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Israel has a problem: eight new congresswomen of color

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The day that Israel killed 62 protesters at the Gaza fence last May, Deb Haaland, a candidate of Native American ancestry running for Congress in New Mexico, tweeted that it was murder:

The murder of 60 Palestinians in Gaza just as Ramadan begins weigh heavy on my heart today. The youngest was just 8 months old. Here are their names.

Haaland did a series of tweets of the victims’ names and concluded: “Violence is never the answer. I believe in diplomacy-first.”

In the past it would be hard to imagine such an individual getting into the Congress; but Haaland is part of an important story from November 6: the election of at least nine women of color as new Democratic congresswomen.

As we have often reminded readers, the progressive Democratic base is shifting against Israel. “The core constituents of the Democratic Party — women, African Americans, Hispanics and younger Americans — take positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that diverge not only from the positions of Republicans but also from the positions of their elected leaders,” pollster Shibley Telhami said four years ago.

That gap seems to be closing; and eight congresswomen-elect appear to demonstrate the trend. Only one of the eight is endorsed by a pro-Israel group, per my researches: Haaland, who called the Gaza killings “murder.”

I may be missing others (and I’m leaving out Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, who has Ecuadorian roots, because she has Israel lobby backing), but these women appear to represent a segment of the Democratic Party leadership that is responsive to the progressive base, not to the Israel lobby. While there may also be new male and/or white congresspeople who reflect the trend (and I’m not a student of intersectionality or identity politics), women of color have been one of the big stories this November, and they are likely to inaugurate a new era in the mainstream politics of Israel.

Let me go through the names, starting with three familiar ones.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York is the most famous of the group. She wrote “This is a massacre,” on that March day in Gaza; and though she has walked back some of her Israel criticisms, she’s sure to be a breath of fresh air.

Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis is also in the headlines. A Muslim and Somali-American, she has said clearly in recent days that she supports BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions aimed at Israel. She’s taking a lot of heat for it, because she seemed to oppose BDS during the campaign, but is not giving ground. “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement, and has fought to make sure people’s right to support it isn’t criminalized. She does however, have reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution.” (link) Omar has also called Israel an “apartheid” state.

Rashida Tlaib of Michigan supports one state in Israel and Palestine, and she lost her endorsement from the liberal Zionist Democratic group J Street because of that position. She lately stood up for Omar on BDS.

My parents were both born in Palestine (Falastine). My sity still lives there. So when my sister is being attacked for supporting the movement (protected freedom of speech!) we can’t stay silent. Nothing is more American than the fight for justice at home & abroad.

Lauren Underwood, 31, in Chicago has a strongly progressive framework. She told the Sun-Times:

In Congress, I will work to keep the strong bond between the United States and Israel. I strongly condemn the Trump Administration’s premature and divisive move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. My priority is to work towards a two-state solution, a pathway whereby Israel and the Palestinians can realize equitable and durable peace.

But J Street does not endorse her. Neither does the more-centrist Jewish Democratic Council of America. Nor the rightleaning unfortunately-named Jacpac.

Haaland is endorsed by J Street. She was also endorsed by Jacpac. But Haaland is a true progressive. She went to Standing Rock, and she led the divestment of her state party from Wells Fargo because of its investments in the Dakota Access pipeline.

Jahana Hayes, the first black congresswoman from Connecticut, was endorsed by no pro-Israel group I could find. She hedged on support for Israel in a debate with her very-establishment primary opponent last July (whom she crushed in August):

Hayes had no clear answer to an audience question about whether the candidates would stand with the rest of the delegation in support of Israel. “This is a very complicated question,” Hayes said “I wouldn’t make a decision without all of the information.”

Xochitl Torres Small, the 34-year-old grand-daughter of Mexican immigrants who won a New Mexico race, is endorsed by no pro-Israel group I could find. Though Torres Small is a political insider in the Udall tradition, and I have little sense of her politics, she is in her 30s and — watch out — an attorney who specializes in water rights. That’s why she makes my list.

