By Shep Gerszberg
A Pew poll released on Tuesday showed Democratic Party support for the State of Israel is declining. For the first time, sympathy for Israel among Democrats, at 27 percent, is almost equal to sympathy for Palestinians, at 25 percent. These numbers are around the same to the number of Democrats apathetic to the issue, which is 23 percent. Compare those numbers to their Republican counterparts, 79 percent of whom sympathize with Israel, while only six percent of them sympathize with the Palestinians.
Massive difference. The pro-Israel left is declining in a major way.
This issue for the pro-Israel community cannot be understated. For years, the actions of pro-Israel organizations, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), have been contingent upon the concept of bipartisan support for Israel. In areas, they have even compromised on their ideals in order to keep the idea of a bipartisan support for Israel alive.
For example, the Iran deal was a bad deal for Israel and the world, but certain groups in the pro-Israel community were afraid to stand against it for fear of offending and losing pro-Israel Democrats. AIPAC was hesitant to support the Taylor Force Act which, if enacted, would mostly defund the Palestinian Authority for rewarding terrorists, because certain figures on the left opposed it. AIPAC even opposed a similar bill in 2014 introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called the Stand with Israel Act.
Compromising on our beliefs helps nobody. It does not bring new people into the fold and it does not keep people in the fold who were never really pro-Israel in the first place. This poll indicates that their attempts to compromise in order to appease have been for naught. That the idea of bipartisan support for Israel is being killed by the modern left. But now that we are forced to see the reality of the situation, the idea of bipartisan support for Israel is on life support, we must act like physicians. We need to look for the causes of this issue and find ways to fix it.
The decline of the pro-Israel left is indicative of major issues within the pro-Israel community. We need to be more willing to directly confront lies and misinformation being spread about Israel, especially on the left. We need to be less afraid of who we offend in the process. We need to confront lies about Israel, we need to be more aggressive.
Highlighting Israel as a bastion of tech and industry is great and all, but unless we directly confront the other side, at best, we create apathy and, at worst, we look like we are intentionally avoiding the controversial issues because we do not have answers to accusations, like “Israel is an apartheid state,” being slung our way.
With anti-Israel movements gaining increasing power, especially on college campuses, if this trend continues Israel will become a partisan issue simply because the moderate mainstream left is apathetic to Israel, and the far-left is anti-Israel, leading to the general stance being somewhere in between apathy and hate.
Additionally, their embrace of people like Linda Sarsour is problematic in its own right, their blind intersectionality leading to embracing problematic movements who have nothing to do with their cause and are based in lies, such as Black Lives Matters embracing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
The bigger issue the left is going to face is legislature. Most truly pro-Israel left-leaning politicians, like Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez are part of the old guard. But they won’t be in office forever. Not many of the up-and-comers on the left are very pro-Israel insofar as they are reluctant to come out and support pro-Israel bills in the same way Schumer does. This is incredibly problematic because Congress will naturally shift parties back and forth as time goes on. One party will never hold the White House forever and if we stop producing pro-Israel elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, eventually we will reach a point where a true anti-Israel individual gets into the White House, which would be catastrophic.
A considerable amount of the blame for this lies with much of the mindset of current pro-Israel organizations, They are often focused only on the grass-tops while neglecting the grassroots. Organizations which focus on college students, the grassroots, focus on students who are already pro-Israel and not students who are on the fence or do not understand or are misguided about the conflict.
They are very anti-confrontational, but confrontation is needed on college campuses now. We need to confront the opposition, which is how we start reversing this trend and, just as important, we need to have a new push to focus on the grassroots.
We need to face misconceptions of Israel head on. Instead of programs on college campuses highlighting Israel as just “The Tech Center” or “A Hub of LGBT rights,” we need programs titled something along the lines of “Israel 101: Why the BDS Movement is Lying About Israel.”
We need to teach the fundamentals about the conflict or this downward, disturbing trend will continue and the Democratic pro-Israel movement will perish.