Amid last week’s debate over whether Israel should have issued waivers to Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and allowed them to promote the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement from within Israel, two scandals went largely unreported. The first scandal is that Tlaib and Omar’s trip was planned by the antisemitic, pro-terror Miftah organization. The second scandal was the establishment media’s whitewashing of the first scandal.
It fell to the Elder of Ziyon blog to remind everyone on Twitter that in 2013, Miftah published a blood libel against Jews. The term “blood libel” has been applied in other contexts in recent years, but Miftah claimed Jews have murdered Christian children to use their blood for baking matzos at Passover.
Historically, blood libels resulted in pogroms, including in England, Poland, and Russia; they contributed to the expulsion of Jews from England from 1290 to 1657. Jews were tried. Confessions were extracted by torture. When Miftah published its lie, the final blood-libel trial of a Jew in Western history was only 100 years past. When their essay was publicized, Miftah first tried to attack those who exposed them, then apologized—but only in English, not in Arabic.
Miftah also re-published (and later deleted) a column titled “Who Rules America: The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken.” Vox’s Jane Coaston (one of a few exceptions among the media last week) noted the original source was National Vanguard, a neo-Nazi group founded by members of the National Alliance—once the best financed and organized white nationalist groups in America. The group’s founder, William Pierce, authored “The Turner Diaries,” a book that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
The essay Miftah reprinted asserted in part: “The Jew-controlled entertainment media have taken the lead in persuading a whole generation that homosexuality is a normal and acceptable way of life; that there is nothing at all wrong with White women dating or marrying Black men, or with White men marrying Asian women; that all races are inherently equal in ability and character — except that the character of the White race is suspect because of a history of oppressing other races; and that any effort by Whites at racial self-preservation is reprehensible.”
Given its antisemitism, it is not surprising Miftah also has supported Palestinian terrorism against Israel. In a 2017 interview, Miftah founder and chairwoman Hanan Ashrawi defended such attacks, stating they “are seen by the people as resistance. And you cannot somehow adopt the language of either the international community or the occupier by describing anybody who resists as terrorist (sic).” Miftah also described one of the first female Palestinian suicide bombers as “the beginning of a string of Palestinian women dedicated to sacrificing their lives for the cause.”
In reporting on Israel’s exclusion of Tlaib and Omar, The New York Times described Miftah only as “an organization headed by a longtime Palestinian lawmaker.” The Times editorial board called Miftah a group “that promotes ‘global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities.’”
The Times, after publishing an antisemitic cartoon in its international edition a few months ago, editorialized it is a “dangerous mistake“ to dismiss antisemitism as a fringe element in society, but on Miftah, Tlaib, and Omar the paper continues to fall painfully short of “unblinking journalism and the clear editorial expression of its values.” Or its values seem to require a certain amount of blinking.
Other media outlets fared no better. The Washington Post called Miftah “a nonprofit organization headed by Palestinian lawmaker and longtime peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.” The Los Angeles Times editorialized that “[t]he only disgrace here is Trump’s behavior” in encouraging Israel to exclude Tlaib and Omar, noting in passing “[t]he trip of the two congresswomen was being arranged by Miftah, a nonprofit organization headed by a Palestinian lawmaker.” CNN’s story avoids mentioning Miftah altogether.
Arguably the worst coverage appeared in Politico’s “Playbook” column. Politico actually highlighted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement characterizing Miftah as “an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.” But Politico played this as a “gotcha” because Israel allowed a Miftah-sponsored group of congressmen into Israel in 2016. Indeed, Politico’s Brad Sherman tweeted: “Israel allowed a Miftah trip in 2016 when it was a group of 5 Dem male members,” as if there were some sex discrimination at work.
The Politico item leaves out a few things. First, as Jerusalem Post Senior Contributing Editor Lahav Harkov responded, “The law to bar boycott advocates wasn’t on the books in 2016, which you could have found out with a quick google search.” Sherman dismissed the criticism: “Yes, but Netanyahu took issue with Miftah in addition to its support of BDS.”
Given the controversy surrounding Israel’s decision to exclude Tlaib and Omar legally, it is frankly absurd to suggest Netanyahu should have made the 2016 trip an issue when he lacked the legal power to stop it. But the Politico article is even worse than that.
In 2016, Miftah invited more than 70 members of Congress, of whom only five accepted. And while Politico hyperlinks to their itineraries, the column omits mentioning they met with Shawan Jabarin. He is identified in the itineraries in his capacity as director of the Palestinian “human rights” organization Al Haq, which advocates for the anti-Israel boycott.
Jabarin is also an alleged long-time activist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist organization in the United States, Canada, and European Union. He was convicted in 1985 of recruiting for the PFLP. When he was detained in 1994, Israel claimed he “had not discontinued his terrorist involvement and maintains his position in the leadership of the PFLP.” Jordan cited similar security concerns in barring him from entry in 2003.
Of the four current congressmen on that 2016 Miftah trip, Rep. Marc Pocan was one of the 16 votes (along with Tlaib and Omar) against a July resolution condemning BDS. Another, Rep. Hank Johnson, abstained from that vote; he previously had to apologize for likening Israeli settlers to termites.
A third, Rep. Dan Kildee, has defended Omar’s dual-loyalty smears. In context, the 2016 Miftah trip looks much less like a “gotcha” of Netanyahu than a milestone on the path to Israel passing the law allowing them to exclude BDS advocates, particularly those affiliating with Miftah.
Beyond Miftah, Omar, and Tlaib, the same media whitewash occurs regarding the antisemitic BDS movement. Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the movement, compares Israel to the Nazis, claims Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children “for sport,” denies that Jews are one of the indigenous peoples of the region and have no right to self-determination—sometimes all in the same speech. The basic history of the movement and its leaders will be found nowhere in the BDS explainer published by The New York Times, perhaps because the paper recently published a wildly dishonest op-ed by Barghouti himself.
The establishment press must be getting quite a crick in its collective neck from having to look away so often from the antisemitic elements of the left, including within the Democratic Party. It is a case where biased journalism slouches into bad citizenship.
The Corbynization of Britain’s Labour Party happened in large part because the local media tended to ignore it. The left vehemently disagrees, but when you read the account of Josh Glancy, the New York correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, it is difficult to miss how much denial within the media aided Corbyn until it was too late.
Allowing antisemitism to fester within the Democratic Party and defending obviously antisemitic Democrats is bad for the country. And looking at the current struggles of the Labour Party, it is likely to be toxic for Democrats most of all. Even a biased press corps ought to recognize that much.