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Democrats struggle to control progressives over Gaza

Protesters are damaging the party's image. Credit: Getty

April 20, 2024 - 1:00pm

The war in Gaza is threatening to split the Democratic Party.

The party’s centrists, most notably President Joe Biden, mostly view Israel as a key ally and are pushing for continued material support for the war. Progressives, meanwhile, largely view the war as a genocide of Palestinians, causing friction between Biden and his Left-wing colleagues in Congress, as well as a revolt by the party’s young, progressive base in the form of nationwide protests.

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib reportedly stormed out of a meeting with fellow Democrats on Thursday when funding for Israel came up. The Congresswoman, who was a vocal supporter of the campaign to vote “uncommitted” rather than support Biden in the Democratic primaries, has previously refused to say whether she would support the President in November. She was also joined by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar and other Squad members, who remained silent as colleagues chanted “four more years” during Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.  Several of them wore keffiyeh scarves as an outward sign of support for the Palestinian cause.

Dozens of Democratic members of Congress also signed a letter this month urging Biden to halt the transfer of offensive weapons to Israel until an investigation into Israeli drone strikes on aid workers was completed. “If this strike is found to have violated US or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable,” it read.

American voters are generally supportive of Israel, as are most elected Democrats. But mounting pressure from progressive members of Congress as well as voters and activists has prompted Biden to become increasingly critical of Netanyahu and to make gestures of support for Palestinians, such as opening a port in Gaza to increase the flow of humanitarian aid.

So far, these moves have fail to quell unrest among progressives. Last week, dozens of Left-wing organisations warned that they were planning to disrupt the coming Democratic National Convention with what one activist called a “1968 kind of welcome”, a reference to the days-long, massive street brawls which took place outside the DNC in Chicago that year. Elsewhere, college campuses have been rattled by anti-Israel protests since 7 October, prompting two Congressional hearings over campus antisemitism. More than 100 pro-Palestine protesters were arrested at Columbia this week — including Ilhan Omar’s daughter — the latest in a months-long streak of unruly protests.

One politician who has tried to straddle the progressive line while remaining loyal to the President is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When asked to respond to Left-wing Democrats who couldn’t stomach voting Biden due to his support for Israel, the Squad member told Mehdi Hasan that, while she’s a strong critic of the President, she’d rather have him as an opponent than Donald Trump, who she views as a threat to democracy. “We will not be able to organise for any movement towards anything if we are facing the jailing of dissidents,” she claimed.

Last month, protesters heckled Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent critic of the war, for declining to label Israel’s actions genocide. Though she’s to the left of the President, she and Biden face the same dilemma: the party’s progressive base is too Left-wing on key issues for elected Democrats to appease them without turning off a much wider portion of centrist voters.

“It’s a wake-up call to the Democratic Party if elected officials are fearful to go on college campuses,” Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive, recently said. “The last thing young people want to hear is, ‘Well, the other guy is worse.’ That doesn’t do anything to inspire young people. They want to hear about how we’re going to have a more just foreign policy.”


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
1 month ago

Biden can hardly be described as a “centrist” Democrat. He is much more a mouthpiece for “woke” progressives, who are alienating Democrats’ historical base. His support for IsraeI is, if anything, an exception to that rule. But it’s that overarching allegiance — including Biden’s aggressive championing of gender ideology over the rights of girls and women — that has already split the party.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago

True. No centrist would have installed Rachel Levine and Gender affirming care, supported Lia Thomas, and appointed a SCOTUS judge who doesnt know what a woman is. That is radical progressive politics that disqualifies a politician from being called centrist or moderate. This Culture War division between democratic moderates and Biden’s coastal dems is as big a rift as Israel, but coastal dems have been trying to ignore it.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago

I think “Centrist” can now be considered an immutable trait of one’s identity. He can’t change who he is!

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago

The pro-hamas sentiments within the Democratic party woke a lot of Jewish supporters up. It also woke up Jewish allies in the Democrats to the radically illiberal Progressive agenda. This will cripple the Democrats for a generation. The same dynamic is being seen in the Canadian Liberal Party with Anthony Housefather’s dissent.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur King

That apple-eating conservative will put an end to the Castroite regime in the next election.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSGV2smCJy8

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Seems well-liked and respected, he’d get my vote.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

That’s amazing

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Arthur King

Housefather should underscore his dissent by crossing the floor and joining the Conservatives. One less seat for Justin-Castro.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
1 month ago

Nothing says ‘progressive’ like supporting a genocidal regime of rapists and murderers. Everytime I see groups like ‘Queers for Palestine’ I can’t help but liken it to ‘Chickens for KFC’. They’ve all got their heads so far up their own asses that when they fart, it’s a sneeze.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

KFC exists, the rapes (at least as described by Israel & the IDF) didn’t.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Yes, they did, indisputably.

https://www.hamas-massacre.net/

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 month ago
Thomas K.
Thomas K.
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the chicken.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Why don’t you go over there and fight for Hamas against The Zionists?

