September 16, 2019

An Open Letter to Tlaib and Omar About Their Recent Behavior

From Left: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 25 REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert; Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses her constituents during a Town Hall style meeting in Michigan Aug. 15, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook. Photo created by Jewish Journal

Dear Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar,

How could you do this? How could you let us down? I can’t count the number of progressive Jews who have come out to support you over the last few months. We have heard and accepted your apologies for some ill-chosen words and perhaps your lack of understanding about what pushes our buttons. We have defended you when you were attacked for your religion, the color of your skin, your womanhood and were questioned about your loyalty to the United States. We have defended you when you were told to go back to whence you came. We defended your right to have your own visit to Israel/Palestine that wasn’t part of the congressional delegation so that you could go where you wanted to go, see what you wanted to see and speak with whom you wanted to speak. 

Many of us who have supported you believe in and fight for the establishment of a strong and vibrant Palestine alongside a peacefully bordered Israel. We will continue to defend your dignity as members of Congress, as Muslims, as women and as Americans, even when you act in ways that cause us to question your motives. You make it difficult — and for some, impossible — to stand by your side when you participate in attacks on our dignity.

This is why we are so stunned and disappointed that you would have the insensitivity (I really want to attribute it to ignorance or naivete but your action seems too purposeful) to tweet an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic cartoon by Carlos Latuff, who gained some of his reputation by coming in second in the Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition (to be fair, he claims his work is not anti-Semitic nor denies the Holocaust). I really thought I understood the righteousness and moral character of your struggle and believed that, as a Jew, I owed you my voice. Was I wrong?

I have been involved in Muslim-Jewish dialogue for a long time. I’ve seen anger cause blindness, deafness and ill-selected words. I’ve felt it myself, at times, but somehow I’ve managed to get myself back to the dialogue table if, for no other purpose, than to tell my Muslim partners what hurts me and so I could hear and absorb what hurts them. I know that the only path to true peace and understanding is to honor each other’s narratives. Along the path to that holy place, many symbols will appear that mean one thing to one group and something else (or nothing at all) to the other.

 I really thought I understood the righteousness and moral character of your struggle and believed that, as a Jew, I owed you my voice. Was I wrong?

Take the Israeli flag that was so demeaned in the cartoon you tweeted. Yes, the basic design is two stripes of blue on a white background with a Star of David in the middle. The colors are purposeful, designed to exude the essence of a Jewish prayer shawl (a tallit). The star is, reportedly, the symbol that King David had on his shield. Of course, that star was appropriated by the Nazis to make it easier to target us for the genocide they attempted. I understand and sympathize with your association of that star and that those blue stripes with the oppression of the Palestinian people — and I don’t take that away from you because I have no right to do that. In precisely the same way, you have no right to take from me that these are both symbols of pride and, especially when used alongside caricatures, are very old anti-Semitic tropes.

I do not understand what you intend to accomplish on the road you are taking and who you deem expendable along the way. For the moment, I am a casualty of your … callousness? Unkindness? Blindness? Lack of information? Unfamiliarity? Thoughtlessness? I don’t want to seem patronizing, but you need to work in a coalition. I and others are ready to be in that coalition. I urge you to check with us first before you blithely tweet. We need to do the same with you. You can’t afford to lose those of us who have stepped up to help you in the recent past. 

You’ve lost me … for now. I’m standing by the side of the road, waiting for a change in direction so I can walk with you again.


Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels is the rabbi of Beth Shir Shalom, the progressive Reform synagogue in Santa Monica.  

Sen. Booker: Trump’s Statement about Jewish Disloyalty is ‘Outrageous Stuff Offending All Americans’

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker in Los Angeles on Thursday. Photo by Ryan Torok

Speaking to reporters on Aug. 22 during a visit to Los Angeles, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) denounced President Donald Trump’s Aug. 20 statement that Jews who vote Democrat lack knowledge or are disloyal.

“I’m running for president to unify this country,” he said. “We are a nation of many religions, many ethnicities, and we are a nation of one purpose, one destiny, one love, and it’s about time we get back to having leaders that show the best of who we are and unite us — not like this guy who is saying outrageous stuff that is offending all Americans.”

Booker made his remarks following a panel on gun violence with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at at the Crenshaw-area co-working space Vector90. Garcetti also denounced Trump’s comments.

“I think all American Jews are great Americans, even the quarter that votes Republican, unlike me,” said Garcetti, who is of Mexican, Russian Jewish and Italian heritage, and also a Democrat. “I think this is a moment for us to see racism when you hear it, whether it’s starting a campaign calling my other half, Mexican Americans, ‘rapists and murderers,’ or whether it’s now saying Jews who don’t vote for this guy are somehow disloyal. It’s fundamentally wrong, it’s un-Jewish and more importantly, it’s un-American.”

Booker, who isn’t Jewish, even cited the Torah in his remarks, saying, “I have studied Judaism. Jews have a very powerful belief about tikkun olam, healing the world, not dividing it as Donald Trump does. There is a beautiful song sung during the High Holidays that has the line in it, ‘Ki beiti beit tefillah l’chol ha-‘amim,’ ‘May my house be a house of prayer for many nations.’ It’s a very Jewish idea. It’s about bringing people together …in a pluralistic way and showing that strength, justice, kindness and decency comes as a result of that.

Trump, Booker said, “is trying to divide us against ourselves. He is playing into literally what the Russians are trying to do, which is to pit Americans against Americans and have us crumble and fall from within because they know that a house divided cannot stand.”

While many Jewish organizations have denounced Trump’s ‘disloyalty’ remarks, the Republican Jewish Coalition supported the president’s comments.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, Jews have continued to remain largely supportive of Democrats during the course of the Trump presidency, with nearly 80% voting for Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Jews Could Use a Cease-Fire

The Jewish community is approaching meltdown.

A perfect storm of events has culminated in one of the nastiest communal food fights in recent memory. Among other things, Democrats are incensed at President Trump’s reckless and offensive accusations, and at Prime Minister Netanyahu for following Trump’s partisan games; while Republicans are incensed, among other things, that Democratic leaders haven’t held anti-Israel Democrats like Reps Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar accountable.

The only happy ones are those benefiting from the madness. The media sees ratings and dollar signs when it sees a good battle. Fundraisers and television pundits are geniuses at monetizing outrage. Political activists, who would kill to win in 2020, are ecstatic when they see the other side mess up.

It’s as if we’ve all become political activists. Our marching orders have the rhythm of an Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “I will say and do only the things that help my side. I will never say or do anything that helps the other side. And I pray that I will always know the difference.”

Anything that smacks of a mistake is an opportunity to pounce.

We’re so on edge that any word can set us off. Trump’s “disloyalty” comment set off hysterics about “classic anti-Semitic tropes.” The only calm reaction I read came from a leftist intellectual and frequent Israel critic, Shaul Magid:

“Not to diminish the insanity of Trump’s ‘disloyalty’ comment but isn’t he actually inverting the anti-Semitic canard? Dual allegiance (disloyalty) usually accused Jews of being disloyal to their country of residence in favor of the Jewish people or later Israel.

“Trump is saying Jewish Democrats are being disloyal to Israel in favor of their American values as embodied in the Democratic Party.”

That attempt at subtlety, whether you agree with it or not, has no place in tribal warfare.

Every news event is filtered through a partisan lens. If a Democrat says anything bad about Israel or the Jews, one side pounces. If a Republican politician blunders (including, most prominently, the man in the White House), the other side pounces. Anything that smacks of a mistake is an opportunity to pounce.

Rarely will you see one side take on its own. The offending side will usually keep mum or try to change the subject. Just as Democrats have been shamelessly dismissive of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel antics of Tlaib and Omar, Republicans have been shamelessly dismissive of the irresponsible and divisive antics of the president.

 I guess that makes sense: If the goal is to win, why beat up your own team? Winning the White House in 2020 is a fight to the death. All’s fair in love and war.

Unless we figure out a way to calm down and call at least a temporary cease-fire, the merchants of outrage will fuel our fight until it permanently divides us.

The Jewish community, always so actively engaged with the world, has been sucked into this confrontational vortex. We bash and slash with the best of them.

Of course, the great maestro of this gigantic food fight is President Trump, a man for whom confrontation is like breast milk for a hungry baby.

Someone high up in the Jewish world told me yesterday that “it will only get worse,” partly because Trump loves nothing better than to double down and triple down on a good mud fight.

His latest accusation of “disloyalty,” inverted or not, has sent us over the edge. Neither side feels like throwing water on the fire. We’re too wound up. Now it’s drag-down, hand-to-hand combat, hide the children. Dignified debate? That feels as distant and ancient as our forty years wandering in the desert.

We’ve convinced ourselves that the stakes are life and death. If Trump wins again, some people tell me, they will leave the country. If Trump loses, others tell me, they also will leave the country.

Don’t worry, I’m not claiming any perfect equivalency here—moral or otherwise. I’m just pointing out the simple fact that there’s more than one side in this ugly battle. I’ll let you do the moral math as you see fit.

Here’s my moral math: Unless we figure out a way to calm down and call at least a temporary cease-fire, the merchants of outrage will fuel our fight until it permanently divides us.

Maybe we can all channel Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday to let her know that Israel-US ties “are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party.”

 That’s right—our ties, our lives, our well-being, should not be dependent on a political party. The fact that politicians and professional activists routinely bash one another as part of their job description does not mean we have to.

The White House is important, yes, but so is keeping the Jewish House from crumbling.

B’nai David Joins Forces with NewGround’s Aziza Hasan to Navigate Conflict

Aziza Hasan

In an effort to help people navigate conflict and debate contentious issues, Aziza Hasan is eager to share her ideas. The executive director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change drew around 50 people at a talk she gave on that subject on Aug. 17.

The event was hosted by Jeff and Naomi Selick in their Beverlywood home’s backyard as part of B’nai David-Judea Congregation’s Shabbat afternoon “Nosh N’ Drosh” series. Hasan, accompanied by three alumni of NewGround’s MAJIC (Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change) program, spoke about how to “create a space to have meaningful conversations. It’s not rocket science,” she said, “but it’s very difficult.”

The hardest part, she explained, is “to actually hear and see one another,” and that everyone has “different stories, different truths.” In order to achieve that, she said, the most important skill is to learn how to listen and how to ask questions without coming off as aggressive or judgmental.

The alumni — Cindy Kaplan, Serra Demircii and Yael Rubin — spoke about how they have used the skills they learned in the program in their personal life. 

“There’s a hunger and thirst for having constructive conversation, to really be willing to work in a process that might lead down a constructive path.” — Aziza Hasan 

Demircii, a Muslim, said she found herself in a similar situation discussing the Armenian genocide with another Muslim girl. She too managed to keep the conversation from turning into a fight. What she learned, she said, is “how to talk without breaking anybody’s heart. You have to respect the point of view of the other person. People get triggered. You have to separate the person from the belief.”  

To put these ideas in action, Hasan had attendees pair up with someone they didn’t know well. Each person had two minutes to tell their partner a problem they were having, either at work, at home or with themselves. After waiting a minute, the partner could ask just two questions, the simpler the better. 

“Don’t answer the questions,” Hasan instructed. “Just tell the person if the question was helpful or not.” The exercise, she explained, was not about problem-solving; it was to help focus on listening with intent and asking productive questions. 

In one example, a man starting a new project couldn’t decide between hiring someone younger or going with a more experienced candidate. He was asked who would bring more passion to the job and whether he would prefer to train a new employee or work with someone who already had set ideas about the job. The man said he found both questions helpful.

In the Q&A session following the exercise, Marvin Epstein said he found the experience surprising. Being face to face with the other person, looking them in the eye, made him feel listened to. It was, he said, “intense.” 

