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As a progressive (or “liberal” as I grew up calling myself), I’ve been troubled by the divide I’ve seen in the progressive community over the Israeli-Hamas conflict. While there are many good progressives on the national scene who, as I do, support Israel enthusiastically, I have also seen the unmistakable strain of anti-Israeli sentiment on the part of progressives I know, read, or interact with on social media. To me, much of what I’ve heard from these people with whom I normally share so much is both profoundly troubling, and antithetical to everything progressivism is supposed to be about.

First, when I say I am a progressive, let me tell you what I mean: the legislation in Pennsylvania legalizing same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour, mandating paid family leave, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing marijuana and taxing the use of plastic bags are not only bills I support, they are bills I’ve introduced. A number of commentators have nicknamed me “The Liberal Lion of Pennsylvania,” a moniker I proudly embraced during my recent Congressional campaign.

My views on foreign policy are similarly, if not quite as aggressively, progressive. I opposed the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, and Grenada. However, I am not a pacifist; I supported going into Afghanistan to prevent those who attacked us on 9/11 from planning their next strike. Generally, I support more foreign aid to help alleviate poverty and a greater emphasis on human rights in our dealings with other nations.

To me, this general world view can lead to only one logical conclusion, which is the strong support of Israel in its current conflict with Hamas. There is one country in the Middle East which respects women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of political minorities, free speech and the right of dissent, and that is Israel. There is no other nation in the region which could, in any sense of the word, be considered progressive.

Hamas has a human rights record that can only be described as awful. Being gay is a crime punishable by death and women are subjected to strict dress codes, and are often the victims of “honor killings” while the Hamas government looks the other way. Religious minorities living in Gaza are subjected to almost daily governmental harassment, and one need only watch the news to see reports of extra-judicial killings of anyone even suspected of opposing Hamas’ war on Israel. There is no other context in which progressives would tolerate the sort of human rights violations against their own people that Hamas perpetuates every day.

It is certainly true that a large number of Gazans have lost their lives in the current conflict. And some of my progressive friends have correctly noted that many of them are innocent civilians and children.

But tragically, this is the case in all wars. We don’t fight wars against individuals; we fight against governmental regimes that control the weapons that threaten us. There were many innocent Japanese children during World War II. They were too young to know who Hideki Tojo was. But Tojo bombed Pearl Harbor. We had to fight back, sad in the knowledge that innocent people would die. Similarly, Israel has the right to defend itself when attacked, doing their best to minimize civilian casualties.

Many progressives, who share my strong preference for peace over war and rarely, if ever, find a legitimate reason for Israel (or the United States for that matter) to use force, somehow justify Hamas shooting rockets into Israel. The fact is that since Hamas assumed power, they have fired almost 15,000 rockets, killing dozens and injuring almost 2,000 Israelis. No other nation in the world would be expected to tolerate this.

Perhaps we could all have some faint hope that the recently announced open-ended cease-fire will result in some progress in addressing the concerns of all sides. I understand that progressives feel the Palestinian people have legitimate grievances, and it seems to me that the negotiating table is the place to address them. But there is no grievance that would justify Hamas’ deliberate targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. And there is no progressive principle which would require Israel to silently endure countless attacks on its people.

We all have political heroes. As a progressive, I find my inspiration in the words of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These great, progressive leaders all achieved far more for their people than the rocket-launchers and suicide-bombers of Hamas have for theirs. I would hope that in time, the progressive community can come closer to speaking with one voice in condemning the sort of terrorism and genocide that can be found in the Hamas charter. If we as progressives really care about the suffering of the Palestinian people and peace, we have no other choice.

Senator Daylin Leach represents Pennsylvania's 17th Senate District.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for speaking out (9+ / 0-)

    You give an eloquent and heartfelt evaluation of the issue and I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment.

  •  Well said! (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you for eloquently expressing exactly how I feel.

    Their cause must be our cause too. Because it's not just Negroes, but really it's all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. -- Lyndon B. Johnson

    by AllTheWayWithLBJ85 on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 01:08:51 PM PDT

  •  Amen (9+ / 0-)

    I would tip and recommend this diary 1,000 times if I could.

    Thank you.

