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The Last Thing We Want To Do In A Democratic Rift Is Throw The Election To Trump & Republicans


Netanyahu's Revenge-- Confucius: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig 2 graves"

An old friend from Florida came to visit over the weekend. He’s some kind Jews-for-Christ Zionist or something like that and he has completely, utterly, terrifyingly dehumanized Palestinians in his mind. If Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir had a baby… it would be my friend. Without saying a word, we both agreed to not mention Israel, Palestine, Gaza, genocide, Hamas… and we didn’t and had a perfectly pleasant reunion. It doesn’t always work out so comfortably with people. 


Recently, I was part of a team interviewing a congressional candidate who’s running in a very Jewish district. If you don’t have the support of the big rabbis there, there’s no point in even running. I asked him a tax-related question and didn’t have Israel in my mind. I tend to try to give candidates a pass on one issue whose importance is crucial to their district. I had hardly gotten the question out when he attacked me for ruining the progressive movement by advocating for a ceasefire. And, as far as I know, he wasn’t even Jewish. “That was some pivot!” another member of the team said to me later in the day. 


Remember when I mentioned a couple of minutes ago how my friend from Florida has constructed in his mind a dehumanized Palestinian people? I’m afraid he isn’t the only one. It’s kind of the oppose of empathy and understanding and dehumanization of the enemy is unfortunately a common phenomenon in wartime, and it has been observed throughout history in various conflicts around the world. Throughout ancient history, societies often dehumanized their enemies as a means of justifying conquest, colonization, slavery and warfare. For example, ancient Greek and Roman writers frequently depicted their adversaries as barbaric, uncivilized “others” in order to justify— morally, psychologically, politically, even economically— their own military campaigns. During the medieval period, religious conflicts such as the Crusades saw the dehumanization of Muslims and other religious groups, through religiously charged rhetoric and propaganda.


The colonial era in the Americas, Asia and Africa witnessed extensive dehumanization of indigenous peoples by Europeans seeking to justify their expansion and exploitation. Indigenous people were portrayed as primitive, savage, and subhuman, which served to legitimize their subjugation and mistreatment. It’s almost the opposite of anthropomorphism. While dehumanization involves stripping humans of their humanity by portraying them as less than human, anthropomorphism involves attributing human-like qualities to non-human entities, such as animals or objects. It's a way of projecting human characteristics onto other beings to make them more relatable or understandable to us. So, while dehumanization seeks to distance us from others, anthropomorphism bridges that gap by imagining similarities between humans and non-human entities. My friend in Florida has just put down a 16 year old pet cat who he described to me as though it were a fully human member of the family, nothing at all the way he has spoken to me about Palestinians in the past.


In more recent history, both World Wars saw widespread dehumanization of enemy combatants through propaganda, caricatures, and stereotypes. For example, during World War II, the Nazis depicted Jews, Slavs, and other targeted groups as vermin and subhumans in order to justify their genocide and atrocities.


I recall how during the Vietnam War, American soldiers would routinely dehumanize the Vietnamese people through racist language (“gooks”) and derogatory stereotypes, which contributed to a dehumanizing and brutalizing environment. I was so flipped out by the Mai Lai massacre in 1968, when I was in college, that I decided I couldn’t live in America any longer. American soldiers from Charlie Company slaughtered hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. There as everywhere and at all times, dehumanization contributed to justifying violence, fostering in-group cohesion while minimizing empathy towards the perceived enemy. The dehumanization process itself makes it easier for people to justify violence, aggression, and atrocities, even the kind of genocide and ethnic cleansing that’s going on in Gaza right now.


A few days ago, Ross Barkan wrote how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict  is driving a wedge between Democrats and causing splits in the party itself. “Since Hamas killed around 1,200 people and took about 240 hostages, and Israel retaliated by shelling Gaza, leaving more than 26,000 dead,” wrote Barkan, “there has been a sense within the Democratic Party of a divide that cannot be bridged, an eruption of ill feeling that will not dissipate. In this disunity, there are echoes of the late 1960s, when widespread rancor over the escalation of the Vietnam War doomed Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and fueled Richard Nixon’s ascent. Mass marches and demonstrations have rocked large cities and college campuses, as young left-wing Americans furiously denounce the Biden administration for continuing to back Israel, calling the president Genocide Joe. Activists have marched on or occupied many landmarks of note: the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, the Brooklyn Bridge. And they have targeted, with growing furor, the decidedly nonlandmarked. In December, protesters blocked intersections near Los Angeles International Airport and roads to John F. Kennedy International Airport. Protesters marched past Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan in January, hurling accusations at the medical institution of abetting genocide because Kenneth Griffin, a billionaire strongly supportive of Israel and Republican candidates, had donated, along with David Geffen, $400 million to the center. That same month, protesters chanting for a cease-fire disrupted a speech Biden was delivering at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., where a white supremacist gunman killed nine worshipers in 2015.”