Asked how these tools can be used in the real world, especially when discussing thorny issues regarding Israel and the Middle East, Hasan said, “In those cases, you have to agree to disagree. We have the best of intentions but we all have our blind spots.” 

Hasan told the Journal she was pleased with how the event went. 

“It felt like a breath of fresh air,” she said. “People were willing to bring themselves to the table and see other people.” The large turnout and willingness of people to take part in the exercise, she said, showed “there’s a hunger and thirst for having constructive conversation, to really be willing to work in a process that might lead down a constructive path.

“I know there’s a future that’s different,” she concluded. “This is how we build community.”


CORRECTION: Cindy Kaplan was identified as a Shalhevet High School student. She is a B’nai David member and an alumna of the Professional Fellowship for adults. Yael Rubin is still a student at Shalhevet High School.

The Truth About Israel and the Democrats

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) react as they discuss travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Caroline Yang

In the past week, I found myself in a minority. Well, I can’t be certain that this was really a minority, because that depends on the question of a minority among whom — Israelis? Columnists? Experts? No matter, for a few days, it surely felt like a minority. News organizations, including the Journal, published articles denouncing Israel for not letting two U.S. congresswomen enter the country. And I thought: Way to go, Israel. 

Of course, being on the receiving end of denunciation is never pleasant. And yet, Israel made the right, if belated, choice. It should have said at the outset that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are not welcome. It should have presented at the outset the Democratic Party with a dilemma: Do you support Omar and Tlaib — or Israel? 

To me, this seems like an easy one, but in today’s world, and today’s America, maybe it’s not. Israel has a problem with the Democratic Party. This is not a new problem. Party voters are moving left. The move to the left is manifested in many ways, including less support for Israel. Obviously, an incident like the one with Omar and Tlaib will make it easier for the party’s left-wing to hammer Israel a little more, putting its centrist wing in a defensive position. Obviously, the incident will further erode Israel’s ability to communicate with voters, and perhaps with some elected officials, in the Democratic Party. 

On the other hand, there should be no illusion: Had the visit taken place, it would not necessarily improve Israel’s situation. Omar and Tlaib are a cunning duo, and their visit’s aim was to further erode support for Israel. It’s not inconceivable to imagine scenarios that would make the visit even more harmful than the ban.

“Democratic Party leaders can’t argue that Israel alone is responsible for souring the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Why is the Democratic Party upset with Israel? It is customary to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for recent erosion in the party’s stance. And indeed, he bears some of the blame. But the attempts to claim that he is the sole culprit are ridiculous. When Ehud Olmert was Israel’s prime minister — the Olmert of concessions and peace negotiations — the Democrats also weren’t always happy. You know why? Because of his close relationship with a Republican president. Here is an April 2007 quote from veteran reporter Nathan Gutman: “Democrats are still angry about what they see as Olmert’s desperate attempts to align himself with President [George W.] Bush even if it means wading into American political controversies.” Sound familiar? It is familiar. Democratic leaders are never happy when an Israeli prime minister befriends a Republican president. 

One of Netanyahu’s problems is the optics of what he does. For eight years, he had adversarial relations with a Democratic president. So Democratic voters must think: Gee, this guy only gets along with Republicans. But the truth is much more boring. Netanyahu had little choice but to oppose President Barack Obama. He opposed him for the same reason former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, not quite a Netanyahu ally, called Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, “messianic and obsessive.” He opposed him for the same reason Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, not a great Netanyahu supporter, worried that “in the past, the United States has seen Israel as a strategic asset in the Middle East beyond moral commitment. It is currently unclear what the White House’s position is.” 

Enter Trump. A president who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights. Obviously, there is a considerable gap between Israel’s cool attitude toward Obama and the warm and sympathetic attitude toward Trump. This is not because one is a Republican and one is a Democrat, but because Israel prefers sympathetic presidents.

The ban on Omar and Tlaib does not have to damage Israel’s relations with the Democratic Party. In fact, what happens next is for Democratic leaders to decide. They can choose to understand that Israel made a reasonable choice. They can choose to disagree with Israel and move on. They also can choose to further damage the relationship. What they can’t do is argue that Israel alone is responsible for souring the relationship.


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

Tlaib And Omar: What Would JFK Do?

From Left: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 25 REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert; Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses her constituents during a Town Hall style meeting in Michigan Aug. 15, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook. Photo created by Jewish Journal

“The purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; it is to shape real events in a real world.”
-John F. Kennedy, Sept. 26, 1963

 

 

In September 1963, less than two months before his fateful trip to Dallas, President John F. Kennedy felt compelled to defend America’s continuing postwar commitment to NATO. Addressing the rising tide of skeptics who sought to return to the country’s pre-war isolationist stance, the president reminded Americans that foreign policy demands serious engagement with those with whom we disagree. “If we were to withdraw our assistance from all governments who are run differently than our own,” he explained, “we would relinquish half the world immediately to our adversary.”

Kennedy’s clear-eyed focus on achieving desired foreign policy objectives is in stark contrast to the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding last week’s aborted trip to Israel of Reps. (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn). As everyone now knows, Israel barred entry to the two congresswomen after being urged to do so by President Donald Trump. Both have declared support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, and a controversial 2017 Israeli law entitles the state to deny entry to BDS supporters. At least three reasons have been cited in support of the decision:

 

1) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited the lawmakers’ purported itinerary, which he said “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”
2) The pair rejected an invitation to join a Democratic congressional delegation earlier this month with 41 other representatives, sponsored by an organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). That delegation met with both Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
3) The organizer of Tlaib and Omar’s planned trip was a group called Miftah. The group supports BDS, has praised Palestinian suicide bombers, and previously published an anti-Semitic blood libel accusation in gruesome, defamatory detail.

 

No question about it — these concerns, and perhaps others, are justified. It is abundantly clear that Tlaib and Omar intended to meet solely with people who are critical of Israel, and sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle. They would likely admit that they intentionally skipped the AIPAC-sponsored event precisely because it included pro-Israel participants. And — there is simply no other word for it—the Miftah organization is reprehensible.

The question left to both Israel and the Trump administration, then, was clear: what to do about it? How best to blunt the impact of their intended action? Ignore it, and let them proceed with the trip? Or ban it, and give exponentially more attention to their goals, their mission, and their image of Israel — all while painting themselves as victims?

Stunningly, Israel chose the latter.

Netanyahu and Trump had obvious personal motivations for their coordinated action. Trump is attempting to raise the profile of Reps. Tlaib, Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as the faces of the Democratic Party heading into 2020. Trump is popular in Israel; with another Israeli election on the horizon, Netanyahu needs to placate the president.

But for American Jews who care about Israel? How could they possibly believe that, in the real world, support for this ban somehow helps the Jews? For decades, Israel and American leaders have hewed close to a carefully tended bipartisan policy of support for the Jewish state. Administrations come and go, Democrats and Republicans trade large swaths of power. AIPAC’s grand strategy since its inception has been to safeguard that bipartisan support because the only way to ensure consistent American support for Israel through the shifting American political winds is to stay above American political partisanship — particularly in Congress. This ban has seriously challenged that strategy, which is why AIPAC opposed it.

Supporting the ban of these congressional representatives — regardless of how reprehensible their views are — in no way serves to “shape real events in a real world.” Will it discourage others from believing as Tlaib and Omar do? Of course not. Will it stop or slow anti-Israel agitation? No. Does it somehow demonstrate Israel’s sovereign right to control its borders? Of course not — every country has that right. Does it stand for any principle whatsoever, other than the notion that the ideas that undergird the Zionist project are now so weak and worn that they can no longer stand up to the opposition of two American congressional critics? Nope.

Instead, they should have been given full access to their entire planned itinerary. Every minute of it. Israel wins if she is strong enough to allow them access to every place they intended to tour, and every person with whom they intended to meet. Freedom to share their perspective about how evil the Jewish state is, even as it grants them courtesies they would never receive in a place of overwhelming oppression. The BDS skirmish, at least at this level, is a war of symbolism, not substance. Barring access shows cowardice, and gives the other side unearned talking points.

The last thing that American Jews should hope for is any exacerbation of waning support for Israel within the Democratic Party. Bipartisan support for Israel should be at the strategic forefront of every person who loves Israel. Don’t get caught up in the petty election year interests of two politicians seeking to ensure their political survival. Stick with AIPAC, which has been around Washington long enough to know how to keep its eye on the strategic ball. American Jewish reaction to those who seek to harm the Jewish state should not serve to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation; they should seek to shape real events in a real world.


Stuart D. Tochner is a shareholder with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart in Los Angeles.

Banning Omar and Tlaib Ultimately is Detrimental to Israel

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) react as they discuss travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Caroline Yang

Editor’s Note: This is part of a two-opinion analysis on Israel’s decision to ban United States Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). For the other view, click here. 

It’s not easy to turn avowed racists into objects of sympathy, but President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have managed to pull it off.

It’s not easy to drive a wedge between the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Israeli government. However, Netanyahu’s refusal to permit two members of the United States House of Representatives to enter Israel has exacerbated the growing tensions in an already strained relationship between Israelis and Diaspora Jews.

It’s somewhat easier to build a public platform for Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to espouse their anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic prejudices that will allow them to be heard by a much larger audience than they could have achieved on their own. Trump understands that elevating Omar and Tlaib as the extreme and intolerant faces of the Democratic Party will benefit his reelection campaign, and Netanyahu’s political fate now is closely tied to Trump. They have decided their own short-term personal objectives must come before the endangered bipartisan foundation on which U.S. support for Israel has rested for more than 70 years.

Most pro-Israel Democrats now face an even greater challenge in limiting the growth of the anti-Zionist movement among their party’s most ardent progressive voices. Most pro-Israel Republicans now confront a more difficult struggle to explain that their support for a Jewish state is based on genuine principle rather than partisan convenience. And the next U.S. president and the next Israeli prime minister, regardless of their respective party memberships, will be forced to pick up the wreckage in the years ahead.

But the vast majority of Jews in this country, torn between their love of Israel and their hate for Trump, have actually been given a rare gift. This latest controversy allows the unusual opportunity to line up against their president on Middle Eastern issues without the nagging feeling they are not standing up for Israel. To be clear, this feeling of momentary relief does not suggest any significant level of approval for Omar and Tlaib themselves. Only the most fervent ideological outliers on the extreme left of the Jewish community here support the anti-Israel agenda these two congressional representatives espouse. 

But for Jews who despise Trump, his domestic policy agenda and his often odious sentiments regarding immigrants, women and minorities, this episode was a welcome reprieve that allowed them to strongly condemn Trump’s decision without feeling as if they had compromised their allegiance to Israel. 

It’s been a long time since being both anti-Trump and pro-Israel could come so easily for many American Jews — at least without requiring extensive explanation and rationalization. An uncomfortable aspect of Trump’s presidency for most American Jews is that they know they would have applauded most of his past actions regarding Israel if those actions had been taken by someone else. The most obvious example was Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Had Bill Clinton or Barack Obama made the same announcement, the American Jewish community would have erupted in unadulterated joy, but the reaction to Trump’s decision was much more awkward. Jewish leaders emphasized their discomfort with the manner with which the decision was made and the language Trump used in the announcement, but relatively few actually opposed the idea of the embassy relocation. In fact, most had supported the move for years.

There are many other examples in which Trump’s actions would have fit squarely within traditional pro-Israel orthodoxy. His administration recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel. Trump pulled U.S. funding from the scandal-ridden United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). His advisers have used increasingly strident language in criticizing the United Nations for its fierce pro-Palestinian tendencies. In each of these cases, the reaction from the Jewish community was noticeably muted. While each of these steps arguably are in Israel’s best interests — or would have been judged as such under an Obama or Clinton presidency — the Jewish community’s distaste for Trump overwhelmed the potential benefits of his decisions for Israel.

