With protests against police brutality raging and activists pushing for criminal justice reform, Joe Biden picked a former a tough-on-crime prosecutor as his running mate. The selection of Senator Kamala Harris isn’t exactly surprising, but it’s a reminder of how disconnected the Democratic establishment is from this current moment.
What does Senator Harris’s record on Israel look like? Perhaps JTA’s Ron Kampeas summed it best when he wrote that “she’s more AIPAC Than J Street.”
Upon arriving in the Senate she criticized former President Obama for failing to veto a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, then cosponsored a bill that challenged the right of the United Nations to condemn settlement expansion. In 2017, she attended AIPAC’s annual policy conference and told the audience, “Our defense relationship is critical to both nations, which is why I support the United States’ commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade. And that’s why I am fully committing to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.”
“Her support for Israel is central to who she is,” her campaign communications director, Lily Adams told McClatchy last year. At a campaign stop during her presidential run, Harris told Kat Wellman (a woman affiliated with the pro-Israel lobbying group DMFI) that she wanted to reenter the Iran Deal, but strengthen it. “I was very impressed with her. I thought she gave an excellent speech, she gave a very detailed, responsive answer to my question,” Wellman told a local paper in response to Harris’s comments, “I’m pro-Israel, so I was I was very concerned and all about making sure we limit nuclear missiles in any country that could possibly destroy us all. I thought her answer was very good.”
Last year, the New York Times asked her whether Israel meets international standards of human rights. Here’s the exchange in full:
Harris: I think that Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy, and is one of our closest friends in that region and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy, and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.
NYT: Does Israel meet human rights standards to your personal satisfaction?
Harris: Well, talk in more detail, what specifically are your referring to?
NYT: As a country overall in terms of how they–
Harris: Overall, yes.
This interview occurred just a few days after Israeli forces injured 92 Palestinian civilians during a protest.
Last month, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced (a very modest) NDAA amendment that would have reduced the Pentagon’s budget by 10%, thus freeing up billions for a country rocked by a deadly pandemic, record unemployment, and a looming eviction crisis. Nearly every former presidential candidate in the Senate (including moderates like Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker ) voted for the amendment, which ended up being rejected. Harris voted against it.
4 for 4
On Tuesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar defeated challenger Antone Melton-Meaux. Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have won their primaries and Rep. Ayanna Pressley is running unopposed, which means that “The Squad” will go 4 for 4 and coast back to congress in their heavily Democratic districts.
Omar’s race was the closer than Tlaib’s (who got 66%) or AOC’s (who got 74.6%), but she still won pretty easily, with 57.4% of the vote. Despite these decisive numbers (and the popularity of these lawmakers) a narrative about supposed vulnerability developed throughout their campaigns. On the day of the election, Politico ran a piece on the race with the headline “Ilhan Omar’s career on the line in tough primary.” A couple weeks before the election, political science professor David Schultz wrote an op-ed at The Hill where he asserted that, “Omar faces a political battle like none she has experienced before. Unlike in 2016 when she ran for the Minnesota House, or in 2018 for the U.S. House, she faces a single challenger, not the divided races that before enabled her to benefit. Her personal matters and stances on issues have alienated many voters, both within the city that constitutes 60 percent of her district and in the more affluent suburbs where she did not do well in the 2018 primary.”
Melton-Meaux (who used to be a partner at the union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis) raked in millions, with many donations coming from pro-Israel groups. It’s another big loss for the Israel Lobby, whose recent full-court press to keep Rep. Eliot Engel in power also failed. Ian Karbal breaks down some of the numbers at Open Secrets:
Melton-Meaux has received major support from pro-Israel PACs, and a new pro-Israel super PAC, Americans for Tomorrow’s Future has spent over $2 million attacking Omar. The group also gave $400,000 to Democratic Majority for Israel, which spent over $1.5 million supporting Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) who was recently unseated by progressive newcomer Jamaal Bowman. With $417,000, Melton-Meaux has received more contributions from pro-Israel donors this cycle than any other congressional candidate except Engel.
At Mondoweiss, Josh Ruebner uses the image of a pyramid to explain how support for Israel is slowly crumbling within the Democratic Party:
At the top of the Democratic Party, everything still looks solid for the Israel lobby this year. With Biden’s selection yesterday of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate, the Israel lobby scored again.. .Indeed, from the top, it appears to be more of the same old. But if we view the Democratic Party as a pyramid, with its apex being the DNC and its presidential ticket, its middle layer being its elected officials, and its bottom layer being its base, then the foundations of the Israel lobby’s hold on the Democratic Party is quite evidently crumbling.
