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Now is the time for the Democratic Party to stand up to Israeli racism

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The lines dividing Progressives and supporters of apartheid are becoming clearer, and they are not along Democratic and Republican party lines.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that he will bar US Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering occupied Palestine—a visit that would have followed closely on the AIPAC-sponsored trip of approximately 70 first-year members of Congress—one should expect strong and spontaneous support for Tlaib and Omar’s from their Democratic colleagues.  Instead, it took grassroots activist mobilizing to call on Tlaib and Omar’s peers to condemn Netanyahu’s ban, and Trump’s support for this ban.

The pressure seems to be working, with some Democrats issuing strong statements, such as fellow “Squad” member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had skipped the AIPAC trip, tweeting that “MoC are frequently asked to visit Israel to ‘see things for ourselves.’ But Netanyahu choosing to ban the only 2 Muslim women in Congress from entering tells the US that only *some* Americans are welcome to Israel, not all.”  Ocasio-Cortez concludes her tweet with the accusation that “Trump is exporting his bigotry &making matters worse,” but the reality is that Netanyahu, and Israel generally, have not had to wait for Trump’s bigotry before engaging in discrimination.

Similarly, Representative Judy Chu also seems to suggest Trump, rather than Netanyahu, are to blame for this latest act of discrimination.  Chu tweeted that “Banning Muslims from travel is one of Trump’s most consistent policy positions.”

In a hopeful development, the fourth member of the “Squad,” Representative Ayanna Pressley, who had earlier voted along AIPAC lines on BDS, but who also skipped the AIPAC-sponsored trip, issued a strong statement about Netanyahu’s denial of entry to her “dear friends.”  Pressley wrote:  “When you attack one of us, you attack all of us. Netanyahu is stoking division and punishing dissent just like the occupant of the White House. Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib are my dear friends, my sisters in service and hardworking Americans who have been subject to some of the most vile and vicious attacks simply for being who they are. They are duly elected members of Congress and we cannot allow them to be marginalized, discriminated against, nor targeted because of their gender, their religious beliefs, nor their ethnicity.  That is not who we are as a country and we should reevaluate our relationships with any country who seeks to ban Americans and threatens the safety of anyone, including government officials.”

Also arguing for a reevaluation—and almost suggesting a boycott of Israel—is Representative Mark Pocan, who tweeted:  “PM Netanyahu must reverse this decision & no member of Congress should visit Israel until all members of Congress are welcome.”

Forty-one Democratic freshmen have just been to Israel, however, and while they may not be boasting about it, because they realize many of their constituents disapprove of the trip, they are also clearly not about to effectively pressure Israel to allow Tlaib and Omar in.  And unless the Democratic Party, rather than individual Democratic members of Congress, insists that the two congresswomen should be allowed to visit occupied Palestine, and take action to make it so (issuing a statement loaded with platitudes does not count as “action”), then the Democratic Party is siding with the Republicans, with Trump, with Netanyahu, on a matter of racism, Islamophobia, freedom of political expression, and human rights generally.

Whatever the polls say about the people, meaning the voters, being increasingly critical of Israel, the division is not today, nor has it ever been, between Democratic and Republican politicians.  It is between progressives and supporters and enablers of a state that openly embraces apartheid. These supporters and enablers are in both parties.

The stakes are extremely high.  The division between progressives and enablers of apartheid is a division that is rending the Democratic Party apart, and threatens to secure Trump a second presidential term, as it alienates more progressives from the Democratic Party.  This, as much as US Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar being allowed to travel to Israel, is what we must convey to our representatives.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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5 Responses

  1. echinococcus on August 15, 2019, 9:49 pm

    The title could as well be; Now is Time for the Fox to Declare Undying Commitment to the Welfare of Chickens.

    Apart from that, this is in fact an excellent time to charge Trump and any Congress Beasts, Dim and Puke, who do not strenuously protest the Zionist affront (in the name, if they want, of American exceptional rights) against an elected officer of the Government. There sure is enough legal material there. There is a lot of opportunities for a major teaching moment by insisting on high-profile retaliation, too. But “asking” the Dims instead of vilifying them won’t work.

    Anyway, this is very good. The discussion is in the open even if “moderated” by the usual criminals, as I could observe today at the deli and then in the coffee-shop. People will increase their accumulating knowledge. Thank you, Zionist idiots, and please keep the most reactionaries in the government.

  2. Richard Baldwin Cook on August 16, 2019, 9:30 am

    The “enablers of Apartheid” have filled up the Congress.

    This means that Congress is responsible for the humiliation of members of Congress, who are denied entry into Israel.

    Three years ago Congress passed an extraordinary exception to visa requirements for Israelis, who wish to enter the United States.

    The US has a visa-exception arrangement like this with several countries but the no-visa-required privilege is typically, reciprocal.

    The visa exception arrangement Congress has made to accommodate Israelis is not reciprocal for U.S. citizens.

    • pabelmont on August 16, 2019, 2:03 pm

      Israel often issues visas (by its embassies abroad) and then refuses to honor them at the B-G airport. so the visa is not quite a guarantee of a right to enter.

  3. SnowLeopard on August 17, 2019, 10:43 am

    “The division between progressives and enablers of apartheid is a division that is rending the Democratic Party apart, and threatens to secure Trump a second presidential term, as it alienates more progressives from the Democratic Party.”

    I find this quite intriguing. I want to believe that if the centrist Democratic leadership would support a position more critical of Israel and in favor of Palestinian rights, that could unite the party in a way that would strengthen Democratic voters and more successfully be able to win against the Republicans. But I’m not convinced. I suspect there are as many right-wing, ultra-Israel Democrats that would be turned off if the party does adopt such a platform, and consequently decide to not vote, as there are “alienated progressives” that won’t vote if the party does NOT adopt such a perspective. None of us knows the answer to this question.

    Of course the Dem leadership bears a large burden of responsibility for this explosive situation. Because of their decades-long blindness about Israel-Palestine, they never educated us and their voters about the Palestinian narrative. Consequently, many Americans, including liberal and left-leaning Democrats, fell into a hawkish pro-Israel perspective. Now the Democratic leadership is facing a “divisive” issue partly of their own making that Trump is slyly taking advantage of and for which they and their constituents are ill-prepared.

  4. Albert Westpy on August 17, 2019, 11:10 am

    It’s long past time that we stand up to our racism first, stop funding israel, cut the military-industrial complex funding by at least 50%, we already spend more than the next ten countries combined, and begin to implement non-profit industries to put Americans back to work and lift them from poverty.
    Wealth inequality in the United States is the unequal distribution of assets among residents of the United States. Wealth includes the values of homes, automobiles, personal valuables, businesses, savings, and investments. The net worth of U.S. households and non-profit organizations was $94.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, a record level both in nominal terms and purchasing power parity. If divided equally among 124 million U.S. households, this would be $760,000 per family; however, the bottom 50% of families, representing 62 million American households, average $11,000 net worth. From an international perspective, the difference in US median and mean wealth per adult is over 600%.

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