Is the Democrats’ taboo on calling out Israel finally breaking? For decades, Democratic Party leaders have embraced Israel as an ally that could do no wrong, and have marched in lockstep with Washington DC ‘s Israel lobby, AIPAC. But is the Democrats’ love affair with Israel coming to an end? For many years, even Democrats who were privately critical of Israeli policies deemed it too politically risky to make those views public. But then, in 2016, this happened: If we are ever going to bring peace… we are gonna have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. The fact that an American presidential candidate — who also happened to be Jewish — demanded on national TV that Palestinians be treated with respect and dignity, and then received an applause was extraordinary to witness. It meant a lot, for a lot of reasons, actually. Bernie Sanders was interesting not only because he was one of the few major Democratic candidates for president who was critical of Israeli policy, but the interesting thing is that he actually found that people liked what he said. Bernie’s statement about Palestinian rights broke the U.S. political convention of discussing Palestinians only through the lens of Israel and Israeli security. It’s true that most Americans do care about Israel’s security. I think they don’t buy the argument that this is what’s going on here. Because they see the occupation that’s been there since 1967 unending. They know a lot of the humiliation that takes place is totally unrelated to security. So I think in the end, people see this not so much as an anti-Israel stand, they see it as a global human rights, international law democracy stand. But Bernie’s statement didn’t come out of nowhere. Believe it or not Barack Obama gets some credit for acknowledging the Palestinian struggle. In 2009, he spoke about the hardships that Palestinians face: the displacement, the oppression, the pain and the humiliation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza in neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations large and small, that come with occupation. He also directly linked the Palestinian plight with Israel’s creation. It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Obama’s speech was seen as sympathetic to Palestinians. And according to the New York Times, it upset some Israelis and American supporters of Israel because “they saw the speech as elevating the Palestinians to equal status.” But it’s years of advocacy work by progressive groups have helped push the narrative of Palestinian rights to be included in the Israel-Palestine debate. And intersectionality has played a vital role in this. Black activists, media personalities and members of the Black Lives Matter movement have shown up for the Palestinians, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation. I think there’s been a huge increase in actually just seeing the connections between struggle between people of color in the U.S. and poor people, and people of color all around the world. We came here to Palestine to stand in love and revolutionary struggle with our brothers and sisters. When I went to Palestine, obviously I saw many, many connections between what was happening to Palestinian people and what’s happening to Black people in the U.S. Looking at a place like Gaza in particular, like many of the horribly oppressive practices are then shipped and used. Police departments in the U.S. and here in Florida, and the Miami police department have gone to get trained by the IDF several times. And so we’re seeing an evolution of our policing system that actually really mirrors what has happened in Palestine. And Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and abroad, have in return vocalized support for Black civil rights. You know, Ferguson protesters who were protesting the murder of Michael Brown, when they were met with this huge attack from the Ferguson Police Department and the spraying of tear gas… I think it was like Palestinian activist Mariam Barghouti who was actually like, here’s how you protect yourself from the tear gas. In 2015, the Black-Palestinian Solidarity campaign released a video that showed the similar challenges facing both communities. Capitalism, white supremacy, Zionism, imperialism – all of these systems actually thrive when we’re isolated from one another. So, when I don’t see my struggle as connected to other people, I internalize those systems and think, oh my problems are my problems my community’s problems are my community’s problems. But when we’re actually able to draw connections, it really reveals that no, there are larger systems. These are not my problems, these are not my community’s problems. This is actually oppression. I think solidarity on a fundamental level actually allows us to see the broader system that we’re fighting against. We might not be experiencing the exact same struggles, but we’re definitely up against the same oppressor. And there’s also been more American progressive Jews who see Israel’s oppression of Palestinians as contradictory to Jewish values. It’s no longer the case that Jewish communities can expect young Jews and a future generation [of Jews] to be in lockstep and refuse to critique Israeli policy and refuse to stand for Palestinian freedom. In fact, a report by the Anti-Defamation League and an Israeli think tank identified intersectionality as “an emerging challenge” to the “pro-Israel network.” After I went to Palestine and we came back, we were working on a policy platform for the movement for