Here’s a hot-tub full of Islamophobia and xenophobia. Last week the Jewish Broadcasting Service held a roundtable on whether the Democratic Party is turning against Israel and much of the discussion was about three women elected last year to Congress, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes of Bronx/Queens. Both Tlaib and Omar are Muslims and have endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which all members of the JBS panel said is an anti-semitic movement.
The dialogue below about Muslim immigrants– “new” people, who come from “anti-Semitic” places, who believe in “sharia” law and are therefore incapable of accepting American democracy– took place between Jonathan Mark, an associate editor of the New York Jewish Week, and Thane Rosenbaum, a Distinguished Fellow at NYU Law School. Rosenbaum said, “you simply do not belong in a constitutional democracy, I’m sorry.”
Thankfully they were answered by Eric Yoffie, a Reform rabbi who formerly headed the Union for Reform Judaism and who writes regularly for Haaretz.
Jonathan Mark: What I’d like to point out is that the three people we’re talking about, Tlaib and Omar and Octavio-Cortez [sic], they’re not three people. They are representing tens of thousands of people in their districts, aside from getting their appointments to top committees. Queens is not the Queens that you remember and I remember, Octavio-Cortez is [not] representing Forest Hills and Rego Park, she’s representing a district that’s overwhelmingly… Hispanic and not people of any rem – all the new pharaohs who “didn’t remember Joseph“, like in Crown Heights where the Blacks there didn’t remember Selma, that’s just the way it is.
And I think a big issue we haven’t touched on at all, is migration. And immigration is a favorite issue, it’s the nurtured baby issue of the Democratic Party right now. And where are these people from? None of them are… this is like the dirtiest word in America or to bring up, but Tlaib’s district is all new people, Omar’s district is all new people. They all come from a part of the world that’s anti-Semitic according to ADL polls and all kinds of international polling.
Thane Rosenbaum: John, just so we’ll be clear since you didn’t say the word, I’ll say it. You mean Muslims?
Rosenbaum: Oh, OK, I’m sorry. Watch– Eric Yoffie’s gonna have a heart attack. Yes, we meant Muslims you’re … allowed to actually call them–
Eric Yoffie: We don’t want any new people in this country [sarcastically]. Let’s build that wall!
Rosenbaum: I’m not in favor of that. I’m just saying, This is the Obama strategy, you can’t actually use the word Muslim in a sentence.
Mark: Right, that’s why I just call them Democrats if I’m going to call them anything. But what’s interesting is, The Black in 1965 if he said “I don’t want pro apartheid people from South Africa coming to America,” that would be perfectly normal and Jews would support them but why can’t I say I don’t want people who are essentially anti Jewish apartheid people coming to America?
Rosenbaum: Who overwhelmingly might– because the polling is very clear throughout the Muslim and Arab world, in some countries 70– in Egypt 90% of the people believe in a strict adherence to sharia law–
Rosenbaum: And if you believe in a strict adherence to sharia law you simply do not belong in a constitutional democracy, I’m sorry. That has nothing to do with, it’s just saying, you don’t get the Statue of Liberty concept–
Rosenbaum: You don’t get the concept of pluralism and liberalism.
Yoffie: So Muslims are out?
Rosenbaum: No! I’m just saying to not recognize that there might be a legitimate argument to say “Well, y’know, to compare all immigrants to the same — Jews came to this country and embraced–”
Yoffie: Most Muslims who come to this country are not Arabs first of all, they’re from other areas. And so –
Mark: We’re not talking about Trinidad Muslims, we’re talking about people from a certain part of the world, and so where the problem is, is if let’s say tomorrow, Tlaib and Omar and Octavio-Cortez all resigned, they would all be replaced by the exact same kind of people because that’s who their districts are. Their districts are not nuanced districts.
Yoffie: I suggest we be careful about our language and the impressions that we create, and the notion that we fear the other, and the notion that we have to keep away people who might somehow be contrary to our values and concerns. That has led to a great deal of bigotry and hatred in the country right now. It’s led to terrible divisions from which we are all suffering. Jews have to be very, very careful about how they look at these issues from a values point of view and from a practical point of view.
Rosenbaum heads the Forum on Law, Culture and Society at NYU Law School. He is a novelist, whose website says that he “serves as the Legal Analyst for CBS News Radio” and “moderates an annual series of discussions on culture, world events and politics at the 92nd Street Y called The Talk Show.”
Jonathan Mark also said that Democrats critical of Israel “are looking for blood” and the pro-Israel side employs too much nuance; and he wishes Ilhan Omar had not apologized for saying that the Congress supports Israel because of money.
We’re bringing nuance to a knife fight. They are looking to kill literally the Jewish state… I am sorry she apologized, because I would wish these statements follow her around like dripping blood. Because otherwise what I see whenever I read about her now: they say what she said, then they say she apologized. As if she recanted after serious introspection, instead of she was being forced to apologize. It’s meaningless.