    “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point--race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.” ― Molly Ivins

    by RoIn on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 01:16:18 PM PDT

  •  A fine statement of personal principle, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Villiers, mosesfreeman

    where does it lead to? To remain credible as a progressive Zionist you must take a position on a one or two-state solution to the I/P conundrum. Outlining  the symptoms puts ink on paper (yes, I'm of an older generation), but does little in proposing a solution.

  •  Thank you! You have perfectly stated this! (7+ / 0-)

    You are truly a REAL progressive voice!  I hope someday you move on to a national stage!

    Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

    by Mannie on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 01:23:04 PM PDT

  •  Israel's war only makes Hamas stronger (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, poco, cal2010

    Not only that, Netanyahu probably wants Hamas to remain in power, because they maintain the fear that keeps him in power.

  •  I couldn't disagree with you more. (19+ / 0-)

    I'm Jewish, born the same year as Israel's independence, raised to love and support Israel. I went to a Zionist/Socialist summer camp and belonged to its umbrella organization, Habonim, growing up.
    I "planted trees" in Israel for every milestone in my childhood. I wrote my first paper in junior high school civics on Israel's fight for independence.
    And I have been thoroughly disillusioned in recent years by Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians.
    Hamas deserves no support -- they are a horrible terrorist group. You will get no argument from me on that. But the living conditions in Gaza, the absolute refusal of the Israeli government to negotiate when Fatah and Hamas worked out compromise is inexcusable.
    The deaths and shelling of Israel are terrible. But the deaths in Gaza go so far beyond that I cannot believe anyone with a conscience can defend what Israel has done. Even my 96-year-old mother-in-law, staunchly pro-Israel for her whole life, feels that Israel has moved far away from her values.
    Treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank who, until very recently, have engaged in peaceful protest is no example of a democratic and caring country. Stealing people's land, destroying their homes, cutting down ancient olive trees, defending violent settlers is not the behavior of a government I can respect. The occupation is destroying Israel.
    And many young Jewish Americans are losing their feeling of connection to Israel. I can think of only one of my older daughter's Jewish friends (my daughter who was raised as a liberal Jew, Bat Mitzvahed in 2001) who still feels a connection to Israel, and even she is not all that enthusiastic.
    My younger daughter, at age 14 still attending Hebrew School, has not the slightest interest or excitement about Israel even though she feels very Jewish.
    The current government and recent past governments of Israel are in line with Cheney et al., not with progressive American values.

    While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

    by Tamar on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 01:46:12 PM PDT

    •  It's too bad that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RoIn

      you didn't bother to send your kids to a progressive Zionist summer camp like the one you apparently went to as a kid. Had you done so, they likely would have learned something that you apparently have not: that it is indeed possible to both feel a connection to Israel and be critical of its policies toward the Palestinians. In fact, the peace activism that came out of many of these camps this summer was quite moving.

      Yes, there are young Jewish Americans who lose their connection to Israel. But that is part of the bigger issue of  many young American Jews losing their connection to Judaism. That's an issue for another day, but it is a relevant point that has a lot to do with the connection to Israel. It's not simply a matter of young Americans reacting the Israeli government's policies.

      •  one midnight "fun" activity at the camp was (0+ / 0-)

        an exercise in how to kill an Arab. I was about 13 years old. Peace activism indeed.

        While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

        by Tamar on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 11:28:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have no idea if you are simply (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayinPortland

          making shit up with that last comment, but no matter, as I am fairly sure that nothing like that has gone on in the above referenced summer camps for at least the last 35 years. A fair number of their alumni are in the forefront of Jewish organizations that promote peace, coexistance, and a two-state solution.

          •  I'm 66 so this was over 50 years ago. I'm (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PeterHug, marina

            not making it up. I have no idea whether it was a one-time thing or not -- my guess is that it was one counselor's idea of an exciting exercise. But I never heard anyone criticize it either.
            Our family is quite involved in Jewish life (as I said, our youngest still goes to Hebrew School despite being 2 years past her Bat Mitzvah). My husband and I are members of J Street and have worked to get panel discussions on Israel in the two synagogues to which we have belonged. My older daughter spent the summer a few years ago in Israel and Palestine and also was enrolled in an Interfaith Peace Building program there. On her own time, she marched with Israeli peace activists and worked on helping rebuild a Palestinian family's home until the IDF soldiers kicked the mainly American Jewish group of young people out. And she met with older students in two different synagogues to discuss the issues. So our children are heavily engaged in Jewish peace activism.

