When Hamas terrorist operatives launched attacks against Israel last month, sacrificing Palestinian civilians in their effort to violently breach the border, leading members of Congress ignored Hamas’ role and instead released statements condemning Israel for defending its border. Days later, when Hamas rained down hundreds of deadly rockets into Israel within a matter of days, forcing thousands of Israeli families into bomb shelters as sirens rang through the night, many of those same members of Congress were silent.
Support for Israel has remained bipartisan, largely because Israel has strong support in the American public across party lines. In this latest round of violence, echoing the reliable anti-Israel media bias, unfair criticism of Israel was voiced by some leading Democrats.
Just two years ago, Senator Bernie Sanders was a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, and today he contemplates another run. The day after the U.S. opened the new embassy in Jerusalem — an event which Hamas terrorists used as an excuse for renewed violence at the border — Senator Sanders told Mehdi Hasan of The Intercept that “Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about.”
What unarmed protesters?
Of the 62 “unarmed protesters” killed in Gaza on May 14, Hamas admitted that at least 50 of them were armed Hamas fighters, and three more were claimed by Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The rest were used as human shields; pawns in a tragic attempt to, as stated by Hamas leader Yahiya Sinwar: “take down the border and tear out their [Israelis’] hearts and their bodies.”
Did Senator Sanders revise his assessment? Did Senator Sanders comment when Hamas sent hundreds of deadly rockets into densely populated neighborhoods in Israel, even striking a kindergarten? No corrections to date.
Blaming President Trump’s decision to recognize that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital was a common theme of critics. Senator Dianne Feinstein, now running for her 6th term in the Senate, publicly demanded that “Israeli forces must exercise greater restraint in the use of live ammunition” and placed the blame on President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Hamas-led protests at the Gaza border had been going on for weeks prior to the Embassy’s move, and protests occur literally every year on Israel’s Independence Day. These facts were ignored, just as the later barrage of rockets into Israel’s civilian population was ignored.
This failure of Democratic leadership is not — and cannot become — representative of the Democratic Party. Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida was quick to condemn Hamas’ rocket barrage last week. On May 29, he took to Twitter to unequivocally assert that “a mortar shell fired by terrorists in Gaza landed in a kindergarten yard in Israel. Sirens have been ringing all day warning civilians to take cover from rocket attacks. Israel has a right to defend itself and protect its citizens from attacks by Hamas & Islamic Jihad terrorists.”
As the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, Deutch is able to enjoy a leadership role within his party while simultaneously speaking out strongly in support of Israel’s right to defend itself. Some of his Democratic colleagues should look to him as proof that progressive values and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself are not mutually exclusive. This support is most critical in times of crisis, and Democratic voices need to speak out when their colleagues treat Israel unfairly.