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Bipartisan Support for Israeli Aggression Shows Leftists Must Break with the Democrats

Support for Israel’s bloody siege on Gaza is bipartisan. Now, more than ever, leftists need to break with the Democratic Party.

Otto Fors

October 24, 2023
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US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023.
Image: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Israel’s bloody siege on Gaza is entering its sixteenth day — and so is the unflinching, bipartisan U.S. support for the genocide unfolding against Palestinians. 

Since the Hamas-led attack on October 7 that killed 1,400 Israelis, the Zionist state’s bombing campaign has killed over 5,000 Palestinians, 40 percent of whom were children. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has bombed hospitals, places of worship, schools, and refugee camps, while the government has cut fuel and electricity and prevented aid from entering the Gaza Strip. In short, the Israeli regime is committing what writer Ilan Pappé calls an “incremental genocide” against Palestinians.

President Biden, meanwhile, has reaffirmed that the United States will always stand behind Israel and that Israel “will never be alone.” This rhetoric has been backed by substantial military support: on Friday, the Biden administration requested $14 billion in military aid for Israel, part of a combined $106 billion package that includes military assistance to Ukraine, Taiwan, and its own southern border with Mexico.

Biden isn’t alone in his support for Israel — Democrats have overwhelmingly fallen in line to support the Zionist state’s brutal bombing campaign and reaffirm the country’s “right to self-defense.” John Fetterman — once hailed by some leftists as proof that working within the Democratic Party is a successful strategy — reaffirmed that Israel is a “key [U.S.] ally,” writing, “I will always stand with Israel and look forward to supporting any military intelligence, or humanitarian aid to get the job done.”

Other progressive Congressional darlings, from Ted Lieu to Elizabeth Warren, have likewise reaffirmed that they stand with Israel and rejected calls for a ceasefire. Democratic politicians beyond Congress have likewise fallen over themselves to show support for the country and Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing regime: New York governor Kathy Hochul and California governor Gavin Newsom both visited the Zionist state last week to pledge their support.

Of course, steadfast bipartisan U.S. support for Israeli’s occupation and ethnic cleansing in Palestine isn’t new: Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. aid, having received $263 billion since 1946. The atrocities that the Israeli state commits against Palestinians are thus enabled by the United States — a fact readily acknowledged by the Zionist regime. When asked last week why he agreed to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant responded, “The Americans insisted and we are not in a place where we can refuse them. We rely on them for planes and military equipment. What are we supposed to do? Tell them no?”

This is what leftists are supporting when they call for votes for Democrats or support for the Democratic Party. As Israel ramps up indiscriminate air raids and blocks humanitarian aid, the bipartisan U.S. regime is directly complicit.

To be sure, several Democrats in the House of Representatives have made statements condemning Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza. Thirteen House representatives, including Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, have put forward a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. This move, as well as these representatives’ powerful statements decrying Israeli violence and oppression, show the pressure that the movement and mobilizations for Palestinian liberation have had on U.S. politics. That U.S. congresspeople would openly describe Israel as an apartheid state would’ve been unthinkable just a decade ago.

But as a result of their outspokenness on Palestine, figures like Bush and Tlaib — as well as leftist organizations, like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) — have been subject to racism and baseless accusations of antisemitism, like New York City mayor Eric Adams’s suggestion that DSA members carried Nazi flags at pro-Palestine protests. We must resolutely defend progressives who rightfully condemn Israel, and the movement for Palestinian liberation must stand united against the anti-democratic attacks on critics of the Zionist state. 

And these progressives’ efforts have barely made a ripple in the party’s pro-Israel consensus. Tlaib and Omar, in particular, have been criticized by fellow Democrats. In reference to some Squad members’ dissents, Democrat Steny Hoyer, the former House Majority Leader, said, “Do we have some people that have a different view? We do. But it’s not the position of the party.”

In this sense, far from showing that progressives can materially shape Democratic policy, Bush, Tlaib, and others expose the unmovable limits of working within the Democratic Party. For all their powerful rhetoric and righteous rage at the killing and oppression of Palestinians, they fundamentally cannot change the imperialist character of the party. 

In other cases, progressives in the Democratic Party fall in line behind U.S. imperialism. We need look no further than Jamaal Bowman and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) to see how a strategy of working with the Democrats leads to the betrayal of the international working class. Although Bowman and AOC put their names to the resolution demanding a ceasefire, Bowman previously voted for increased funding for the IDF and met with the Zionist regime as part of a Congressional delegation to the country, while AOC voted “present” on a vote to provide funding to Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptors. So, while these politicians may rhetorically condemn the atrocities in Palestine, they are helping the U.S. regime provide material support for apartheid and Palestinian repression.

Since October 7, protesters have taken the streets across the country to demand an end to Israeli atrocities. The movement for Palestinian liberation is growing, and progressives and leftists are increasingly calling out Biden and the Democrats for their support of the genocide in Gaza. But we must go even further. The Democrats are strikebreakers and enemies of the working class who refuse to protect the rights and lives of society’s most oppressed. They vote for exorbitant military budgets, cause misery for the international poor and working class, and support violent borders. And as the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine has put into plain view, the Democrats are a party of Zionists who quash any dissent around the State of Israel’s apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Working within the Democratic Party doesn’t just mean turning a blind eye toward the suffering in Palestine — it’s an obstacle to fighting for Palestinian liberation. 

Let the Democrats’ support for the violent Israeli regime be the final nail in the coffin for the misguided leftist strategy of using the Democratic Party as a vehicle for anti-imperialist, socialist aims. We can no longer compromise on internationalism, betraying Palestinians and the rest of the global working class. It’s time to build a working-class party that fights for an internationalist, socialist program. Such a party needs to fight for an immediate end to Israeli aggression in Palestine and to the annexation of the West Bank. The solution to this conflict is a single, secular, socialist Palestine on its historic territory, with democratic rights for all its inhabitants. 

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Otto Fors

Otto is a college professor in the New York area.

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