Tag Archives: Hamas

What are Democrats getting wrong about Palestine and Israel?

Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and someone will eventually point out that there are no young people (or maybe one young person) in the room, and that we need to reach out to young people. Let the conversation go on a little longer and perhaps someone will bring up Vice President Harris, and how she’s just not so great. Meanwhile:

So maybe if we want more youth involvement, we should consider not dissing a leader respected by young folks.

Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and bring up Israel-Palestine. Any mention of that current conflict that also gives credit to the Palestinian plight MUST begin with a statement of how bad the Hamas attack was, even if that attack, and an acknowledgement of how bad it was, has already happened in the conversation. Any mention of deadly pressure on the population of Gaza, or of things blowing up in Gaza and killing Gazans, must be tempered with a clear pro-Israel statement. Even a criticisn of the absolutely awful Netanyahu government, which is essentially a MAGA-Levant franchise, needs to include something jingoistic about Isreal. This is like saying, under the Trump Era I, “Trump is a complete ass. God bless America” and if you leave off the “God bless America” part, your comment about Trump being an ass is somehow invalidated.

Polls show that the Americaucasoidsuburban world view is unabashedly pro-Israel, and acknowledgement of repression of Palestinians must always be tempered with a near-Zionistic spoon-full-of-sugar interjection among those over, say, 50. But as you get younger and younger, Americans are far more even in their treatment of the players in old Palestine, and may even be, simply, anti-Israel (while not necessarily antisemitic). (I quickly add that there is a fine line between anti-Zionist and antisemetic, and that those prone towards Zionism are the quickest to barrel past that line.) Maybe those rooms full of older Democrats should consider the fact that the way we look at the middle east of 30 years ago should be revised to keep up with the way at least half of Americans (median age in the US is 38 years old) think.

On the other hand, well, “kids these days, amiright??!!” There is a saying that you know: “Never forget.” Back when I was on the faculty at UMN, I had the privilege of co-teaching a class with Holocaust scholar Misha Penn, on race and racism, in which I handled most of the American and “scientific” racism bits, and Mischa handled most of the antisemitism and the wiping out of American Native tribes bits. Even though I had been something of an amateur scholar of Jewish History, having been married into a Jewish culture at one point, and for other reasons linked to my work in historic archaeology, I learned a lot of new stuff, from that experience, about the Holocaust. The main point: This was not a nutty idea by some Nazis that somehow came to fruition. The Nazi Holocaust was a logical next step in a centuries-long program of repression, exploitation, and eventual extermination, of Jews.

Of course, after this, the Jews of the world should get Israel, and it is incumbent on our species, in its entirety, to support that. But at the same time, the Jewish refugees and survivors in the 1940s did in fact take their new country’s land from the Palestinians, and didn’t actually pay for it. That failure to make for a fair deal is the main reason we are in this situation today. But I digress somewhat. The point is, “kids these days” seem to have lost a decade or two of “Never Forget,” and the historical plight of the Jews is sliding down the memory hole. Ignorance of the history and status of Palestine and Palestinians is run of the mill in America, and history and status of Jews is unexpectedly faded among our youth. This, in combination with the conflation of the Jewish plight with the Jewish State (currently a state that makes MAGA look normal), all twisted up in the politics of accusation and shame we are so good at in America, causes — well, a lot of bad shit on Facebook.

So how do we solve this problem? If the problem we are trying to solve is the smaller one, but an important one, of learning to have a conversation that is not self defeating and that may actually get us (us = Homo sapiens) somewhere, consider this paraphrase of Jon Lovett (who once again says smart things) on (Pod Save America): Israel will not be free unless Palestine is free; Palestine will not be free unless Israel is secure; and Israel will not be secure unless Palestinian people have hope for a better future. (He might have been paraphrasing someone else.)

Old Democrats: Start paying more attention to what the youth are saying. Mostly they are speaking a future truth that we ignore at our peril. Sometimes they are following a great time honored American tradition of forgetting the past (sometimes the very recent past, always the more ancient past) and that is partly our fault, letting that happen. And while we are at it, please stop saying that 16 year olds don’t have the maturity and knowledge to vote rationally. Voters of 18 years and over did in fact put Donald Trump in office. So just shut-TF-up old guys.