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Bernie, Israel, Britain, and Perspective

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It is hard to remember that Israel, now much maligned for how it handles the West Bank, Gaza, and Palestinians, was once a group of fighters seeking to oust an occupying force — the British — from what was, then, the “Palestinian Mandate.”

Throughout the  1920’s and 30’s, as the British restricted Jewish immigration into modern-day Israel, Zionists, who were seeking a homeland, began to form paramilitary groups, like Haganah and Irgun.  They bombed British military installations, and important infrastructure, as Zionists continued to illegally bring in more Jews.

Things came to a real head in 1939, with the release of the so-called “White Paper.”  That document, from the British government, rejected the notion of a partitioned Jewish homeland outright, and severely restricted all Jewish immigration, as a means to crush all dreams of a Jewish homeland.

Then came Hitler.

Zionist leader, David Ben-Gurion famously declared to his people:

“Support the British as if there is no White Paper, and oppose the White Paper as if there is no war.”


In short, the fight with the British must continue, but recognize that the existential threat posed by Hitler could make the fight for Israel completely moot.

So, Irgun, which had been bombing the British military, picked up their weapons and served alongside the British military, in Africa.  Thousands upon thousands of other Palestinian Jews enlisted in the British military, and served in Jewish brigades.

Through it all, Zionists did not give up their fight for a homeland.

In fact, once Hitler was defeated, Zionists once again started to target British police and military, in Palestine.

All of this is to say that perspective counts.  In this political season, it is apparent that Hillary Clinton has not come around on all of the issues important to those supporters of Bernie Sanders, and that has many Sanders supporters unwilling to vote for her.

In doing so, they ignore the existential threat to democracy, posed by Donald Trump, that would likely render that debate – and any debate – moot.

If Hillary Clinton wins the election, it is a temporary setback for Sanders supporters.  But they will live to fight another day.

If Donald Trump seizes power, the political revolution is dead.

By installing Supreme Court justices that will erode voting rights, by purging all levels of government of non-loyalists, by creating a culture of fear that quashes dissent in effect, and likely passing laws that quashes it more systematically, Donald Trump will wipe out Bernie’s movement. In fact, all dissent will be crushed.

Donald Trump is as much an existential threat to debate, activism and democracy as this country has ever seen.

Those who support Senator Sanders don’t need to like Hillary Clinton.  They don’t even need to support her on most policies.  They can (and should) continue to push her to the left.

But – as a matter of the future of our very right to have these debates, at all – they need to keep perspective, and support Hillary Clinton with everything they’ve got, in this race against Trump.

Once she wins, they can and should take up metaphorical arms against her, and do battle over those issues they hold dear.

None of this is inconsistent.

To paraphrase Ben-Gurion, support Hillary Clinton as if there is no moderate policy, but oppose moderate policy as if there’s no election.

Author: Eric Schmeltzer

That progressive guy. Very different from that Progressive Girl (aka "Flo"). Also an independent PR consultant.

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