This week, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar held a press conference to offer their views on Israel’s ban against them entering Palestine. Perhaps the most important news coming out of the event was Omar’s demand that the U.S. withhold part or all of the $30-billion offered to Israel by the Obama administration as it sought to bribe Israel to soft-pedal its opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
Obama was suckered by the Israelis, who took the money and ran, still opposing the deal. Obama was furthered humiliated when the Israeli eventually got their way and Pres. Trump torpedoed the JPOA entirely.
But I’m afraid the last laugh may be on Israel if Omar has anything to say about it. Already, Bernie Sanders has spoken out publicly with the same sentiment. Though he has not spoken as forcefully, he has said that this aid should not be given carte blanche to Israel. But rather should be made contingent on Israeli cooperation with a peace process and easing the Occupation.
Steny Hoyer Suckered by Bibi
Obama wasn’t the only one Netanyahu suckered. In fact, Steny Hoyer had brokered a quid pro quo deal with Israel’s ambassador, Ron Dermer: Hoyer would lead the largest Democratic Congressional delegation to Israel ever; and in return Israel would permit enry to Tlaib and Ilhan.
When Trump learned of this, he was determined to upset the apple cart. At first, he merely leaked a story that he was telling his aides that Israel should bar the two Muslim American House members. Within a few days, he actually tweeted this message to Netanyahu. Within three hours, the prime minister had dumped the Dermer-Hoyer deal and announced Tlaib and Omar were treif.
As a result, Dermer has become radioactive on Capitol Hill. Democrats are done with him. Which probably will not harm his job performance, since Israel only cares about Republicans anyway. But it will finally lose the false perception of bipartisanship it has carefully cultivated over many decades. Though in most similar situations, a country would withdraw such a diplomat who has betrayed one of America’s political parties, Israel is a different story. It, like Trump, cares little for convention and consensus.
While Democrats may fume about Dermer’s double-cross, will they actually do anything? Will they make Israel pay a price? Or will they fold like a bad poker hand? You know which way I’m betting. But I might be pleasantly surprised if the next Democratic junket to Israel includes a heavy schedule of meetings in Palestine. Not just meetings with the usual suspects like Abbas and his corrupt PA. But meetings with Israeli dissidents, progressive MKs, human rights NGOs, cultural figures and public intellectuals who are outside the narrow and typical liberal Zionist consensus.
I also look forward to the time when a Democratic president can repay Israel’s “kindness” to Omar and Tlaib. Almost every minister in the current Israeli cabinet has either engaged in corruption, homophobia, Islamophobia, or even acts of outright terrorism. There is far more justification for banning Israeli politicians from these shores than there was for Israel to ban Omar and Tlaib. I’m looking for a little–what-goes-around-comes-around.
When difficult, controversial ideas like BDS and curtailing aid enter the body politic, they don’t take the country by storm. They simmer and percolate through conversations among thousands and tens of thousands. Until they become normalized and accepted as established wisdom.
BDS and curtailing U.S. aid to Israel have been controversial for years. But as Israel grows ever more authoritarian, these ideas become more and more reasonable as responses. So you will be hearing presidential candidates beyond Bernie Sanders begin toying with these ideas. You will hear other members of Congress, even senators begin to bandy them about. Once that happens it will be too late for the Israel Lobby to brand them as extremist or anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, as they do now. They will then become part of Sisyphus’ boulder careening downhill threatening to trample Israel unless it takes drastic action to reverse impending catastrophe.
American Jews: Democrats and “Traitors”
Trump has obsessively sought to paint these views as anti-Semitic, even though Jewish Americans like Bernie Sanders are among the most prominent advancing them. The former made these bizarre comments (see interview above) in an interview this week:
“I can’t even believe that we’re having this conversation. Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this — even three years ago — of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation,” Trump fumed.
“Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty, alright?”
First of all, the concept of using U.S. military and foreign aid to pressure Israel into compromising in order to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinians has been advocated for decades. Yes, initially the idea was an outlier, mostly because Israel seemed, at various points, willing to engage in a peace process that could have led to such an agreement. But as Israel’s government has grown increasingly right-wing and rejectionist, cutting aid has become a far more viable position. Ilan and Sanders are by no means outliers in advocating this. In fact, the very idea that Sanders would advance anything radical concerning Israel is preposterous. If anything, his prior positions on the subject have been cautious, even tepid, at least as far as a truly progressive agenda goes.
As for where the Democratic Party has gone–it’s actually reflected the bleak reality of Israeli politics, whereas the GOP has remained mired in a delusional past that no longer exists. It is the Democrats, at least some of them, who are the most willing to grapple with the enormity of the Israeli burden for the miasma the world now faces in this region.
Next, the notion that American Jews are betraying either their Jewish identity or their allegiance to Israel by refusing to support Trump is not just noxious, it is downright anti-Semitic. We as Jews have no specific “allegiance” to anyone or anything except our own country. Yes, we may have sympathy, we may have an affinity for Israel. We may have concerns or interests. But allegiance is something far more tangible and specific. To be clear, we are not Israeli. Israel is not Jews. Certainly not the world’s Jews. Israel is a nation of Jews and non-Jews. A nation, not a religion.
I write this despite the passage of the Nation-State Law which declares that Israel is a Jewish state and a state only for Jews. I reject this notion. Israel must be a democracy in which ALL citizens have equal rights. If it is only a Jewish state then it is an ethnostate and little different than the white Christian state advocated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists here. Such a thing is an abomination to almost all Jews outside Israel, and even to many inside Israel.