Ayanna Pressley in Boston and its suburbs is 44 and the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress. She is more establishment than others mentioned here. The center-right Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston has said approving things about her. But Pressley’s website has a very nuanced statement that is somewhat equivocal about BDS and speaks of Palestinian trauma and right to self-determination. Also, she has reportedly supported H 4319 the bill sponsored by Betty McCollum of St. Paul, MN, that would bar US funds going to the “detention or mistreatment” of Palestinian children by Israel, which already has 29 sponsors. Pressley:

I have dedicated my life to working on issues of violence and trauma, and it is that experience that informs my approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Far too many Israelis and Palestinians have been, and continue to be, victimized by the ongoing conflict, and it is incumbent on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, the United States, and the international community to work towards a resolution that ends the suffering, violence, and hostility. I steadfastly support a two-state solution that will safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish and Democratic state, and establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian state. While there is no perfect plan to solve this enormously complex conflict and address the many legitimate historic and moral claims of both Israelis and Palestinians, a two-state solution is the only resolution that recognizes the right of all people to self-determination…

We must avoid efforts to unilaterally blame and deny legitimacy to either side, and should instead work towards building a just solution that recognizes the trauma suffered by both populations. We should hold both Israelis and Palestinians accountable when they take actions in bad faith that cause each other harm, and should encourage actions that build trust and demonstrate a real willingness to make peace. I do not support BDS as a means to achieve a two-state solution because I believe it does not acknowledge the efforts of those on the ground who are deeply committed to bringing peaceful coexistence to the region, and pushes Israelis and Palestinians farther away from the meaningful engagement and dialogue needed to empathize with each other’s struggle and acknowledge each other’s humanity. At the same time, I believe that others should be free to advocate it and that their 1st amendment rights should be respected.

J Street, JDCA, and Jacpac did not endorse Pressley.

Those groups did endorse a great number of the new class of 40-some Democrats. And as establishment voices David Brooks and Ruth Marcus said on PBS News Hour last night, most of that new class are very mainstream. “It’s not a caucus of lefty crazies,” Marcus said with relief.

Indeed, many of those Democrats say great things about Israel in ways that we are all familiar with. Katie Hill in California, endorsed by both J Street and the JDCA, lamented “the reports of violence” from Gaza last May 14 but went no further re the Israeli massacre. Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey (endorsed by JDCA) says:

There is arguably no more important relationship in the world than that of the United States of America and Israel.

Greg Stanton, Phoenix mayor who is assuming (Senator-elect) Kyrsten Sinema’s old seat in the Congress, and who is endorsed by J Street, has fostered Israeli business:

Supports a two-state solution, with the U.S. as a negotiating partner…  As mayor of Phoenix, formed an economic partnership between Phoenix & Ramat Gan, Israel
Believes in Israel’s right to self-defense, and supports U.S. efforts to ensure that defense through systems like Iron Dome

David Trone, a wine mogul in Maryland, was surely too far right for J Street, in his desire to be Israel’s “champion” on the Hill, and just right for the JDCA.

The news though is that many of the new women of color in the House are highly sympathetic to Palestinians and likely to push that sympathy on Capitol Hill. These women know that their base has their back. That degree of autonomy is new in the Congress.

And yes, it also signals that the internecine battle in the British lib/left over criticism of Israel being the same as anti-Semitism is going to come to the Democratic Party soon.

Flyer on Capitol Hill for new members, photographed by Melina Mara of the Washington Post


Philip Weiss

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

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24 Responses

  1. Citizen on November 17, 2018, 1:17 pm

    I hope so.

    • Misterioso on November 19, 2018, 10:45 am

      @Citizen, et al

      How sweet it is!!

      “In West Bank, Family of First Palestinian-American Woman in Congress Cheer Her On”
      Haaretz, Nov. 7/18, Reuters

      “Rashida Tlaib has become ‘a source of pride for Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world,’ says her uncle, Bassam Tlaib ”

      “Tuning into the news at dawn on Wednesday, the extended family of Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress, celebrated her victory in their home in the West Bank.

      “Tlaib, a Democrat, ran virtually unopposed in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which encompasses southwest Detroit and its suburbs west to the city of Dearborn. She previously served in Michigan’s state legislature.

      “She has become ‘a source of pride for Palestine and the entire Arab and Muslim world,’ her uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said in the small village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa.

