Foreign Affairs

Rising Anti-Semitism on the Left

Not content to divide his party in his year-long effort to pass socialized health care, President Obama has spent the last ten days fomenting intra-party discord on the contentious issue of Middle East peace.

The Obama administration hasn’t stopped berating Israel about the “settlements” issue since it came to power 14 months ago. I was glad to see pro-Israel Democrats bravely stand up to the administration’s attacks this week.

But I fear the Obama administration’s over-reaction to what amounts to a municipal zoning decision is indicative of the growing anti-Semitism on the Left. The president’s heavy-handed approach to Israel is leading his party away from its historic support for the Jewish State.

No, I am not accusing the president of being an anti-Semite. What I am contending is that Obama’s Israel policy is getting its largest cheers among Muslim special interest groups and the anti-Semitic left. His policy reflects the anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel of those he has closely associated with all his life, and of those with increasing prominence in the Democratic Party.

Obama spent significant time with radical Muslim activists during his time as a community organizer. And it is not unreasonable to wonder how much of his long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Jewish vitriol he absorbed. The list of his past associates and advisors — including Rashid Khalidi, Ali Abuminah, Susan Rice and Robert Malley — is a who’s who of prominent Israel-bashers. 

The ancient hatred of Jews will find a home wherever it can, and it has done so as easily on the radical right as on the radical left. But in recent years anti-Semitism has become a more consequential force on the Left.

In 2006, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a Campus Anti-Semitism report announcing that anti-Semitism is “a serious problem” on many American university campuses, those bastions of political liberalism.

Anti-Semitism has become a staple of bloggers on leftwing websites like the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos and MoveOn.org. Former Clinton administration official Lanny Davis wrote in the Wall Street Journal of his dismay at the anti-Semitic “hate and vitriol” against Joe Lieberman, for whom Davis was campaigning, in his 2006 primary campaign against Ned Lamont. Davis recounted some of the attacks, and concluded that “bigotry and hate aren’t just for right-wingers anymore.”

The Left’s growing anti-Semitism is discouraging in part because the party many radicals associate with has been home to Jews for nearly a century. And Democrats have historically been some of Israel’s greatest defenders.

This week many Democrats spoke out against the White House’s over-reaction to Israel’s decision to build more housing for its growing population. New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner said, “The appropriate response was a shake of the head – not a temper tantrum. Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.” Other Democrats issued similar statements reaffirming the U.S.-Israel bond.

A February Gallup poll put American public support for Israel at 63 percent, its highest in nearly 20 years. And only 15 percent of Americans side with the Palestinians.

Gallup noted that “Since 2001…there has been a more dramatic shift in partisan attitudes: a 25 point increase in sympathy for Israel among Republicans and an 18 point increase among independents.”

Sadly, the Democratic Party’s historic support for Israel may be fraying. A majority of self-identified Democrats no longer support Israel. Democratic support for Israel has decreased since Obama took office, from 54 percent last year to 48 percent this year. Gallup also found that more Democrats have a favorable view of autocratic Russia, and nearly as many have a favorable view of Communist China, than have a favorable view of Israel, America’s only dependable ally in the Middle East.

Jews have been a reliable Democratic constituency for decades. And 80 percent of American Jewish voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama in 2008.

But that support may be weakening among those for whom a strong and secure Israel is important. As Alan Dershowitz wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Many American supporters of Israel who voted for Barack Obama now suspect they may have been victims of a bait and switch.” That was in July. I wouldn’t be surprised if those suspicions have turned into reality for many pro-Israel Americans.

Part of Obama’s problem is that he seems to misunderstand the Jewish claim to Israel. In his Cairo speech last summer, Obama promoted the radical Muslim narrative that modern Israel is a “guilt offering” for the Holocaust. The Jewish presence in Israel has been constant for thousands of years, not 70. And it’s founded in God’s benevolence, not European guilt.

The Obama administration’s ridiculous demand this week that the settlement decision be reversed and that Israel make a “substantial gesture” toward the Palestinians has only emboldened the Palestinians to demand the same as preconditions to “peace” talks.

And the administration’s apoplectic response to Israel’s creation of new homes to serve a growing population in its capital city may already have had deadly consequences. An Israeli was killed by a Gaza rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists this week, the first such death in more than a year.

Earlier this week, I wrote a letter to President Obama, challenging his administration to end its rhetorical assault on Israel and to turn his efforts to the real security threat facing the U.S. and Israel – the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Many other conservative leaders have signed on. You can read it here:

I and my friends in the Democratic Party disagree on many issues. But we have always agreed on the importance of a strong alliance between the United States and Israel, against communism during the Cold War and against radical Islam now. I hope those friends can convince the current Democrat in the White House to return to his party’s noble tradition of supporting Israel.


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