For a very long time, the United States worked diligently to stay away from the tense debate over Israel’s ability to be both a Jewish and democratic state. Even as Palestinians cried out about their lack of freedom and basic rights and their lives proved that a state having an ethno-religious character was mutually exclusive with it being a democracy for anyone not of that ethnicity, and even as many Jews challenged Israel’s emphasis on its Jewish character over what democracy it did have, the US treated this as an internal question to Israel and the Jewish community. They did not see Palestinians as being involved in that question, demonstrating the racism at the heart of the American attitude.
But now, the US has gone much further. While Republicans have long made it clear that they needn’t bother with this question since Israel can do whatever it likes, Democrats have now embraced, in the past 15 years, a policy of defending Israel’s Jewish character. There are multiple levels at which this is terrible policy and immoral to boot, but the question of how this came to be Democratic policy is worth examining. It says much about how deferential the party is to Israel’s authoritarianism and racism. This piece traces some of that history.