“We are a people without a party. We are abandoned” said the woman next to me, as we waited for the recitation of Lamentations, the annual commemoration of the saddest day of the Jewish calendar marking the destruction of the Jewish Temple.
Hers was not the first such conversation I’ve had in the past weeks, but it was the most compelling. She is an accomplished and intelligent liberal Jewish American. She is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. And most painfully right now, she is a Zionist who she knows has been deserted by her side, by liberalism and the Democratic Party.
The author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World,” Karen Lehrman Bloch described the exact same phenomenon about her experience posting to Facebook.
What started out as an effort to share beautiful images among designers, architects and artists became her own little war against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. She outed herself as a supporter of the State of Israel in order to confront those in her feed who were spewing vile hatred toward Jews and calling for the destruction of Israel. For her trouble she was accused of being a right-winger.
“As far as Israel’s existence is concerned,” she wrote at Tablet, “I had never really thought about it in terms of being a right or left issue — and still don’t. But if standing up for Israel’s right to exist meant sounding like a right-winger, so be it. I guess my liberalism — my profound belief in truth, liberty, justice and equality — is such a core part of my identity that I really don’t care if someone I might otherwise despise is saying the same thing.”
My seatmate at Tisha Be’av services and Lehrman Bloch have both awoken from a dream. Their dream was that being a liberal and being a Zionist were synonymous. Perhaps previously each recognized that there was a far-left trend toward anti-Zionism but mainstream liberalism was — just like them — pro-Israel. It was a dream that was shattered by this summer’s war over Hamas terror. Suddenly, criticizing Israel’s right to defend itself wasn’t on the far left, it was on the left, period. And the most recent Pew poll on the subject supports their understanding. Among Democrats, more say Israel has gone too far in its response to Hamas as say its response has been about right.
Lehman Block writes that she never intended to become a public Zionist and looks forward to going back to her feed of beautiful images as soon as this current anti-Israel hysteria dies down. The question for my liberal friends, and more importantly for their friends, is what are you all going to do about this situation – where Israel is denied her right of self-defense and liberals attack Israel of war crimes, genocide, mass murder? When the leader of the free world, who is also the leader of the Democratic Party, calls Hamas rockets irresponsible and calls Israeli response to such attacks excessive, what is a liberal Zionist to do?
The answer: Do something.
One local Pittsburgh newspaper has covered itself in shame with its coverage of Israel – from cartoons to photo captions to news reporting. Our Federation wrote a responding op-ed and asked the community to write letters. How many did that? How about writing more letters and more opinion pieces? If the newspaper doesn’t hear criticism of its anti-Israel bias, especially from subscribers, why would anything change?
Pennsylvania is going to have a gubernatorial election this fall. Where does Democrat Tom Wolf stand on Israel? How about calling other politicians – local, state and our elected officials in Washington — to express support for Israel and ask them to support legislation (The Stand with Israel Act is one possibility) that helps Israel? As a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this month indicated, the partisan gap in Mideast sympathies is as wide as it has been at any point since the late 1970s. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans said they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with 44 percent of Democrats.
If Liberals who support Israel don’t speak out to other Democrats about the need to support Israel nothing will change and what used to be the far-left’s problem with Israel will remain everyone’s problem. Lehrman Block is correct; this isn’t a left-right problem. America is supposed to be Israel’s greatest ally but not when only one party supports the Jewish state.
One more suggestion: If you have teenage or college-aged kids, talk to them about your love of Israel. Tell them they have a responsibility to go to campus and confront the hate, the anger, the lies against Israel. The only way to banish darkness is with light.
Abby W. Schachter, a Pittsburgh resident, is senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and writes regularly for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Follow her on Twitter @abbyschachter.