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.