Trump is propounding a dangerous and false notion that Jews have two sets of loyalties, and that their loyalty to Israel should trump their loyalty to the nation of their birth. Actually, Trump seems to believe that the interests of Israel and the U.S. under his leadership are the same. And that anyone who “betrays” Israel is also betraying the U.S. That notion is almost too bizarre to fully unpack.
But he’s merely articulating a notion which has been prevalent for decades in U.S. politics; and embraced by the Israel Lobby and its water-carriers in Congress. I can remember many press conferences with U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers in which someone declares proudly: there isn’t an inch of daylight between our two nations’ views on all matters concerning Israel. That dangerous idea is how we get to Trump’s even more dangerous ones.
There is a straight link between accusing Jews of treason and some hothead neo-Nazi taking up arms against the fevered foes of his imagination. Donald Trump is killing us. And yet, and yet, the Republican Jewish Coalition not just excuses this rhetoric, but energetically endorses it. Jews die while they swoon for the anti-Semite in the White House.
Donald, “King of Israel”
Today, Wayne Allyn Root, one of Trump’s most ardent Christian evangelical supporters and a Jew who converted. voiced this rant, wholeheartedly endorsed by Trump himself:
….like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God…But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that’s OK, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s good for…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2019
The very notion of Israeli Jews embracing anyone as the Second Coming of God would be absolutely repulsive, and especially so to the Orthodox Jewish Israelis who are Trump’s most ardent supporters. Also interesting to note that Israeli prime ministers who tout their security credentials often are labeled “King of Israel.” How can Israelis make room for two kings if Bibi Netanyahu is already their king?
Regardless of all this, the notion that Israelis embrace a king is yet another indication that democracy is dead there. Israelis (and supporters like Trump, Friedman, Kushner, Greenblatt and Root) want a theocracy, a return to the Davidic dynasty, rebuilding of the Temple (and destruction of the Muslim holy places). They want ethnic cleansing, eradication of a non-Jewish presence by any “reasonable” means necessary. They want Judeo-supremacy. And if that reminds you of the views of a certain totalitarian state which terrorized the world for 12 years in the last century, so be it.
Yes, it is true that not all Israeli Jews endorse these views. But that hardly matters since their governments going back decades have advocated such an approach, even more so in the two decades of Netanyahu’s reign.
GOP Lifting Faux Quotes from Golda Meir
The Israel Lobby has now taken to lifting quotes from Golda Meir in order to disparage Rep. Tlaib for her refusal to accept a humanitarian permit to visit her grandmother. You’ll recall that the Israeli prime minister was famously quoted as saying:
“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
In fact, it appears Meir never said this. It may’ve been part of an embellishment of Golda’s reputation by her biographer and admirer, Marie Syrkin. The quotation certainly sounds nothing like the hard-headed, unsentimental rhetoric of the actual Golda. The cloying, concern trolling of the purported quotation sounds like just the sort of thing a liberal Zionist publicist like Syrkin would have invented to burnish Golda’s rep.
On FoxNews a GOP Congressman who certainly wouldn’t know Golda from Gilda, adapted the alleged quotation in order to besmirch Tlaib’s devotion to her sitty:
“Obviously she hates Jews more than she likes her grandmother. Obviously.”
Just as the Golda quote is fake, the comment by the Republican is as fake as a $3 bill. In fact, the Detroit Congresswoman’s grandmother endorsed Tlaib’s decision wholeheartedly, and in fact wished “ruin” on Donald Trump for the part he played in her ban.
“Muslim Zionist” Tells FoxNews That Tlaib and Omar Have Case of “Holocaust Envy”
You’ve heard of penis envy, no doubt. Well, one of Laura Ingraham’s FoxNews guests did the unthinkable, she linked (implicitly) male genitalia to the Holocaust. It was yet another one of Ingraham’s inimitable dog-and-pony Islamophobic shows, this time featuring the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Notorious BMZ (Bigoted Muslim Zionist), Qanta Ahmed. The website of the messianic settler group, Aish HaTorah, lionizes her as a “Muslim Zionist.” Here’s what this “Islamic scholar” had to say:
They are using Islamist tactics to invert reality. What they’re seeking, they have a grotesque Holocaust envy,” she said, making a highly incendiary claim, which she recognized, because she quickly added: “And just hear me out on that.”
“Islamists envy what they see as the special mark upon the Jewish people, that is the membership of genocide. It’s a terrible thing that befell the Jewish people, but Islamists envy it, they want to take over and appear the most persecuted, the most victimized, the most disadvantaged, while they deny the Holocaust and the existence of Israel. This is why you are seeing this, there is nothing genuine about these politicians. I don’t care whether they were Democrats or Republicans. The question is, where is the Speaker of the House? Where is Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to not just reprimand them, silence, and marginalize them? That’s what I’m upset about.”
Someone who wouldn’t know an Islamist from a Psalmist, actually has the grotesque chutzpah to claim that there are Muslims somewhere in the world who are jealous that 6-million were exterminated, and that they weren’t Muslim. Because, well who knows why? Because somehow it would give Muslims a leg up in the world.
This is sick twisted stuff. The world is going insane. And FoxNews and Donald Trump carry the seeds of the disease and they’re communicating it to the rest of us. Not to all of us, but to the margins of society: to the 4chans and 8chans; to the incels and the neo-Nazis who are both angry and homicidal; who have guns and are looking to take revenge. And you know there are more massacres coming courtesy of this president.