After the enormous George Floyd protests that swept across cities in the pandemic summer of 2020, the fervor around social-justice issues gradually waned. It has since surged back. To follow a pro-Palestinian march through the streets of a large city is to see 2020 reborn, with Black Lives Matter swapped for Free Palestine. But the moment, for now at least, offers several stark differences. In 2020, the racial reckoning was backed by powerful politicians and elite institutions. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and other Democratic members of Congress, put on Kente cloth and took a knee on the floor of the Capitol. Corporate America rushed to publish statements on social justice, race and policing. College administrators engineered new diversity initiatives. But as Israel’s war in Gaza grinds on, Amazon and Nike are not issuing statements in support of Palestinian civilians. No Senate and House leaders are wearing kaffiyehs. Universities, after facing intense criticism for allowing pro-Palestinian protests that some perceived as targeting Jews, have since course-corrected, issuing condemnations of antisemitism and in some cases banning anti-Zionist activist groups.
All of this has turned the conflict into a wedge issue with the potential to splinter the Democratic Party. For pro-Palestinian progressives, the electoral moment offers both promise and peril: Younger voters take an increasingly dim view of Israel, and polls show that support for a cease-fire has ticked upward among the general public. Yet Americans are not disavowing Israel. A record number, 24 percent according to one recent Gallup survey, say that the United States is not doing enough to support Israel. It remains unclear whether the pro-Palestinian movement can achieve its aims: either by changing enough minds in the political establishment or by damaging the standing of those firmly opposed to rebuking the Israeli government.
Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, an erstwhile progressive who has been an unabashed defender of Israel’s conduct in the war, has faced ongoing protests at his state offices, even though he hasn’t experienced a backlash from Pennsylvania voters, according to polling. Other liberal Democrats have found themselves targeted, too. “Blood on Ur Hands” and “Let Gaza Live” were scrawled on Representative Dan Goldman’s Brooklyn office after he refused to call for a cease-fire. Kevin Mullin, a first-term Democrat from the Bay Area, who has also declined to call for a cease-fire, was harangued, along with his wife and two small children, by protesters outside his home, including on Christmas.
Even in local governments, fractures have opened on the left. London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco, condemned a cease-fire resolution passed by the city’s board of supervisors, proclaiming that it “only inflamed division and hurt.” Debate over the resolution, spearheaded by a progressive Jewish member of the board, grew heated when another Democratic lawmaker was called a “liar” by attendees after he tried to insert a reference to Hamas’s use of sexual violence against Israeli women.
But it is Congress, and more specifically the House— where Republicans are desperate to hold onto their slim majority and Democrats are equally desperate to take the chamber back— that is at the heart of these political clashes… Some of the progressive Democrats known as the Squad could lose their re-election bids because of a large influx of pro-Israel cash as well as disaffected voters who believe that advocacy for Palestinians veers into antisemitism.
According to Politico, a businessman pledged $20 million to a Senate candidate if he would run instead against House member Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, who represents a district in Michigan comprising part of Detroit and nearby Dearborn, a heavily Arab American city. She has been the most vocal critic of Israel in the House and was formally censured this fall for remarks that included suggesting that the Hamas attacks were justified “resistance” to an “apartheid” government and for posting a video on social media that showed demonstrators chanting “from the river to the sea,” which some have likened to calling for the destruction of Israel. (Tlaib has maintained that her criticisms are of the Israeli government and that the phrase “river to the sea” can be heard as an “aspirational call for freedom” and “coexistence.”) Her allies— Cori Bush of Missouri, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Summer Lee of Pennsylvania and Jamaal Bowman of New York— are considered some of the most vulnerable lawmakers in the country. Omar barely survived a challenge from Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member, who announced in November that he would run against her this year in the Democratic primary.
Thanks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the great financial forces in American politics, and Democratic Majority for Israel, an influential advocacy group whose PAC has spent aggressively against progressives whom they view as anti-Israel, the cash advantage accrues disproportionately to the Israel hawks. AIPAC’s affiliated PACs, which back Democrats and Republicans alike, have received money from GOP megadonors like Paul Singer and Bernard Marcus and are expected to spend tens of millions against the Squad Democrats. Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, whose PAC exclusively backs Democrats, told me that the group plans to intervene as well.
“They’re disruptive and problematic,” says Mellman, referring to the Squad. “We don’t want that group to grow— and would like it to shrink.” He added, “We want to make it clear that it’s not just good politics to be pro-Israel, but it’s also smart politics.”