Black Lives and it was like, how can we not include the struggles of what’s happening to Palestinian people? We got a lot of backlash for that choice, which I think is again, a sign of how scared they are of the potential of solidarity, how scared they are to lose bases of support in the U.S. Viewing the issue as a matter of equality and human rights for Palestinians is increasingly popular among the new wave of Democrats that have entered Congress. We have now, for the first time, these elected officials in DC who are willing to say the hard truth even though it comes at a great risk to them. One of the most important ways that these new elected officials are challenging the Democratic establishment’s traditional stance with Israel is that they’re refusing to play by their rules, right? They’re supporting BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. They’re supporting Palestinian human rights. and they’re calling out groups like AIPAC. That also reflects the trend among Democratic Party voters. A 2018 study showed that self-identified liberal Democrats are more likely to side with Palestinians than Israelis, compared to moderate and conservative Democrats, who generally still side with Israel. You know, I think for far too long Palestinians have really been dehumanized in the American discourse. And in the past number of years, the realities and the root causes of Palestinian dispossession are coming to light. And this shift away from unwavering support of Israel might be worrying establishment Democrats. If the Democratic establishment is not worried, they should be. Because the polls show the rapid increase of young Americans critical of Israel and in support of Palestinian human rights – both Jewish and not Jewish. A few prominent and veteran Democrats have actually started a new group with the aim of supporting candidates in 2020 who are vocally pro-Israel. In fact, the group’s president told the New York Times that “There are a few discordant voices, but we want to make sure that what’s a very small problem doesn’t metastasize into a bigger problem.” Polls show a long-term trend that counts against the establishment: Support and sympathy for Israel is declining among younger voters and people of color. One survey showed that younger Americans were less likely to see Israel as an “ally,” and the same goes for women and Black and Hispanic Americans. And yes, the divide between Democrats and Republicans on Israel is also widening. In fact, the partisan divide on that issue is now wider than at any point since 1978. Republican support for Israel is also fueled by the Christian right. According to a Pew Research survey, self-identified Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than Palestinians has incresed from 50% to 79% since 2001. Over the same period, Democrats sympathizing for Israel declined from 38% to 27%. The Democratic base is demanding that kind of integrity from their politicians and they know that there’s no way to talk about human rights, or talk about racial justice, if you are silent about the issue of justice for Palestinians. And so, the Democratic base is changing and are electing people and demanding that their elected officials reflect their values. The shifting gratitudes in the Democratic Party towards Israel means that there’s someone else that’s probably getting a bit uneasy. AIPAC. According to Center for Responsive Politics, AIPAC spent $3.5 million in 2018 on lobbying, essentially helping maintain a pro-Israel Congress. Clearly they are influential. Now, has this disruptive change that has taken place in the rules of the game affect them? Of course it has. Some Democrats remain very much in Israel’s corner. They speak in support of Israel and attend AIPAC conferences. Oh, and occasionally say things like this: The view of Palestinians is simple. “Well, the Europeans treated the Jews badly, culminating in the Holocaust, and they gave them our land as compensation.” Of course we say it’s our land the Torah says it. But they don’t believe in the Torah. So, that’s the reason there is not peace. But as the Democratic Party attempts to put on a united front when it comes to the subject of Israel, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that even within the establishment, there are undercurrents of discontentment with Israel. And Netanyahu plays a big role in that. A lot of Democrats have also witnessed that this Israeli government, the current Israeli government, has been led by Prime Minister Netanyahu who most Democrats don’t like, not only because they don’t like the values that he projects and the policies that he undertakes on Israel-Palestine, but also because they see him as taking a position in American politics much more sympathetic to the Republican Party. Back in 2015, he annoyed Democrats by going over the administration’s head to appeal directly to Congress to oppose President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal. And Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters along the fence in Gaza also attracted criticism. With the party’s progressive wing demanding that the Democrats end their silence on Palestinian human rights but the establishment dragging its heels… what does that mean for the Democratic Party? For whatever reason, a lot of young Democrats have latched onto this issue as kind of a litmus test for whether or not a Democratic candidate is genuinely in harmony with the on their values, and it’s likely to put a lot of pressure on political candidates as we move forward.