitism in action. Such hatred emanating from the U.S. Congress would have been inconceivable even a decade ago. Today, it is par for the course. True, anti-Zionism has not taken over the Democratic Party. But that fact is hardly reassuring.
After all, we live in a representative democracy where public attitudes manifest themselves in elected officials. The growth of the Squad, along with a couple of bigoted and delusional Republican congressmen, is evidence of the new anti-Semitism in America. Assaults on Orthodox Jews, the attacks by gunmen on Jewish houses of worship and study, rallies by neo-Nazis in California and Florida, virulent hostility to the U.S.-Israel relationship and to Israel’s right to self-defense—these are different faces of the same evil.
The trouble for Democrats is that many parts of their coalition indulge in and apologize for the madness. Earlier this year, the Gallup organization found that for the first time, more Democrats sympathized with Palestinians than Israelis. Chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America organized pro-Palestinian rallies throughout the United States, including one rally in New York City where a participant waved a phone displaying a swastika. If the young people waving Palestinian flags and denouncing Israel vote, it’s not for the GOP.
Universities throughout the country issued statements on the war in Israel that were at best temporizing and at worst hostile to Jewish security abroad and at home. Black Lives Matter expressed solidarity with the Palestinians. And Democratic leaders, including President Biden, still cater to the likes of Al Sharpton despite his anti-Jewish past. Just as the “America First” right undermines assistance to Ukraine and America’s role as leader of the Free World, the anti-Israel left subverts another foundation of American exceptionalism: our historic commitment to the safety of the Jewish homeland.
Which puts President Biden in an uncomfortable spot. Until now, he has used Republican skepticism of, and growing opposition to, Ukraine funds to rally his side against Russia. He has no problem with Republicans calling Ukraine a “liberal war.” It puts him on the side of freedom and democracy, where most Americans are already. He’s maneuvered the right into the anti-internationalist camp while preserving his left flank.
Before long, though, Biden will oversee a multi-front offensive: not just in Ukraine and in the Middle East, but also within America’s major political parties. Will he withstand the pressure from the global left, its mouthpieces in the media, youth on college campuses, and Democratic peaceniks? Or will his interest fade along with his resolve? Historical precedent does not inspire confidence in his ability.
Biden’s best option is to accept the reality that the world is at war. Russia, China, and Iran are working to displace American preeminence and the liberal democratic world order that America sustains. Russia and China have a “no limits” partnership. Russia and Iran trade arms and aid. Russia invades Ukraine; Iran’s proxy Hamas invades Israel; and the coming years may see China invade Taiwan or launch a naval war against the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.
It is up to Biden to connect the dots for the American people and persuade them that Ukraine, Israel, and the South China Sea are different theaters in a single conflict over who will write the rules of the 21st century. He can defeat the fringe by increasing defense spending, revitalizing the defense industrial base, and elevating the next generation of pro-Israel Democrats, such as Representatives Ritchie Torres, Seth Moulton, and Jake Auchincloss.
But he needs to move quickly. For every hour he delays, the anti-Israel toxin seeps deeper into the backbone of the Democratic Party.
Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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