            While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

            by Tamar on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 04:09:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ok -- so you are talking about (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JayinPortland, dhonig, JNEREBEL

              something you don't recall being more than a single incident, from 53 years ago, when you were a child.

              And you don't recall all the details.

              And you don't know whether this was anything more than a one-time action of a single counselor who was a bad apple.

              And you are using that admittedly limited recollection to smear that Jewish summer camp as well as that entire youth movement.

              And you are doing so without giving any consideration of what that camp or that youth movement have doing in the 53 years since.  

              Sorry, but that is just too fucking ridiculous to take seriously.

              But kol hakavod to your daughter for being quite the social justice activist. My guess, however, is that had you sent her to the camp referenced above, she would have been every bit the activist she is today, but might also have a stronger personal connection to Israel and the Jewish people, which would make her ability to criticize the government's policies all the more meaningful and powerful.

              If your younger daughter is just two years out from her bat mitzvah, she may still be able to attend that camp next summer. I bet she would have the experience of a lifetime, and would learn how to feel comfortable as a Jew, connected to Israel, and committed to social justice, all at the same time (something her mom apparently missed out on).

              •  We will just have to agree to disagree. My older (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                PeterHug, marina

                daughter's connection to Israel was harmed by her experience in Israel. In fact, she was the one who really opened our eyes to what was happening.

                Check out my list of diaries. I republished her blogs from her time there. You might learn something.

                While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

                by Tamar on Sat Aug 30, 2014 at 12:02:40 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Shame on you. n/t (0+ / 0-)

          "Stay close to the candles....the staircase can be treacherous" (-8.38,-8.51)

          by JNEREBEL on Sat Aug 30, 2014 at 04:46:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  You are factually incorrect (5+ / 0-)

    I have two co-workers who are gay and married, and they emigrated from Israel to the US specifically because they are not welcome in Israel as a gay married couple.  Not to mention that only Jewish marriages are legal in Israel.  If you are Jewish and marry a Palestinian you are no longer an Israeli citizen and your spouse has no rights under Israeli law.

    I will not get into the other reasons about why you are wrong about the "only logical conclusion" being blind devotion to the Israeli regime.  At some point you so-called "progressive Zionists" will realize that you are perpetrating the types of war crimes that were visited upon your people in the 1940s through the Holocaust.  But of course, you and the others who think like you will tell me it's anti-Semitic to make this comparison.  As though the giant wall surrounding the West Bank and Gaza is not equivalent to the ghettos of Eastern Europe, and the limitation of human rights and dignity is not akin to the subjugation of Jews by the Nazis.  I pray for your sake and the world that people like yourself come to see reason before it's too late.

    •  You are factually incorrect (9+ / 0-)
      Not to mention that only Jewish marriages are legal in Israel.
      No, actually Muslim and Christian and Druze and Bahai and Shinto and what not marriages are legal in Israel.
      However one cannot perform inter-faith marriage ceremonies in Israel that will be accepted by the government as official. This is a sad holdover of the Ottoman law, that was adopted by the British mandate that was adopted by the state of Israel in 1948 (with the approval of all minorities by the way, religious people of all stripes just love to have power and jobs).
      Israel, however, recognizes any valid marriage certificate from other countries and  bestows  on the couple all rights that come with a legal marriage.
      What many people do (For example a Jewish Cohen and a divorcee who cannot get a marriage certificate in Israel) is to go to Cyprus (1 hr flight), get married there in  city hall and come back and are recognized as married.
      Heck, my brother married a Japanese woman In Japan and she now holds an Israeli passport (n no, she didn't have to convert).
      If you are Jewish and marry a Palestinian you are no longer an Israeli citizen and your spouse has no rights under Israeli law.
      Complete and utter bullshit. When an Israeli citizen marries a Palestinian, The Israeli citizen does not lose his citizenship no matter what. However the Palestinian spouse does not automatically obtain the Israeli citizenship. She/He get a permanent resident status. This specific regulation has to be renewed every year. Considering the practical state of war between Israelis and Palestinians, this is not that surprising. When I applied for American citizenship I had to swear up and down that I am not and never was a member of the communist party....