“For a few fleeting days, it will have been a pleasant experience to criticize Trump for actions that clearly is to Israel’s detriment, rather than looking for ways to avoid praising him.”

In the coming weeks, Trump will bestow other gifts on Netanyahu to help him cross the electoral finish line. He will shower Israel with economic, military and geopolitical support both before and after the election, forcing most American Jews back in the familiar position of minimizing the benefits of that support while continuing to work for Trump’s defeat. But for a few fleeting days, it will have been a pleasant experience to criticize Trump for actions that clearly are to Israel’s detriment, rather than looking for ways to avoid praising him. 

Make no mistake: Omar and Tlaib deserve no sympathy whatsoever. Their public comments against both Israel and the Jewish people have been chronicled, and only the most knee-jerk partisan automatons would argue they are not guilty of both anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Their trip was designed to be a political trap for Israel from the beginning. The very least they could have hoped for would have been to be granted several days in the region to attack the Israeli government at close range.

What would have been the best possible outcome for Omar and Tlaib? It would be to be forbidden to travel to Israel and being given the much more valuable prize of an even more visible platform from which to inflict even more damage. How fortunate for them, and how calamitous for the U.S-Israel relationship, that Trump prioritized his immediate political needs over the necessity of long-term bipartisan support for Israel in this country — and that Netanyahu felt that he had little choice but to meekly fall in line.


Dan Schnur is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University.

Israel Was Justified in Barring Omar and Tlaib

U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seen in a combination from file photos. REUTERS/File Photos

Editor’s Note: This is part of a two-opinion analysis on Israel’s decision to ban United States Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). For the other view, click here. 

A great uproar followed Israel’s decision to bar United States Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering the country. However, the government made the right decision, as it was following a law adopted by Israel’s democratically elected legislature and because the congresswomen made it clear they were intent on turning their visit into an anti-Israel propaganda show.

It is an American principle that no one is above the law, yet critics expected Israel to ignore its law banning supporters of the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to accommodate the two congresswomen. The U.S. did not look the other way or make exceptions when it barred Irish politician Gerry Adams, U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim and celebrities such as singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) from entering our country. In fact, the Obama administration banned a member of Israel’s Knesset from coming here in 2012.

Had Omar and Tlaib gone to Israel on a fact-finding trip (the purpose of most congressional visits), that would have been in keeping with tradition. However, they made a political statement before they left, drafting an itinerary titled “U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine.” There is no state of “Palestine”; there is only the Palestinian Authority. This is coded language used by people who support the Palestinians’ desire to replace Israel with a Palestinian state. It also was inflammatory because Omar and Tlaib planned to visit the Old City of Jerusalem, which is not in “Palestine” — it is the capital of Israel.

The two politicians were not interested in visiting other parts of Israel or speaking to Israeli officials. Omar said, “The goal of our trip was to witness firsthand what is happening on the ground in Palestine.” If they had a genuine desire to learn about Israel from Israelis, both Jewish and Muslim, as well as to visit with Palestinians, they could have joined the record number of Democrats who traveled together on a fact-finding mission just days before.

Even after seeing the itinerary and knowing her support for the terrorist-allied BDS movement, which seeks Israel’s destruction, the government was prepared to let Tlaib enter the country. She sent a letter to Israel’s interior minister, asking to be allowed to visit her 90-year-old grandmother because “this might be my last opportunity to see her,” and agreeing to any Israeli restrictions.

Minister Aryeh Deri granted her request, but Tlaib subsequently changed her mind and turned down the invitation, tweeting, “I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression and injustice.”

Talk about hypocrisy. As Deri said, “Apparently, her hate for Israel outweighs her love for her grandmother.” Yet, Israel was pilloried for not welcoming a woman with such utter contempt for the Jewish state, not to mention her history of anti-Semitic remarks, including her accusations that American Jews have dual loyalty — the old, vile canard, perhaps the most trafficked of all anti-Semitic tropes.

It is an American principle that no one is above the law, yet critics expected Israel to ignore its law banning supporters of the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to accommodate the two congresswomen.

Tlaib still can visit her grandmother in the future if she changes her mind. She also could have visited her grandmother before she declared her support for the BDS movement. Why Tlaib did not visit her elderly grandmother over the last decade is none of my business, except as it pertains to how she uses her grandmother as a cudgel with which to browbeat Israel.

After complaining about being persecuted for her beliefs, Tlaib had the chutzpah to call for a boycott of comedian Bill Maher, who, accurately if overly colorfully, called BDS “a bull—- purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class.” He observed that BDS supporters seem to believe because “Palestinians are browner” than the mostly white Israelis, “they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong.”

He also highlighted the absurdity of their belief that “occupation came right out of the blue, that these completely peaceful people found themselves occupied.” For Tlaib, such objectionable speech should be punished by a boycott. This is a hallmark of BDS supporters: the belief they have freedom of speech but anyone who dares criticize them does not.

In addition to hypocrisy, the congresswomen continue to engage in slander against Israel. Omar accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of instituting a “Muslim ban.” Tlaib and Omar are not the first people, or even the first parliamentarians, to be barred from entering Israel. For example, two French politicians were denied entry because of their support for BDS. Perhaps if Omar had gone to Israel, she could have met with some of the more than 1 million Muslims who are citizens of Israel and enjoy full civil rights, unlike Muslims (and Christians) who live under the dictatorial rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Like other BDS supporters, Omar and Tlaib are myopic when it comes to civil rights. Hence, they are silent, for example, after the Palestinian Authority announced this week it was banning members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community from engaging in any activities in the West Bank. This was especially ironic given Tlaib’s tweet the same day about her “allies” in the LGBTQ community.

I also don’t buy the argument that Israel’s decision has divided Democrats and made Israel a partisan issue. Just before this balagan erupted, the House voted 398-17 to approve a resolution opposing BDS; only 16 Democrats opposed it. Also, a record 41 Democrats went on the Israel trip Omar and Tlaib shunned. If anyone turned Israel into a partisan issue, it was President Barack Obama, who twisted the arms of Democrats to vote for his catastrophic Iran nuclear deal that legitimized an abominable government sworn to a second Holocaust and that gave $150 billion to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

This latest incident, along with President Donald Trump’s focus on the four progressive congresswomen known as “the squad,” has put Democrats in the uncomfortable position of feeling the need to defend Omar and Tlaib. They clearly are embarrassed by the congresswomen and have emphasized the politicians are just two votes in a chamber that continues to overwhelmingly support Israel.

In contrast to some of my Jewish friends, I do not believe banning Omar and Tlaib strengthened the BDS movement because BDS received its 15 minutes of fame. People quickly will view this incident in its proper context. Two hate-filled members of Congress with an irrational loathing of the Jewish state were denied entry because they joined a movement that seeks Israel’s destruction. BDS leaders make no secret of this goal. As professor and BDS supporter As’ad AbuKhalil has said, “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.” Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its annihilation?

Yes, the ban provoked some bad press, but for Israel, it is much more important that BDS supporters be kept out of the country, where they can do far less damage than if they were allowed to attack the legitimacy of Israel from within.

After 2,000 years of anti-Semitism and just 75 years after the Holocaust, it’s time for the Jewish people to stop the slow creep of anti-Semitism from the moment it rears its ugly head. And being a member of Congress does not provide license to hate the Jewish people and seek the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of 33 books, including “Kosher Sex,” “Kosher Adultery,” and “Lust for Love,” co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.

ADL, Jewish Groups Criticize Omar, Tlaib for Sharing Anti-Semitic Cartoon

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) discuss travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Caroline Yang

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other Jewish groups have criticized Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for sharing a cartoon on their Aug. 16 Instagram stories by an author who placed in Iran’s 2006 Holocaust cartoon contest.

The cartoon shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump silencing Tlaib and Omar, respectively. A Star of David is in the center of the cartoon.

Forward Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon noted on Twitter that the cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, “came in second in Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon Contest.” She added, “Jews controlling and subverting world leaders is a classic anti-Semitic trope. So is Jews silencing critics. But no one has silenced the Reps. The ways in which it gets the story wrong fits into an aesthetic designed to give anti-Semites pleasure.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in an Aug. 19 statement, “Reps. Tlaib and Omar absolutely shouldn’t have lifted up the work of a cartoonist who frequently promotes hate toward Israel, mocks the Holocaust and traffics in #antiSemitic tropes. Doing so legitimizes his bigotry.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Omar and Tlaib’s sharing of the cartoon shows that “they’re anti-Semites, they hate the state of Israel, and until now, they have no interest in being players in trying to work toward peace.” He added that if Omar and Tlaib were truly concerned about making sure Palestinians have their voice heard, they would have gone with the bipartisan 72-member congressional delegation that went to Israel earlier in August.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that they would [wind] up invoking, just naturally… a cartoon from a guy like Latuff because the credentials that incense us are the credentials that attract [Omar and Tlaib],” Cooper said. 

The Progressive Zionists of California said in a statement to the Journal, “Anti-Semitism from any political angle must be rebuked. Democrats rightly condemned Donald Trump when he invited anti-Semitic cartoonist, Ben Garrison, to the White House. The cartoon Representatives Tlaib and Omar shared clearly furthers the anti-Semitic trope of Israeli control of the United States–a bigoted lie that both women have previously reiterated they would refrain from using. Democratic leadership must also condemn their actions, and the representatives should apologize.”

Daily Wire Editor-In-Chief and Journal columnist Ben Shapiro argued in an Aug. 19 Fox News appearance, “Imagine if someone on the right had tweeted a cartoon out from a virulent racist and had done so knowing what that person was. There would be appropriate blowback. You’re getting none of that from the mainstream media today.”

Latuff defended his work on Twitter.

Latuff also tweeted out an interview with the Forward from 2008, where he explained his participation in the Iran Holocaust cartoon competition.

The artwork with which I won second place was a depiction of an elderly Palestinian man wearing a Nazi concentration camp uniform, and some people said that I was ‘denying the Holocaust!’” Latuff said. “That was completely stupid, since I’m affirming the Holocaust with that illustration. Believe me, no matter what I draw and where I publish, there will be always someone who will point a finger and say it’s anti-Semitic.”

He added that he viewed the competition “as both a good chance for denouncing the suffering of the Palestinian people before the eyes of world public opinion and for raising questions about the West’s double standards. I mean, you insult the Muslims with a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bomber and then claim the right to ‘freedom of speech,’ but if you make drawings about the Holocaust, then it’s ‘hatred against the Jews.’”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has stated Iran’s Holocaust cartoon competitions “occur in the context of official Iranian policy and practice of promoting Holocaust denial” and “are insulting to the victims and memory of the Holocaust.”

Omar and Tlaib’s offices have not responded to requests for comment.

Omar, Tlaib Criticize Israel’s Travel Restrictions, Call for Aid to Be Used As Leverage

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) react as they discuss travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Caroline Yang

U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) criticized the Israeli government’s decision to bar them from visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories, and advocated for Congress to use aid to Israel as leverage against the Jewish state in an Aug. 19 press conference.

Omar began by saying that she, Tlaib and Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) had been planning “to travel to Israel and Palestine to hear from individuals on the ground about the conflict.” She also argued that they were going to meet with Israeli officials, contradicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had said otherwise. Their reported itinerary didn’t show any meetings with Israeli officials, although a spokesperson for Omar is claiming that the reported itinerary is outdated.

“The decision to ban me and my colleagues, the first my colleague, the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials,” Omar said. “But this is not just about me. Netanyahu’s decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians. This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation, a policy that has been edged on and supported by Trump’s administration.”