First time Houston congressional candidate Pervez Agwan is being targeted by AIPAC because he’s for a ceasefire and his opponent, Lizzie Fletcher opposes a ceasefire. Also because the right-wing money that flows into AIPAC is primarily anti-progressive money and doesn’t necessarily that all that much to do with Israel and Agwan is very progressive— in a very progressive district— and Fletcher is a corporate, right-of-center New Dem. This was, in part, a press release he sent to the district media yesterday:


“Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher and her MAGA extremist mega-donors are terrified of our grassroots movement to elect a champion for Palestinian human rights,” said Alex Inkiow, Pervez Agwan’s Campaign Manager. “Texas’ 7th District is excited about Pervez because he is the only candidate for Congress who is calling for an end to the war in Gaza through a permanent ceasefire. The momentum is on our side, so AIPAC and DMFI are mobilizing to try and stop us by pouring dark money into attacks against our campaign. Houston Democrats must not allow our primary to be hijacked by Republican billionaires who are trying to protect Benjamin Netanyahu and his war machine.”


Please consider helping the progressives who AIPAC and DMFI have targeted by contributing to their campaigns here. Barkan continued that for some activists  “every form of protest is justified because they believe that Israel is committing genocide. The American people must be shocked into awareness— and politicians, no matter their party or ideology, cannot be trusted.” As we saw yesterday, when activists' tactics get too aggressive— and especially violent— the general public, including sympathizers, are far more likely to turn against the movement than towards it— the activist dilemma.


Waleed Shahid, a prominent progressive Democratic strategist who helps promote pro-Palestinian messaging, has formulated his own protest principles. Powerful political figures, including Biden, are fair game, as are traffic disruptions. “I’m someone who tries to get the media to cover protests that are less disruptive than blocking a bridge, and often reporters ask me, ‘Are the protesters committing civil disobedience, getting arrested at this protest?’” he says, “and I’ll say, ‘No,’ and they won’t come because they want to cover something dramatic.”
Shahid was formerly a spokesman for Justice Democrats, a progressive group that helped elect Ocasio-Cortez. He stressed that no one should be targeted for simply being Jewish. “You should be targeting people with political power who have way more say,” he says. “I don’t think everything the left has done since Oct. 7 has been strategic.”
As the activist left boils, Democratic leadership, from Biden in the White House to Schumer in the Senate to Hakeem Jeffries in the House, remains resolutely behind Israel. And progressives besides Fetterman have also emerged as hawks.
Ritchie Torres [not in any way a progressive except in the mind of clueless media people], an openly gay Afro-Latino congressman from the Bronx who gladly tangles with Trump Republicans, has become [has always been] one of the most vocal opponents of elements on the left that are both anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. “I will do everything I can to resist the democratic-socialization of progressive politics in New York City or elsewhere in the United States,” he told me. “Those organizations represent a visible vocal minority on Twitter that is often mistaken for a majority.”
Torres, who is not Jewish, has said his belief in the Jewish state grew when he traveled to Israel as a member of the New York City Council [on an AIPAC-sponsored tour; he’s one of Congress’ top AIPAC whores]. He has a growing following in the national Jewish community and voted to censure Tlaib. He does not want to impose conditions on military aid to Israel and has advocated for a scorecard to rate each college and university on its commitment to combating campus antisemitism. His detractors note that he, like many backers of Israel, is a recipient of generous AIPAC donations.
As a result, Torres, like Fetterman, has become anathema in progressive circles [although his connection to the corrupt crypto world and Sam Bankman Fried also helped make him anathema]. But neither Democrat has softened his stance in the months since October. If anything, their support for Israel has hardened as they’ve broken more definitively with the activist left. This might not matter to the protesters, who are largely disdainful of the political system and want little to do with it— but such a position comes with measurable political costs.
In 2020 and 2021, centrists and conservatives assailed leftists for endorsing steep cuts to police departments that were unpopular with large swaths of the public. The Defund movement ran aground because many Americans want police departments to be sufficiently robust to catch criminals, solve crimes and deter violence. Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist who has written extensively and critically on the leftward drift of the Democratic Party, says that the Israel wedge issue is, for the moment at least, not as stark as Defund. Voters’ views tend to be multifarious and vary by age group. Pollsters have noted that differences of opinion depend as much on how questions are posed as they do on deeply held beliefs: Support for Israel might come with questions over the scale of the nation’s military campaign; sympathy for Palestinians doesn’t extend to an endorsement of Hamas’s attack.
Teixeira says that the activist class may be alienating the broader public with its confrontational tactics. “You have these idiots interrupting Biden’s speech at a church on a mass killing by chanting about Israel-Palestine,” he told me. “I think it makes perfect sense to these activists, but I think to normie voters, it looks completely idiotic and inappropriate.”
Some activist groups, like J Street, a Zionist advocacy organization that has fashioned itself as the liberal counter to AIPAC, are trying to find the balance between championing Palestinian rights and maintaining support for Israel. J Street has declined to back most members of the Squad in primaries this year. And in January, it rescinded its endorsement of Bowman not long after the Finkelstein incident. But it also wants American politicians to put pressure on Netanyahu to curb the excesses of his government. “As a pro-Israel advocate, it is really, really disturbing to see that the result of decades of Israeli policy that has refused to deal with the most critical problems the country faces has led to a point where it’s creating unnecessary enemies and adversaries for itself,” says Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street.
But political nuance is unlikely to save anyone from either the left’s fury or the deep pockets of AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel. Whether or not politicians align with the democratic socialists or hard-line activists, if Israel hawks see them as a threat, the attack ads will follow. Or so Andy Levin— a former Democratic congressman from Michigan who took his father’s seat and is a nephew of Senator Carl Levin— discovered. Before his election to Congress in 2018, Levin was the president of his synagogue. In Washington, he hoped to work toward the establishment of a Palestinian state that would also guarantee Israel as a Jewish haven. Levin labored for several years on the Two-State Solution Act, which would have recognized the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as occupied territories inconsistent with international law (a designation rejected at the time by the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo) and curtailed settlement expansion.
Liberal organizations applauded. His fellow Democrats were more wary. One, who was a co-sponsor, backed away once a competitive election loomed. “He came up to me on the floor,” Levin says, “and he said to me, ‘Andy, I have to get off the bill.’ He was very clear about it. It was just because of AIPAC, and he couldn’t deal with that.”
In 2022, the state’s new congressional district map meant that Levin found himself competing with a Democratic colleague, Haley Stevens, for his seat. AIPAC spent more than $4 million to boost Stevens, an avowed Israel hawk. Levin’s congressional career was over.
“My colleagues certainly took a lesson like: ‘Well, gosh, Andy Levin was such a pure soul. Too bad he got wiped out by AIPAC,’” he said. “It was not a subtle message.”
There’s an even greater danger, he went on, for the Democratic Party as a whole. Conservative forces could decide, he says, to pump enormous amounts of cash into primaries, distorting Democratic platforms. “When you think about it, there’s no difference between the right-wing-on-Israel group and any other group that is anathema to progressive politics coming in and saying, ‘Well, in each Democratic primary, we’ll pick the candidate more to our liking,’” Levin says.
And then there are the younger progressives, enraged by the death toll in Gaza, who are threatening to sit out the presidential election, Levin said. “A lot of young people, not just Arab Americans, not just Muslims, a lot of young people and young Jewish people are saying, in the words of the old labor song, Which side are you on?


