Since the presidency of Jimmy Carter, writes Ronald Radosh, the Democratic party’s relationship with the Jewish state has been a troubled one. Even if a general pro-Israel consensus continues to dominate the party mainstream, the influence of anti-Israel progressives appears to be growing steadily. This was in evidence last week, when Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib introduced a resolution calling on the federal government to “commemorate” the creation of Israel as a “catastrophe.” It was also in evidence a few days later, when Tlaib’s fellow “Squad” member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a/k/a AOC) claimed that Israel had killed a journalist, and should therefore be denied American aid. But, as Radosh notes, there is also the contrary example of Ritchie Torres:
Torres, the young congressman from the Bronx, who seems to check every box in the progressive identity [roster]: gay, black, Hispanic, born to a single mother, raised in a housing project. Yet Torres has distinguished himself as an outspoken defender of Israel. (He likes to joke that the reason he’s pro-Israel is that he dropped out of college.) In a series of recent tweets, Torres wrote that the Abraham Accords “created a path to peace that fundamentally altered the Middle East, while the BDS movement offers no positive change for Israelis or Palestinians.”
The case of Torres, who is firmly a member of the party’s progressive wing, leads Radosh to address a crucial question:
What then, can be done to turn this around—to encourage more of the politics of Ritchie Torres, and less of AOC’s?
First, it’s essential to break the mental and rhetorical grip of “intersectionality” as it now applies to Israel—the idea that if one is against the oppression of black people in America, one must also be anti-Israel.
Second, pro-Israel Democrats must fight the accusation that they are using “dark money” from reactionary (or Republican) sources. In her concession speech, Nina Turner, [who recently lost a Democratic congressional primary in Ohio to the more moderate Shontel Brown], said, “We didn’t lose this race, evil money manipulated and maligned the election.” The charge is itself reminiscent of the infamous statement made by Representative Ilhan Omar that American support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins”—that is, Jewish money.