There was a time when issues were so clear that we were all on the same page of right and wrong. It used to be when the PLO would hijack an airplane, it was terrorism.
Today, the divide between good people is so vast that the perspective one has depends on his or her broader ideals; are they freedom fighters or terrorists?
We see too this in politics today. I was at a discussion with Congress member Grace Meng (D - New York) earlier this week, and she expressed frustration with this situation. Meng mentioned she was talking with colleagues and suggested that the Democratic Party should be open to a pro-life candidate who espouses many of the Democratic Party’s other ideals; she was rebuffed, and then urged by women’s groups to back off that opinion.
It occurred to me that there are so many areas where we have become deeply entrenched in political identity that we see no difference between individual policies and party line - and party line has become dogma. We no longer look at right or wrong. We treat policy like a zero-sum game. We pick a complete side and hold firm. This is the reason bipartisan support is so hard to come by today in Congress and within many legislative bodies in the United States. We get little accomplished because we cannot afford to yield anything to the “other side” – even if the other side has a position you might otherwise endorse.
If you are a Republican, you must be a hard-line conservative, and if you are a Democrat, you must see issues more and more through the lenses of the likes of Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, with little tolerance for the centrist point of view.
The Democratic party is becoming more isolationist. Congresswoman Meng lamented that people with deep religious beliefs often feel they have no place in the Democratic Party because of their traditions and values on certain social issues. She reflected on how, in her run for office, she encountered many in her district who share so many Democratic values – religious matter aside - yet could not find an encouraging reason to vote Democrat. They felt isolated.
They are not alone, and the issues extend beyond domestic policy. When it comes to Israel there are now more people who fail to see the incredible dichotomy in their views on Israel and other global humanitarian concerns. A group called Queers for Palestine comes to mind, as they vigorously fight to label Israel as an oppressor, yet not an oppressor of gay people, under the guise of Palestinian civil liberties, yet they could not go to Ramallah and take a stand in those streets. Still, they have convinced many millennials today that a fight against the open and accepting democracy of Israel is fundamental to their own “open-minded” ideals.
Take the example of the so-called widely feted humanitarian Linda Sarsour; an American of Palestinian descent, who proudly proclaims her belief and adherence to Islamic shariah law, yet says that you cannot be a feminist if you are also a Zionist. Let me reiterate: Sarsour, who fancies herself a feminist, and adheres to the laws that would forbid a woman from driving in Saudi Arabia and equates two women as a substitute for one man in certain legal matters, emphatically proclaims that if you support Israel, you cannot be a feminist.
Israel is the only Middle East country where a woman has held the post of Prime Minister (Golda Meir), where women are parliamentarians, judges, and ministers, and can actively protest the policies of their own government. The questions to ask is “can Sarsour be a feminist?” Still, few ask the hard questions, and Sarsour’s anti-Israel posture becomes one in the same with the Democratic progressive movement, using the argument that attacking Israel for perceived injustices in no way counters their quarrel with oppression elsewhere.
If so, then why not at least as vociferously protest those human rights abuses too? There is no good answer for that.
Alan Dershowitz commented on this phenomenon, “There are many countries and movements throughout the world that treat women as second-class citizens: Israel is not among them. Yet this platform singles out for condemnation only Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people. There is a word for applying a double standard to Jews. That word is anti-Semitism.”
Sansour’s thinking and advocacy leave encouragement for the numerous charges continuously filed against Israel at the United Nations. The claims by Arab countries with considerable abuse records that Israel is an apartheid nation comes to mind. The BDS movement promoted by Marwan Barghouti is one of the biggest examples of the incongruity in progressive ideals. BDS is often strong among younger millennials and leftists who need a cause, and they fight Israel as if it is a criminal state without even seeking truth and facts. Sarsour, Barghouti, Queers for Palestine, CodePink, the woman’s rights group and like-minded others, are the illogical sages of this BDS movement, and college student and far left-leaning partisans fall in line without intellectual deliberation.
BDS is a movement bent on labeling Israel as an apartheid state so that pressure on the Jewish state would cause it to lose its economic and academic positions in the world, eventually to weaken the country. What they claim is a manufactured refugee crisis, stolen land, and oppression of Palestinians and even Arab Israelis.
Since 1948, about 600 thousand Arabs left the area when the United Nation voted to partition Israel, and they have never been absorbed by any other Arab nation for political purposes. As a result, there are now millions of elderly Palestinians, children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren, living in Jordan, or Palestinian-owned areas like Nablus where refugee camps such as Ein Beit al-Ma', Balata and Askar continue to operate as second class areas.
In contrast, when 850,000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands in the years before 1948 and beyond, Israel absorbed them. There are no permanent refugees in almost any western country because they are absorbed. The U.S. does not have refugee camps, Israel does not, England does not, and so on. These people are refugees so that the political war against Israel can continue.
As for the issue of stolen land – college students who take history classes should objectively pursue facts. Israel has always been under constant attack, and the wars that were forced on it yielded land positions. After 1948 when the United Nations that these countries use as a weapon against Israel declared Israel to be a sovereign country, the Arab nations around it continued to wage wars to excise it, and they lost each time. Israel then gave Sinai to Egypt in exchange for peace, but those who control Palestinian areas have yet to accept a Jewish nation and pursue peace.
Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and it was quickly consumed by terrorist groups who use Gaza as a launching pad for rockets and attacks. Even still, when Palestinians need humanitarian aid or medical attention, they rely on Israel. Israel has a robust system that help the oppressed through its legal and justice systems, feed the hungry through agricultural and philanthropic ventures and treat the sick through its vast medical networks.
Yet, the dichotomy in political views takes a formidable place among the left and in the minds of our millennials., and the Democratic Party is falling prey to it. Dershowitz calls it “selective ideological packaging”, that makes activist feel forced to delegitimize Israel and denounce Zionism if they want to be a part of supporting gay rights, women’s rights or issues of general social welfare. It is a form of isolationism that would have once seemed an anathema to core Democratic values.
Juda Engelmayer is an executive with 5WPR, a public relations firm based in New York.