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Tensions Among Democrats Grow Over Israel as the Left Defends Palestinians

“Please don’t be fooled by false choices: Israel or Hamas,” Representative Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, said in a floor speech. “If I am asked to choose between a terrorist organization and our democratic ally, I will stand with Israel.”

Yet, even Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee known for his staunch support of Israel, offered a rare rebuke on Saturday, condemning recent strikes that killed Palestinian civilians and destroyed media offices.

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment about the criticism from the left.

For decades, both parties offered almost unquestioning support for Israel, with words like “occupation” and “Palestine” considered far outside the acceptable debate in official Washington. But left-wing Democrats no longer shy away from such terms.

“We oppose our money going to fund militarized policing, occupation and systems of violent oppression and trauma,” Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, a Black Lives Matter activist now in her first term in Congress, said in her own floor speech on Thursday. “Until all our children are safe, we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian-American from Detroit, referred to herself as “a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians do indeed exist, that we are human,” before condemning “Israel’s apartheid government” from the House floor.

The debate within the Democratic Party reflects a longstanding divide among American Jews, a mostly Democratic and secular group, who are enmeshed in their own tussle over how to view the Israeli-Palestinian tensions. An older generation sees Israel as an essential lifeline amid growing global anti-Semitism, while young voters struggle to reconcile the right-wing policies of the Israeli government with their own liberal values.

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