She added that she and Tlaib are not the only ones being barred from Israel and the Palestinian territories, saying that such actions “maintain the occupation and prevent a solution to the conflict. Fortunately, we in the United States have a constructive role to play. We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year. This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East.” Omar used air quotes when describing Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

“We must be asking as Israel’s ally [for] the Netanyahu government [to] stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid,” Omar said.

Following Omar, Tlaib drew an analogy between herself and former Rep. Charles Coles Diggs Jr. (D-Mich.), who was denied entry from apartheid South Africa in 1972, saying that “history does have a habit of repeating itself.” She went onto recall instances where she and her family had to endure “dehumanizing checkpoints” to visit her family in the West Bank.

Our delegation trip included meetings with Israeli veterans who were forced to participate in military occupation. They also desperately want peace and self determination for their Palestinian neighbors,” Tlaib said. “They could have shed light into injustices of raids, shootings, demolitions and child detention. The delegation would have seen firsthand why walls are destructive, not productive.”

During the Q&A, Tlaib said that her decision to not visit her grandmother came after a lengthy discussion her family.

“We all decided as a family I could not go until I was a free American congresswoman not just to visit my grandmother but to talk to Palestinians,” Tlaib said.

She also said that accusations of anti-Semitism against MIFTAH, one of the sponsors of the trip, were “distractions.”

The full press conference can be seen below:

What the Media Won’t Tell Us About Tlaib and Omar

From Left: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 25 REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert; Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses her constituents during a Town Hall style meeting in Michigan Aug. 15, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook. Photo created by Jewish Journal

On Aug. 17, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar posted a political cartoon drawn by the second-place winner of Iran’s vile International Holocaust Cartoon Competition. If any question lingered about the motivational purity of these women’s desire to visit Israel, this pulls off the mask.

Yet, left-leaning news sources such as The New York Times have not said a word about it. All we are hearing about is Trump’s overbearing influence on Israel to refuse them entry. Such speculation is nothing but a well-calculated distraction from the unsavory truth, which is: Tlaib and Omar are anti-Semites.

If you don’t think so, you are redefining anti-Semitism and ignoring its ancient markers. These women hit every bullet point. Dual loyalty. Jewish hypnosis. Holocaust distortion. Rewriting Jewish history. Global conspiracies about Jews controlling the world. Jewish money bribing the powers that be. And most importantly, boycotts of Jewish owned-businesses.

Shamefully, CNN has not mentioned Tlaib’s support for advocates of Hezbollah, the terror group that currently has more than 130,000 missiles pointed at Israel and has, for the past 40 years, wreaked havoc on international Jewish institutions around the world in multiple terror attacks. We haven’t heard an NPR report on Tlaib’s outspoken support of convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in Jerusalem in 1969.

Underlying reasons such as these are why Israel will not let them cross its border. 

With all this talk of Trump’s hateful rhetoric inciting violence, shouldn’t we be holding our elected officials to the same standard? Yet, The Washington Post was silent when former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke lauded Omar on Twitter, defending and praising her anti-Semitism.

The Democratic party and its media mouthpieces continue to hold Israel to a double standard, persisting in selective moral outrage. Why else would they omit, as online Tablet Magazine and others have documented, that there is nothing unusual about democracies turning away foreign politicians? The Obama White House denied entry to Israeli politician Michael Ben Ari. The United Kingdom has prohibited Menachem Begin and Geert Wilders from visiting. And there are 16 Muslim countries that have a de-facto ban on all Israelis, whether politicians or ordinary civilians, and in some cases, Jews.

The truth is, Omar (D-Minn.) and Tlaib (D-Mich.) forfeited their rights to be treated as ordinary congresswomen the moment they rejected an invitation to join a bipartisan congressional delegation to visit Israel two weeks earlier. They opted to go separately, with their own agenda — an agenda that reveals this was no peaceful, diplomatic mission.

“There is nothing unusual about democracies turning away foreign politicians.”

The women were not even planning to visit the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem. Even worse, the trip was planned by Miftah, an organization that has been accused of encouraging violence against civilians and promoting neo-Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. One meeting included members of the PFLP, a designated terror group by the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada and the European Union. In other words, Omar and Tlaib would have been in violation of U.S. laws by meeting with these groups. Why isn’t MSNBC telling us this?

What about Omar and Tlaib’s refusals to apply for visas to visit “Israel,” instead listing “Palestine” as their destination? These two can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge Israeli sovereignty, viewing the entire nation-state as illegitimate. Not a word from the Los Angeles Times.

Quick to play the victim card, Omar and Tlaib now peddle the lie that Israel turned them away because they are Muslim. But Israel regularly turns away advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, regardless of race or religion, in accordance with a law that prohibits entry to those who support a national boycott. Despite Omar’s and Tlaib’s insistence, BDS is not reminiscent of boycotts against South African apartheid; it is reminiscent of Nazi boycotts against Jewish-owned businesses. We need only look to the U.K., where Jewish-owned businesses are targeted and shut down as a result of BDS riots.

Contrary to the media-friendly cover story, BDS has never been a nonviolent liberation movement. In fact, if it were to be implemented in full, it would jeopardize Palestinian livelihood more than anything else it accomplishes. This is why so many Palestinians, including Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, have spoken out against it. The real aim of the movement, according to prominent BDS activist As’ad AbuKhalil, “is to bring down the State of Israel.”

BDS advocates cram their social media pages with repackaged neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, and recent investigations reveal the movement’s ties to terrorist organizations such as the PFLP and Hamas, both of which call for the elimination of the Jews. Currently, BDS groups employ at least 30 former or current members of Hamas and the PFLP. BDS founder Omar Barghouti is on record encouraging violence against Israeli civilians and repeating the bigoted lie that the “Jews are not a people,” despite their shared culture, language, religion, history and nation-state on a land where they have maintained a continuous presence for 3,000 years.

“Despite Omar’s and Tlaib’s insistence, BDS is not reminiscent of boycotts against South African apartheid; it is reminiscent of Nazi boycotts against Jewish-owned businesses.”

Let us be clear: Anti-Zionism is the denial of Jewish peoplehood, not criticism of Israeli policy. In the words of Judea Pearl, father of martyred journalist Daniel Pearl, “anti-Semitism targets Jews as individuals; anti-Zionism targets Jews as a people. Anti-Zionism would ban Israel from equal membership in the family of nations. If we examine anti-Zionist ideology closely, we see that its aims are: to uproot one people, the Jewish people, from its homeland, to take away its ability to defend itself in sovereignty, and to delegitimize its historical identity.”

No one can claim the right to cross a sovereign border without approval. How ironic that in this case, it is a border Tlaib and Omar don’t recognize. The media’s distraction game is a sinister cover-up, a willful denial of the fact that two women who claim to share liberal values in reality, espouse the same views as the white supremacists they claim to despise.


Karys Rhea is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn. She is the New York associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid. Keren Toledano is an artist and writing instructor at The Cooper Union. She lives in Manhattan.

Why Were Omar and Tlaib Afraid to Meet Israelis?

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Israel’s decision to bar Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is being criticized from across the political spectrum— and I can see why.

Regardless of where you sit politically, it’s bad optics for a country that bills itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East” to act as if it has something to hide. I know that Israeli law gives Israel the right to block entry to those who support BDS, and that Omar and Tlaib gave them plenty of ammunition. As Bari Weiss wrote in a New York Times column criticizing Israel’s decision,

“I have strong feelings about the noxious views of Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib. I believe that the B.D.S. movement, which both women support and which, crucially, is not about ending the occupation but about denying Jews the right to self-determination anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, is anti-Semitism in hip, new clothes.”

From Israel’s standpoint, though, the problem is that this animosity toward the Jewish state is not the major story. It’s the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib that has sucked up most of the media attention and turned the Congresswomen into victims.

Hardly anyone is talking about the unfairness and irresponsibility of two U.S. Representatives visiting a major American ally and completely ignoring that ally.

As Alan Dershowitz tweeted, “Allowing them in [would] expose their hypocrisy in boycotting Israel, while themselves demanding that they not be boycotted by Israel.”

More importantly, the other story that has gotten lost is Omar and Tlaib’s published itinerary, which dismissed Israel and focused on the Palestinian agenda. Hardly anyone is talking about the unfairness and irresponsibility of two U.S. Representatives visiting a major American ally and virtually ignoring that ally.

Had they gone on the trip, that dereliction of duty would have been glaring. They would have been the offenders, not the victims.

I might even have written a column asking the Congresswomen: “Why are you afraid to meet Israelis?” In particular, I would have suggested they visit the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization committed to improving Israel’s democracy.

In a part of the world where despots, dictators and theocrats are used to hiding any bad news, Israel should have flaunted its messy democracy.

I’ve written before that the NIF is a dramatic demonstration of Israel’s democracy in action. While most Jews on the right abhor the NIF because it supports groups that constantly bash Israel and focus on its faults, for me, this freedom to bash, this freedom to confront and protest any perceived injustice is a test of a true democracy.

Because they were barred from entering this democracy, Tlaib and Omar are now turning the tables and ridiculing Israel’s very claims of being a democracy and a free society. A visit to the NIF would have disrupted their narrative. Had they refused to visit the NIF or any other Israeli group fighting for social justice, their anti-Israel animus would have been in full view.

Transparency is the essence of democracy. In a part of the world where despots, dictators and theocrats are used to hiding any bad news, Israel should have flaunted its messy democracy. In that scenario, the bad optics would have been on U.S. politicians hiding from Israel on their visit to Israel.

Netanyahu Cites Pro-BDS Sponsor As Reason to Bar Omar, Tlaib

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (C) take selfies with other female members of the House of Representatives as Rep. Adam Schiff (R) looks on as they await the start of U.S. President Donald Trump's second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained that a factor in his Aug. 15 decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from entering Israel was one of their sponsors being a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Netanyahu’s office sent out a series of tweets explaining the prime minister’s decision, including one that stated, “The organization that is funding their trip is MIFTAH [Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy], which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”

MIFTAH issued a statement on their website that read, “As a sponsor of this trip, MIFTAH worked hard to organize a well-rounded visit for Congresswomen Tlaib, Omar, and Palskett, in order to facilitate their engagement with Palestinian civil society and to provide them with an opportunity to see the reality of occupation for themselves.” They added that “like all prolific human rights abusers, Israel wants to impose a blackout on the reality in occupied Palestine.”

Attorney and author Ari Hoffman wrote in an Aug. 15 op-ed in the Forward that “Miftah regularly decries ‘Judaization’ and accuses Israel of ‘summary executions’” and their Arabic version promulgated the “blood libel” that “the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover,” which MIFTAH apologized for. Hoffman also noted that the founder of MIFTAH, Hanan Ashrawi, said in 2001 that Israel is committing “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinians and “state terrorism.”

Ashrawi currently serves as the chair of MIFTAH and is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee; in a 2017 interview with Deutsche Welle, she said that Palestinian terror attacks “are seen by the people as resistance” and that “to somehow adopt the language of either the international community or the occupier by describing anybody who resists as terrorist” is “unfair.” When Deutsche Well pressed her further Palestinian officials inciting violence against Israelis, Ashrawi denied that the Palestinian leadership calls for violence and said that the Israeli leadership needs to be held accountable for their rhetoric.

Additionally, MIFTAH sponsored a 2016 trip to the West Bank consisting of five members of Congress meeting Shawn Jabarin, who heads the pro-BDS NGO Al-Haq and has been repeatedly flagged by Israel for having alleged ties to the Popular Front Liberation of Palestine terror group, according to the Foundation for Defense Democracies think-tank. In 2016, MIFTAH “sponsored a women’s unity conference, at which women representing Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah discussed how to implement the slogan, ‘One Country, One People, One Flag’” and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Arab League-affiliated Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, according to Jewish News Syndicate.

