There has been a trend among some pro-Israel people and others to depict the U.S. Democratic party as having fallen prey to a far-left agenda, a wolf of extremism seeking to reinvent the social fabric of the country in the sheep’s clothing of “progressive” values.
There are indeed some voices in the Democratic party that press the party to views that are less mainstream – as there are in the Republican party. There is no Democratic equivalent to the radical Republican misanthropes like Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who have plumbed the depths of dark web conspiracies. Yet members of the so-called “Squad,” a group of Democrats, have taken positions on Israel and Palestine that reject the traditional bilateral American support for Israel’s security. This was never starker than during the recent vote to fund Israel’s Iron Dome defensive anti-missile shield. Members of the Squad, and a handful of other members of Congress, held up a vote on a massive budget bill until American support for Israel’s defence was removed.
The capitulation by senior Democrats was condemned by many, but the victory of the anti-Israel voices was short-lived. The next day, the House voted by a 420-9 landslide to provide the very funds that had been excised from the bigger bill the day before. The numbers could not be clearer. American leaders remain overwhelmingly committed to the bilateral relationship and to Israel’s defence.
The Iron Dome was depicted by some of the dissenting members of Congress as a tool of Israeli oppression. It is, however, a defensive technological wonder whose sole purpose is to save lives. Opposing American support for the program based on economic concerns could be justifiable – a billion dollars is no small change. But those who voted against it have given no indication of thriftiness. Interested in raising taxes on the wealthiest and spending more on domestic programs, as well as passing the Build Back Better Act, which would increase spending on social programs and infrastructure, lower spending does not seem to be a defining motivation for these congresspeople. President Joe Biden has already said he will approve the funding.
We see plenty of Republicans condemning the more extreme members of the Democratic caucus. And we see Democrats condemning the members of the opposition that the late senator John McCain memorably dubbed “whackadoodles.” But perhaps we should all be looking in our own backyards to get our own houses in order.
Speaking of which, Canada is not immune to offside officials. Jenica Atwin was a Green MP who accused Israel of apartheid before huffing across the floor from the Green party to the governing Liberals, where she was quickly forced to retract her earlier comments. The People’s Party of Canada, while not gaining a seat in the recent election, nevertheless significantly expanded their support base across the country, while advancing intolerant, often conspiratorial ideas. Still, Canadian extremists look like small potatoes next to the American examples.
When winning at any cost becomes seen as crucial – because the other side has been demonized to such a degree that their victory is seen as an existential threat – it is easier to accept the unacceptable if it comes from “our” side and to condemn it with self-righteous indignation when it appears on the other side.
Partisanship is too often preventing us from doing the right thing. This behaviour is self-defeating, put mildly. Ignoring inherent malevolence for immediate gain is a recipe for long-term failure, not only for a party’s political fortunes but, far more gravely, for our democratic, pluralistic society as a whole.