On July 17, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs convened for a markup of several bills, including a few that were directly related to the Israel-Palestine conflict. One member of the committee, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whom you might have been hearing about for other reasons this week, spoke for a few minutes about achieving a resolution to that conflict. Her words were subsequently distorted and attacked.
Often those attacks have conflated her words with the presentation of a bill, also this week, which Omar is co-sponsoring with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) which defends the right of people to boycott, as enshrined in the First Amendment. The bill has been prompted by a bipartisan House effort to move legislation that, while not criminalizing boycotts of Israel (an effort which was thwarted on legal grounds last year), heavily stigmatizes it. This will both have a chilling effect on free expression and lay the groundwork for more steps against boycotts in the future.
Omar, Lewis, and Tlaib quite correctly understand that not only does this put an obstacle in the path of non-violent action to oppose Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights but can lead to the stifling of organized economic action on any political matter, domestic or international. They have, therefore, not brought a bill that addresses BDS, Israel, or Palestine, but rather protects the right to boycott, one of the few effective tools grassroots movements have for impacting political realities. Continue reading
Attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) are escalating. The big splash over the weekend came when a poster appeared in a display case at the West Virginia state capitol during Republican Party Day. It was an image of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center ablaze after the 9/11 attacks. Superimposed in front of them was a picture of Omar, with the meme “’Never Forget’ – you said…I am the proof…you have forgotten.”
After the wave of outrage rolled through social media, the West Virginia GOP issued a statement disavowing the poster, saying someone had hung it up without their knowledge and calling it hate speech. But the GOP stopped short of condemning it, only saying that the party “do not support it.” Since the poster was in a display case in the capitol, it is difficult to believe that those arranging the event were unaware of the poster until after it became a national controversy.
Either way, this attack from the right followed on the heels of the latest criticism of Omar from largely liberal and centrist quarters. Almost on cue, the West Virginia controversy—with its blatant, indisputably hateful message—gave those centrist and liberal critics the perfect cover, as they could comfortably, if cynically, condemn the Republican attack on Omar while once again spuriously accusing her of anti-Semitism. Read more at LobeLog
Discussing the role of the pro-Israel lobby in forming US Middle East policy is perilous. I’ve heard hundreds of stories from fellow advocates, colleagues on Capitol Hill, and journalists who have learned that lesson the hard way. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has once again brought that peril on herself.
Responding to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s comments about the amount of energy Congress spends defending Israel, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” When the Forward’s opinion editor asked her who she thought was “paying off” members of Congress to support Israel, Omar tweeted “AIPAC.”
The backlash was swift and powerful. Criticism and denunciation of Omar’s tweet as anti-Semitic came from all directions, left and right. It culminated with leading Democrats denouncing the new congresswoman and Omar’s apology. Omar’s initial comments evoked for many the image of Jews nefariously controlling a political agenda with their money, an old and sordidly familiar anti-Semitic trope.
Having been through this sort of thing before when she had to apologize for a tweet evoking the trope of subtle Jewish power by saying that Israel had hypnotized the world, Omar might have known better than to tweet so flippantly on a subject that requires significant nuance.
Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American, Muslim, progressive activist and co-leader of The Women’s March, is a lightning rod of controversy.
Her critics will say it is because she fails to live up to her progressive values when it comes to matters of anti-Semitism, and some say she is anti-Semitic herself.
Her supporters will say it is because she is a strong, left-wing woman who wears a hijab, proudly supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement and is firmly anti-Zionist.
Either way, the mere mention of her name is usually enough to provoke a passionate response.
And when she called for support for Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, who Sarsour said she was being attacked by pseudo-liberals
who check their values at the door where Israel is concerned, she was quickly assailed for having invoked the anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty.
But is that really what she did? Read more at The Forward
The bad faith attacks on Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour have reached new heights in recent days. They have been revived and risen in intensity after the massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue late last month. I’ll have more to say on this very soon, but right now, I wanted to share the message below that was distributed by Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. Rabbi Waskow bracketed the statement with some comments of his, and you can see these here.
It is important, to be sure, to hear Sarsour’s own words, in full context rather than as happens to often, framed by others. But it takes on a greater importance right now. The very real escalation in attacks on Jews in the United States have had absolutely nothing to do with Israel and its human rights violations, but have a very strong connection to the hateful, anti-Semitic ramblings of Donald Trump. The Jewish right has tried to distort this reality because they support Trump–not only in his anti-Semitism, but in his broader racism and authoritarianism–and because they never miss an opportunity to try to frame all criticism of Israel as being based in anti-Semitism, despite the clear reality that this is rarely (not never) the case.
Linda Sarsour is, in many ways, the lightning rod for all of this. If we are to understand what is going on in America right now, and if we are to stop this rapid rise in anti-Semitism and all that goes with it (it is certainly true that anti-Jewish violence and hate speech tends to be a canary in the coalmine for the rise of broader hate movements like white supremacy), hearing Sarsour’s voice in full and clearly, is crucial. She is the very epitome of the reality that dedication to equal rights for all–a dedication that even progressives and liberals all too often find reasons to exclude the rights of Palestinians from–is the only way to guarantee equal rights for any of us. Here, then, is Linda Sarsour’s message.
On Saturday, Robert Bowers, a right-wing gunman strode into a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh and began shooting. When he was finished, he’d murdered 11 people.
Donald Trump led the quick march to bizarrely defend one of the most prominent U.S. cult symbols, the gun, by blaming the synagogue itself for not having an armed guard at the synagogue, as if such a guard would have fared better than the three Pittsburgh police officer that Bowers shot.
Trump later blamed the media for violent attacks, saying, “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news.” That was to be expected, given the increasing attention to Trump’s own lengthy history of anti-Semitic dog-whistling and the scrutiny it was finally coming under in the wake of the terrorist attack in Squirrel Hill.
But the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history was not going to remain a domestic issue for very long. Given the disdain the government of Israel has been showing to the U.S. Jewish community for so long now, it was difficult to imagine that Israel’s response to the Squirrel Hill massacre would be positive. But few could have anticipated its cynical and opportunistic response. Read more at LobeLog
Netanyahu and Orban, brothers in anti-Semitism
The private Israeli intelligence firm, Black Cube, is back in the headlines. This time, ex-employees have spilled the beans on a program to throw shade on non-governmental organizations in Hungary to help ensure the electoral victory of nationalist president Viktor Orban.
Black Cube has been hit with several controversies in recent months. Back in November 2017, it was revealed that disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein engaged Black Cube to dig up dirt on his accusers and potential accusers. In an embarrassing turn for Israel, it turned out that former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had introduced Weinstein to Black Cube’s leadership.
In May, journalist Ronan Farrow reported that Black Cube had been hired to dig up dirt on two officials—Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl—in Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Agents of the firm used phony identities to contact the officials’ spouses to try to find information they could, presumably, use to discredit Rhodes and Kahl and thereby cast a shadow on the entire effort with Iran. Read more at LobeLog