      It is interesting to note that when an  Israeli Palestinian woman marries a Palestinian from the west bank, the norm of the Palestinian society flips - He moves in with her family (it is customary in the Palestinian society for the woman to move in with her husband's family). I wonder why, after all Israel is the most racist country in the middle east.

      As for gay marriage. Unfortunately you cannot get a legal marriage certificate in Israel. However, Israel recognizes these certificates from abroad. Furthermore - gay couples do not need this certificate (as heteros really do not need it) since Israel recognizes common-law marriage. Furthermore, 20 years ago  the Israeli supreme court  (El Al vs Danilovich) determined that workplaces cannot discriminate against gay couples and they should receive any benefits a married couples are entitled to. subsequent rulings expanded this to all other areas.
      In 1998 for example, any reference to homosexuality ws deleted from the Israeli Army rules and regulations.
      Gays in Israel are allowed to adopt and use surrogate services.

      Is their situation perfect?- no. The struggle continues.
      Is their situation better than many western liberal countries? No doubt.

      Queror Ergo Sum. -- Rene Descartes Shakshuka

      by The Revenge of Shakshuka on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 05:07:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many Israelis who marry Palestinians emigrate (4+ / 0-)

        and even those who marry non-Jews face difficulty.

        Check out Lehava.

        … the NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said August 23.

        by mosesfreeman on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 06:42:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Anecdotes are not statistics (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RoIn

          "Many Israelis who marry Palestinians emigrate"

          You mean Israeli Arabs who marry Palestinians? Do you have a link to this statistics?  If anything, getting Israeli permanent residency is  coveted commodity in the west bank as it allows the person to live and work in Israel. I haven't heard of massive exodus of Israeli Arabs.

          "and even those who marry non-Jews face difficulty."

          Yes, living in a country with ethnic strife is a walk on the beach.
          However, marriage between Arabs and Jews in Israel is usually one way - A Jewish woman  marries a Muslim and convert to Islam. The other direction is extremely rare. Most societies are more "protective" of their woman than their man. It took a long time (more than 2 centuries) for Americans to get around to the idea of interracial marriage.
          However the state itself does not care one way or the other.

          As to Lehava -  a vile and disgusting group that thumbs its nose in places it does not belong. Even the Jews are allowed their racist little pieces of shit.

          Queror Ergo Sum. -- Rene Descartes Shakshuka

          by The Revenge of Shakshuka on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 03:53:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wrong about same sex couples (0+ / 0-)

      The policy changed a few weeks ago.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

      I dare any same sex couple to try to live openly in Gaza.

    •  Non-Jewish marriages legal in Israel (0+ / 0-)

      Not only that, but Israel pays the salaries of Muslim and Christian clergy who run the religious courts of those religions. And the Muslim shariah courts in Israel actually face less government intrusion than do such courts in many Muslim countries where the appointments are political and the judges are required to follow government dictates. I've used this fact to shame the Islamophobes who object to "shariah courts" in the US. Israel can handle them, why can't the US?
       

  •  Likud is led by sociopaths (7+ / 0-)

    who killed Rabin and do not ever want peace.  To say, killing so many children is just how war is, is brain dead.  Palestinians are acting [stupidly] like they have nothing to lose because THEY DON'T have anything to lose!

    give them stuff--don't kill them.

    My best guess was a reflection that did not look back, an image lost in every mirror.

    by Zacapoet on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 02:01:48 PM PDT

  •  I couldn't disagree more. I'd go into much greater (11+ / 1-)

    detail but it would just garner me an HR. Suffice it to say that I find supporting crimes against humanity inconsistent with progressive principles.

  •  No (12+ / 0-)

    No.  This will not do.  You do not get to claim to speak for women and LGBT people.  There are women in Palestine, there are gays in Palestine.  They also oppose the Occupation.  Many of them point to the Occupation as the reason for Hamas' growth, and the success of political Islam more generally.  There were leftist opposition groups before, and they are gone.  There were nationalist opposition groups, and Israel preferred to undermine them by supporting Islamists.  Now there is a mess.

     Israel threatens gays with outing if they do not collaborate, and this means that gays are now suspected collaborators.  It does not excuse the human rights violations of the Palestinian (governments? Do you really believe that?) actors who violate their human rights, but it hardly suggests support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians.  

