June 17, 2016, 09:14 am
Getting ready for a showdown on Israel at the Democratic convention
By Josh Ruebner, contributor
During the past four years, public opinion polling has reaffirmed that the base of the Democratic Party, especially its more progressive wing, is becoming increasingly alienated from Israel’s repressive policies, and is demonstrating increasing support for Palestinian rights. For example, an April 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that liberal Democrats — for the first time — now sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israel by a 40 percent to 33 percent margin.
The bruising Democratic primary battle between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen.Bernie Sanders (Vt.) amplified this divide. At this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Clinton, the party’s establishment candidate, vowed to “never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us,” pledging to “take our alliance to the next level.”
Sanders, the self-professed democratic socialist, whose insurgent campaign has shifted the bounds of permissible discourse within the party, chastised Clinton during a debate for her AIPAC speech. “I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people,” Sanders noted. “We cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”
Not surprisingly, the same Pew survey found the candidates reflecting the differing views of their supporters. Whereas Clinton voters sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians by a whopping 47-27 margin, Sanders voters sympathized with Palestinians over Israel by a 39-33 margin.
With the primaries having drawn to a close and Clinton declaring enough pledged delegates to win the nomination, the Democratic Party will try to heal the wounds between its wings and enter the general election unified. But on the question of Palestine, this glaring division will be difficult to paper over.