“In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money. Tonight, our movement didn’t just win. We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown,” tweeted Omar after the win.
Who Gets the Gavel?
When Jamaal Bowman ousted longtime incumbent (and pro-Israel hawk) Rep. Eliot Engel from New York’s 16th district, he didn’t just initiate a seismic shift in the Bronx, he also dramatically altered the Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel will obviously no longer head the group, but who replaces him?
The three lawmakers fighting for the seat are Reps Brad Sherman (CA) Joaquin Castro (TX), and Gregory Meeks (NY). As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency points out, each one of them wants to condition aid to Israel over the issue of annexation.
Sherman: “I oppose any use of American taxpayer dollars to implement the Annexation Plan or to build any permanent Israeli installation in the West Bank or Gaza.”
Castro: “Not a penny of US taxpayer money should subsidize or enable any unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. Under a two-state approach, America has a responsibility to be an arbiter of peace, which means we need trust and credibility with both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Meeks: “Annexation is anathema to a two-state solution, and America cannot be used by its proponents to justify a pro-annexation position or policy,” he said. “On the contrary, the United States must be explicit in our opposition by applying pressure against Netanyahu should he annex territory, including leveraging US aid.”
At Responsible Statecraft, ReThinking Foreign Policy president Mitchell Plitnick wrote about vacant seat: “In the past, no Democrat who hoped to chair the HFAC would have considered supporting such overt pressure on Israel. But the political winds have shifted as the Israeli government has become increasingly identified with illiberal policies and opposition to a reasonable, sustainable peace with the Palestinians.”
“All 3 Dems vying for Foreign Affairs committee chair don’t want to use US funding for Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Next up? No funding for any Israeli human rights violations and oppression of Palestinians, full stop. The times, they are changin’,” tweeted JVP Action.
Odds & Ends
🇺🇸 Businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was the winner in Georgia’s 14th district GOP runoff. Greene is a supporter of the antisemitic QAnon conspiracy and she was once photographed with a former KKK leader. Earlier this year, Politico dug up a number of her Facebook videos. In the videos she refers to George Soros as “Nazi”, says black people should be proud of Confederate monuments, and implied that Muslims should not be allowed in government.
Her comments have been condemned by Republican leaders, but it’s hard to see her losing in such a conservative district. “The next congress will have far more Republican QAnon believers than Republican African-Americans, Republicans Jews, or Republican openly LGBTQ,” tweeted The Nation’s Jeet Heer.
✉️ There’s a new campaign to drop the Anti-Defamation League as a partner in social justice work. An open letter to progressives has been signed by over 100 groups. “Even though the ADL is integrated into community work on a range of issues, it has a history and ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements led by communities of color, queer people, immigrants, Muslims, Arabs, and other marginalized groups, while aligning itself with police, right-wing leaders, and perpetrators of state violence. More disturbing, it has often conducted those attacks under the banner of ‘civil rights’,” reads the letter.
🗳️ Ryan Grim and Daniel Boguslaw have an explosive report at The Intercept on the Alex Morse saga. The article shows how College Democrats (hoping to work for Rep. Richard Neal) hatched a plan to fabricate and leak accusations against the Mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Morse is currently running for Neal’s 1st district seat in the state.
Morse is endorsed by a number of progressive organizations, including the End the Occupation PAC. He’s openly spoke about how his Birthright trip exposed him to anti-Palestinian bigotry and changed his view of the conflict:
It became very clear early on that the way the folks on the bus, the tour guides, the way people in charge talked about Palestinians was in this language of “The Other” and [there was this] implication of blame. It connected me back to my lived experience in Holyoke, the way in which people talked about Puerto Ricans. People have talked about Holyoke my whole life, it used to be this thriving city and they have this false narrative that when Latinos came, when Puerto Ricans came, that was the downfall of our community.
Just seeing similar tropes and similar language..I’m grateful for the fact I didn’t come back indoctrinated with a mission to share those values, but to be more critical of the conversation about the relationship between Israel and Palestine, and what it means for me being as an American Jew. Too often people are conflating criticism of Israel with criticism of being Jewish…they’re two completely different conversations…
How can you stand up for values and people’s human rights in this country and be unable to grasp the human rights of people in other parts of the world? Too often people call themselves progressives on every issue but this, and it’s time that we had more moral clarity and integrity in Washington to actually speak the truth and just be honest about this issue
“At this point on the Alex Morse story, I see three ways it can go. 1. Actual victims come forward 2. No victims come forward but his opponents find young people he slept with and scandalize that 3. Neal and the political establishment of the district condemn the entire thing,” tweeted Grim.
Stay safe out there,