T Redd
T Redd
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Sure Kent….and when are the aliens invading earth??

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
28 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Are you serious?????

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

Chickens for KFC, classic!

Matthew Freedman
Matthew Freedman
1 month ago

How is Palestinian activism manifesting itself as “progressive”. They are the ones telling Jews to “go home”, they are ones screaming “palestine is arab” therefore calling for an ethnostate with Jews ethnically cleansed, they are ones bringing up idea that people belong where they are “genetically tied to” and social media posts about jewish dna meaning Jews “don’t belong there”, they are ones engaging in holocaust belittlement, they are ones who are spreading ethnic hatred against Jews, they are ones posting positive posts about adolf hitler. They are NOT progressive.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
25 days ago

There’s nothing wrong with vituperative racism as long as it’s directed against the right people.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

The young leftists including the always hysterical female wing know nothing because of the brain washing by the swindlers who take their money in academe. They know no history, no philosophy apart from a smattering of Marx with a dusting of Marcuse, no literature, no nothing except ancient racial and colonial grievances. They want to erase those eras because they are hurtful and make them cry. Ask them why Israel should have anything to do with a raggedy band of international welfare dependents whose only goal in life is its complete extermination and all you will get back is a blank stare of what-aboutism craziness.

T Redd
T Redd
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Yeah, notice that most of the protesters are young women….what are they lost, depressed, over driven by text messages and social media? Young guys – be smart – only date older women!!!

David L
David L
1 month ago
Reply to  T Redd

Same reason why so many in the Jacobin mobs were women, and the stoning in the life of Brian

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

Precisely. The main problem is the “young leftists including the always hysterical female wing” are exactly that, know nothings who have no idea of history.

We keep talking of Palestinian refugees, but around the same time or just before, we had many millions of Hindus genocided and driven out of Pakistan, ditto Armenians in Turkey, Jews from various mid east countries.

You don’t find these idiots having any knowledge of those, people who, unlike the Palestinians and Arabs, meant no violence against their muslim neighbours and yet treated far worse than the Jews acted against their murderous muslim neighbours.

Just like these idiots keep taking if western slave trade or “racism”, but wouldn’t know that other Africans sold those slaves, the far higher numbers of slaves abducted by North Africans or Arab / Turks, or the horrific reason why hardly any descendants of black slaves exist in Arab lands.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

What can you do? Gotta placate the “Death to America” wing of the party.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
1 month ago

American public opinion is no longer solidly behind Israel, so Democrats who fear the loss of centrist votes arising from opposition to Israeli genocide are worrying about nothing. Pro-genocide voters will probably back Trump anyway.

P Branagan
P Branagan
1 month ago

Israel is not an ally of the US – it is it’s puppet master.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  P Branagan

There’s always a bigot who spoils the party.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  harry storm

And increasingly these days, an Irish bigot.

charlie martell
charlie martell
1 month ago
Reply to  P Branagan

Oh dear me. That 2% of US citizens must be very clever.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I wish all of the protesters for Hamas, especially those of Middle Eastern decent, leave and join Hamas and become freedom fighters. But, no. They want to stay in the West and enjoy their cushy lives. College students join in on the trendy protests even though they have no knowledge of the history of the conflict. It’s possible to hate what Netanyahu is doing, but also hate the murderers and rapists of a terrorist organization. It’s complicated. Do the progressive youngsters know that Hamas doesn’t want a two state solution, and that they only want to annihilate Jews, who are also the indigenous people of Palestine? Stop protesting, go to the library and learn something. If you can tear yourself away from social media.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Do they know that within months of being created as one half of a UN sanctioned 2 state solution, that isreal was attacked by SIX surrounding Islamic States? Including Jordan, Iran, Egypt and the non Jewish Palestinians? The extra land they have now is land captured during the course of that war. The war halted preparation of a Palestinian state that they rejected anyway (we will not share land with Jews)

Isreal is a small nation constantly at risk of being annihilated out of existence by people who hate Jews and Isrealis to their very core (so fascists basically), these idiots have no idea of the history and background of the situation. The whole isreal is committing genocide line is just offensive on so many levels, I just don’t get it

Dr E C
Dr E C
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I think they know Hamas wants to annihilate the Jews, they don’t care
 Terrifying.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

When can we drop the risible term “progressive” in favour of “far-left”, “Islamist”, “Red-Green alliance” and other actually descriptive terms?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Agreed, ‘progressive’ is such an utterly meaningless term these days, like ‘liberal’. For me progressive means someone who believes in progress and anti Semitic Hamas cheerleaders are certainly not that. Like liberal for me is a tending towards a believer in democracy, if not the old Whiggish free market, free speech, freedom of association ideals . Not idiots repeating Marxist mantras

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

“The party’s centrists, most notably President Joe Biden…”

Joe Biden isn’t ‘centrist’ – he’s far right. How else could you describe someone who has sent billions of dollars to arm Nazis in Eastern Europe?

