Friday, June 4, 2021

How to Think Straight About What's Going On in the Middle East

Peter Juul at The Liberal Patriot is not convinced that thinking on on the left about Israel-Palestine has really improved much in last period, despite the alleged "sea change" in attitudes that is taking place. He explains:
"Last month’s outbreak of unrest and fighting in Israel, Jerusalem, and Gaza revived Washington’s perennial policy focus on the Middle East – though this time with a twist. If a critical mass of foreign policy observers and analysts are to be believed, we’ve witnessed a sea-change in the politics and policy surrounding the decades-old conflict. Loud voices on the so-called progressive left now command the political debate, while the Biden administration has shifted to a so-called “rights-based” approach to the conflict – or at least so we’re told.
But Democrats should not allow a small but extremely vocal faction to define the party or its policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the same way they effectively allowed a tiny group of “defund the police” activists to define their position toward police reform and public safety in the summer of 2020. Public figures ranging from former President Barack Obama and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to data analysts like David Shor and our very own Ruy Teixeira have noted, the association of the Democratic Party with this extreme position likely cost it votes and House seats in the November 2020 election. What’s more, evidence indicates that violence and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin depressed Biden’s vote share in the municipality and its environs in comparison with other demographically similar communities in the state.
It’s unlikely that association with extreme rhetoric on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will directly produce the same adverse political results for Democrats. After all, most Americans see jobs, immigration, climate change, and relations with allies as their top foreign policy priorities – not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the promotion of democratic rights and freedoms. A Democratic shift toward the self-proclaimed progressive activist position on Israel and the Palestinians would likely result in a net loss of votes, with gains in areas that already overwhelmingly support Democrats (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district, for instance) offset by losses in places that Democrats hold by the thinnest of margins (think previously Republican suburban districts that went for Biden). It’d mirror Democrats’ wider electoral problem of racking up votes where they’re not needed and bleeding them where they’re vital.
The indirect costs of an association with extreme progressive rhetoric on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would likely prove high, however. As with defunding the police, it would leave voters with the impression that allegedly progressive extremists call the shots in the Democratic Party – justified or not....
Democrats and the center-left more broadly need to stay in touch with political and policy reality when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Americans – Democrats included – view Israel positively, and most Democrats support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Moreover, both advocates of a “rights-based” policy paradigm and so-called progressives have fatal blindspots as to how both Israelis and Palestinians could move their politics in more productive and truly progressive directions.
There’s every reason for the U.S. government and its political leaders to be critical of Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. But there’s no political or policy reason Democrats or the wider center-left should retreat from their principled commitment to a negotiated two-state outcome that secures basic rights, dignity, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike."
Real the whole article at The Liberal Patriot!

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