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Dems have four congressional candidates willing to criticize Israel — and ‘reap political rewards’

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The Israel issue is heating up in American politics, with ABC News publishing a report that progressive Democrats are increasingly willing to criticize Israel and may “reap political rewards” by doing so. The report cites four congressional candidates, in Pennsylvania, NY, Minnesota and Virginia. And it shows that Republicans are publicizing the trend, in an effort to peel away Jewish voters from Democratic ranks. ABC:

For decades it was seen as too politically risky, but this midterm cycle a growing number of Democratic candidates have begun openly criticizing some of Israel’s policies.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first-time candidate who upset 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in last month’s Democratic primary, incorporated criticism of Israel’s actions into her campaign, condemning what she called a recent “massacre” in Gaza and calling on more Democrats to focus on the struggle of Palestinians.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is attacking Ocasio-Cortez and several other candidates as harbingers of days to come in the Democratic Party.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only harbinger of the decline of @TheDemocrats support for Israel. Ds also nominated @ScottWallacePA & @LeslieCockburn who both have a nasty history of anti-Israel animus, & of course Ilhan Omar, who’s vying to replace @keithellison

The Cook Political Report has an article about Scott Wallace’s race against a Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania’s first congressional district, saying that Wallace’s support for BDS is hurting him in the general election. Note the RJC’s characterization of BDS as “anti-Semitic.”

Wallace has the ability to self-fund but may have problems money can’t solve…

The day after the primary, the Forward published a piece documenting that the Wallace Global Fund gave $300,000 to groups supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel. Wallace says he didn’t control the expenditures and disavows BDS, but it took a month for one local Jewish Democratic group to reinstate its support for him.

On June 21, the Republican Jewish coalition began running a brutal ad attacking Wallace for owning “mansions in Maryland and South Africa” and “donating $300,000 to anti-Semitic organizations that promote boycotting Israel.” The final tag line? “At home in South Africa, too radical for us.” The ad forced Wallace to respond with an almost unheard-of June damage-control ad noting that he “lives in the house he was born in” and is a “strong supporter of Israel.”

That RJC ad is aimed at pulling Democratic pro-Israel voters to the Republican side. It says that Wallace is “so radically anti-Israel, Pennsylvania’s top Democrat Jewish organizations refusing support.”

Mal Hyman lost a Democratic runoff in South Carolina while being outspoken on Palestinian human rights. And some of the Israel critics still standing are not backing down, per ABC’s Roey Hadar.

[Leslie] Cockburn has not backed down from her criticism of the Israeli government’s actions. She still enjoys endorsements from leading Democratic and progressive groups like EMILY’s List and the League of Conservation Voters.

Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic candidate for the Minnesota congressional seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Keith Ellison, has gone a step further, defending her 2012 tweet in which she alleged Israel has “hypnotized the world” and committed “evil doings.” Omar, a Somali-American Muslim and former refugee, is looking to replace Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress.

Omar is in an August primary with several other Democrats. She has called Israel an “apartheid state”! That’s refreshing in a discourse where that truth is usually suppressed (ask Jimmy Carter).

ABC quotes Neil Strauss of the RJC lamenting the politicization of the issue– again in a bid for Democratic Jewish voters: “These [candidates] are becoming the standard bearers in the Democratic Party and it’s unfortunate.”

The piece also quotes James Zogby on the importance of the Trump-Netanyahu “marriage” in driving the trend, and Bernie Sanders:

“Bernie’s campaign was significant because, not unlike Jackson, he sort of rode a wave and realized that there was actually a wave to ride. It was a clear bell ringer that something was going on out there and that this issue was going to resonate,” Zogby said in a phone interview with ABC News.

Sanders himself has continued to press on the issue, highlighting it in his social media messaging. Last month, he released a seven-minute video featuring the voices of Palestinians living in Gaza and describing their conditions.

And Shibley Telhami:

“Those candidates who take on the Israeli government’s specific policies could be rewarded.”

Public opinion polling shows that sentiments have indeed shifted, especially among Democrats…

“Democrats, even separate from the partisan issue, have basically seen [the Palestinian] issue as part of their value system,” Telhami said. “They increasingly see their values as not a part of the values of Israel.”

This is a very unsettling issue for Democrats. NPR pointedly ignores the Israel angle in a piece on the progressive challenge to the party establishment. While at Crooked Timber, Corey Robin has a piece on the way that Sanders has transformed the Democratic Party, and Donald Johnson is the only the only one in the comment thread to mention Ocasio Cortez’s position on Gaza.

If you listen to her she is clearly in sympathy with Sanders critique of money in politics, which puts her at odds with what Clinton practiced. She is one of the few politicians ( Sanders is another) who criticized the Israeli massacre in Gaza recently. I don’t expect that position to become the mainstream Democratic one quite yet, but if it does it will be funny if people say this is what most Democrats thought all along.

“Nobody who was truly antiwar could have felt enthusiasm for Clinton, and yet so many liberals loved her,” Johnson adds.

Meantime, the Zioness Movement, a feminist group that lobbies for Israel, is trying to work on Ocasio-Cortez:

We are concerned about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s past statements regarding the tragic situation in Gaza. The terrorist organization Hamas has confirmed that 52 of the 60 casualties on the Gaza/Israel border were members of their organization.

We decry the cynical strategy employed by Hamas to put women and children in the line of fire, to exploit the compassion and empathy of all who witness the result.

While we grieve the loss of any life, we support Israel in its right–and in fact, its sovereign obligation–to protect its borders and its people.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez earned the Democratic nomination with her commitment and dedication, and she has since displayed a willingness to engage and learn.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak about the ways in which our progressive values are inherently interwoven with our Jewish and Zionist ones.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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19 Responses

  1. JWalters on July 9, 2018, 9:05 pm

    Bibi: There’s thinking it may be time to increase our presence in America, beyond simply controlling the politicians and the press.

    Tzipi: What do you mean?

    Bibi: A modest sized area, in New York, near the city, that would be an actual part of Israel. A remote province, surrounded by the United States, but legally a part of Israel.

    Tzipi: I don’t know.

    Bibi: There would be a ready supply of settlers in Brooklyn.

    Tzipi: What about the people already living there?

    Bibi: That should be no problem. We’ll use the Biblical solution.

    Tzipi: That would really antagonize the neighbors. We could get into a fight with the U.S.

    Bibi: It’ll hardly be mentioned in the press, just something vague. The entire Senate will be on board, and almost the entire House. We’ve done this sort of thing before, just not quite this magnitude. Remember the Liberty!

    • captADKer on July 10, 2018, 10:13 am

      jw- brilliant idea!
      why not locate an impervious israeli outpost on the rio grande. in addition to cultural and political proximity, it would help to shut down illegal penetrators and serve as a training ground for lone or christian soldiers in furthering
      this vital security role.

      • Mooser on July 10, 2018, 11:58 am

        “why not locate an impervious israeli outpost on the rio grande.”

        And they could remove all religious and political objection to Trump’s child-prisons by calling it “The Stephen Miller Children’s Kibbutz”, too.

  2. chris_k on July 10, 2018, 12:49 am

    I looked at the Google News feed yesterday and that article was there, along with the New Yorker article about the ‘map’ of settlements handed to Obama and two other articles (NBC, Politico) that threw me for a loop. I’m shocked that ABC News editors allowed that article to be printed. Historically these moments of emboldened editors are ‘corrected’ by the Lobby and the other cynical players of the political world, but that was fun for a day.

    The televised media is treating Ocasio-Cortez like a rock star. Meanwhile Tulsi Gabbard is being smeared at every turn, but she’s not a poor underdog girl from the Bronx, a subway ride from the media world, who’s suddenly the hippest of all New Yorkers.

