Last week, J Street, the lefty group created to counter the bipartisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee, withdrew its endorsement of Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic candidate in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. The unprecedented move followed Tlaib’s endorsement of a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and comments supporting the left-wing boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement.
Tlaib is running unopposed in the general election, blunting the effect of the de-endorsement. But Tlaib is representative of the Democratic Party’s gradual march beyond the embrace of candidates and officials who criticize Israeli policy or its current government to a much uglier place in politics.
BDS Is Definitely Anti-Semitic
To put this trend into context, consider that the U.S. State Department has adopted a “working definition” of anti-Semitism, as a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The “working definition” provides illustrations of anti-Semitism, including “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
The founders and leaders of the BDS movement support a “one-state solution” that destroys Israel as Jewish state. The movement is the intellectual descendant of the 1945 Arab boycott, which did not distinguish between Jews and Israel. It is based on the premise that Israel is a racist apartheid state requiring the sort of action once taken against South Africa.
Accordingly, when Tlaib compares the two-state solution to the idea of “separate but equal,” even the J Street doves begin to worry. Tlaib carefully claimed she merely supports the free speech of the BDS crowd, which is a very weak claim.
Her answer also seems disingenuous, not only because she supports a one-state solution, but also because she is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Last year, the DSA overwhelmingly endorsed the BDS movement, with many chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” afterward.
It’s Not Just Rashida Tlaib, Either
Another odd endorsement story occurred in Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District. Democratic nominee Scott Wallace came under criticism after it emerged that his charitable foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that promote the BDS campaign.
Wallace disclaimed responsibility for the donations and denied supporting BDS. Democratic Jewish Outreach of Pennsylvania initially declined to endorse Wallace, but ultimately reversed its decision under pressure from the Democratic Party in a toss-up contest.
Last week, Democrats nominated Ilhan Omar as their candidate in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Omar has claimed that Israel “hypnotized the world” and said she hoped Allah would awaken people to “the evil doings of Israel.” She recently defended those comments by referring to “the apartheid Israeli regime.”
This month, at a candidates’ forum at Beth El Synagogue, Omar said she supported Israel’s right to exist and called BDS “not helpful” and “counteractive.” She was not asked specifically about her apartheid comparison, which occurred on May 31. (Members of Omar’s campaign also sought a DSA endorsement; she did not receive it in part because DSAers thought it would provide grist for Republicans.) Omar did not use the forum to address her prior comments, either.
Then again, Omar likely feels no pressure on this issue. She is running for the seat held by Keith Ellison, whose relationship with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has been an ongoing controversy and who has claimed that U.S. policy in the Mideast “is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,” meaning Israel. Ellison is now the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (Minnesota’s Democratic Party affiliate) candidate for attorney general in Minnesota and deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.
It Gets Way Crazier
Lastly, there is Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. The Virginia GOP has accused her of being a “virulent anti-Semite,” based on her-coauthorship of “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship,” a book that “advocated for the inherently anti-Semitic belief that Israel controls America’s foreign policy.”
The Virginia GOP quoted from The New York Times review of the book: “Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”
The press release also cited the Commentary review, which catalogs some of the book’s bizarre claims:
According to this book, Stalin himself may have been goaded into the cold war by Israel’s use of Soviet and Czechoslovak Jews for espionage. In 1967, Israel plainly hoodwinked Nasser into words and deeds that lent cover to Israel’s own premeditated seizure of Arab lands. In 1990-91, Saddam Hussein started the Gulf War not out of any desire for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia but because of his belief in ‘a conspiracy between Israel and the U.S. to attack him’—a belief that this book says is ‘correct.’ And then there is Israel’s culpability for Idi Amin, Mobutu, Noriega, the plight of the Kurds, the suffering of Guatemalans, and much, much more.
The Republicans omitted the Los Angeles Times review, which mentions some of these claims before adding: “Many of the book’s boldest assertions, however, are supported by little more than unfriendly speculation: that secrets obtained by Israel’s spy in Washington, Jonathan Pollard, were passed on to the Soviets; that the late extremist Meir Kahane planted bombs on Israeli government orders; that Israel has ‘seeded’ the Golan Heights with nuclear land mines.”
All four of these candidates may join the Democratic Caucus, perhaps even a majority, in the 116th Congress. DSA celebrity Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is almost certain to be there, has remained silent on the BDS issue, and the media generally seems uninterested in getting an answer. Also, there will almost certainly be returning incumbents who retain political relationships with Farrakhan.
Americans look at British politics and wonder how the Labour Party came under the thrall of someone with the anti-Semitic views of Jeremy Corbyn. One reason is that anti-Semitism seems to be a successful political strategy among a swath of the left.
Another reason is that so many other people looked the other way while it was happening. Now that we’ve seen it happen in the United Kingdom, there will be far less excuse for us to be surprised if and when it happens here.