Last week saw a dispute over Jerusalem at the Democratic National Convention that, in the context of similar incidents, provides an important insight into the party’s covert distancing of itself from Israel.
The story broke on September 4, when the Washington Free Beaconreported that “Jerusalem is unmentioned” in the 2012 Democratic party platform. This made news because, since it became U.S. law in 1995 that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” every platform of both major U.S. parties has reiterated this point. The Republican platform this year, for example, refers to “Israel with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Responses to the Democrats’ silence came swiftly: Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Postcalled it “the most radically unsupportive statement of policy on Israel by any major party since the founding of the state of Israel.” Nathan Diament of the (Jewish) Orthodox Union found it “extremely disappointing.” Paul Ryan called the omission “tragic.” Mitt Romney (who referred to “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel” recently while standing in Jerusalem itself) rued that the entire Democratic party embraced Obama’s “shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”
Democrats acted no less swiftly. The next day, delegates at the Democratic National Convention were told that “President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and our party’s platform should as well.” Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked them, by voice vote, to approve by 2 to 1 an amendment to the platform along these lines, as well as another amendment.
Then, in the only unscripted moment of the convention, the nays resounded as loudly as if not more loudly than, the ayes. A puzzled-looking Villaraigosa asked for a second voice vote and got the same result. As he appeared unsure what to do, Parliamentarian Helen T. McFadden approached and instructed him, “You’ve got to rule and then you’ve got to let them do what they’re going to do.” Dutifully, he asked for a third vote. Again, the nays at least matched the ayes. But this time Villaraigosa read his teleprompter instructions and stated that “in the opinion of the chair, two-thirds having voted in the affirmative, the motion is adopted.” Cheated of a victory, anti-Israel delegates booed.
Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz dismissed the boos as coming from “rogue elements.” Senator Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) declared that “everyone knows” the “vast, overwhelming majority” of Democrats favor Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. In contrast, anti-Israel activist James Zogby declared victory for his side: “When I hear all the boos . . . [it] means we’re not isolated on the margins of American politics anymore.” Which interpretation is right?
Neither. Dershowitz and Schumer are wrong to deny that anti-Israel forces are gaining ground in a party increasingly warm to Islamists and boasting a president whose understanding of the Middle East is, as National Reviewputs it, “more Edward Said than Bernard Lewis.” Fact is, party delegates split evenly on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But, contrary to Zogby, Obama’s needing to personally intervene and change the platform signals how broadly the American public supports Israel and that coolness to Israel hurts in national elections. Anti-Israel boos coming from Democratic delegates will do damage with voters; tellingly, the Romney campaign plans to rebroadcast this incident — which the New York Sun rightly calls “the defining story of the [Democratic] convention” — in campaign ads.
The normal and moral thing would have been for Parliamentarian McFadden to have told Villaraigosa to rule the amendment defeated, rather than command him to miscount delegates and ram through the pro-Israel amendment. Sadly, this public display of deceit fits into a larger pattern of Democratic-party duplicity vis-à-vis Israel. Consider three items:
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz last week accused the Washington Examiner of “deliberately” misquoting her about the Israeli ambassador having said Republicans are “dangerous for Israel”; in fact, she lied twice — fabricating the ambassador’s statement and then denying what she had said about him.
Democrats pretend to be pro-Israel (for electoral reasons) even as they cool to the Jewish state (for ideological reasons). Their distortions are becoming increasingly ineffectual, blatant, and squalid.