     The peace process is sham. Israel's Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank will only be stopped by grassroots action (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) and a consistent human rights ethic.  Everyone who lives in the Middle East, and especially the Levant, must learn to share the land and its resources.  

     Too much to address.  I am to your left anyway, but I am a Democrat and you do not speak for me.

  •  What would MLK, or Gandhi (12+ / 0-)

    have to say about this?

    Israel can't claim to be "progressive" while enabling abominable behavior like this to go on. It should be noted how it is the Israeli government that is responsible here. The settlers can be written off as crazy fanatics, fair enough, but it is the Israeli government that enables and encourages them.

    A military escort accompanies these children, yet does nothing while they are brutally attacked by adult settlers. Even further, the Israeli government doesn't allow internationals to escort these kids. In short, the Israeli government does nothing to protect them, and prevents anyone else from protecting them either.

    Tell me again what Gandhi would say.

    … the NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said August 23.

    by mosesfreeman on Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 03:24:46 PM PDT

  •  So, it's "progressive" to support the barbaric and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nosleep4u, out of left field, cal2010

    ...illegal Israeli campaign against Gaza's civilian population because Israel is nice to her own Jewish citizens (though Israel's treatment of her Arab citizens is a tad different) and because you don't like the folks Palestinians are choosing to represent them after decades of brutal (and brutalizing) occupation?

    I beg to differ. Self-determination is one of the bedrock principles of progressive political thought. Hamas ironically is an outgrowth of Israel's cynical cultivation of Islamic radicals to undermine the Palestinian authority, talk about 'blowback'. And when you intentionally subject a culture to grinding poverty, random assassination and the other features of a brutal occupation, it should come as no surprise that the culture ends up dysfunctional and problematic in many ways.

    This is one of the great tragic ironies here: Palestinian culture pre-1967 was (to over-simplify a bit) one of the most progressive, secular and peaceable in the Islamic world. Israel's brutal occupation and cynical manipulation of Palestinian politics has succeeded in driving this culture into the arms of violent, nihilistic radical Islam.

    Mission accomplished!

  •  Fantastic diary. (6+ / 0-)

    Your views represent the mainstream of American liberal opinion, but unfortunately the extremist, anti-Israel voices here have managed to flip that reality on its head, much to this site's shame.

    I was pulling for you in the PA-13 primary, from here in Kensington (PA-01).  Keep doing good for Pennsylvania, Daylin.

  •  Excellent diary (3+ / 0-)

    Thank you for posting!

  •  Israel is just a TEA PARTY EXTENSION... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cal2010

    There are a lot of news sources, we do not depend of the omissions of the American pupuganda. We see, racist extremists chanting dead to Arabs in an interracial marriage, hates against black people, treating them as third class citizens. This is something that the ex clipper owner candidly said in the infamous tape recorder. Young Israelis using even nazi tshirts. We need to work for a better societies, not going backwards. Why Israel did not close the tunnel the way Egypt did, why they have to killed so many inocent people specifically children, they are able to do surgery hits, they show us at the end of the war, killing top hamas commanders...morality has to be blind, we have to see the facts even if they are hard against the people we love, only in that way, we can grow and be better, trying to cover up just do the opposite.

  •  For a contrasting opinion see (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cal2010

    South African Calls to Boycott Israel reporting statements by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recommending a boycott of Israel.

    The security forces in SA and the ANC both committed atrocities. Then negotiations began, Mandela was moved from Robben Island, the violence began to die down, they made a deal, and the remnant violence became a police rather than a security matter.

    The security forces in Northern Ireland, the IRA, and the Orange Order all committed atrocities in Northern Ireland. Then negotiations began, the violence began to die down, they made a deal, and the remnant violence became a police rather than a security matter.

    The common claim that this is impossible with Hamas, that Palestinians would rather murder Israelis than have peace, is simple racism.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 01:15:18 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buffan

    There is a reason that even long time Israeli peace activists like Amos Oz recognized that military action against Hamas could not be avoided. One can support the state of Israel against its sworn enemies, on the one hand, and be critical of the government's policies on the other. For many of us, that's the path to take.

  •  Collective Punishment is NOT a progressive value (0+ / 0-)

    Obviously you are Progressive except when it comes to Palestinians.

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Aug 31, 2014 at 04:12:21 AM PDT

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