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How Israeli Militarism Is Driving a Wedge Between American Progressives and the Jewish State

Liberals around the world are losing their sympathy for Israel.

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Other observers recognize that it is actions like this that are driving liberal Americans away from what had once been rock-solid support of Israel. "Of course, during a war many -- though by no means all -- parts of American society will rally round Israel," Ariel Ratner, a former Obama administration political appointee and now fellow at the Truman National Security Project, told Reuters. "But potential problems loom large in the future if Israel doesn’t address them."

On November 29, the Palestinians won a huge victory at the United Nations, upgrading their status from “Observer” to “Non-Member Observer State.” Israel announced the E-1 settlement expansion in response, along with the confiscation of some $120 million in tax revenues Israel had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The vote was 138-9 with 41 abstentions, and the only European country that voted with Israel, the US and Canada was the Czech Republic.

Many have wondered how Israel “lost Europe” but the reason is obvious. European governments have grown tired of Israel’s intransigence and arrogance. The majority of their populations want to see the occupation end and do not believe Israel shares that desire, so supporting Israel has been, for some time, a matter of contradicting the will of the people. Israeli behavior has rendered such actions more costly than beneficial for European governments. In Australia, which has long been a reliable backer of Israeli actions, the prime minister was forced to reverse her stance of standing with Israel at the UN by her own party, which feared the popular domestic backlash.

Of course, those countries don’t have a powerful pro-Israel lobby which presses the party that most liberals belong to very hard, and never mind that their actions are working against the best interests not only of the Palestinians, but of Israel and the United States as well. Nor do those countries’ fundamentalist Christian communities which fanatically support Israeli expansionism have anything like the influence they have in the US. But the same pattern that has brought Europe to the position it holds today is beginning to manifest in the US among liberals in and outside of the Democratic Party. It is the only hope for a change in US policy and it better happen fast before this conflict turns into a bigger conflagration even than we have seen to date.  

Mitchell Plitnick is the former director of the U.S. Office of B'Tselem and former co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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