MIFTAH, Omar’s office and Tlaib’s office did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Three Things to Consider About the Decision to Bar Omar and Tlaib

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves the U.S. Senate chamber and walks back to the House of Representatives side of the Capitol with colleagues after watching the failure of both competing Republican and Democratic proposals to end the partial government shutdown in back to back votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Israel on Aug. 15 denied Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) entry into the country hours after President Donald Trump publicly urged Israel to block their visit.

Consider the following three things as you take a deep breath to ponder Israel’s decision to block the two congresswomen from entering the country.

1. The visit was a well-planned trap: Either Israel allows the congresswomen to enter, exposing itself to a barrage of criticism (live broadcast from Jerusalem!), or it prevents the congresswomen from entering, exposing itself to, well, a barrage of criticism. Because this is lose-lose situation, no decision would make everybody happy.

2. Israel had to consider which of the two bad options is more dangerous. Literally —  dangerous. Having the representatives in Jerusalem could incite violence. In fact, it is not unreasonable to assume that they would seek to create clashes in order to prove a point (Israel is brutal, Israel’s police are violent, etc.).

3. Israel also had to consider the damage if it refused to let in the representatives. Possible answer: The damage wouldn’t be great. Those who already dislike Israel will have even more reasons to dislike it. Others will hopefully understand why the ban was necessary. Many think Tlaib and Omar are provocateurs who want to make trouble.

So here is the basic question for observers of this drama: Is Israel obligated to allow provocation by outsiders on its soil? Reverse the question: Imagine these were two Israeli legislators wanting to stir chaos and violence on American soil, and you might have an answer.

The pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee indicated it opposed the ban.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC tweeted on Aug. 15.

Some critics of the president said his move was part of a strategy to divide the Democratic Party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the move “deeply disappointing.”

Jewish Groups React to Israel Barring Omar and Tlaib

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

Jewish groups across the United States shared varying opinions on Israel’s Aug. 15 decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting the Jewish state.

After Israeli Ambassador to United States Ron Dermer initially said in July that Israel will allow the congresswomen to enter the country, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced in a statement, “The state of Israel respects the US Congress as part of the close alliance between the two countries. But it is inconceivable that Israel would be expected to let into the country those who wish to hurt it, including by means of the visit itself.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “A good-faith visit to Israel is the best way to be exposed to its democracy, complexities, and range of views. And so while we absolutely disagree with the pro-BDS positions of Reps. @IlhanMN & @RashidaTlaib, keeping them out is counterproductive.”

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris similarly tweeted that while Omar and Tlaib didn’t want to meet with “any Israeli leaders or mainstream voices,” Israel “should’ve taken the high road & let these Members of Congress in, no matter how vile their views.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Israel should have allowed Omar and Tlaib in, pointing out that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) both supported Israel’s initial decision to let Omar and Tlaib into the country.

“Israel could have withstood whatever antics would have played out,” Cooper said, adding that “when you flip flop at that level… it’s going to leave a big question mark and an opportunity for knockers of Israel to criticize her.”

However, he acknowledged that it’s “a damned if you, damned if you don’t” scenario for Israel and argued that had Omar and Tlaib gone with the delegation of 41 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, there wouldn’t have been any controversy.

AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] also criticized the move, tweeting that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Zioness accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of appeasing President Donald Trump, who tweeted earlier in the day that Israel would be demonstrating “great weakness” in letting in Omar and Tlaib, and argued the move would drive a wedge in U.S.-Israel relations.

“One does not have to agree with anything U.S. Representatives Tlaib and Omar say or do to comprehend just how cynical this game is that Trump is playing,” Zioness’ statement read. “Who wins at this game? Donald Trump, BDS activists, and frankly, those attempting to push the American left to adopt anti-Israel and anti-Semitic positions. Who loses at this game? International Jewry, democratic norms, and pluralism.”

Others thought that Israel’s decision was justified.

“On her first day in office, Rep. Tlaib placed a sticky [note] on a map of the Middle East, replacing Israel with ‘Palestine,’” The Israel Group Founder and President Jack Saltzberg said in a statement to the Journal. “Rep. Omar has continued to double down on her anti-Semitic rhetoric and tropes. And both women use their positions in congress to promote the BDS movement, which is dedicated to a one-state solution: a Muslim majority Palestine. Israel, like any nation, must keep out all people who are dedicated to the annihilation of its country, even those in congress.”

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen similarly argued in a statement, “Had [Omar and Tlaib] shown a true desire to commit to open and honest dialogue, they could have better understood the true character of the Israeli people and the reality in which they live on a daily basis. But sadly, this is not the case and the Israeli government’s decision is the right one.”

Omar released a statement saying, “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing.”

Netanyahu defended his government’s decision, saying in a statement that a copy of Omar and Tlaib’s itinerary to Israel showed their visit’s “sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For example, they called their destination ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress before them, they did not seek any meeting with any Israeli official, whether government or opposition.”

Netanyahu added that “the law in Israel that prohibits entry to people calling and advocating for boycotting the country, just like in other democracies that bar entry to those who they believe will do harm to their nation.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Unanimously Passes Anti-BDS Resolution

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution unanimously on July 17.

The resolution, House Resolution 246, condemns the BDS movement for engaging in “efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel” and undermining prospects of peace with its opposition to a two-state solution.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, tweeted:

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) similarly said in a July 18 statement that the committee’s passage of the resolution is a “testament” to the “overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress for strengthening our relationship with our vital ally Israel.”

“I’m looking forward to this measure being brought to a vote on the House floor, to emphasize the broad support for a two-state solution and for combating bias and anti-Semitism,” Gottheimer added.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt praised the resolution’s passage in a July 17 statement.

“We are pleased that the vast majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are affirming their opposition to efforts to delegitimize Israel, especially the boycott movement targeting Israel, while supporting a pathway to peace,” Greenblatt said. “This constitutionally sound resolution protects the right to speak out freely against BDS, while not impinging on the free speech rights of those with other views.”

The resolution’s passage comes after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a resolution celebrating the right to boycott as the impetus for supporting BDS. Zeldin criticized Omar pro-BDS statements:

You Can’t Fight Anti-Semitism With Racism

President Donald Trump, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Photos by Reuters)

“[Ilhan] Omar has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds,” President Trump declared on Wednesday to an audience that chanted, “Send her back! Send her back!” 

In that moment, an accusation of anti-Semitism became a call for racism. The message was clear: A refugee, who had been an American longer than the President’s wife, could be stripped of her citizenship. To the crowd, as a non-white woman, she never truly was American to begin with.

Donald Trump and his mob of followers, most of whom aren’t Jewish, given that less than 25 percent of Jews voted him into office, decided they could justify their hate in our name.

Jewish Americans make up 1.4 percent of the population in the United States. That’s right. You’d never know that, given how much today’s politics bring us up.

The first frenzy was over Rep. Ilhan Omar using anti-Semitic tropes – which she has admitted were insensitive and has apologized for employing; then, chaos surrounded Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for invoking the Holocaust remembrance motto “Never Again” while referring to migrant detention facilities as concentration camps. Next, controversy erupted when Rep. Rashida Tlaib discussed the creation of Israel, expressing her pride for her Palestinian ancestors offering refuge for Holocaust survivors. (Note: They provided war, not sanctuary, but Tlaib didn’t say “the Holocaust gives her a calming feeling,” which is a lie non-Jewish Republicans spread.)

Now, when Donald Trump tweeted out a racist rephrasing of “go back to your country” to congresswomen of color, he made sure to yank us Jews into the crossfire with him by calling his political opponents anti-Semites.

I, like many Jews, feel uncomfortable with the way some Democrats have treated our people. But to the Republicans, that discomfort only seems to be relevant when it can further or shield their racism.

Some on the far left have blind spots when it comes to anti-Semitism, which is shameful, given their platform is about standing against oppression. However, they just might not know how to advocate for us. Racists, misogynists, xenophobes and homophobes paint their victims as subhuman. In contrast, anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory that Jews are superhuman.

To anti-Semites, Jews are the puppet masters, the oppressors of the white race – and in the case of some figures – people of color.

“Hijacking real concerns about anti-Semitism to promote other prejudices destroy Jewish credibility.”

I can understand that for someone like Ocasio-Cortez, that nuance can make fighting anti-Semitism complicated ‒and avoiding tropes even more so. But it hurts that she hasn’t taken the time or put in the work to advocate for us. It hurts that she didn’t even know enough about anti-Semitism to realize meeting with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn would signal she is okay with the rampant Jew-hatred he’s gaslit.

I get scared when I think about how nearly 40 percent of UK Jews would “seriously consider” leaving their country if Corbyn became Prime Minister. When so many of us have been murdered in our houses of faith, all in all, a Jew is a scary thing to be. In 2019, being the advocacy of progressive leaders feels particularly necessary.

The Trump administration knows this. Recently, Attorney General William Barr eloquently explained the nuanced panic American Jews are in.

“New York City, this past year, has seen a sharp uptick in attacks on Orthodox Jews, particularly in the Crown Heights neighborhood,” Barr said during the Department of Justice’s Summit on Combatting Anti-Semitism. “People are attacking Jews in the streets and vandalizing synagogues … . While the tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway appropriately drew national attention, these attacks and others like them in communities across the country are, sadly, less well-known outside the Jewish community. But they form the daily background of concerns about security and safety that many in the Jewish community feel.”

Well, guess what, Mr. Barr? Your administration has the power to make these issues relevant outside the Jewish community. Surely, if the right is as outraged about anti-Semitism as it claims to be, it relentlessly would attack white-supremacist groups. It would take serious measures to stop the violence against Orthodox Jews. It would allocate funds to repair vandalized Jewish property.

Yet rather than taking effective steps to fight anti-Semitism ‒ particularly violent white nationalists who are shooting up our synagogues ‒ Republicans won’t even disown them.

In fact, Rep. Steve King used a Holocaust memorial group’s money to cuddle up with Unzensuriert, a far-right Austrian group linked to Nazis, and asserted that white supremacy wasn’t even offensive.

Meanwhile, “President Trump makes constant use of the language and logic of the ‘new right,’ a toxic blend of antebellum white supremacy, twentieth-century fascism, European far-right movements of the 1970s, and today’s self-identified ‘alt-right,’ ” noted scholar Bernard E. Harcourt. “His words and deeds have empowered and enabled an upsurge of white nationalists and extremist organizations.” The wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes, which has surged by 99 percent since Trump was elected, backs up Harcourt’s assertions.

Instead of combating anti-Semitism, Republicans only bring it up to spread prejudice against people of color, immigrants and Muslims. To them, the only time Jews are worth protecting is when we can serve as human shields – a convenient cover for their hate.

Donald Trump denying Omar her Americanness did nothing to stop people from using dual loyalty tropes like she did. Afterward, the President spread them himself, referring to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

When Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Steve Daines and countless others defend the President’s racist comments about the Justice Democrats by screeching “they’re anti-Semites,” it’s not to protect Jews – it’s to protect themselves.

“We Jews are sheep under the watch of a conservative boy who cries wolf; the world will leave us to be devoured when we tell them the actual beast is coming.”

You can’t fight anti-Semitism with racism. No decent human being can do anything with racism. In addition, hijacking real concerns about anti-Semitism to promote other prejudices destroy Jewish credibility.

We Jews are sheep under the watch of a conservative boy who cries wolf; the world will leave us to be devoured when we tell them the actual beast is coming.

When non-Jewish Republicans use “combatting anti-Semitism” as a cloak for their bigotry, it isolates Jews from allies we need to battle white supremacy, strips us of our agency and associates us with their hate. Left-wing anti-Semitism is contingent on painting Jews as the oppressors, whether that is by profiting off poverty, architecting the slave trade or calculating the mass extermination of Palestinians.