      “With her win, Tlaib, 44, will become the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. Alongside incoming Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, she will also be one of the first Muslim women to join the congressional ranks.”

  2. JWalters on November 17, 2018, 5:47 pm

    Here’s an article over at Consortium News on the challenges these new members of Congress will face from the Israel Lobby.
    “Newly Elected Progressives Face Palestine Taboo”

  3. Boomer on November 17, 2018, 8:14 pm

    Problem for Israel in DC? Maybe, but I’m dubious. Time will tell. In any event, Israel has no problem in Texas, where 1 in 10 U.S. students learn that there is only one cause for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “the rejection of the existence of the state of Israel by the Arab league and a majority of Arab nations.”

  4. Jackdaw on November 18, 2018, 4:21 am

    Maybe the new Congressmen will do what they were elected to do and first help their constituents, beginning with disenfranchised women of color.

    Hopefully the new Congressmen will stay out of the I/P vortex, which is a bad place, as the lost souls of Mondoweiss will attest to.

    • Mooser on November 18, 2018, 12:59 pm

      “Hopefully the new Congressmen will stay out of the I/P vortex”

      Exactly! Just think of all the good the US can do fo its citizens with the money (Congress has the purse strings) it sends to Israel!

      • Shingo on November 19, 2018, 1:24 am

        Nice one Mooser. Amazing how he walked right into that trap.

        Hey Jackjaw, will you join us in denouncing all those lawmakers who accept free trips to Israel and demand they put the interests of their constituents before those of a foreign power?

      • genesto on November 19, 2018, 6:05 pm

        Yeah, Jackdaw, you REALLY walked into that one, didn’t you? I’ve yet to find anyone that can make a compelling case for how our $38 billion + is helping the citizens of THIS country. Want to take a crack at it, Jack?? Can’t wait to see what you got!

      • Mooser on November 20, 2018, 12:31 pm

        “Amazing how he walked right into that…”

        He got caught in a perjury trap!

    • Misterioso on November 19, 2018, 10:04 am


      Your suggestion has merit, i.e., “Maybe the new Congressmen will do what they were elected to do and first help their constituents,….” Just think how much their constituents would benefit if Congress demanded an end to US taxpayers funding Israel’s racism, apartheid, expansion by force of arms, ethnic cleansing, brutal/illegal occupations of Palestinian and other Arab lands, well documented accelerating violations of hard won international humanitarian law, etc.

      To wit:…
      “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”
      “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.”

      It would also be very beneficial for its constituents if Congress demanded American individuals and organizations cease sending tax deductible financial aid to “Israel.”

  5. Marnie on November 18, 2018, 9:42 am

    I hope these women will be strong in the face of all the BS, threats and muckraking the zionist enablers will throw their way. Maybe they will have the strength of character and fearlessness that their male counterparts can only display in a locker room. Maybe the strength of these women will help the lost souls in d.c. find their spines and recognize their duty is and always has been to the american people. Maybe then they will isolate ‘israel’, end the financial and other support it has received, restore the financial aid that is cut off by the circus peanut president, impose long overdue sanctions against ‘israel’ until there is a democratic secular state and citizenship with full rights for all.

    • JWalters on November 18, 2018, 7:36 pm

      Marnie, thanks for the great comment. I too am hopeful that there will be strength in numbers. We may be approaching a tipping point.

      As former Senator James Abourezk wrote, “I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear — fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress — at least when I served there — have any affection for Israel or for its Lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel. I’ve heard too many cloakroom conversations in which members of the Senate will voice their bitter feelings about how they’re pushed around by the Lobby to think otherwise. In private one hears the dislike of Israel and the tactics of the Lobby, but not one of them is willing to risk the Lobby’s animosity by making their feelings public.”

      Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale, when he was about to be hanged by the British as a spy, said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Perhaps inspired by these women, a Senator will rise up and say, “I only regret that I have but one Senate seat to lose for my country.”

      • Marnie on November 19, 2018, 2:35 am

        Heidi Heitkamp knew she’d lose her seat by rejecting the policies of the circus peanut vis a vie appt of Brett Kavanaugh. She did it because she couldn’t live with herself otherwise.

      • annie on November 19, 2018, 3:25 am

        marnie, sad … but awesome.

      • Marnie on November 19, 2018, 5:39 am

        I agree Annie, it is sad, but Heidi Heitkamp is now a free bird and beholden to only the strength of her convictions and her conscience. Her sacrifice may make the newcomers more commited than ever not to buckle under the threats of blackmail by the jewish lobby or any lobby for that matter. It’s just a job but in the right hands great ideas and goals can be brought to fruition, but in the hands stained with blood money, will never move beyond the status quo – good for the few, bad for the majority.

        I hope the rain in the forecast is strong and steady.

  6. bcg on November 18, 2018, 10:09 am

    @Jackdaw: Maybe the poor, disenfranchised women of color who are the constituents of the new congresspeople think the IP ‘conflict’ is relevant to them, maybe they don’t appreciate their country propping up a regime that steals land from other poor, disenfranchised women of color.

  7. Philip Munger on November 18, 2018, 3:55 pm

    Back in mid-September, Deb Haaland called me, thinking I was a different Philip Munger – the NYC multimillionaire one who donates very generously to progressive Democratic Party candidates. She was soliciting a campaign contribution. I get those calls from time to time, because I also donate generously to Dems, but from a much, much smaller kitty.

    After letting her know I wasn’t going to be able to donate more than a few bucks to her Act Blue account, we talked about what issues are important to her. I didn’t bring up Palestinian rights, nor did she. We both view income inequality and the rapidly accelerating degradation of the earth’s environment to be paramount.

    I already knew who she was, mostly through Howie Klein’s articles about her at” Down With Tyranny!” and by following her revitalization of New Mexico Democrats through various progressive political blogs. However, I didn’t know her position on Palestinian rights or her feelings about the weekly Gaza sniper murders.

    That some in the Democratic Party might think less of her because of her tweets about this, or other things she may have said about I/P issues bothers me. Representative-Elect Haaland and the other freethinking women of color elected as Democrats this November are far more important than any single issue.

    Between Alexandria Occasion-Cortez’s genius for improvising fresh approaches and Deb Haaland’s proven organizational skills, there is much to be gained for our country.

  8. Vera Gottlieb on November 19, 2018, 11:15 am

    Oh, I am sure israel will be feverishly working to find ways to ‘neutralize’ them.

  9. echinococcus on November 19, 2018, 5:08 pm

    Reading this, the impression one is left with is that what you call “progressive” (i.e. belonging to your wing of the so-called Democratic party) seems to be way more important than commitment to supporting Palestinian liberation.

    • niass2 on November 20, 2018, 10:30 am

      United States citizens will get nothing doesn’t matter how we vote, but Palestinians should still get their state. The US is toasted and not really relevant to the basic need for a Palestinian state except that is is getting in the way.. I like my wing of the party but its not getting me anywhere here. There is hope for Palestine, but not really for say, Democrats saving the world. Its too late for planet saving and its too late for the usa.

      • RoHa on November 20, 2018, 9:24 pm

        The planet has been able to take care of itself for 4.5 billion years before the Democratic party arrived. I think it will be able to manage after the Dems disappear.

  10. Marnie on November 20, 2018, 8:19 am

    Ilhan Omar’s life has been threatened death threats by a twitterist (keyboard terrorist) and the Forward claims to know all about her.

    The Real Reason Critics Call BDS Anti-Semitic – The Forward…/no-bds-is-not-anti-semitic-and-neither-is-ilhan-omar/

    The same twitterist who threatened Ilhan Omar also called for Brenda Snipes to be lynched.

  11. Naftush on November 26, 2018, 5:56 am

    So once again you gerrymander Israel into the “fault” of being America’s largest military aid recipient by counting only bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. It’s fallacious and tendentious. Israel may be America’s most cost-effective defense client. If so, its defense relationship with Washington does more for the U.S. taxpayer than any other. Visit and study .

  12. Naftush on November 26, 2018, 6:00 am

    Headline failure. The contents don’t support the notion that Israel has a problem with this group of representatives-elect, who in fact span much of the spectrum of IP opinion. If Dr. Weiss wrote the headline, it’s he who has a problem with them: he racializes and stereotypes these women by linking their skin pigmentation deterministically to the political view of his choosing.

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