November 21, 2018

Newly Elected Palestinian-American Congresswoman Dons Palestinian Flag at Victory Party

Screenshot from Twitter.

Rashida Tlaib, the newly elected Palestinian-American Democrat congresswoman in Michigan, can be seen donning the Palestinian flag at her election party.

In the video below, Tlaib’s mother hugs her and drapes the Palestinian flag around her, right before Tlaib gives her victory speech:

It’s not the first time that Tlaib has literally wrapped herself in the Palestinian flag, as during her primary victory speech she also had the flag draped around her as she pledged to “fight back against every racist and oppressive structure.”

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to be elected to Congress, has voiced her support for one-state solution over a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, stating: “It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42-years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”

Her position on this caused J Street to rescind their endorsement of Tlaib.

Tlaib also said she supports cutting aid to Israel because it “doesn’t support human rights.” The newly elected congresswoman has also voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and was the keynote speaker at a Detroit BDS rally in 2014.

Additionally, Tlaib has issued positive tweets about convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh.

Tlaib ran unopposed in the general election, although one of her primary opponents launched a write-in campaign against her.

Halie Soifer: Getting Out the Young, Jewish Vote for Democrats

Halie Soifer

Most people aren’t in the business of swinging presidential elections at the ripe old age of 30 but Halie Soifer isn’t most people. 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Soifer helped swing Florida in favor of an upstart Illinois senator by playing a key role in securing a crucial electorate: the state’s Jewish vote. After heading Jewish outreach in Florida for the 2008 Barack Obama presidential campaign, Soifer’s journey has included stops in the national security realm and as a behind-the-scenes political operative. 

Soifer, 39, previously served as an adviser to Obama’s United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, then performed the same role on the staff of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif). Now she heads up the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), a progressive political organization founded in 2016 that supports Democrats running for office. At the helm of JDCA, she has her sights set on influencing another critical election. 

With November’s midterms fast approaching, Soifer spoke to the Journal about her organization, President Donald Trump, the Democratic Party’s U.S.-Israel stance and why she’s confident Jewish voter turnout can help the Democrats win back the House. 

Jewish Journal: What drew you to a burgeoning organization like JDCA? 

Halie Soifer: Once President Trump took office, I decided it was time to leave government and help change the composition of the Congress and Senate as opposed to working for one member. JDCA was a natural fit. It’s advocacy in terms of issues I care about as a Jew, such as fighting against unjust immigrant policies, the Muslim ban and standing up for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship in a way that feels particularly pressing in this moment in our history. 

JJ: You said previously JDCA was created “to fill a vacuum and in response to this administration.” Can you elaborate? 

HS: In the aftermath of Charlottesville, [Va., violence] I think all Jews throughout the country were shocked to see Nazis marching in the streets and Jewish Democrats, in particular, didn’t have one organization to represent their voice in that moment. It was really out of that sense of urgency that JDCA was born: to serve as the voice of Jewish Democrats, whether it was responding to the rise of anti-Semitism in the country or other troubling trends we’ve seen in regard to the Trump administration. It’s also focusing on advocating in the affirmative agenda, which we’re doing in this upcoming election. That means helping to get Democrats who share our values elected to Congress. 

“We’ve seen no less than nine neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Holocaust deniers running for office in this election cycle. They now feel legitimate in the Trump era to the point of running for Congress.”

JJ: What’s JDCA looking at specifically when figuring out which candidates to support?   

HS: We’re looking at close races where either there’s a strong Democratic challenger to a Republican incumbent, or a vacancy, or a Democratic incumbent who needs our help; but only where the race is predicted to come down to a margin that’s smaller than the Jewish community. Our assessment comes down to this: Can the Jewish community make the difference?  

JJ: You recently wrote an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post titled “Record Number of Jewish Voters Will Reject Trump in November.” What’s fueling your optimism about the midterms? 

HS: It’s the issues superseding politics that are antithetical to Jewish values, such as zero-tolerance immigration, and separating children from their parents at our border. I’ve been traveling to organize events for Jewish Democrats. Last week, we started our midterm volunteer program. We’re readying canvassing for Sean Casten in Chicago, Jennifer Wexton in Virginia. I hear it everywhere I go. And it’s not even a partisan issue. These are deep-seated concerns about the direction of our country, and I’m confident the November results will reflect that. 

JJ: The U.S.-Israel relationship has become an increasingly partisan issue. Are changing views or shifting party lines a threat to Jews continuing to loyally vote Democratic? 

HS: I don’t believe that views on Israel have changed among Democrats. If you look at voting patterns in Congress, there’s no change for support for a two-state solution, no change in U.S. military assistance to Israel and no change in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. I believe that while some Republicans would like to create a narrative that there’s been a change in the Democratic Party on its Israel stance, the reality is that there has not been a marked shift.  

JJ: What do you say to critics who argue that a different anti-Semitism, one mired in anti-Israel views, that exists in far-right circles, is permeating parts of the Democratic Party, even gaining momentum among younger Democrats? Is that legitimate? 

HS: I certainly would not equate the two. On the right, we’ve seen no less than nine neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Holocaust deniers running for office in this election cycle. That’s astounding. It’s not that these people and these movements didn’t exist previously, but they now feel legitimate in the Trump era to the point of running for Congress. That’s a problem the Republican Party has to grapple with. 

JJ: How does your organization speak out against these people? 

HS: On the left, there have been three candidates for Congress who have expressed views with regard to Israel that we, as an organization, have disagreed with publicly. We’ve not referred to them as anti-Semites, because, again, we don’t equate the two. 

JJ: Who are those candidates? 

HS: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. 

JJ: Those three names, especially Ocasio-Cortez, appear to represent the future of the Democratic Party. 

HS: In the case of someone like Ocasio-Cortez, we share her views on many, in fact, most other issues. For those three candidates, we’ve made it clear, while we don’t share that view, we’re interested in engaging. I think when these three candidates arrive in Washington, they’ll soon see that the Democratic Party supports a strong bipartisan relationship between the U.S. and Israel, which includes full military funding for Israel. We don’t expect that to change with these three being elected to Congress.


A correction has been made on Oct. 22. An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that the volunteer program canvassed for Peter Roskam. It did not.

The Looming Deaths of Litmus Tests

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's Labour Party, visits the Alexander Dennis Bus Factory in Falkirk, Scotland, Britain August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Screenshot from Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot from Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot from Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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