A pro-Israel tweet from September by Beto O’Rourke got a new life yesterday when the charismatic Texas congressman said at a town hall that he wouldn’t rule out a run for president in 2020.
The tweet was a fawning thank you to AIPAC for dropping by and educating him about the “current security situation in Israel.” O’Rourke was then running against Ted Cruz for Senate, a great race to lose, and raising a lot of money. The tweet was part of a pattern of O’Rourke’s celebrations of Israel, including opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, a nonviolent campaign for equal rights for Palestinians.
Well, a lot of folks on twitter picked up that AIPAC tweet yesterday to say they’re out of love with Beto. Some said bluntly that O’Rourke is supporting apartheid. It is a reminder of how strongly the progressive Democratic base feels about Palestine, and what a hurdle that issue will be to anyone in Democratic primaries.
Here are some of the entertaining responses:
— Skullbrain (@5kullbrain) November 26, 2018
Sorry, bro, you’re cancelled.
wow thank you for your brave stand in support of apartheid sir
Joel R. Finkel of JVP:
As a Jew, I am appalled at your tweet. You should educate yourself about Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian people, which began in the fall of 1947 and which continues to this day. Do you know what they are doing in Gaza?
Here is an O’Rourke campaign statement on Israel:
Beto is a proud advocate of Israel. He believes that Israel is critically important to the United States, because it is the home of the Jewish people, because it is an exemplary democracy that shares our values, and because it is a crucial contributor to our national security objectives in the region…
He opposes efforts, economically and diplomatically, to boycott or delegitimize Israel.
For the back story, read Nathan Guttman’s report in the Forward on the Israel lobby grappling on to O’Rourke when he made the terrible mistake of voting with seven other Congresspeople against funding an Israeli military defense program during the 2014 slaughter in Gaza, in which Israeli forces killed 2200 Palestinians. He said at the time, “I could not in good conscience vote for borrowing $225 million more to send to Israel, without debate and without discussion, in the midst of a war that has cost more than a thousand civilian lives already, too many of them children.”
O’Rourke later apologized for the vote, discovered some Jewish ancestry, reached out to pro-Israel donors and vowed to visit Israel soon. In the Olympics, that’s called the triple jump! Just the same, in the late election, Ted Cruz hammered O’Rourke over the vote and called J Street, which endorsed O’Rourke, “rabidly anti-Israel.”
J Street is the new AIPAC, and O’Rourke will have to thread the progressive needle if he runs for president. He will have to make offerings to the base, which sees the issue clearly, as apartheid. As Nada Elia wrote in September.
We want candidates who are accountable to their own communities, and who understand that they cannot pay lip service to democracy at home, while supporting apartheid abroad.
Or as O’Rourke supporter Haithem El-Zabri wrote after receiving a letter from the congressman’s staff saying he’s a proud advocate of Israel.
Beto, I’m extremely disappointed by your reply as it sounds like it came straight from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If you don’t want to lose some of your progressive supporters, it is important that you shift your position on Israel/Palestine to one that demands justice, equality, and freedom for all; not just the Israeli Jews but also including the Palestinians. You’ve met with AIPAC officials; have you met with Palestinian organizers and our allies? I’d be happy to connect you with organizers from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace. But either way, it is urgent that you adjust your position and support Palestinian rights, otherwise you are going to lose the votes of Palestinian-Americans and our allies, which are growing in number.
P.S. O’Rourke reminds me of how Will Rogers defined a politician — “best looking man money can buy” — and of Lincoln too: he may become a former congressman who lost a Senate race that gained national attention and then ran for president two years later. Lincoln was bad on the slave question, per a lot of abolitionists (the community I’m in). He was for preserving it in the Missouri compromise states, he said blacks were inferior to whites, he distanced himself from abolitionists, and he supported colonization, moving blacks back to Africa. Then in 1863 he signed the Emancipation Proclamation; and there is evidence that Lincoln privately hated slavery the whole time he was adopting middle-of-the-road positions. Politicians must be fluid; and I bet that O’Rourke will move on the Palestine question, as the discourse moves.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.