The news yesterday that so-called “moderates” Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg will not be attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference next week makes clear that there is not one pro-Israel candidate among the Democratic presidential contenders.
Only former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg will attend, and he is a former Republican — one who barely manages lukewarm defenses of Israel.
How did we get here?
The self-serving narrative of the left is that Israel rejected the Democratic Party when it elected, and re-elected, Benjamin Netanyahu — whom Bernie Sanders called a “reactionary racist” onstage at the Democrat debate Tuesday night. (The audience applauded.)
Netanyahu also committed the cardinal sin of publicly rebuking President Barack Obama in 2015 over the Iran deal, in a speech to Congress many Democrats boycotted.
The reality is that the Democratic Party has been drifting in an anti-Israel direction for decades.
The roots of the shift began on the academic left, when the Palestinian cause was embraced by “post-colonial” intellectuals in the 1970s.
The first intifada in the late 1980s provoked self-searching among Israelis and supporters of Israel in the U.S. The Oslo Peace Process provided a safe haven in the 1990s: one could support Israel and Palestinians as well.
But the far-left rejected Oslo, and rejoiced when it fell apart. A new anti-Israel activism emerged in 2000-1, and declared Israel to be the new apartheid South Africa. That movement was marginalized somewhat after Sep. 11, 2001, which placed Palestinian terror in a frightening context.
But anti-Israel extremism was refreshed by protest against the Iraq War, some of which took on antisemitic tones, alleging a Jewish “neoconservative” conspiracy.
The publication of the book The Israel Lobby in 2007 gave an intellectual veneer to the new anti-Israel extremism. And some Democrats, fueled by the anti-war movement, began to consider Israel a political enemy. George Soros called for a new lobby group in Washington, one that would break apart AIPAC’s monopoly.
AIPAC simply asserted that a strong U.S. – Israel alliance was in the best interests of both. J Street was created to argue the opposite in the age of Obama.
Barack Obama came from radical left-wing roots and enjoyed close relations with pro-Palestinian radicals. He presented himself as pro-Israel, speaking at AIPAC’s policy conference in 2008 — the one today’s Democrats are skipping — and promising to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
But in office, he created “distance” with Israel, ultimately throwing Israel under the bus in his effort to appease the nuclear-bound Iranian regime.
Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iran deal was both necessary and inevitable. But Democrats could not bear to see their embattled president called out, even if they knew Netanyahu was right. They longed to see Bibi ousted from office. He survived, confirming that ordinary Israelis — even on the left — supported his stance against Obama’s policy. Meanwhile, J Street grew in influence among Democrats, even as it opposed Israel’s defensive wars.
After 2016, Democrats wanted Donald Trump to be an antisemitic caricature. Instead, he has been the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman.
Democrats hate Trump so much that they have reacted to his embrace of Israel — the Jerusalem embassy, the Golan Heights, the peace plan — by hating Israel. New voices — including much of the growing American Muslim community — have rewarded Democrats for their about-face.
Now it is complete.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.