Rather than condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, the American right is seasoning us up for left-wing Jew haters to roast.

Candidly and conscientiously calling out anti-Semitism is the only way it will be corrected. The best example of this is the case of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, one of the congresswomen Trump so unnecessarily smeared. When Pressley quoted author Alice Walker, her constituents spoke out. In a 2017 poem, Walker spread the seemingly immortal conspiracy theory that Jews want to enslave non-Jews, and wrote of Talmud teachings: “Are three year old (and a day) girls eligible for marriage and intercourse?; “Are young boys fair game for rape?”

“Unfortunately, I was unaware of the author’s past statements,” Pressley tweeted the next week. “I fully condemn and denounce anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry in all their forms – and the hateful actions they embolden. I appreciate my friends, including my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, who brought these statements to my attention.”

After Jews, not a self-serving surrogate, respectfully criticized the move, Pressley swiftly did what Republicans seem unable to – admit she contributed to anti-Semitism and apologized.

Omar Introduces Pro-BDS Resolution and Compares BDS to Boston Tea Party

U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on the four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on July 16 and drew an analogy between BDS and the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

The resolution states “that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad” and that anti-BDS legislation is “unconstitutional.” The resolution cites the Boston Tea Party and American efforts to boycott Nazi Germany during World War II as part of the American tradition of boycotts. Omar told Al-Monitor on July 16 the resolution focuses on “the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting. And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

Omar called for the end of Israeli “occupation” as well as a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 17.

“We should condemn in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation, whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas or individuals,” Omar said. “If we are going to condemn violent means of resisting the occupation, we cannot also condemn nonviolent means. We cannot simultaneously say we want peace, then openly oppose peaceful means to hold our allies accountable.”

Omar then said she introduced the resolution with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.).

“[The resolution] recognizes the importance of boycott movements in this country dating back to the Boston Tea Party,” Omar said. “We should honor these movements and our history.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) downplayed Omar’s resolution to The Jerusalem Post, saying, “I can’t imagine that any committee is going to mark up or take seriously any pro-BDS resolution.”

Omar initially said she opposed the BDS movement in August while she was still a candidate for Congress, saying at the time that BDS “stops the dialogue” toward a two-state solution. Omar then came out in support of BDS shortly after she was elected to Congress in November.

Omar will also be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks:

This article has been updated.

Omar Defends AOC’s Concentration Camps Comments

Photo from Flickr.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) defended Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) comparison of migrant detention facilities on the United States-Mexico border to concentration camps on June 21, saying that she didn’t understand the controversy surrounding Ocasio-Cortez’s comments.

When a reporter asked Omar about Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, Omar replied, “There are camps and people are being concentrated. This is very simple. I don’t even know why this is a controversial thing for her to say.”

Omar proceeded to call for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to be replaced with a different immigration agency.

“There’s no way we can allow for kids to be caged in this country and children to be separated from their families and people being terrorized in their communities,” Omar said. “We have to make sure that we are calling it out and I am 100 percent with [Ocasio-Cortez].”

Omar similarly said in a June 20 Public Radio International interview about Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks, “If we separate it from death camps, I would say these are camps and people are being concentrated in them. And so that’s the general definition. I think a lot of people are conflating what a death camp looks like or a specific removal of people. These people are coming to the border. We are removing them from the border. We are placing them in camps. Some of them are being removed from communities and being put in what we’re calling detention centers — but are essentially camps.”

Former New York Democrat Assemblyman Dov Hikind tweeted that “it was only a matter of short time before [Omar] would follow @AOC in distorting Holocaust history for political gain!”

Omar has previously been in hot water for promulgating the dual loyalty anti-Semitic trope as well as saying that Israel “hypnotizing the world.”

Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust Research Senior Historian Dr. Robert Rozett noted in a June 20 Times of Israel piece that Ocasio-Cortez use of the phrase “never again” when comparing the detention facilities to concentration camps “she was referring to Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, and not the early version of such camps established by Imperial Germany in its Namibia colony at the turn of the 20th century.” Rozett added that concentration camps has become the common term to describe the Nazi camps, including Auschwitz, which were either labor camps, where they were forced to work for the Nazi war effort under brutal conditions that could result in death, or extermination camps.

“Jews who were sent to labor camps, and were not worked to death in them, generally underwent a periodic selection where those deemed too weak to work were sent to extermination camps,” Rozett wrote. “Although it was a tenuous lifeline, labor sometimes constituted one of the few means for Jews to remain alive.”

Rozett added, “The Nazi concentration camps were many things, but they were not detention or internment camps in a classic sense. They were not the same as the internment camps set up for Japanese Americans in World War II (as abysmal as they were for the inmates), and neither were they the same as the Gulag camps under Stalin. The Gulag did not lack for brutality and death, but its ultimate goal, was not to murder inmates but to exploit their labor. The clearest evidence of this is that Gulag inmates who produced more were fed better, a norm totally absent from Nazi camps.”

Additionally, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust joined the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance, Florida Holocaust Museum, Holocaust Museum Houston, Illinois Holocaust Museum, Michigan Holocaust Memorial Center, and New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in condemning Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks as “inappropriate and offensive” in a June 19 statement.

“The Nazi regime targeted Europe’s Jews for murder. It created a vast forced labor and camp system to exploit Jewish labor before murdering them,” the statement read. “Ocasio-Cortez’s inaccurate reference diminishes the inexpressible horror suffered at the hands of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi regime, and collaborators and wrongly equates current US immigration policy with the systematic murder of six million Jews and the persecution of millions of others.”

Ocasio-Cortez has continued to defend her concentration camps comparison on Twitter.

When the Chicken Votes for Colonel Sanders

There is no question anti-Semitism is on the rise internationally at a level not seen in decades. Sometimes couched as anti-Israel, we find supporters of discrimination in their spheres of influence, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), spouting prejudices with hubris while their party’s leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, remain mostly silent.

German Jews recognize they safely exist only through police protection, who park outside German synagogues to prevent anti-Semitic violence. In Poland, the home of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism has become so accepted it blatantly is part of the platform of the National Democratic Party, known as “Endeks.” A recent Polish weekly national newspaper ran the headline “How to Spot a Jew.” At a political debate in Poland, one of the candidates held a yarmulke over the head of his opponent and said, “She bows to the Jews.”

Anti-Semitism is not new. One can trace its roots to a mistranslation in the Vulgate bible of the fourth century; through the blood libel of the Middle Ages; the persecutions and pogroms of the last 500 years; to the culmination of the Holocaust in the last century. It is not surprising Omar and Tlaib quote Al-Jazeera — which is trying to rebrand itself as AJ+ to avoid its jihadist perception in the West — which publishes articles denying the Holocaust, blames Jews for the problems in the world and supports the destruction of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

What is surprising is how some American Jews support individuals and organizations promoting this hatred. Did 21st-century Jews learn nothing from the horrors of Nazi Germany?

Yet, this is not the first time Jews have been like chickens that vote for Colonel Sanders. From 1921 to 1935, there was a group named the Association of German National Jews (Verband national Deutsche Juden), whose goal was the total assimilation of Jews into German culture; the self-eradication of Jewish identity; the expulsion of all Eastern European Jews from Germany; and a radical hatred of Zionism. Sadly, these seem like the same goals of many Jews in America choosing to deny the faith and practices of their ancestors in favor of secularizing themselves. On some level — often unconscious — they believe if they deny their Judaism and go along with the anti-Semitic rhetoric, non-Jewish Americans will better accept them. Unfortunately, they are avoiding looking at history.

“Let us not make the mistake again of allying ourselves with people who hate us because we think there is a shared common goal such as a desire for different political leaders.”

Although the German Association advocated loyalty to the Nazis, the Nazis never accepted the group, declaring the organization illegal; it disbanded in 1935. The association thought that if it tied itself to many other groups that were coming together in support of the Nazis, it would be accepted. Ultimately, this was not only untrue, but in retrospect, shows the members to be leaders in their own self-destruction.

Today, many Jews have tied themselves to the world of academia and the intelligentsia, believing that by identifying with these intellectual leaders, their “Jewishness” will no longer be an issue. Again, history shows the exact opposite.

In Max Weinrich’s classic study, “Hitler’s Professors,” he relates that “people of long and high standing, university professors and academy members” colluded with the Nazi regime. “German scholarship provided the ideas and techniques which led to and justified this unparalleled slaughter.” Even German Nobel Prize-winners including Johannes Stark and Philipp Lenard created “research” to justify Nazi atrocities. In the United States today, just as in pre-World War II Germany, there have been instances of professors in disciplines unrelated to Judaism or Israel (such as mathematics, science, etc.) condemning Israel and Jews, and espousing their views from an “academic” perspective, even questioning the Holocaust itself.

In Germany, there was an alliance of “outsiders” that opposed the pre-Nazi government, but as soon as Hitler fully came to power, it quickly condemned the Jews as well, ultimately to their deaths. We must make certain history does not repeat itself — that Jews, academics with intellectual honesty and all people with good ethics not accept the words and actions of Tlaib, Omar, the Endeks and the like.

To avoid another Holocaust, God forbid, we all are obligated to take a stand against these anti-Semitic hate mongers. Let us not make the mistake again of allying ourselves with people who hate us because we think there is a shared common goal such as a desire for different political leaders. Those temporary allies will quickly abandon us and demonstrate their discrimination as soon as they have any control of their own.

Two thousand years ago, the great Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” For 70 years, there has been the chant “Never Forget!” We need to remember not just the atrocities of the Nazis, but how they rose to power and who helped put them there. May we all have the courage and strength to stand up and act against all forms of hatred when they are expressed, especially when political leaders and parties espouse them. And may all people of all faiths honestly express and live out the teachings of their traditions to create a world of true peace.


Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Simcha (NerSimcha.org) and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together.” He can be reached at RabbiBarclay@aol.com.

Ocasio Cortez and Cheney Should Stop Abusing Holocaust for Political Gain

Photo from Wikipedia.

When it was revealed that undocumented immigrants at the southern United States border were being mass detained without trials, I, like many others, was absolutely horrified. The Trump administration’s tactics of intimidating, traumatizing and punishing migrants have been some of the most characteristically cruel policies of its reign.

Many people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, began to point out how the United States, once again, was running concentration camps. My grandmother survived Auschwitz, where most of her family was murdered, so this is a sensitive subject for me. It’s charged enough when prominent people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez bring up “concentration camp,” a term that refers uniquely to one of humanity’s greatest atrocities. 

Even worse, though, is when the conversation quickly descends into a despicable feud, where members of both the right and the left used actual crimes committed against my family to swipe at one another. 

To all the people with no direct ties to the Holocaust throwing political punches: Stop using my family’s murders as a talking point, claiming their graves as a platform to stand on in your Twitter arguments.

This week, both Ocasio Cortez and Liz Cheney are guilty of exploiting the Holocaust for political points. After declaring the detention centers were concentration camps, AOC told her live-stream watchers to “talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘Never Again’ means something.”

But “never again” means nothing to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who consistently has taken a weak stance on anti-Semitism. Every time it’s brought up, she treats hatred of Jews as a distraction from “more important” problems. This March, the congresswoman implied that Jewish complaints about Ilhan Omar’s comments were distracting from other social issues.

“If we’re so concerned about implied tropes, why aren’t we concerned about this one?” she tweeted. “Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens?”

When it comes to using the Holocaust as a talking point to promote her political goals, she’s all game. Actually defending Jews from another genocide? AOC’s got somewhere else to be. When asked point blank to condemn anti-Semitism from the Women’s March, she refused. While she talks about the cruelties on the Southern border, Cortez has been absolutely silent on the horrific 82 percent spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city she represents. If she cares so much about learning from the Holocaust and protecting its lessons, why hasn’t she done anything about the one-third of its survivors living in poverty in America – many of whom reside in New York City?