    I hope this all turns out for the best. Ocasio-Cortez could potentially have a seismic effect on the Israel-Palestine issue and the many layers of corruption that surround it and various other matters facing this once-sovereign nation, whether or not you agree with all her policies. The misgivings some people have about Bernie, including his inconsistency on Israel, are nowhere to be found with her. Luckily for the Lobby she can’t run for 1600 Pennsylvania for another ten years.

    • annie on July 10, 2018, 1:34 am

      Luckily for the Lobby she can’t run for 1600 Pennsylvania for another ten years.

      she was born on October 13, 1989. that means she will be 35 on October 13, 2024. that’s only 6+ years.

      • chris_k on July 10, 2018, 6:03 am

        That works better! Thanks.

      • Misterioso on July 10, 2018, 10:59 am

        @Annie Robbins

        As history attests, women, are the key to victory. For the most part, their brains are located between their ears whereas men’s brains are located elsewhere, e.g., the current president. The evil that has infected America over the decades can be defeated if women turn out en masse in the next election

      • annie on July 10, 2018, 11:10 am

        misterioso, this reminds me of an article i read this morning in the new republic (of all places) called “give the left a chance”.

        If the Democratic Party wants to reclaim state legislatures and Congress, it will have to turn out voters. And if voters want universal health care, free public college, and a fairer immigration policy, then the party should give them what they want. It’s also what we all need.

        the way to get women to turn out en masse for an election, is to give them something to vote for, not against. seems so simple doesn’t it.

      • Mooser on July 10, 2018, 11:37 am

        “That works better! Thanks.”

        An ‘underscore’ ( _ ) in a user-name prevents the archive from functioning.

      • Rusty Pipes on July 10, 2018, 2:44 pm

        Which could make her eligible for the VP spot on the 2024 ticket, but not POTUS.

      • annie on July 10, 2018, 11:16 pm

        why rusty? she turns 35 a few weeks before the election.

      • chris_k on July 11, 2018, 12:15 am

        The constitution says you have to fulfill the age requirement when you are due to be sworn in, to respond to Rusty. Biden was elected to the Senate when he was 29 (and then got an uneven adult education from thousands of lobbyists which led to gaffes, inconsistencies, and embarrassing positions on bankruptcy legislation). Ocasio-Cortez just needs to be old enough on Jan 20 2025. & thanks Mooser I’ll change that when I get a chance.

      • Mooser on July 11, 2018, 12:06 pm

        “I’ll change that when I get a chance.”

        I don’t know why the ‘underscore glitch’ is so persistent, but it is. It’s been that way for years.

  3. genesto on July 10, 2018, 12:12 pm

    ‘Zioness’ eh? Rhymes with lioness, and probably just as dangerous!

  4. Marnie on July 10, 2018, 2:05 pm

    I’m hoping Ilhan Omar will take Keith Ellison’s place. …”she alleged Israel has “hypnotized the world” and committed “evil doings.” She sure knows what she’s talking about.

  5. JWalters on July 10, 2018, 8:29 pm

    “We would welcome the opportunity to speak about the ways in which our progressive values are inherently interwoven with our Jewish and Zionist ones.”

    “Come into our parlor”, said the gang of spiders to the fly.

    • JWalters on July 10, 2018, 8:43 pm

      How about doing that in a public forum with an equal number of anti-Zionists free to explain why they see Zionist values as barbaric atrocities?

  6. JWalters on July 10, 2018, 8:38 pm

    Another congressional candidate who deserves support is Dave Moore. He is adamant about reining in the war profiteers.

    He says he will push for ending all aid to Israel until they return to the ’67 borders, in a comment to this article “USS Liberty Survivor Named US Delegate on Gaza Flotilla”

    • echinococcus on July 11, 2018, 5:20 am

      Now you’re talking, Waters.
      This guy not only says he intends to cut Zionist welfare, he is not a Dim or Puke so he isn’t Answering to a Higher (ruling-class) Authority like the Hebrew National Hotdogs or the Dims and Pukes.

      That’s why he’s not on Weiss’ radar.
      The liberals, like the real rich, don’t like people who are not hogtied from the get-go.

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