Few things in American politics are bipartisan, but over the years support for the state of Israel has remained one of them.
However, there has been a growing split in the Democratic party over how much support the U.S. should lend to the Jewish state, if any at all. While the vast majority of Democrats still nominally support Israel, there are now members of Congress that support the movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) the Jewish state, a movement connected to radical Islamists, and one that has repeatedly drawn parallels to the Nazi movement to boycott Jewish businesses ahead of the Holocaust. (RELATED: Inside The Ties Between Anti-Israel BDS Groups And Palestinian Terror Orgs)
Last week, the House overwhelmingly voted to condemn the boycott, with just 16 Democrats voting no. Among them were freshman Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, three of the four members of the Squad.
“These are not your typical House Democrats,” Republican Jewish Coalition spokesman Neil Strauss told the Daily Caller. “They have a big microphone”
The fourth member of The Squad, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, surprised many by voting for the resolution, but her explanation was clearly meant to be conciliatory towards the anti-Israel segment of her base, and stated her firm opposition to a more stringent anti-BDS bill that previously passed the Republican-controlled senate with 77 votes.
“There are a lot of anti-BDS bills out there that infringe on 1st amendment rights at the state and federal level. In my view, HRes 246 wasn’t one of them,” Pressley said on her Twitter account. “If S.1 were to come to the House floor, I would vote NO. We can call out and question the tactics of a movement but we should never question or marginalize the lived experiences and voices of those who call out for civil rights & liberties, including the Palestinian people.”
“Almost every Republican would vote for it and you’d get enough Democrat votes for it to pass,” Strauss said.
Tensions over Israel within the party boiled over during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, when the delegates appeared to overwhelmingly exclaim displeasure over a proposal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something President Barack Obama had publicly supported. Despite outrage from delegates, the party adopted the measure, claiming that they had two-thirds support on a voice vote that looked like it should have gone the other way.
“This goes beyond just three or four members of the freshman class,” Strauss continued. “This is where the grassroots is.”
As the debate over Israel intensifies, pro-Israel Democrats increasingly find themselves toeing a difficult line, juggling loyalty to their party and loyalty to one of America’s most important geopolitical allies. (RELATED: Donald Trump Jr. Calls Anti-Israel Sentiment Among Democrats ‘Deeply Troubling’)
This balancing act was on full display last week when Democratic Illinois Rep. Brad Schneider appeared on CNN and said that while the BDS movement was anti-Semitic, he was not willing to call out his pro-BDS colleagues as anti-Semites.
“I’m not going to subscribe [anti-Semitism] to the supporters, but the movement itself — its intent, its goals — are anti-Semitic in intent,” Schneider said at the time.
Schneider’s comments and the continued trepidation of House leadership on the issue has become a major part of the Republican Party’s messaging heading into the 2020 election cycle. President Donald Trump recently ripped members of the Squad, accusing the freshman congresswoman, and making Israel a centerpiece of his attacks. (RELATED: Lindsey Graham Defends Trump, Calls Ocasio-Cortez And Co. ‘A Bunch Of Communists’)
“I think we’ve seen Democrats unable or unwilling to protect Israel,” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) press secretary Michael McAdams told the Daily Caller.
McAdams says that moderate House Democrats haven’t been able to distance themselves from the BDS-supporters such as Omar, who recently introduced a resolution offering support for the movement.
“They’re absolutely failing,” McAdams said. “The Democratic caucus is afraid to upset their far-left base on anti-Semitism.”
Because of her strident anti-Israel positions, Republicans have called for Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but zero Democrats have joined in on that call. Even her staunchest critics within the party have refused to take that step.
“They are being hypocritical on the issue,” McAdams said of Democrats. “Its one thing to put out tepid words against her, it’s another thing to call for actions against her.”
“There’s no place for anti-Semitism in the United States,” McAdams concluded.
A seemingly simple message, but one that has been obfuscated in an evolving Democratic Party.