While AOC only defiles the Holocaust as a springboard for other issues, Liz Cheney exploits it to silence her opponents.

“Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust,” Cheney tweeted. “You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” Here, Cheney uses the Holocaust to hush Ocasio Cortez about policies that indeed resemble the early days of the genocide. Concentration camps, where prisoners were not murdered, existed before the death camps that took six million Jewish lives. Cheney herself demonstrates a poor understanding of Holocaust history, and is only looking for ammo against her opponents, which is exactly what she sees anti-Semitism charges as.

“To all the people with no direct ties to the Holocaust throwing political punches: Stop using my family’s murders as a talking point.”

In the past few months, Cheney has nonstop attacked Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and the Democrats at large by accusing them of anti-Semitism. But when Neo-Nazis marched in the streets looking to complete the mission of the Holocaust, Cheney did not adequately stand up for Jews.

In fact, she stood by Donald Trump as he equated counter-protesters with white supremacists and said there were “good people on both sides.”

“I welcome President Trump’s comments at the White House this morning, and his determination to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice,” she said in response. When the White House didn’t even acknowledge the murder of Jews in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the Republican congresswoman didn’t bring up that six million of us were slaughtered. Why would she? It wouldn’t benefit her politically.

Science writer Erin Biba best describes the common depravity between Ocasio Cortez and Cheney.

“The only time I ever hear any of our politicians speak about Jews is when they’re using us as a tool and an example to prove a point unrelated to us. It’s disgusting,” Biba tweeted. “This goes for Jewish ‘allies’ too. If you have only expressed support for us after the mass shootings in our places of worship (remember those?) and then forgotten to include us when you made your cute Twitter list of oppressed people to protect then you’re disgusting too.”

As the mob debated over the semantics of whether it’s appropriate to use the term “concentration camps,” one thing became clear: This fight is not about Jews or the Holocaust. It’s about who gets to exploit them.

Seth Meyers, Meghan McCain Spar Over Omar

Meghan McCain On Friday, June 29, 2018, the LBJ Foundation honored U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, with its most prestigious recognition, the LBJ Liberty & Justice For All Award. Sen. McCain's daughter, Meghan McCain, accepted the award on his behalf. Following the award presentation, Mark K. Updegrove, president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation, moderated a conversation with Meghan McCain and Rick Davis, who served as the national campaign manager for Sen. McCainÕs 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns. LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin 06/29/2018

Late-night talk show host Seth Meyers and ABC’s “The View” co-host Meghan McCain engaged in a lively debate over Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” May 7.

Meyers pointed out to McCain that she had criticized Omar’s tweets as being anti-Semitic after the recent Chabad of Poway shooting, prompting Meyers to ask McCain if she needed to be more careful with her language given that Omar is facing death threats. McCain replied that she wasn’t trying to say Omar was responsible for the shooting, she was expressing concern that Omar is turning the Democratic Party into Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

“I stand by every single thing I’ve said and if that makes me unpopular in this room or in front of you, then so be it,” McCain said. Meyers called her response “weird” because he wanted to find “common ground” on the matter.

McCain then asked Meyers if Omar referring to the 9/11 terror attacks as “some people did something” bothered him; Meyers replied that Omar’s remarks were “taken out of context.”

Meyers later asked McCain if it’s possible to criticize the Israeli government without being accused of anti-Semitism. McCain answered in the affirmative, but argued Omar’s tweets about Israel hypnotizing the world and that “it’s all about the Benjamins” crossed the line into anti-Semitism.

“You do keep bringing up the two tweets she’s apologized for, and I think that’s a little unfair to her,” Meyers said. McCain retorted, “Are you her publicist? Are you her press person?” Meyers replied that he just thought that people should be “more careful with their language,” especially when discussing someone like Omar who is facing death threats.

“What would make you happy coming out of my mouth right now?” McCain asked. “I’m genuinely curious.” Meyers said he was “perfectly happy with everything that’s coming out of your mouth and I’m happy we spent this time together.”

The full discussion can be seen below:

Anti-Semitism Watchdog Alleges That Change.Org Is Censoring Petition on CAIR

Screenshot from Facebook.

An anti-Semitism watchdog group is saying that their petition regarding the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is being censored by Change.org.

The petition, which was posted by Stop Anti-Semitism in March, calls for Attorney General William Barr and State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr to investigate ties between CAIR – an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial involving Hamas financing – and members of Congress, specifically Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

Liora Rez, the executive director of Stop Anti-Semitism, told the Journal in a phone interview that she noticed earlier in the month that the petition was flagged by Change.org with a banner at the top of the page that reads, “Change.org has received flags from our users that the statements in this petition may be contested. You should consider researching this issue before signing or sharing.” Rez said that Change.org told her that this was because some of the content in the petition was “contested” and they asked for more information on the matter, which Rez says she provided. As of this writing, the petition is still flagged.

Additionally, Rez told the Journal that various people informed Stop Anti-Semitism that they couldn’t search for or sign the petition. Rez sent the following screenshot to the Journal as an example:

When the Journal searched for the petition on the Change.org’s search bar, the petition did not show up, although users can access the petition through a link.  The option to sign the petition was there for the Journal.

The Zachor Legal Institute threatened legal action in an April 8 letter to Change.org if they didn’t take the restrictions off the petition. They argued that the petition doesn’t violate Change.org’s terms of service, which states that they only put restrictions on “hate speech, violence, impersonation, violation of privacy, bullying, graphic content, harm to children, spam and illegal acts.”

The institute also argued that Change.org is in violation of their terms of service, which states that they don’t put restrictions on petitions based on partisanship and viewpoints.

A spokesperson for Change.org provided the Journal with their response to the Zachor Legal Institute, which stated that while the petition doesn’t violate their terms, they have “taken steps to ensure users know we are aware of their concerns by including the banner at the top of the petition, disabled the comments feature, particularly in light of the many comments placed on the petition that violated our community guidelines, and limited the petition’s discovery on our platform.”

The response added that Change.org “turned off the ‘promotion’ facility on this petition,” which allows “users to chip in money to promote the campaigns they support to users who visit the site.” Change.org’s response also said that if any users are having trouble signing or sharing the petition, they should contact the organization’s support center.

“It doesn’t make sense because we’re not violating anything,” Rez told the Journal. “However, just because people might be uncomfortable with the topic, doesn’t necessarily mean they have a right to in essence, shadowban it or censor it in some way, which is exactly what’s happening.”

The petition has nearly 35,000 signatures.

Wiesenthal Center: ‘Grotesque’ for Omar, NYT to Say Jesus Was Palestinian

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at an event in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate and director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and The New York Times for promulgating the notion that Jesus was a Palestinian.

Omar re-tweeted an April 20 tweet from Omar Suleiman, an adjunct professor for Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University, who said a Palestinian relative told him regarding the “Christian right”:  “Don’t they know we’re Christian too? Do they even consider us human? Don’t they know Jesus was a Palestinian?”

Screenshot from Twitter.

Similarly, an April 19 New York Times piece focusing on various depictions of Jesus Christ’s skin color stated, “Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.”

Cooper told the Journal in a statement via email that it’s a “grotesque insult to Jesus born in the land of Israel and to Christianity” to say that Jesus was a Palestinian.

“Palestine was a name made up by Romans after they crucified thousands, destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the People of Israel from their homeland,” Cooper said.

Others similarly tweeted:

Omar and The New York Times did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

NY Post Responds to Rep. Omar’s 9/11 Remarks: ‘Here’s Your Something’

Screenshot from Twitter.

The New York Post wrote on the cover of their April 11 issue, and in the subsequent editorial, that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) trivialized the 9/11 terror attacks during her March 23 speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event in Los Angeles.

Omar said during the speech, “For far too long, we [Muslims] have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

The New York Post’s April 11 cover had, in response to Omar, “Here’s your something: 2,977 people dead by terrorism.”

The Post’s editorial stated, “Wow. What a way to describe the heinous surprise attack on America that claimed 3,000 lives. Especially when Omar’s focus was Muslim rights: That made it all the more vital to note that the terrorists acted in the name of Islam — as self-described ‘jihadists’ in a war against America, Israel and the West.”

“To call them merely ‘some people’ is to deny a cancer festering in the world Muslim community,” the editorial said.

The editorial went on to further criticize Omar for saying in her speech that there is an expectation that the Muslim community “needs to hide every time something happens.”

“Again, by ‘something happens,’” she means (but won’t say) “when Muslims commit acts of terror,” the editorial states. “No one expects Muslims to ‘hide’ after an attack by Islamist terrorists. No group should be blamed for the deeds of a few of its members. But defeating terrorism requires facing the facts of who’s behind it and why.”

The editorial also pointed out that CAIR was formed in 1994 and that they have been listed as “an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to steer US funds to the terror group Hamas.” Jeremy Slevin, Omar’s communications director, told The Washington Post that Omar meant to say “that the organization had doubled in size after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) defended Omar in an April 11 MSNBC appearance by saying that Omar’s comments were taken “out of context” because Omar “was talking about civil liberties and civil rights issues.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in defense of Omar stating, “I’m not going to quote the NY Post’s horrifying, hateful cover. Here’s 1 fact: @IlhanMN is a cosponsor of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. She‘s done more for 9/11 families than the GOP who won’t even support healthcare for 1st responders- yet are happy to weaponize her faith.”

Omar is one of 213 co-sponsors of the aforementioned legislation; she is not one of the original sponsors.

However, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), told the Washington Free Beacon, “It is deeply disturbing that a sitting Member of Congress would trivialize the deaths of thousands of Americans, one of the most pivotal events in U.S. history.” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), who lost his right eye while serving in Afghanistan in 2012, tweeted, “First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as ‘some people who did something.’ Unbelievable.”

Omar has not directly addressed the New York Post editorial publicly, but she did re-tweet a tweet from Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) stating, “@Ilhan full comments clearly speak to post 9/11 #Islamophobia Manipulating her remarks is defaming & dangerous for her & her family. Stop with this recklessness.”

Rep. Omar Featured on Newsweek Cover: ‘Changing the Conversation on Israel’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is being featured on the cover of Newsweek’s April 19 issue, with the story talking about how she is “changing the conversation about Israel.”

The Newsweek story, which was published online on April 9, states that Omar was frequently targeted by Republicans in speeches during the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs) conference in March for “using language easily regarded as anti-Semitic.” The article refers to AIPAC has having a “formidable political operation” that has promulgated “a decidedly unequal view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The article goes on to describe Omar “as the most voluble—and visible—of Israel’s critics.”

“She appears to embrace the role of a political provocateur, particularly when it comes to foreign policy,” the article states. “Omar articulates a view that is rarely heard from a sitting member of Congress, one that has been forged from her first-hand experiences of war and exile.”

Among those coming to Omar’s defense in the piece are Nihad Awad, the executive director of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), stating that Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are “not trying to fit into the historical Washington mindset, which has been unjustly pro-Israel for decades. And they represent a whole new generation of progressive activists nationwide.”

Some Democrats are concerned about Omar, as the Newsweek article notes that the Democratic Majority for Israel was recently formed by veteran Democrats to support pro-Israel Democrats in response to concerns “that the influence of Omar and other progressives will erode support for Israel within the Democratic Party.”

The Newsweek article touts “Omar and her progressive supporters” as “the first credible challenge to” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies and the “occupation of the West Bank.”

“Their successful effort to produce a resolution that condemns all forms of bigotry, instead of only Omar and anti-Semitism, was no small accomplishment, given the strength of Israel’s supporters among Democrats,” the article states, referencing the March resolution condemning various forms of bigotry.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Anyway they spin it, Ilhan Omar is an anti-Semite. Quotes from CAIR themselves are part of the problem.  The truth cannot be whitewashed. Democrats are not required to be at AIPAC, but must denounce anti-Semitism within their ranks.”