David George
David George
1 month ago

Let’s just call it what it is: the New Jew Hatred.
James Lindsay:
“For the present, there is still some daylight between Woke anti-Semitism and older, more recognizable forms of Jew-hatred, but there’s no guarantee that will stay the case. Indeed, the edifice already seems to be crumbling. It’s worth stating, then, that the only difference between historical applications of ideologically driven anti-Semitism and Woke anti-Semitism, then, is that the current approach comes at the issue in an apparently novel way by shoehorning Jew-hatred into a drastically oversimplified framework of American racial history—one with a great deal of current cultural cache—which is to say that the differences are mostly a matter of window dressing and time. That is to except one other difference: those have no positive branding and no Jewish support, whereas Woke anti-Semitism currently enjoys a reasonable degree of both.

Critical Social Justice is, in its vulgar simplicity and pretentious racism, neither sophisticated nor liberal enough to handle the straightforward facts of Jewish life and history, which make an inconvenient misfit to its profoundly inadequate notions of social power and conflict. It must therefore be said that this paucity of sophistication and liberalism within Theory render the contradictions at hand both unavoidable and irreconcilable for Theory. This, in turn, defines a fundamental and intolerable Jewish problem in Critical Social Justice that, if history writes any guide, will find its “resolution” in the decrees of the Theorists, if they become sufficiently empowered. We must not allow this to happen.”
https://newdiscourses.com/2020/10/critical-race-theorys-jewish-problem/

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 month ago

I think the progressive wing is starting to sense that they are beginning to lose influence. They are seeing setbacks and real pushback for the first time in years on everything from trans treatment for kids to green transition and they do not like it.

To me, they do hold this position on Gaza legitimately, its dumb but they do believe it. But all this gnashing of teeth and turning on Biden and other democrats is, I think, at least in part a reaction to the idea that they are experiencing setbacks and resistance in a way they have not for most of the last, almost four years. Spoiled children being told “no” for the first time and they do not like it.

William Brand
William Brand
1 month ago

The progressive movement has begun to have the same attitude toward Jews as Hitler. They have expelled from the party the most liberal and progressive people in the world Reform Jews. Many betrayed Jews will flee to Israel but before they go will vote Republican. If the progressives manage to break American ties to Israel God will abandon America and will execute the doom listed in Revelation 18. If Biden wins, Kamila Harris will soon be president and may ally with Iran. If that happens God will destroy America.

William Brand
William Brand
1 month ago

During the time of the Hitler Stalin pact the Communist party had Jews marching against American aid to Britian. Now Progressives are asking Jews to help then destroy Israel and to prove their liberalism with religious suicide.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Thee left wing madness continues – AOC whines and wails about a potential ‘trump dictatorship ‘ whilst her mates all support an actual murderous dictatorship who know exactly how to manipulate their overseas useful idiots. As usual the car left has no self awareness at all

0 0
0 0
1 month ago

There has been a shift. My brother in Boston and his friends do big time phone banking for the Democrats. Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, wherever it’s needed most. But problems have crept in. Learning about the war on Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere dampened enthusiasm. But Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has really shifted the dial. ‘We all used to support Israel,’ he says, ‘ and we don’t believe it should be cleared out. But they don’t have a right to clear Palestinians out either.’ So contributions have dried up and many have put the phone banking on hold to see what Biden really does.

Stan Konwiser
Stan Konwiser
1 month ago

The article has no mention of releasing the Gaza hostages. How can you have a discussion of the current situation without that? The so-called progressive left has gone over the anti-Israel cliff without even token rebuke of Hamas or its Iranian backers.

Jake Raven
Jake Raven
1 month ago

I do wish commentators would stop calling these anarchists “progressives”, they are anything but. I think ‘regressives’ is a better term.
It’s curious that such people concentrate on a single current issue, they don’t speak out about the Arab Janjaweed slaughtering thousands of innocents in Sudan, armed by the UAE, or the Muslim terrorists massacres of Christians in Nigeria.
Could it be they want to get on an ego stroking bandwagon to show how righteous they are?

Obadiah B Long
Obadiah B Long
1 month ago

It’s always amusing to hear that Donald Trump might be a “threat to democracy.” Democracy is in shambles after decades of irresponsible immigration policies, degradation of the concept of “citizen,” sloppy elections, and general increase in chaos. Democracy is heavily dependent on order, honest education, and security. It has been under successful attacks from the left. Many countries have found it necessary to employ a dictator to restore the conditions of democracy, and we might well be in that situation. But fortunately or unfortunately, Trump is no Napoleon.

LeeKC C
LeeKC C
28 days ago

Dozens of Democratic members of Congress also signed a letter this month urging Biden to halt the transfer of offensive weapons to Israel until an investigation into Israeli drone strikes on aid workers was completed. “If this strike is found to have violated US or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable,” it read.
Interesting to see the hypocrisy here. And the atrocious acts Oct 7’s violation…..let me see, oh that’s right, its different because they are Jews!
Your rule applied for one and not the other, is the reason why no one can take you all seriously.