2020 was rough, but there were big wins

Things are pretty bleak. The Trump administration is petering out in the most predictable way, screaming about a fictional election conspiracy and continuing to ignore a deadly pandemic. The United States is basically averaging a 9/11 every day at this point. I’m old enough to remember when people made a big deal about how they’d “never forget” the magnitude of that tragedy. Less than 20 years later, here we are. At the time I type this, there’s still no new stimulus deal. Almost 8 million people have fallen into poverty since June, the largest such increase in the history of the country.

Into the shambles marches Joe Biden. He wasn’t most people’s first pick. Or second. Or third. Or fourth. He represents a return to normalcy and normal in this country means slightly less death and destruction than the last four years. So far his cabinet has predictably been stuffed with centrist hacks and foreign policy hawks. This week he appointed Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary. The public transportation website for South Bend says the city has less than 50 buses. The closest subway system is Chicago’s.

During the campaign, it was very difficult for Republicans to pretend that Biden’s secretly a leftist because the man has been supporting conservatives policies for decades. A pretty funny talking point emerged nonetheless: Biden might be a centrist, but his strings are actually being pulled by progressive congress members. So like, six people.

This argument is even more hilarious in retrospect because Biden is set to appoint more Republicans to positions than progressives. What’s more, he actually seems to think the GOP will be willing to work with Democrats as a result of these efforts. “I predict to you, and I may eat these words, I predict you as Donald Trump’s shadow fades away, you’re going to see an awful lot of change,” he told supporters during a recent call. “I know I’ve been criticized heavily for saying from the beginning, we’ve got to unify the country. I think you’re going to be surprised. It’s going to take six to eight months to get it under way but I think you’re going to be surprised.” Apropos of nothing, 83% of Republicans polled after the election said they don’t actually think Trump lost.

This year has been a slog, but in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought it would be good to revisit some 2020 victories:

AOC Backs Out of Rabin Event

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was scheduled to participate in an event honoring the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin in September, but she was successfully pressured to drop out by Palestinians and advocates for the Palestinian cause. At the site, Phil Weiss referred to the move as a “shocking blow to liberal Zionism.”

Goodbye Eliot Engel

For decades, New York Rep. Eliot Engel has been one of the most pro-Israel Democrats in the House. Next month he will be out of a job, as progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman ousted him in the Democratic primary this year. The Lobby knew that Engel’s defeat would be a huge loss on two levels. They’d be losing a hawkish ally, but also gaining a new foe. Bowman has indicated he supports conditioning aid to Israel, a big no-no. Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) spent $2 million trying to save Engel. They failed.

British Trade Unions Stand Against Apartheid

In September, the Trade Union Congress (which has almost 6 million members) adopted a motion condemning the Israeli occupation and its plans for annexation. It also expressed support for the Palestinian right of return.

Cori Bush Wins in Missouri

Palestine is often viewed as a third rail in U.S. politics, but Cori Bush didn’t shy away from the issue. The nurse and Black Lives Matter activist repeatedly made connections between the oppression of Palestinians and racial struggles in the United States. She even defended the BDS movement. She challenged incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay in 2018, but lost by 20 points. Her victory in 2020 points to how things are slowly changing.

The Liberal Zionist Consensus Continues to Crumble

In a Jewish Currents piece, political commentator Peter Beinart finally abandoned the two-state solution. “The goal of equality is now more realistic than the goal of separation,” he wrote. “The reason is that changing the status quo requires a vision powerful enough to create a mass movement. A fragmented Palestinian state under Israeli control does not offer that vision. Equality can. Increasingly, one equal state is not only the preference of young Palestinians. It is the preference of young Americans, too.”

Big Wins on Campus

The Trump administration has effectively launched a war on the Palestine Solidarity Movement and we’ve seen these battles primarily play out on college campuses. In the face of this adversity, we’ve seen real victories. Students at Butler defeated resolutions condemning the BDS movement and embracing the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism. Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and Columbia University passed resolutions calling for divestment from Israel. An investigation into two students at Bard, who were targeted for alleged antisemitism after they protested an anti-Palestinian speaker, was dismissed amid public pressure.

Tlaib and Omar Win Reelection Easily

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have repeatedly been targeted by pro-Israel forces, including members of their own party. A narrative began to develop that the congresswomen were somehow vulnerable in this election, but they both prevailed easily. The Israel lobby took particular interest in Omar’s race, pouring loads of money into her challenger’s campaign. “I think it’s safe to say the Squad is here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger,” declared Tlaib after her victory.

BDS Victories Against Puma

Puma has been a target of BDS activists because it sponsors the Israel Football Association (IFA), which operates in illegal settlements. This year football clubs Luton Town FC and Chester FC dropped the athletic company as their supplier. Universiti Teknologi MARA, the largest university in Malaysia, ended its sponsorship deal with Puma.

The Biden administration will presumably be terrible, but it will be opposed by social movements that are stronger than anything that existed under Obama. Polling indicates that support for Israeli apartheid is eroding. Here’s hoping that many more victories are secured in 2021.

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