Alarmed by the rise of anti-Israel progressives within their party, a group of prominent pro-Israel Democrats founded the Democratic Majority for Israel, seeking to maintain their party’s longstanding support for the Jewish state.
“Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel, and we want to keep it that way,” said Mark Mellman, the group’s president in an interview with The New York Times. “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.”
With its vigorous social media presence that results in a national wellspring of campaign donations, progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were able to defeat incumbents to secure seats in Congress. The old adage of politics being a local matter isn’t true when Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib serve as figureheads for Muslims and political progressives across the country, rather than simply their respective corners of Minnesota and Michigan.
Having amassed political capital by enlisting new young voters for the party, they have been rewarded with key committee positions and are poised to support other progressive insurgents seeking to topple more moderate incumbents. No surprise then that Rep. Hakeem Jeffries defends them as “thoughtful colleagues,” and Rep. Steny Hoyer ponders, “I don’t know that I draw the conclusion that these two members are anti-Semitic.” They fear a primary challenge from the Left and speak in a collegial tone while the emboldened leftists make no such concessions.
The Democratic Majority for Israel’s strategy of bolstering pro-Israel incumbents is important, but it should also go on the offensive. In a solidly Democratic district, it is a brachah l’vatalah to vote for a Republican. In last year’s general election, Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican opponent received only 14 percent of the vote, and Rashida Tlaib did not have a Republican to challenge her. This is why I follow the p’sak of my political mentor Manny Behar that Orthodox Jews in urban areas should enroll as Democrats and vote to keep the party in the political center.
As most of the anti-Israel lawmakers represent districts with few Jewish constituents, the best strategy for unseating them is to recruit candidates who share their backgrounds and most of their political views. Ocasio-Cortez can be defeated with a challenger who is also Hispanic, politically progressive, and at the same time more outspoken on democracy for Venezuela, and supportive of Israel. This candidate must have the combination of local name recognition and financial backing from pro-Israel Democrats from across the country.
Here in Queens we have Democratic pro-Israel voices with a consistent record of support for Israel while maintaining otherwise solid progressive credentials on matters of labor, healthcare, immigration, and criminal justice. I was troubled by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic’s January 30 tweet response to the prospect of Ocasio-Cortez facing a primary. “This is exactly what people do to undercut new voices, especially those of young women. Trust me, I know. @AOC changed the game, keep up,” she wrote. Rozic won her seat in 2012 in a tight primary against an older opponent backed by party leaders.
Having won her seat through a hard-fought primary, Ocasio-Cortez looks forward to such a challenge. “We believe in primaries as an idea. We’re not upset by the idea of being primaried,” said her campaign spokesman Corbin Trent in an interview with The Hill.
“If voters in the district feel that they can be better represented, that will be their choice on primary day.”
The game has indeed changed. No incumbent feels safe, and every race has national and international ramifications. It took the leftists a generation to change the party from within. It may take as long to steer it back towards the political center. This fight will determine the future of the US-Israel relationship. The danger of losing Democratic support for Israel cannot be overstated.
To learn more about this cause, its events, campaigns, and to donate, visit www.demmajorityforisrael.org.
By Sergey Kadinsky