Supporting Palestinian Rights Used To Be Considered Far Left. Now It’s Mainstream.

It’s clear that the Democratic base has moved on supporting Palestinian rights. Leadership needs to catch up.

Sandra Tamari and Saqib Bhatti

Thousands of Americans joined a pro-Palestinian march in Manhattan on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

For 75 years, advocates fighting for justice and dignity for Palestinians were relegated to a position on the lonely fringe of American politics and world affairs. No more. 

For nearly five months, in cities across the United States and the globe, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to call for Palestinian freedom. Politicians have been hounded during public appearances, while dining in restaurants, and at their homes by protestors calling for end to the Israeli-led genocide that has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians and displaced around 80% of Gaza’s population. Major labor unions like the AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers and Service Employees International Union have called for a ceasefire. 

Israel’s assault on Gaza has moved the issue of Palestinian liberation squarely into the middle of mainstream political discourse. You would be hard pressed to find a major world city that has not seen historically large pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent months. Palestine protests have obstructed traffic on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, blocked roadways into Washington, D.C. during the morning commute and shut down Grand Central Station in New York.

Nevertheless, evidence is mounting fast that President Joe Biden and most members of Congress are imperiling their political futures with their unconditional support for Israel. That’s why we and other progressive leaders are sending an urgent message to the U.S. government: change your position on Gaza and act now to implement a cease-fire.

Gallup shows that 2023 is the first year on record that Democrats sympathize more with Palestinians than Israelis — as recently as 2016, the same poll showed Democrats sympathizing with Israelis over Palestinians by 30 points. Voters continue to support the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza. This includes 77% of Democrats, 69% of Independents, and 56% of Republicans.

In Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, the Listen to Michigan campaign, led by Arab-American organizers in Dearborn, encouraged voters to mark uncommitted” in the presidential nomination race to show their outrage at the Biden administration’s unflinching support for the Israeli government amid the bombardment. The effort was able to capture over 13% of the vote, with over 100,000 voters sending a message to the president that his policies on Israel may cost him the state in November. 

Globally Biden’s limitless support for Israel is isolating and embarrassing the United States. In the UK, even conservative politicians like Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary David Cameron have both called for a sustainable cease-fire.” The UK’s current position is a far cry from the cover that former Prime Minister Tony Blair provided former U.S. President George W. Bush when, in 2003, the United States made the case to the international community to invade Iraq. The French foreign minister has also called for an immediate cease-fire, as has the foreign secretary of Germany, which has long been one of Israel’s strongest backers in Europe. The needle has shifted.

Sign up for our weekend newsletter
A weekly digest of our best coverage

In early January, the Democrat-stalwart city of San Francisco voted for a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. The week before, protesters in Sacramento, Calif. had shut down government proceedings for the day. Earlier this month, Chicago became the largest city to back a cease-fire. Across the country, protesters have flooded the streets of cities and towns to demand an end to the siege and bombardment of Gaza in what is almost certainly the largest pro-Palestinian mobilization in U.S. history.”

In December, we stood together with the Executive Directors of Grassroots Global Justice and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and called on leaders of progressive organizations to take a stand for Gaza and show their support for an immediate cease-fire. Over 100 community leaders answered the call and put their bodies on the line by engaging in civil disobedience to call for an end to the violence in Gaza, an end to military aid for Israel and the demilitarization of our borders. Over 60 of us were arrested by Capitol police.

Meanwhile, Biden is continuing his administration’s resolute support for the Israeli government’s assault on Gaza. Biden’s path to victory in Michigan, a critical swing state he needs to win reelection, runs through the Detroit area’s Arab American electorate. And as Tuesdays’ primary results show, he is at risk of ceding the state to Donald Trump if he doesn’t act to put an end to the violence.

President Biden and Congress want to use our taxpayer dollars to fund genocide, border violence, and deportation instead of healthcare, housing and education. By opposing calls for a permanent cease-fire, Democratic leadership is carving out a fringe position that is alienating the voters they need to win 2024

Watching the U.S. continue to fund Israel’s war crimes is alienating the base that Biden needs to win the White House.

Ahead of November, it appears that Democrats are hoping that the increasingly rightward moves by Trump and the GOP will compel voters to choose the lesser of two evils” and excuse the suffering in Palestine. This is a dangerous, ill-advised, and immoral gamble. Watching the U.S. continue to fund Israel’s war crimes is alienating the base that Biden needs to win the White House. No other issue has disrupted the delicate balance between moderate and progressive Democrats quite like the genocide in Gaza. After two months of carpet bombing, of seeing thousands of dead Palestinian children on social media, and of a constant intensification of violence, dehumanization, and displacement, the polling and our communities are on the same page: we need a permanent cease-fire now.

We came to the Capitol in December to send a clear message to our elected officials: cease-fire now and no more U.S. funding of violence. The Democratic base has moved decidedly towards justice for Palestinians, and it’s time for leadership to catch up.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Sandra Tamari is executive director of Adalah Justice Project.

Saqib Bhatti is the Co-Executive Director of the Action Center on Race & The Economy.

The War on Protest Cover
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.