Saturday, June 04, 2022

A Rare, Coveted Debate Link Endorsement: Andy Levin

I don't like member-on-member Democratic primaries. That's because, for the most part, I like Democratic incumbents. I rarely bear them ill-will, and so I don't wish for them to lose elections. A member-on-member primary forces me to choose, and I resent that.

So it is in the Haley Stevens/Andy Levin match over in Michigan. I like both representatives just fine. I have no desire to see either out of Congress. And yet I've come to the conclusion that it's important to back Rep. Levin, because the message that would be sent by his defeat would be exceptionally toxic in Democratic Party circles. Rep. Levin is one of Congress' leading proponents of a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine -- an actual proponent, not a rhetorical one; someone who is actually willing to put money next to mouth and invest the resources necessary to induce both sides to take the steps necessary to make a just peace happen. It would be sad to lose his voice, but it would be catastrophic to lose his voice in a manner that suggests this very advocacy is what doomed his career.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, my logic is similar to that which prompted support for Shontel Brown over Nina Turner in their Ohio race. I noted there that Turner's formal position papers on Israel were not actually anything too objectionable. However, the coalition surrounding Turner seemed eager, even gleeful, at the prospect of sticking it to the Jews Zionists in a way that really couldn't be rewarded. Similarly, when they spoke to Michigan Jews, Stevens and Levin didn't seem that far apart on key issues -- there was a difference in how they talked about Israel, but it wasn't some gaping chasm. But the atmosphere around Stevens' campaign is very much "we need to punish Levin for his heresies about Israel", and that rhetoric hit a fever pitch early. On this, I agree entirely with Abe Silberstein's assessment:

The reason Andy Levin has drawn such vocal opposition from pro-Israel groups is not because he supports the two-state solution. It's because he doesn't accept the dogma on why a two-state solution has not materialized (Israeli flexibility/Palestinian rejectionism binary).

That's absolutely correct. One hears often from many Jewish and/or pro-Israel groups that they don't object to "criticism of Israel", what they object to is one-sided criticism of Israel; criticism that treats the entire conflict as wholly a matter of Israeli wrongdoing and malfeasance. The reality is, though, that many of those groups love "one-sided" criticism -- so long as it's Palestinians that are the only side being criticized. The last thing they want is an account of the Israel/Palestine status quo that takes seriously the reality that Israel bears a considerable portion of the responsibility for getting us here. 

Levin's support for a two-state solution isn't rhetorical, it's actual; and being actual it entails Israel changing portions of its conduct just as Palestinians must. That's good, healthy, necessary, what many if not most Jewish organizations say they want to hear -- and is apparently absolutely, positively intolerable in practice. The amount of energy and resources being devoted to taking out Levin, not just from groups like AIPAC but from organizations that really should know better, like the JDCA, is suggestive that these groups cannot and will not tolerate actual action supporting a two-state solution, and that'd be a devastating lesson to internalize.

It's no knock against Stevens herself. Again, I bear her no ill-will. I wish both Democrats could stay in Congress next year. But the atmosphere that surrounds this race makes it very important that Andy Levin win it. And so for that reason, the rare and highly coveted Debate Link endorsement has to go to Rep. Levin.

UPDATE: Andy Levin liked this post. I'm so tickled.


Dvar Dea said...

You talk about one-sidedness?
What about you? You retweeted Edo Konard's post about the removal of the Palestinian flag from a building in Ramat Gan. With no reference to decades of burning, tearing, and forbidding the showing of Israeli flag by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists.
I'm sure that there are those with genuine one-sided policies and intentions on both sides. But sometimes it is a hole easy to fall to.

David Schraub said...

The fact that you haven't read the instances where I've condemned pro-Palestinian attacks on Jewish and/or Zionist identified flags is more of a you problem than a me problem. I've staked out a perfectly consistent position on this issue.

Dvar Dea said...

First, thank you for that link. You raise important points there.
And you clearly show empathy to both sides. Along with criticism.
However, as an Israeli, I am uncomfortable that you haven't mention the fact that Israelis associate the Palestinian flag with attacks on them, as civilians.
Again, thank you for the link. I value your opinion, and your input on issues.

David Schraub said...

I'm not sure how much clearer " some Jews ... have directly experienced violence, harassment, displacement, and even death ... under the auspices of the Palestinian flag" can be.

But you should reflect on your initial instinct here. You saw someone criticize tearing down a Palestinian flag and instinctively cried "one-sided!" You didn't actually know it was one-sided; in fact, you now concede that it wasn't one-sided at all. So what does that say about the instinct? Had you read first one of my posts criticizing, e.g., the Chicago Dyke March banning the Jewish Pride flag, would you have yelled "one sided" because you hadn't yet seen me condemn instances where the Palestinian flag was torn down? No, you wouldn't have. So I would hope that you would reflect on what that initial instinct is actually saying and doing, because it emphatically isn't a dispassionate commitment to balanced and fair discourse.

In this post, my point was to observe that Levin takes fire not because he's a one-sided anti-Israel critic, but because he's actually two-sided and a lot of folks who cry about "one-sided" actually just instinctively revolt against any discourse that suggests the Palestinian side is part of the story. This was a sterling illustration. (Quoth Harry Truman: "I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.")