6 Comments


Guest
Feb 15

This is a more difficult election than normal. They've all been about voting against the other guy. But this one is ... special.

You got trump and dobbs and insurrectionists (because the 14th is moot... evidently) and all the usual hatreds to vote against.

And you got a lifetime half moron feckless corrupt racist misogynist pussy... and a clearly diminished one at that along with his hapless worthless feckless corrupt neoliberal fascist pussy party... who TELLS you who to vote for.

But you also got his perpetual liplock with aipac and likud and bibi... you know, now that they're ACTIVELY slaughtering civilians.


And, of course, you got the fearmongering that if you fail to vote against the greater evil by…


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Guest
Feb 15
Replying to

no argument.

however, PARTY is what does stuff. As Bernie and AOC (and a few others) prove, a CANDIDATE does nothing.

biden promises to drive the wrong direction slowly, but the party hits the gas even if he says he didn't want to.

And, there's always the dynamic of the driver of said car allowing the nazis riding shotgun to step on the gas even more and also wrestle the wheel away... usually with no resistance.


but my question has always been... why do you always just blithely accept even driving in the WRONG direction... slowly or otherwise?

I do NOT accept that as the only alternative to nazis. The universe is NOT binary. There is more to the spectr…

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Guest
Feb 15

I can't vote for genocide and neither murderous codger is getting my vote. I will support the progressives, but I sure don't have $100m lying around. As for cowards who know better like van Hollen, I'm deciding.

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Biden is literally risking 237 years of constitutional traditions in order to help Likud (and coalition partners to the right of Likud) retain power. There is little else to say here. I don't know if he doesn't know or doesn't care that Bibi's blank check is making it far more difficult to reassemble his 2020 coalition.


There are few, if any, incumbent presidents in memory who have done so much to undermine their re-election efforts.

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Guest
Feb 15
Replying to

There have been several, but it rarely actually made any diff. Instead of losing, obamanation got re-elected... his party was slaughtered though.

slick willie, ditto. so he gave wall street glba and cfma and deregs. I can't remember when nafta hit. bernie made some very poignant and prescient speeches about how bad those things were... but he became a democrap anyway.

cheney/w had no business being re-elected. but they were.


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