Former NY Assemblyman Slams BDS in New Video: ‘My Tax Dollars Do Not Have to Support Your Discrimination’

Screenshot from Twitter.

Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind released an April 3 video on Twitter criticizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “discrimination.”

Hikind began the video by pointing out that the BDS movement singles out Israel, yet ignores countries like China, which has imprisoned 1 million Muslims, or Russia, a country that has murdered journalists. He added that supporters of the BDS movement frequently invoke freedom of speech, but “that is not the issue,” Hikind argued.

“My tax dollars, the tax dollars of the 26 states that have passed anti-BDS legislation, do not have to support your company that makes a decision to boycott the people of Israel, the Jewish state,” Hikind said. “My tax dollars do not have to support your discrimination.”

Anti-BDS legislation typically involves states barring companies that engage in boycotts of Israel from receiving government contracts and/or preventing such companies from receiving public investment funds.

Hikind concluded the video by highlighting that “the biggest supporters of BDS are the leaders of Iran, the leaders of Syria, the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela.”

“BDS equals anti-Semitism,” Hikind said.

In the tweet posting the video, Hikind wrote, “BDS targets Israel while ignoring rest of the world.” He added that BDS is “the same force” that removed New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger from his spot on the council’s immigration committee for tweeting that “Palestine does not exist” but shields Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “a free pass on her anti-Semitism.”

A Time and a Place for Civil Debate

Councilman Kalman Yeger

The latest Twitter flare-up between New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger and supporters of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was another example of social media’s usefulness: oxygen and fuel for fires that never seem to die down.

Yeger tweeted: “Palestine does not exist.  There, I said it again. Also, Congresswoman Omar is an antisemite. Said that too.”

This statement served three purposes: First, to shore up the councilman’s Brooklyn base; second, to rally Omar’s supporters, who will continue to defend her offensive remarks about American-Jewish support for Israel in Congress; and third, to ensure that division between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism festers like an open wound. As of April 1, Yeger had been removed from the city council’s immigration committee at the request of city leaders. Sadly, this will only add fuel to the fire, raise cries of “political correctness” and not advance the conversation in vital ways. 

How unfortunate.

Omar’s earlier remark about support for Israel in Congress being “all about the Benjamins” or her trafficking in the centuries-old canard implying Jews have dual loyalty are far better addressed in quiet conversation than in digital screaming matches on the internet.

I am reminded of 1984, when civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, during his presidential campaign, referred to Jews as “Hymies” and to New York City as “Hymietown.” I was a Jackson delegate at the Wisconsin state Democratic convention that year and was criticized by some of my fellow Jews on the University of Wisconsin campus for supporting someone accused of using anti-Semitic tropes. But as a student of history at Wisconsin, I also was familiar with Jackson’s career and knew that such aspersions against him were absolutely false. Jackson was a proud ally of Jews who offered support in the struggle for black civil rights and was a supporter of Israel.

Personally, I grew up hearing my grandmother, a child refugee from anti-Semitism in her native Belarus, refer to her black cleaning woman as a “shvartze,” the Yiddish term for black that is understood to be a term of denigration and racism. Many of us say things we shouldn’t. The Washington Post and The New York Times extensively covered Jackson’s mea culpa. At a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Jackson stated to Jewish leaders at a local synagogue, “It was not in a spirit of meanness, an off-color remark having no bearing on religion or politics. … However innocent and unintended, it was wrong.”

Some Jewish leaders were satisfied, others were not. But in a world that had no social media, the controversy evolved elsewhere. In his book “The Making of a Jew,” the late philanthropist Edgar Bronfman Sr. told the story of his encounter with Jackson when, as head of the World Jewish Congress, Bronfman planned a 1992 meeting in Brussels to examine anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. “This international conference was called ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ ” Bronfman wrote. The questions before us were how to promote the positive aspects of three forces — nationalism, ethnicity and religion — and how to prevent them from becoming destructive.”

Prescient, no?

Bronfman decided to ask Jackson to participate in the Brussels meeting. He knew the earlier remarks were not the sum of the man. Bronfman then recalled that, soon after the 1984 incident, Jackson was invited to meet for lunch with Bronfman at the Four Seasons Restaurant — on Bronfman’s home turf in the Seagram Building. During my 15-year friendship with Bronfman, I loved to hear him tell the story of the conversation they had that day and the advice he gave to Jackson: “You might have said, ‘Before I apologize, and I will, I would like everyone in this synagogue who has never called a member of my race a shvartze to stand up.’ That would have put your use of the word ‘Hymie’ in the proper context.”

This remarkable story about two great leaders hashing out a problem over lunch is at the moral center of my own confrontation with the ugly turn of political discourse in our current enflamed era. And I believe it is an object lesson for Yeger, Omar and other elected officials who wade into the intractable politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to strengthen their own bona fides rather than lead by example to forge a new path forward.

The 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church shooting are two examples of how extreme rhetoric and hatred are made manifest as violence, destruction and death. And it is people of African descent, along with Jews and Muslims, who usually are the victims of such dangerous discourse. We are better served while being in alliance, however difficult, than by taking to the barricades,  spewing hatred.

In a quiet room over a shared meal, Yeger and Omar might be able to better communicate their positions. Money in politics, along with charges of “dual loyalty,” are actually worthy of a book-length seminar. That’s how we learned it at Wisconsin with great historians such as George L. Mosse. Nazi racism and Aryan dogma rendered the Jews and blacks as subhuman, as untermenschen. It is how slavery, genocide and the Holocaust have been made possible.

In addition, it is fundamentally gratuitous to argue that “Palestine does not exist.” Of course it does. Are Jerusalem, the Galilee, Jaffa, the Negev, Gaza and the West Bank not home for the millions of Palestinians who say they are home? Who exactly does it help to deny this reality? 

Israel may not be a full state yet, but it is an idea on the way to becoming one. Eretz Yisrael, Jewish prayer in the Diaspora oriented toward Jerusalem for 2,000 years, and the concept of Zion were all in existence long before the United Nations declared Israel a state in 1948. To deny Palestine’s existence is as equally hurtful a statement as claiming, as anti-Israel activists are wont to do, that Israel and Zionism are colonial impositions on indigenous people. 

Is any of this aided by the presence of hypocritical politicians like New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who showed up to support Yeger recently but is known in the black community as the Jewish politician who showed up at a Purim party in blackface?  

To respond adequately to all of this would require too many words for Twitter. 

So let me suggest some deep breaths, and some space to read and think and talk. Bronfman is dead and the Four Seasons is under new ownership. But I’ll host anyone holding office today at my apartment in Brooklyn. I am close to the subway and the food is good.


Andy Bachman is executive director of the Jewish Community Project Downtown in New York City.

CA Dems Party Arab American Caucus Chair Accuses Schumer of Allegiance to ‘Fascist Israel Lobby’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media ahead of a possible partial government shut down in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Iyad Afalqa, the chairman of the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party, accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of having allegiance to the “fascist Israel lobby.”

On March 27, Afalqa posted a link on his Facebook page to an article titled “Senate Democratic Leader Schumer Compares Ilhan Omar to Trump in AIPAC Speech.” Schumer said during his March 26 speech, “When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some ‘very fine people’ among its company, we must call it out.”

Afalqa wrote in his post, “Shmuck Schumer the traitor whose allegiance is for Fascist Israel lobby who called himself the Guardian of Israel in Congress is attacking Rep Omar who hinted at the big elephant in the room: treason of the Fascist Israel lobby that Schumer belongs to.”

Afalqa went onto state that the “highest amount” of money from the “pro-Israel lobby” in the 2015-16 election cycle went to Schumer.

The Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party (PZCDP) said in a statement sent to the Journal via email, “Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party is concerned about the most recent statements made by Iyad Afalqa on his personal Facebook page and in the CADEMs unofficial delegate group. This is unfortunately not the first time he has used such inflammatory rhetoric, and is especially disappointing considering he co-sponsored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.”

“Utilizing the tropes of dual loyalties, Jewish conspiracy, and power to criticize AIPAC is disturbing in a moment where highly charged rhetoric like this increasingly endangers the Southern California Jewish community — which has experienced many recent anti-Semitic incidents, with perpetrators espousing frighteningly similar rhetoric to Alfalqa’s,” the PZDCP said.

In February, Afalqa shared a link to an Al Jazeera op-ed stating that “Zionism has always been a white supremacist, settler colonialist, anti-democratic, right-wing ideology, which has demanded a loyalty based on nationalist racism” that has “collaborated with anti-Semitic forces towards a mutual goal of global apartheid.”

The PZDCP responded to Afalqa’s sharing of the aforementioned op-ed by writing in a Facebook post at the time, “This is clear and unbridled anti-Semitism found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a famously false and hateful pamphlet alleging international conspiracy by racist, global Zionists. By itself, this trope has been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of Jews. This is the language we see being normalized in the article you shared.”

Additionally, in October 2017, Afalqa asked in Facebook when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be moving its headquarters “to Tel Aviv”:

Afalqa and the California Democratic Party did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

This article has been updated.

Ilhan Omar Should Start Helping Palestinians

Rep. Ilhan Omar Photo from Flickr.

Jews are looking awfully weak these days. The growing hysterics in our community in reaction to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments from people like Rep. Ilhan Omar have gone a little too far, if you ask me. I get that we must confront the disease of anti-Semitism, but we shouldn’t look fragile and lame while doing so.

Turning Ilhan Omar into some all-powerful force that threatens Jews and Israel is the wrong way to go. We should condemn when we have to, but the louder and more hysterical we get, the more we elevate people like Omar into a sort of cult status.

Omar’s actions represent a scratch on the skin of Jewish success, and she knows it. You can go on about how she is a “rising threat” to the Jews, but Omar knows better. She knows that Jews have made it big time in this country, that a century of incredibly hard work and resourcefulness has made them one of the biggest success stories in American history.

Over in the Middle East, the advances of Israel compared to its Arab and Muslim neighbors are almost embarrassing. Omar must know that, too. She can tweet all she wants about Israel “hypnotizing the world,” but she knows deep down that the real hypnotizing has been done by Arab dictators teaching Jew-hatred to divert attention from their criminal failures to help their people.

And this is where self-righteous critics like Omar really lose me: What have they ever done to help their people? They’re really good at bashing the Jewish state, but when will they start helping the oppressed Arab and Muslim victims of the Middle East?

The millions of hours and dollars devoted to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel over the past decade have done zilch to help the Palestinians. If anything, it has hurt them by perpetuating a state of chronic victimhood.

It’s the general view across the ideological spectrum that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are ready and able right now to “end the occupation,” regardless of who’s in power on either side. This should not be used as an excuse not to help Palestinians and promote real, concrete programs that will help the Palestinian economy and improve living conditions.

But by focusing so single-mindedly on Israel and the Jews—whether it’s the “lobby power” in the U.S. or the “Israel power” in the Middle East—people like Omar do nothing to help Palestinians. Shame on them.

It’s time we call them out. Anti-Semitic attacks have failed the Arab world. The BDS movement has failed the Palestinians.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with vigorous criticism of Israeli policies, but, as history has shown, when it’s all you do, you do nothing to advance the welfare of your people.

If Ilhan Omar is serious about helping the oppressed Arab and Muslim victims of the Middle East, including in her country of Somalia, she’s got plenty of non-Jewish targets to go after. If she’s serious about helping Palestinians, in addition to criticizing Israel, she can go after the corrupt regimes in Ramallah and Gaza who keep failing their people.

By neglecting to do that, Jew-obsessed critics like Omar are the ones who are weak and lame.