For decades, unconditional support of Israel represented a rare source of elite consensus in US politics. That era is coming to an end.
As the most far-right government in Israel’s history uproots its own institutions in order to further disenfranchise Palestinians and entrench Jewish supremacy, support for Palestinians in their struggle for liberation is on the rise. For the first time ever, polling shows Democrats saying they sympathize more with Palestinians (49 percent) than with Israelis (38 percent), and younger generations across the political spectrum are becoming increasingly pro-Palestinian. One area of the debate in particular is seeing an unexpected convergence of once-diametrically opposed voices: calls to condition or cut US military aid to Israel.
In July, New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof wrote separate pieces urging the Biden administration to conduct, as Friedman put it, a profound “reassessment” of its ties with Israel, and perhaps even consider, as Kristof wrote, the “unmentionable”: gradually “phasing out American aid for Israel.” These articles were preceded by Jacob Siegel and Liel Leibovitz’s piece in Tablet urging Congress to “End U.S. Aid to Israel,” which they contend only serves to benefit America’s military-industrial complex.
Of course, there is nothing new about these arguments, merely their source. Palestinians have spent decades calling on Washington to condition or cut aid in hopes of holding Israel accountable for occupation and apartheid. For just as long, their efforts have been met with scorn by lawmakers in D.C. and smears of anti-Semitism by Israel’s apologists. So Friedman and Kristof are, to put it mildly, very late in acknowledging that Israel’s occupation is not temporary and that Washington’s unconditional support of Israel has only fostered the impunity its leaders now feel entitled to. On the other hand, Siegel and Leibovitz are echoing conservative Israeli arguments that US military aid somehow ties Israel’s hands.