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Beto O’Rourke’s presidential flare reminds progressives of his fawning to AIPAC

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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:


Cory Heitman:

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. 


Philip Weiss

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

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22 Responses

  1. Citizen on November 27, 2018, 12:23 pm

    I’m not betting on Beto standing up in public for basic human rights of the Palestinian people governed by Israel. Nor will he say in public that anti-BDS legislation or by governor fiat is a violation of the First Amendment.

    • US Citizen on November 27, 2018, 11:56 pm

      Beto is no different than Kamala or Corey or any of the other potentials except for maybe, maybe, Bernie.

      It’s time for progressive politicians to put Palestinian rights on the agenda, stop being bullied by AIPAC, and get with the program, or else they are going to lose the support of the constituents they need to get elected- if not today, then tomorrow.

      Congress is a zionist puppet, they know it well, to learn who rules over you, simply look at who you are not allowed to criticize. Disappointing, Beto is already owned. Will not get my vote.

      • Bumblebye on November 28, 2018, 2:16 pm

        During the course of his campaign, Bernie seemed to actually listen and learn from BLM and from Palestinian rights groups. Sadly people like Beto and other supposed progressives listen and take their cues from the kind of special interest groups that can follow through with donor money.

    • Misterioso on November 28, 2018, 9:56 am

      @Citizen, et al


      “United States Green Party Representatives Deliver Call for Full Investigation of Israel’s War Crimes Against Palestinians to International Criminal Court”

      “The Hague, The Netherlands (Monday, November 19, 2018) — Members of the Green Party United States traveled to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday, November 19, 2018 to deliver a letter calling for a full investigation of Israel for war crimes it has committed against the Palestinians. [go to the link above to read the text.]

      “In addition to being endorsed by the Green Party U.S., the letter was signed by over 1,000 organizations, including Popular Resistance, and individuals from the United States who want prosecutors at the ICC and the world to know that there is a political party along with people in the US who support holding nations accountable to international law. The Green Party recognizes that the United States is complicit in Israel’s crimes by providing financial support, selling weapons and providing political cover to Israel.

      “The letter states:
      “‘For 70 years [Palestinians] have: suffered the most appalling living conditions imposed upon them by the military occupation and apartheid rule; peacefully resisted the unabated illegal settlements upon their land (at least 80% has been seized since the Nakba); withstood the blockade of Gaza and survived genocidal assaults. Since 1947 the Palestinians have steadfastly and peacefully fought for their safety, dignity, freedoms and Right of Return proclaimed by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed in 1948. The Right of Return, to include damages and compensation, was deemed their inalienable right in Resolution 3236 passed in 1974.’

      “Green Party co-chair, Margaret Flowers and Miko Peled, a member of the Green Party U.S., a dual Israeli and American citizen and author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and other books, met with a representative of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to deliver a copy of the signed letter. The letter will be entered into the body of evidence being collected as part of a preliminary investigation to determine whether a full investigation will be conducted.

      “A delegation of Green Party U.S. members, many of whom are on the Green Party U.S. Peace Action and International Committees, made video statements outside the ICC after the letter was delivered.

      “The delegation included Kevin Zeese, Diane Moxley, Marie Spike, who authored the original draft of the letter, and Stephen Verchinski. The delegation was joined by Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussells Tribunal, which conducted a tribunal on Palestine.

      “Miko Peled stated:
      ‘It was an honor to be part of the GPUS delegation to the ICC, to add our voice to the growing demand to investigate Israel for war crimes. Only when people of the world speak up will the Israeli perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought to justice.’

      “Members of the delegation understand they have a responsibility to act and to educate others in the United States about the truth of the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine and apartheid state. It is by countering the myths put out by the media and U.S. lawmakers, due to the significant Israeli influence over them, and showing solidarity with Palestinians that the tide will shift toward justice for people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee.

      “While the Green Party worked on the issue for months, on the same day that the Green Party National Committee voted to endorse the letter, John Bolton said the United States would not cooperate with war crime investigations and called for sanctions against ICC judges if they proceed with an investigation of the United States or Israel.

      “Prior to visiting the ICC, members of the delegation met with Nils Mollema of Al Haq, an organization founded by Palestinian lawyers to address Israel’s occupation and apartheid. Members of the Green Party of The Netherlands (De Groenen) including Otto ter Haar as well as members of the Green Left Party (Groen Links)” participated in that meeting.”

  2. eljay on November 27, 2018, 1:04 pm

    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 …

    Setting aside for a moment the supremacist idea that Israel is the home not of all Israelis but of “the Jewish people”, how exactly is that “critically important” to the U.S.?

    … because it is an exemplary democracy that shares our values …

    Mr. O’Rourke manages to be both…
    – stupid (there’s nothing “exemplary democracy” about an oppressive, colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state); and
    – damning (America values oppression, colonialism, (war) criminality and supremacism),
    …in one short phrase.


    … and because it is a crucial contributor to our national security objectives in the region…

    What tangible, constructive* things does the “Jewish State” do in the Middle East that contribute to the national security of the United States?
    (*I’m assuming that the destructive things the “Jewish State” deliberately and unapologetically does in the Middle East don’t actually contribute to the national security of the U.S.)

    • festus on November 28, 2018, 10:31 am

      Mr. O’Rourke manages to be both…
      – stupid (there’s nothing “exemplary democracy” about an oppressive, colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state); and
      – damning (America values oppression, colonialism, (war) criminality and supremacism),
      …in one short phrase.

      Come on. You and I both know that his statements were written for him by some part of the Israel Lobby and that he does not believe a word of it.

      Just another pathetic careerist willing to sell out his principles and his country to get the money and media and organization needed to advance his political career.

    • Misterioso on November 28, 2018, 10:38 am

      @eljay, et al

      Ah yes, “‘Israel,’ a ‘light unto nations’ NOT!!”


      “Thai labourers in Israel tell of harrowing conditions” BBC, Nov. 23/18

      “A year-long BBC investigation has discovered widespread abuse of Thai nationals living and working in Israel – under a scheme organised by the two governments.

      “Many are subjected to unsafe working practices and squalid, unsanitary living conditions. Some are overworked, others underpaid and there are dozens of unexplained deaths.”


      BBC Media Centre, Nov. 23/18
      “BBC investigation looks at ‘forgotten’ Thai workers in Israel” Nov. 23/18
      Category: World Service

      “A year long BBC News Thai investigation has discovered many Thai nationals living and working on Israeli farms are being exploited and abused. Tens of thousands of Thai labourers work in Israel under a scheme organised by the two governments. Many are subjected to unsafe working practices and squalid, unsanitary living conditions. Some are overworked, others underpaid, and there are dozens of unexplained deaths.

      “In The forgotten Thai Workers In Israel, published on, BBC News, Thai journalist, Issariya Praithongyaem, zeroes in on the hardships they face, talking to them, their employers, Israeli and Thai officials and non-government organisations.

      “Israel grows fruit and vegetables which are sold in supermarkets across the globe. Since the start of the Thailand-Israel Cooperation on the Placement of Workers (TIC) programme in 2012, Thais have made up a big part of Israel’s agricultural workforce. Today, their number exceeds 25,000.

      “Issariya Praithongyaem has travelled extensively in Israel, speaking with hundreds of Thai workers at more than 50 farms.

      “Thai workers are allowed to work in Israel for up to five years, and during their stay, they are entitled to expect a reasonable level of comfort and safety. However, not many accommodations meet the standard housing requirements.

      “The Israeli farmers, who agreed to talk to the BBC, blamed their Thai workers for the state of their accommodation and insisted that they were paid as required by law and that it was their preference not to wear protective gear when performing potentially hazardous work.

      “Israel’s Population And Immigration Authority (PIBA) explained that it does its best to ensure that employers fulfil their responsibilities according to the law, and that complaints are immediately investigated.

      “’I think that there is kind of an attitude toward the workers… as tools to provide the work,’ says Sophie Shannir from Kav Laoved, an Israeli NGO. She says they are treated like ‘they are here to work, they are not human with needs that can be harmed… have needs like nobody cares enough.’

      “Since the TIC programme began in 2012, more than 170 Thai workers have died while in employment in Israel. Many of the death certificates describe the deaths as undetermined.

      “The full BBC News Thai investigation is published on The investigation also features on BBC World Service radio, BBC World News TV (Our World documentary slot: Who Cares About Israel’s Thai workers?), and the website”

      • eljay on November 28, 2018, 11:24 am

        || Misterioso: @eljay, et al

        Ah yes, “‘Israel,’ a ‘light unto nations’ NOT!!”


        “Thai labourers in Israel tell of harrowing conditions” BBC, Nov. 23/18 … ||

        If the “moral beacon”, “light unto the nations”, “Western-style democracy” and “progressive paradise” of Israel ever falls short of its claims, the important thing to remember is that it’s not quite as bad as Saudi Arabia,* Mali, African “hellholes”, 19th-century America, etc.
        (*Currently one of Israel’s BFFs.)

    • ritzl on November 28, 2018, 3:27 pm

      Love you eljay!!

      • eljay on November 28, 2018, 7:13 pm

        || ritzl: Love you eljay!! ||

        Back at ya, ritzl!  :-)

  3. Kay24 on November 27, 2018, 1:09 pm

    They always disappoint me when they kiss that huge behind.

    • RoHa on November 28, 2018, 12:16 am

      You should always expect the worst of politicians. You won’t be disappointed.

  4. annie on November 27, 2018, 1:33 pm

    O’Rourke later apologized for the vote, discovered some Jewish ancestry,

    can’t stop laughing! you have such a way with words phil. i’m doubled over.

  5. Ossinev on November 27, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Sounds as if he is in serious denial about his actual Irish ancestry as in oppressive colonisation by invading non native foreigners, slaughter,land theft,famine,ethnic cleansing and exile (sound familiar?) Anything for the putrid Ziodollar.

  6. marc b. on November 27, 2018, 1:46 pm

    who’s his writer? ‘critically important’. (why not, ‘importantly critical’?) whenever a politician uses that phrase, you know there’s some serious arse kissing going.

    ‘Thanks to these Texans from AIPAC’! too funny for words. how many metaphorical hats can these ‘texans’ wear at once? well, they’re jewish, and zionist, but also israeli, cuz israel’s the home of the ‘jewish people’. all those other hats stuffed under a 10-gallon hat.

    • annie on November 27, 2018, 6:09 pm

      Texans from AIPAC

      more like aipacers from texas.

  7. chris_k on November 27, 2018, 5:51 pm

    I see no reason to think he wouldn’t be about the same as Obama: cave in on everything and maybe get in that token rebellion on the way out. Obama in advance spoke to AIPAC but didn’t grovel as much. O’Rourke has the charisma that Obama had to sell wars and destroy the peace movement on behalf of AIPAC, perhaps more so.

    • Eric on November 27, 2018, 9:03 pm

      I had the exact same impression. I look at Beto and see Obama. Just another ambitious politician who presents well but ultimately knows what he has to do if he hopes to be President.

      • chris_k on November 28, 2018, 12:27 am

        They both have the ability to make people project their own opinions and morality into them. Beto is even more vague about his positions than Obama.

    • CigarGod on November 27, 2018, 9:33 pm

      Yep, but you still get the NPP.

  8. ritzl on November 28, 2018, 3:36 pm

    Palestine (and I would say Syria…) is a discriminating/differentiating/consistency/durability/etc. issue for progressives. If you don’t support Palestinian struggle against mass murder and apartheid/hafrada, you are almost certainly not going to support medicare for all, ending perpetual war, and a host of other, let’s just say, non-mainstream touted issues that need support in order to effect REAL change.

    I am glad he lost. Tear the mask off. Continue to tear the mask off. Get some real courage, commitment, and consistency in public office.

    Thanks MW!!!

  9. Bumblebye on November 28, 2018, 6:46 pm

    Sad news about Ferguson activist Palestinian American Bassem Masri:

    he was planning to stand for office in 2020.

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