US support for Israel goes beyond party lines
After coming under a barrage of personal attacks from four freshmen Democratic congresswomen, President Donald Trump responded by telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
Trump was referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib. Of the four, only Omar was born overseas, in Somalia. But all four have personally attacked Trump and his politics, denouncing him as a racist, misogynistic xenophobe. Tlaib has even gone so far as to use an obscene expletive to describe Trump, demanding he be impeached.
Trump tweeted: “So interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly… and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”
In this war of words, is anyone really surprised by the heightened level of animosity? Despite that animosity from both sides, the mainstream American news media has largely limited its focus, criticizing Trump while remaining silent on another front that has the four women under siege — not from Republicans, but from Democrats.
Last week, Tlaib accidentally peeled back the media and political hypocrisy that has cast Trump and Republicans as the primary obstacles to human rights justice, while carefully downplaying the actions of Democrats. Like Omar, Tlaib is Muslim. But Tlaib is also Palestinian and that puts her in a special media category.
Last week, Tlaib blasted a proposed new law, House Bill 246, which would punish any American or business that supports the boycott of one specific foreign country: Israel. The law targets the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which is seeking to use economic pressures to counter the Israeli policies that violate the international rule of law, such as the building of Jewish-only settlements on lands taken from Christians and Muslims in Palestine. The settlements have been labeled as illegal by the UN and most of its member states.
But HB 246 is sponsored by three of the most powerful members of the US Congress — Reps. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Republicans and Democrats are nearly one and the same when it comes to their failure to advocate justice for the Palestinian victims of Israel’s illegal apartheid policies.
If the congressmen were Republican, or the anti-BDS legislation had been introduced by Trump, the media would have had a field day slamming the president for violating one of the most important fundamental American rights as defined in the US Constitution: The right to free speech.
But all three congressmen are Democrats, so the battle has been pushed into the shadows, where Tlaib has been unfairly labeled as “anti-Semitic.” The BDS protests have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that a majority of Israel’s citizens are Jewish or that Israel defines itself as the “Jewish state.” Rather, BDS has everything to do with the Israeli government’s policies, which impose racist and discriminatory restrictions on non-Jews.
Tlaib called the anti-BDS bill “unconstitutional,” correctly arguing that it violates the First Amendment rights of Americans, which allow them to criticize a foreign government that is actively engaged in racist and religiously discriminatory practices.
Israel has adopted 66 laws that deny Christians and Muslims equal rights — laws that the mainstream US news media generally ignores to protect Israel. Several Israeli cities like Afula have tried to impose policies denying basic rights to non-Jewish citizens.
Ironically, Arab-American activists have treated these two issues as if they are separate fronts in a war for justice and rights, rather than combining the two issues and exposing the hypocrisy of the Democrats and sections of the mainstream news media, which accuse Trump of using racist rhetoric but are near-silent on Israel’s explicitly racist policies.
Democrats have been trying to minimize the focus on criticism of Tlaib, but not because they agree with her fight to defend BDS. Democrats fear the attacks might confuse Americans in their battle to define Trump as a racist who needs to be removed as president.
But there is no confusion in the principles that are being abused in the two battles. When it comes to Trump, there is no limit to what can be said in attacking him. When it comes to Israel, however, any criticism is considered a virulent form of anti-Semitism and must be silenced.
Arab-Americans need to understand that, despite some of Trump’s anti-Palestinian policies, the threat is not confined to one administration, but rather is symptomatic of a larger problem that has infected the entire American political system.
Trump, Republicans and Democrats are nearly one and the same when it comes to their failure to advocate justice for the Palestinian victims of Israel’s illegal apartheid policies.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached at his personal website www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania