In recent days, there has been a lot of talk about the Democratic Party’s alleged shift in stance on Israel. And reports have emerged claiming that two opposing positions in the extreme are the so-called real position of the Democrats – one part claiming that Israel should no longer receive US security aid and another suggesting full support and unreservedly from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not no matter how extreme his policies have become. Let me be clear: these oversimplified accounts couldn’t be further from the truth.
Extreme positions on all sides of the political spectrum will always receive more coverage. But the vast majority of Democrats are thoughtful and considerate, and recognize the nuances in a conflict overshadowed by centuries of complexity, suffering and pain, and always have been. We know that the only solution is where Jews and Palestinians have the right to self-determination and security. We support the humanity of both parties to the conflict as well as small democratic values. And we resolutely oppose attacks on Israel’s right to exist. Truly, this moment reflects an exit from the silent majority of American Jews whose values are both liberal and pro-Israel, as a recent study by Pew indicates.
As the longest-serving Jewish member of the House of Representatives, a long-time leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a member of the House that represents the largest and most diverse Jewish population, I know this issue better than most. other. The Democratic Party, of course, welcomes vigorous debate. However, the conversations I have had with a wide range of members of my party, including many of the 25 Jewish Democrats in the House as well as a number of progressives, reflect a reality that the headlines do not capture. : on Israel, there is a broad general consensus around a number of fundamental principles.
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We start from the conviction that the Jewish and Palestinian peoples each have the right to self-determination and the right to live in peace and security. We unequivocally condemn the acts of terrorism by Hamas, which have killed both Israeli and Palestinian civilians and caused so much havoc. We support Israel’s obligation to protect its citizens, are sorry that the Israeli airstrikes killed many innocent Palestinians, and we suffer the suffering they endured in this protracted conflict. We reject the hatred and extremism on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that precipitated so much violence. And as I and a group of Jewish members were writing in a letter to President Biden on May 14, we supported a ceasefire and encouraged the Biden administration to facilitate the bold diplomatic engagement necessary to achieve peace.
We do not leave our values at the American border; We despise Mr. Netanyahu’s vile and hateful rhetoric and are horrified by his efforts to align with Donald Trump and an openly racist and Kahanist political party in his own country. We do not blame an entire country – nor reject its very basis of existence – for the cruelties of the government that runs it. It would have been patently wrong to castigate all Americans for the injustices perpetrated by the Trump administration; to blame all Israelis for the transgressions of the Netanyahu coalition is nothing short of hypocrisy.
Friends are honest with each other. Israel has long been one of America’s greatest friends and allies. Its democratic standards and stability have resulted in a strategic partnership spanning decades. With common strategic goals in the Middle East, America is safer when Israel is safer. But when those standards seemingly erode – for which the fault must be blamed on Israeli right-wing extremists – we have a duty to demand that this vital ally honor the values it stands for. Democrats will always support this crucial friendship with Israel, but neither will we hesitate to speak up – as our friends do – when we have to. And with one voice, we will not tolerate a Republican Party that arms Israel for the purposes of division and partisan gain and in so doing endangers the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
The elected Democrats must boldly name our common agreement – that we support liberal and democratic values as well as self-determination and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. This is a true representation of the point of view of the majority of our party. The elected officials of this Democratic mainstream may have slightly different ways of expressing this nuanced worldview, and that is to be expected. But we must strongly reject politicized attempts to portray Democrats as occupying extreme views. Republican efforts to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into political football are causing serious damage to Israelis and Palestinians.
Responsibility does not rest solely with elected leaders; Jewish Democrats and those who care about these issues across the country need to make their voices heard to mark this space with both their political rhetoric and their proposed policy recommendations. We can simultaneously reject the transgressions of Mr. Netanyahu’s government, validate Palestinian suffering and support their right to self-government, while opposing efforts to challenge Israel’s right to exist. These core values are who we are and what we stand for. This is the standard we held our own country to during the Trump presidency – and must be our standard for the region now.
Jerrold L. Nadler is a member of Congress from New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.