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The Squad is Here to Stay

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Upset in Missouri

Once again, a longtime Democratic incumbent has been ousted by a progressive challenger. This time it’s Missouri, where 44-year-old nurse and BLM activist Cori Bush has unseated Rep. Lacy Clay in the state’s first district’s primary. Bush (who supports left policies like Medicare for All and The Green New Deal) ran against Clay in 2018 (her campaign was one of those featured in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House) and lost by 20 points. This time she prevailed by three.

In the final days of the campaign, Clay’s team sent out a mailer attacking Bush over her support for Palestinian rights. It featured a picture of her standing next to Muslim activist Linda Sarsour, a frequent target of the right-wing. “Cori Bush supports and defends the Anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which seeks to isolate, delegitimize and end Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People [and] is supported by Linda Sarsour, an anti-Israel activist and a leader of the BDS movement in the United States,” it declared.

The mailer was presumably inspired by a foreign policy page on Bush’s campaign website. “In these times, it is important to be specific with our language and direct in the actions we take. In our current geopolitical economy, money talks far louder than speech alone. This is why nonviolent actions like the BDS movement are so important—and why the effort to mischaracterize and demonize the BDS movement by its opponents is so urgent,” read the website.

That page has seemingly been deleted. It’s unclear why, but Bush certainly didn’t back down in her response to the attacks. “Cori Bush has always been sympathetic to the BDS movement, and she stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, just as they have stood in solidarity with Black Americans fighting for their own lives,” said her campaign in a statement.

The St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Campaign also put out a statement defending Bush against Clay’s:

Cori Bush has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights and harsh critic of Israel. She spoke at our rally on July 3 to oppose Israel’s move to annex the West Bank and she shares our principles of anti-imperialism abroad and anti-racism at home.

Cori Bush has expressed support for the House bill (HR 2407) which would cut military aid to Israel on the basis of its detention and torture of Palestinian youth—the first bill ever to unequivocally uphold Palestinian rights and to condition financial support for Israel. She would join Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (the only two members of Congress to support Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) as a new member of “The Squad”.

Like Jamaal Bowman (the middle school principal who defeated Rep. Eliot Engel in New York), Bush is expected to sail to an easy victory in her heavily-Democratic district this November. It will be another big win for the progressive movement, whose agenda continues to gain ground amid a devastating pandemic and worldwide protests.

It’s also a big victory for BDS. Bush’s defense of the movement didn’t seem to hurt her at the ballot box and the attempt to smear her as antisemitic failed.

Rashida Romp

Was there a single poll indicating that Rashida Tlaib was in electoral jeopardy? I never saw one. In fact, the last poll I looked at (released at the end of July) had her up 28 points on challenger Brenda Jones. Numbers like this could not stop a narrative from forming about how the Michigan Representative was in peril.

“‘Squad’ member Tlaib may be vulnerable in tough primary” declared an AP headline from July 23. A CNN piece from August 2 asserted that Tlaib was “playing defense” in the race. “Rashida Tlaib Beat Her Primary Opponent by 900 Votes in 2018. How Will the Rematch Go?,” wondered the New York Times just one day before the election. The paper’s Twitter account shared that story with this amazing caption: “Representative Rashida Tlaib, a first-term Michigan Democrat who rocketed to national attention as a vocal critic of President Trump, is fighting for her political life, locked in a close primary race that could be decided by a few hundred mail-in ballots.”

Tlaib’s margin of victory ended up being even larger than that final poll: she won 66.1% to 33.9%.

There’s been suggestions that Tlaib’s governing style upsets people. The previously mentioned AP piece asserts that “some people back home — and in Democratic leadership — were not pleased” when she used an expletive while declaring that Democrats would impeach Trump. She was also criticized by the Jones campaign for booing the mention Hillary Clinton during a Bernie campaign event.

This election shows that Tlaib governs with a mandate and has the support of her district. “I didn’t have to change who I am,” she told the AP. “I didn’t sell out. That’s one thing I promised them, that I wouldn’t do it. And I didn’t.”

After her victory Tlaib said, “I think it’s safe to say the Squad is here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”

Fighting for Palestinian Children in Colorado

The State Central Committee of Colorado’s Democratic Party has passed a resolution endorsing Rep. Betty McCollum’s Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act.

The resolution quotes Jewish Voice for Peace: “Since the year 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been detained, prosecuted and incarcerated by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank. Often dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by armed soldiers, they suffer physical and emotional violence and frequently face verbal abuse, humiliation and/or intimidation. These children are interrogated without family or lawyers present, in an effort to generate forced confessions justifying their detention for months on end — often in solitary confinement.”

If you’re unfamiliar with McCollum’s historic bill, we interviewed Defense for Children International’s Brad Parker on the subject earlier this year.

“The longterm vision goes beyond these bills for sure. We are pushing to secure basic rights for Palestinian children. There’s an entire system of discrimination that exists for Palestinians living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. We are pushing to end the occupation and the systemic discrimination and structural violence inherent in it. What we’ve recognized is that this kind of work needs political vehicles. You’re not going to get from A to B without actually building and creating a movement of citizens, individuals, but also policymakers to help you get there,” Parker told me.

Odds & Ends

🇱🇧 Our thoughts are with the people of Lebanon, after an explosion rocked the country this week. Here are links if you want to donate to disaster relief efforts or the Lebanon Red Cross. Our friends at Medical Aid for Palestine are also supporting hospitals in Lebanon, and you can donate to them here.

🇺🇸 The Huffington Post reports that more than 275 DNC delegates have signed a letter referring to Joe Biden’s foreign policy circle as a “horror show” and asking for new hires. “We ask you not to rely on foreign policy advice from those who may have a conflict of interest as a result of their relationships and lobbying on behalf of merchants selling weapons and surveillance technology. We ask you to appoint top foreign policy advisors whose records reflect good judgment and an understanding of the importance of diplomacy and international cooperation, particularly in the face of global climate catastrophe,” reads the letter.

🗽 City & State interviewed soon-to-be congressman Jamaal Bowman on his agenda for 2021. “One stark contrast between myself and Congressman Engel is I’ve been critical of occupation, annexation and detaining Palestinian children – where Congressman Engel has not. And it doesn’t mean that, you know, I’m not pro-Israel. I am in full support of Israel. I’m also in full support of the human rights of the Palestinian people. And it’s important for us to continue to uplift human rights in the Middle East and all over the world. And that’s what America should be leading on. And unfortunately, we just haven’t been for far too long,” he told the paper.

🇵🇸 At Electronic Intifada, recent University of Maryland graduate Hanna Shraim writes about how she was doxxed by the pro-Israel site Canary Mission over her campus activism: “Doxing human rights activists for their work to demand justice is an example of Israel’s desperate attempts to conceal the reality of Palestinian occupation.”

🇸🇾 The New York Times reports that the Trump administration intends to strengthen its sanctions on Syria.

🚗 Historian Jeff Schuhrke has a great piece at Jacobin about a little-known 1973 strike, where Arab-American workers in Detroit walked off the job in solidarity with Palestine: “By remembering their legacy of combining fights against exploitation, racism, xenophobia, and imperialism, workers today can find inspiration to continue the struggle for freedom and justice — both in the United States and abroad.”

Stay safe out there,

Michael