September 25, 2018

The Looming Deaths of Litmus Tests

Jeremy Corbyn may become Britain’s next prime minister. If so, he could become one of the most challenging political figures Israel has ever encountered. And he could become the most hostile leader ever to head a friendly country.

Corbyn could pose a diplomatic dilemma of great magnitude for Israel: What do you do when an anti-Semite, a supporter of terrorists, a vehement anti-Zionist, an enemy — yes, I think Corbyn is Israel’s enemy — takes over leadership of a country that is both important and friendly.

Israel has a long history of dealing with unfriendly leaders of other countries. Many were heads of enemy countries. They were no surprise and no real challenge — you dealt with the leader the way you dealt with his or her country. Some leaders were not heads of enemy countries but of countries whose importance for Israel was marginal. Again, they posed relatively little challenge. 

Then there were the skeptical or reluctant heads of countries that were both important and generally friendly. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was such a leader of the United States. Francois Mitterrand was such a leader of France. Israel was not always pleased when it needed to interact with these men, but no sane observer of foreign affairs would claim that they were enemies of Israel. 

Israel has dealt with anti-Semitic leaders in the past. Luckily, most of them had one of two qualities: Either they made an effort to hide their tendencies, making it possible for Israel to ignore them, or they were leaders whom Israel could fairly easily ignore, such as Kurt Waldheim of Austria. 

Corbyn is different. He is a vicious enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. He is an enemy who might head an important and generally friendly country. If he were to become Britain’s next prime minister, how could Israel deal with him? How could it not? 

Litmus tests are important. They are signs of where the political winds are blowing.

It is not always easy to draw a clear line separating the ordinary critic of Israel — say, Barack Obama — from the hostile critic. Jimmy Carter? He worked for peace. Pat Buchanan? Ron Paul? As standard America-first politicians, had they been elected to a position of great power, they would worry Israel but not make it cringe in disbelief.

Corbyn, as a politician, is a clear-cut case — the clearest cut one can make in today’s world, when stating plainly that one hates Jews and Israel is still beyond a certain pale. Yet, Britain under Corbyn would be harder to pin down. If British voters choose to elect him, it will not be because of his attitudes toward Israel and Jews or a statement of their resentment toward Israel. It will be a statement of indifference. It will be a statement of “We have priorities other than Corbyn’s views on Israel.” 

A Corbyn victory would not mean Britain is anti-Semitic. It would mean that Britain no longer has a litmus test that determines anti-Semitism to be a disqualifier of politicians (assuming it had such a test in the post-World War II era). 

Litmus tests are important. They are signs of where the political winds are blowing. That’s why I am currently interested not just in British politics but also in the candidacy of Michigan congressional hopeful Rashida Tlaib, who last week lost the endorsement of J Street. Because of her views on Israel, not even the lefty Jewish group was willing to vouch for her. Tlaib won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in the November general election race, so she is virtually assured of becoming a U.S. congresswoman. 

To be clear, Tlaib is no Corbyn. Not close. She did not carry flowers to the graves of terrorists. She has expressed no anti-Semitic views that I am aware of. But she supports a one-state solution — in other words, the elimination of Israel. To me, this seems like a signal of the possible looming death of the Israel litmus test or the two-state-solution litmus test as we have known it.

She will not be a prime minister of a country. She will only be a congresswoman whose impact on Israel is little or none. Corbyn worries me. Tlaib doesn’t. But the erosion of a litmus test is the erosion of a litmus test in both cases.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Winners and Losers – What You Need to Know About the Aug. 14 Primaries

Screenshot from Twitter.

August 14 featured a slew of primaries involving candidates who have either issued Jew-hating statements or made statements critical of Israel, and most of them won.

Among the most notable of these candidates is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who has been criticized for his past associations with Louis Farrakhan and is currently facing allegations of abuse. He won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) primary for Minnesota attorney general on August 14; Ellison will square off against former state Rep. Doug Wardlow (R) in November.

Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American congressional candidate who has stated that she believes in withholding aid from Israel “if it has something to do with inequality and not access to people having justice,” won the Democratic primary on Michigan’s 13th District on August 14. She will not be facing a Republican opponent in the general election.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in response to Tlaib, “Threatening to cut military assistance to Israel is inconsistent with the values of the Democratic Party and the American people.”

J Street also told Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they’re reaching out to Tlaib to clarify her recent comments stating, “This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.” JStreetPAC has endorsed Tlaib.

Similarly, Ilhan Omar, who once tweeted that “Israel is hypnotizing the world,” won the Democratic primary in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, another heavily Democratic district.

On the other hand, Paul Nehlen, who once stated that “Jews control the media” that Jews “are never to be trusted,” lost handily in the Republican primary in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, receiving only 10 percent of the vote.

Minnesota Congressional Democratic Candidate: ‘Israel Has Hypnotized the World’

Screenshot from Twitter.

One of the Democratic candidates in a Minnesota congressional race has a history of anti-Israel statements, most notably that “Israel has hypnotized the world.”

Ilhan Omar is a Somalian woman who came to the United States through a Kenyan refugee camp at the age of 12 and was elected to the Minnesota House in 2016; she is currently running for Congress in the district vacated by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is running for Minnesota attorney general and has past associations with Louis Farrakhan. As she is gaining notoriety, some of her past tweets on Israel are coming under scrutiny.

In 2012, Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evils of Israel.” When someone on Twitter accused Omar of being “a proud Jew hater” over the tweeted, Omar responded:

Additionally, in 2017, Omar voted against a bill in the Minnesota House that outlawed state vendors and contractors from engaging in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“As many of you know I come from Africa and I wasn’t old enough to know all that was happening in South Africa when the apartheid was prevalent there, when South Africa was apartheid state,” Omar said on the floor of the House. “But I remember my grandfather talking to me about the stories of apartheid South Africa and telling me how that conversation shifted because so many people of conscience, so many people who understood that it was obviously for countries to continue to support South Africa have decided that they were going to engage in boycotts of that government so that that system would go down.”

Omar added that while she is “certainly saddened by the rise of anti-Semitism,” she had to vote against the bill because “what governments do and what is based in systems are very different.”

“I would love to have voted for a bill that would have expanded our ideals of fighting against discrimination and being a body that actually stood up against all discrimination,” Omar said. “I don’t want to be part of a vote that limits the ability of people to fight toward that justice and peace.”

In the foreign policy issues section of her website, Omar expresses her support of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and states that she wants to “uplift the voices of Palestinians demanding an end to the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and end the siege of Gaza” and is against “the killing of civilians in Gaza and the expansion of settlements into the West Bank.”

Omar has been endorsed by Democratic congressional candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.

Omar’s campaign has not responded to the Journal’s request for comment.

Palestinian Congressional Candidate Has Made A Litany of Anti-Israel Statements

Screenshot from Facebook.

A Palestinian congressional candidate is being celebrated as the presumptive first Muslim woman to be elected to Congress. She also has a lengthy list of anti-Israel comments, as first reported by Algemeiner and The Daily Wire.

Rashida Tlaib, whose parents are from the West Bank, served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives before winning the Democratic primary on August 7 for the seat vacated by former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). No Republicans are challenging Tlaib for the seat, meaning Tlaib will be Conyers’ successor.

Tlaib’s history of anti-Israel statements include the following:

· Linking to an article on Twitter with the headline “How Israel Is Inciting Palestinian Violence” and writing, “This article is on point. I have witnessed it myself.”

· Tweeting support for Rasmea Odeh, who faces a life sentence in Israeli for murdering two American students in a 1969 supermarket bombing in Jerusalem.

· Tweeting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meant that Harris is no longer “part of the resistance to racism against ALL people.”

· Telling The New York Times that her Palestinian roots give her “strength” and that she “will fight back against racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled” as she adorned a Palestinian flag.

Additionally, a key donor of Tlaib’s, Maher Abdelqader, once called for former President Obama to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and celebrated a former Syrian Catholic bishop who funneled weapons to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a “freedom fighter,” according to the Algemeiner.

In addition to her anti-Israel statements, Tlaib is an avowed socialist and has been endorsed by J Street.