Michael F. Brown
The Electronic Intifada / March 24, 2023
Congresswoman Susan Wild, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, thinks Democrats are stupid – or at least poorly informed – when it comes to Israel and growing sympathy for Palestinians.
She was responding to a new Gallup poll indicating Democrats now sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israelis by a 49 to 38 percent margin.
This poll outcome is a first for Gallup, but very much in keeping with trends The Electronic Intifada has documented.
Putting its best spin on it, Democratic Majority (Minority?) for Israel tweeted about a different question that put Israel in a more favorable light with Democrats. The organization is taken seriously by the Democratic Party despite having a board member who has advocated for genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
DMFI ignored much of the poll. For instance, those describing their ideology as “liberal” sympathized with Palestinians over Israelis by a 53 to 34 percent margin.
Wild, for her part, says she’s “not sure how much faith” she would put in the new poll.
According to Jewish Insider, she asserted that most respondents were likely not “well-informed.” Wild maintained that “the vast majority of Americans know far less about Israel than they probably should considering the amount of our tax dollars that go there and the importance of Israel generally to democracy and security around the world.”
Wild, who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said during a recent online event hosted by Democratic Jewish Outreach Pennsylvania, an organization that endorses her, that she warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about coming changes in the Democratic Party while visiting the region in February with the lobby group J Street.
“What I said to him was, ‘I’m worried that in a decade, let’s say – it’s not going to be this year, next year – in a decade, maybe a little longer, Israel may find itself not enjoying the broad-spread support that it currently does from the US Congress.’”
She added, “I think that is a very real threat to Israel.”
Wild reportedly attributed this to changing demographics in the Democratic Party. “We have repeatedly seen younger and younger members of Congress.”
“Their views tend to be much less solidified about being pro-Israel. And so I think the long term is not good.”
That is borne out by the Gallup poll which for the first time shows millennials (born 1980-2000) as more sympathetic toward Palestinians than Israelis by 42 to 40 percent. Presumably, the discrepancy would be far greater among millennial Democrats as opposed to millennials in general.
A self-described AIPAC-endorsed candidate who received “some severe pushback” from that hardcore lobby group for her participation in the J Street trip, Wild said that she and colleagues she would describe as “very pro-Israel” were “on guard the entire time for signs of either an anti-Israel bent or just something that was further left than we were comfortable with. And I will tell you that although there were a couple of events or speakers, I shouldn’t say events, that were decidedly anti-Israel, I would say, or anti-Israel government, I would say, the rest of the trip was incredibly fair.”
In other words, even being “anti-Israel government” – a fascist government replete with anti-Palestinian racists – is somehow unfair in Wild’s view. Wild did not clarify whether these “anti-Israel government” views came from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or from citizens, whether Jewish or Palestinian, of Israel’s apartheid state.
With Democrats coddling an extreme right-wing government like this, who needs Republicans? Based on comments later in the online event, Wild appears carefully content to fund the current government despite concerns she does hold.
Wild did find her visit to what she called the settlement of Hebron to be a “devastating experience.” She said probably the most “disturbing” part of the visit was seeing that “the appropriate Israeli officials” had padlocked the modern playground in the Palestinian village of Susiya because a permit had not been granted.
Between Susiya and Hebron, she was clearly very concerned about the Israeli treatment of Palestinian children.
Later, she described going to Hebron with former Israeli soldiers from Breaking the Silence, a whistleblowing group, who “actually had committed some of what they considered to be the atrocities of what the IDF [the Israeli military] does to Palestinian villages when settlements are in place.”
Wild, oddly attempting to show she is close to the prime minister overseeing Israel’s move to the even more racist right, indulged the corrupt and fascism-promoting Netanyahu by calling him by his nickname “Bibi.” For all the faux closeness, Netanyahu wouldn’t meet with J Street officials and canceled on the congressional delegation twice before eventually meeting with its members for 90 minutes.
Netanyahu keeps up appearances with visiting liberals because he knows Democrats – from recent visitors such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to Congresswoman Katie Porter – won’t push back hard.
The congresswoman described the visit as the “AP trip as opposed to the Israel 101 trip,” though she inadvertently revealed how little members of Congress actually know about what is happening to Palestinians. Wild stated the trip “showed me things I had never seen before, despite my tremendous commitment to Israel.” Such staunchly pro-Israel Democrats feel obliged to express their support for Israel again and again even as it lurches violently toward greater repression not just of Palestinians but of Jews as well.
“We are expected to unconditionally support Israel with a vast amount of money and almost all of us do so in Congress – vote for it.”
She added, “We don’t normally provide aid unconditionally to other countries. So from a strictly pragmatic governmental point of view, I think that entitles the United States government to have some say in what is happening in Israel.” Wild then noted that this gives the US grounds for questioning things, but her own caution means she didn’t mention Israeli apartheid a single time.
It stared her in the face, but she lacks the courage to say it.
This circumspection may well be because of the Israel lobby. Wild herself states, “Quite honestly, I place a lot of the blame on a very influential pro-Israel lobby that does not encourage the light to be shone on what’s happening there.”
That honesty is a starting point, but much more is needed, especially when it comes to reckoning more forthrightly with Israel’s policies and the need for consequences for Israel’s actions.
The most unexpected point Wild raised during the online event had to do with her distress over Israeli-American dual citizens voting.
She described it as “the most startling thing on the trip” when the host at one settlement who had lived there for decades acknowledged that she votes in both Israel and the US despite having no intention of ever living in the US again. “I was frankly shocked that somebody who has lived there for 38 years with no intention of returning can vote in US elections.”
Wild added, “I personally have a problem with it.” She said many thousands are allowed to vote in US elections because of this dual citizenship.
But who cares ?
Dual citizens from a variety of countries rightly vote in US elections. This isn’t the problem.
The problem is adult settlers violating international law and moving into settlements to dispossess Palestinians, including on private Palestinian property. They live in what is effectively one state, but with inferior rights for Palestinians.
Equal rights for all in one state, however, is a non-starter in much of Washington. Wild mentions her concern with the absence of meaningful voting rights for Palestinians in the West Bank, but doesn’t mention one state with equal rights as a possible remedy.
Yet the US is unwilling to do anything about Israel’s broken promises or violations of international law other than issue statements such as this one tweeted out by far right-wing Israeli news site Arutz Sheva.
State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel stated Tuesday that “the United States is extremely troubled that the Israeli Knesset [parliament] has passed legislation rescinding important parts of the 2005 disengagement law, including the prohibition on establishing settlements in the northern West Bank. At least one of these outposts in this area, Homesh, was built on private Palestinian land, which is illegal under Israeli law.”
He added boilerplate language about how “advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution” before also noting this “represents a clear contradiction of undertakings the Israeli Government made to the United States.”
When journalists at the State Department pressed Patel as to whether the US would do anything other than offer words, Patel made it clear nothing is brewing. The Biden administration will continue to allow Israel’s expansionist far right to run circles around it.
Asked specifically by The Electronic Intifada if the State Department views settlements as a war crime, a State Department spokesperson on Friday merely replied by email that “we have been clear that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution.”
The answer, then, is no. They’re an “obstacle” the US government is unprepared to challenge even as Israel entrenches apartheid.
Netanyahu pushing more violence
Wild is on more important ground than her distress over dual citizenship when she states, “I don’t believe that Bibi wants a two-state solution and I don’t believe that most people in the right wing of either Israel or the United States want a two-state solution. And quite honestly taking people’s homes away, invading the space where they live, is a really good way to make sure that you’re not ever going to have peace in Israel.”
Even here, however, Wild fails to mention the West Bank. It’s all about peace for Israel rather than ending apartheid for Palestinians.
“I just don’t see a path to continuing a democracy or hope for a two-state solution if the current government continues to control things.”
Yet whether Israel is or isn’t a democracy doesn’t matter to whether she’s going to continue to fund Israeli apartheid. But, then, that was already clear.
She’s been funding Israel for years despite its non-democratic rule over Palestinians. The only thing that is different now is that she has clarified she will continue to fund Israel even as Jewish protesters there say the judicial change will mean the country is no longer a democracy even for Jews.
“I believe the Biden administration has either signaled or actually said that they will not condition aid to Israel on what happens with the judicial system there. I think that’s the current Biden administration position on it.”
“I think right now, with a Republican majority, I don’t think there’s any issue about the support continuing and I think that the majority of the Democratic caucus would also vote for unconditional support at least for the foreseeable future. There would be some defectors for sure.”
But Wild emphasized, “I would not be among the defectors. I would continue to vote for support for Israel.”
For years there’s been talk about shared values and shared democratic commitment. Such talk of democracy obviously excluded Palestinians.
But Wild has made clear it was simply convenient propaganda. Whether Israel is right or wrong, or more accurately wrong and even more wrong, Wild will fund it and thinks most Democrats will.
In conclusion, Wild told her listeners, “I do get the feeling that Bibi and those he’s closely associated with right now feel as though there will always be unequivocal support from the United States and I’m not opposed to unequivocal support of the United States going forward but what it does is that I think it emboldens them to not worry about anything that we might think because they’re really not hearing these viewpoints from American Jews like yourselves.”
Understanding this and yet going along with it is a profound abdication of responsibility.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland took a different approach than Wild on Wednesday when questioning Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
Van Hollen said, “It seems to me that we look very weak when we continually make statements without any kind of consequence. So I guess my final question to you is: What are we prepared to do – what is the Biden administration prepared to do – if you see continued violations by either side of this agreement?”
Blinken’s answer was telling. “At some point, if either or both sides are not doing what we believe is necessary to get there it will be hard or maybe futile for us to do that.”
There you have it: Doing anything to slow or stop an ally funded with $3.8 billion in annual US military aid would be, according to Secretary of State Blinken, “futile.”
Wild’s not the only one figuring Americans are stupid or at the very least ill-informed. Blinken evidently thinks the same and obviously thinks Americans will be content to continue prolifically and profligately funding Israel no matter how racist or fascist it becomes.
There seems to be no bottom and no willingness among most Democrats to stand up and say “enough.”
Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist