Eliot Engel, speaking at the Jerusalem Post conference in June 2019.
We have to begin by pointing out that there was an error in the last issue of The Shift. We referred to the fact that New York 16th district voters will head to the polls this November. This is true of course, but the Democratic primary obviously occurs months before that. In fact, it’s next Tuesday. You probably knew what we meant, but we regret the mistake.
Since the last newsletter, progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman has been endorsed by DSA, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and even the New York Times. Rep. Eliot Engel (the establishment incumbent) has been endorsed by Hillary Clinton. The hawkish Democrat has also raked in considerable financial support from pro-Israel organizations and (as The Intercept reports) a GOP super PAC.
A new Data for Progress poll has Bowman up by 10 points. “Though the Democratic old guard has frequently been criticized as out of touch with the party base, name recognition and the right donors have held most would-be challengers at bay. If this poll is accurate, that time is rapidly ending,” tweeted American Prospect executive editor David Dayen.
This week, the Democratic Majority For Israel (a PAC created specifically to stomp out growing sympathy for Palestine within the Democratic party) ran an ad criticizing Bowman for being in debt. “Shouldn’t Mr. Bowman pay his own taxes before he tries to spend ours?,” it asks.
“This attack by a group funded by Trump’s donors to paint me as some sort of criminal is ugly and desperate. Frankly, we need more members of Congress who know what it’s like to be in debt and struggle to pay bills, especially at a time like this,” responded Bowman.
With millions out of work and Israel receiving $3.8 billion a year in military aid, I’m not sure the DMFI spot will land quite the way it was intended.
47 UN experts put out a statement condemning the Israeli government’s proposed annexation plan: “The annexation of occupied territory is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly that the acquisition of territory by war or force is inadmissible. The international community has prohibited annexation precisely because it incites wars, economic devastation, political instability, systematic human rights abuses and widespread human suffering.”
Another petition opposing annexation has been signed by over 500 Jewish Studies scholars: “The most likely outcomes of annexation will be further unequal distribution of land and water resources on behalf of illegal Israeli settlements, more state violence, and fragmented Palestinian enclaves under complete Israeli control. Under these conditions, annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population.”
Democrats are passing also passing around a new letter opposing annexation. You’ll recall that Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) were trying to get signatures for one in the Senate last month, but quickly realized they made the mistake of implying that Israel might be held accountable for its actions. This led to them stripping away a few vague references to the possibility of conditioning military aid, thus rendering the letter effectively worthless. This new House letter (which was developed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. David Price, and Rep. Bradley Schneider) seems just as insignificant. The lawmakers are writing the Israeli government to express their “deep concern” about the proposed plan because it threatens the possibility of a two-state solution and an “independent, viable, de-militarized Palestinian state.” They would like to “urge [Israel’s] government to reconsider.”
The question remains the same: why would Netanyahu pay attention to any of these polite requests if he knows he won’t be held accountable in any way whatsoever?
Odds & Ends
💰 Why stop at the police? Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has introduced a resolution that would cut the Pentagon’s budget by $350 billion: “Whereas every hour taxpayers are paying $32,080,000 for total cost of wars since 2001, and these endless wars have not made Americans safer or brought democracy or stability to the Middle East, indeed they have further destabilized the region and show no sign of actually ending or achieving any of the long-ago stated goals.”
🇦🇫 The UN just put out its annual Children in Armed Conflict report and for the fifth straight year Afghanistan is the deadliest country for children. I’m old enough to remember when pro-war voices used to say stuff like, “The United States can’t just leave Afghanistan, imagine what would happen to the country if we did.” I probably haven’t heard that one in about a decade now. TBIJ recently investigated 10 airstrikes on Afghanistan which took place over the last 2 years and found that 115 civilians were killed in them. At least 70 of those killed were children.
🌊 File this one in the “There Are Weeks Where Decades Happen” column. Popular Mechanics (your grandfather’s favorite magazine) explains the physics of toppling a statue: “To break the statue from its base, split into two teams on either side and work in a back-and-forth motion. Most statues are attached to the base by 2 to 3 feet of rebar, so you’ll actually be breaking it at the bronze above the rebar—not the rebar itself, says [mechanical engineer Scott] Holland. (That’s steel.) ‘When the U.S. took down that statue of Saddam Hussein, you can see it folds at that spot where the rebar is in the base of it,’ he says.”
🇮🇱 The Israeli government has apparently approved a plan to name a Golan Heights settlement after Trump. The settlement is illegal under international law of course. The settlement will be called “Ramat Trump” — Hebrew for “Trump Heights”
✉️ Over 50 progressive organizations have sent presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden a letter asking him to change his (long-held) positions on Palestine. “U.S. foreign policy on Israel/Palestine should be rooted in the same values and principles that are supposed to guide U.S. policy throughout the rest of the world — respecting human rights and international law, promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, supporting diplomacy over military intervention, and utilizing multilateralism and multilateral institutions for dispute resolution,” it reads.
🇵🇸 My colleague Yumna Patel interviewed Taqi Spateen, the artist who painted that beautiful George Floyd mural on Israel’s apartheid wall. “The most important thing is that the people know this mural is a gift from Palestine,” Spateen told her, “That’s all that matters.”
🍷 The co-owner/co-founder of Total Wine is an anti-BDS Democratic congressman who donates at least $100,000 to AIPAC every year. According to the lobbying group’s website, Maryland Rep. David Trone’s annual contribution makes him a “minyan donor.” What does this mean? “Minyan members are part of an elite circle who participate in exclusive events and travel opportunities. They have engaged in intimate conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President Bill Clinton, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and many others.”
Take care of another and wear a mask if you’re protesting,