Newly Elected Progressives Face Palestine Taboo

After they won their primaries, some young progressives curbed their pro-Palestine rhetoric.  Now they are in Washington getting oriented. Next up: early test votes in the new year sponsored by the pro-Israel lobby, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.

Newly-Elected Progressives
Confront 
AIPAC Test

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

People in the pro-Palestinian community worldwide will be watching to see if any of the new left-wing progressives elected in the midterms will dare speak out—and vote against—the wishes of the Israel lobby.

The answer will likely come early next year, in test votes sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, after the 116thCongress convenes. If the past is any guide, Democratic leaders will insist on strict subservience from newcomers to the party’s foreign policy priorities, which include U.S. sponsorship and defense of the Israeli occupation and war crimes.

Some members-elect voiced remarkable criticism of Israel in the primaries. Rashida Tlaib, from Michigan, may have gone the furthest, by calling for one state in Palestine. Ilhan Omar, from Minnesota, referred to Israel’s “evil doings” and condemned apartheid in Israel.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, spoke against the occupation of Palestine.

Rashida Tlaib: Softer rhetoric. (Twitter photo)

After the primaries, however, Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez softened their rhetoric. In a post-victory interview, Tlaib said that both sides (occupiers and occupied?) have “so much more in common.” Ocasio-Cortez was quoted as favoring a two-state solution and believing “absolutely in Israel’s right to exist” (as an apartheid occupation state?). She has expressed faith in U.S. legitimacy as “a force of good” in the world and shrugged off any serious understanding of the Middle East.

Antonio Delgado, who upset a GOP incumbent in upstate New York, caught heat during the general campaign for his positions on Israel. When he rejected the “democratic” label for Israel, his comment was widely described by news media as a regrettable gaffe.   

The one Palestinian-American male candidate, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who campaigned in San Diego, was the least critical of Israel and the only one who lost. He went to lengths to ingratiate himself with the Israel lobby, having changed his religion and name in the past. He even condemned his grandfather, Abu Yusuf An-Najjar, a PLO diplomat killed by Israeli terrorists in Beirut in 1973, as a “murderer.”

The nature of U.S. public attitude towards Israel is changing. A few decades ago, isolationist conservative Republicans were the most likely to be detractors. That role has shifted to liberals in big cities. These days, southern Baptists  and conservative Republicans in rural America are providing Israel some of the staunchest support.

Automatic Support for Israel

But this change doesn’t mean much in Congress. On Middle East issues, Democrats and Republicans remain ardent and automatic supporters of Israel.

Despite the War Powers Act of 1973, designed to check the president’s power to commit the country to an armed conflict, the president retains quasi-imperial powers of foreign policy making. Given voters’ worship of the military, representatives are often afraid to reject wars and interventions that presidents seek. To be accused of “failing to support the troops” is fatal to candidates from both parties. California Rep. Barbara Lee famously cast the lone vote against the authorization of military force following Sept. 11, 2001.

AIPAC: Automatic leader on Arab-Israeli issues. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The two ruling parties, meanwhile, muzzle democratic discussion of their foreign policy agenda. Through the nominating process, the big wigs of the Democratic Party are able to sideline dissent. The Republican primaries, meanwhile, can seem like contests for the greatest show of fanaticism in supporting Israel. Even in local elections–for mayors and city council—defiance of AIPAC can kill off contenders’ chances. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, dominated by Democrats, break with AIPAC influence on votes, but the caucus leadership is closely aligned with the pro-Israel lobby.

The internal Democratic split (between its leadership and the liberal base) on Israel is comparable with that of liberal European political parties. The Socialist Party of France, for instance, pursues a traditional pro-Israeli agenda despite pro-Palestine sympathy within its ranks. The same had been true of the Labour Party in the U.K., until the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The United States has come to insist on a pro-Israeli plank from its European allies. In the 1970s, European nations often held positions on the PLO and on Palestinian self-determination that broke with U.S. doctrine. Since then, however, European disagreement with the U.S. on the Arab-Israeli question has diminished.

AIPAC, and its unofficial research arm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, have managed to establish themselves as the moral and authoritative sources of legislation and information on all matters related to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East.  The lobby has succeeded through intimidation, as detailed in “They Dare to Speak Out,” a book by former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, a Republican. One successful method has been conflating any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. This tactic has been most effective in discouraging U.S. politicians from opposing Israel.

Not a ‘Jewish Lobby’

It must be stressed that AIPAC is not a “Jewish lobby,” but a pro-Israel lobby. Its champions are not exclusively Jewish.  Anti-Semites wish to portray the lobby in classically bigoted terms, as a Jewish conspiracy. But some of its most ardent adherents have been non-Jewish U.S. presidents, members of Congress and administration officials. 

On Palestine, Congress has changed substantially over the years.  In the early 1980s, a few lawmakers, from both parties, still dared to challenge AIPAC, which was founded in 1963. In his 1985 book, former Congressman Paul Findley, now 97, describes some of them. Back then, a wing of the Republican Party even stood for “even-handedness” in the Middle East.

By the end of the 1980s, few of these moderating voices on Israel were left. They’d either retired or lost their seats. 

Since the 1990s, dissent on Israel is virtually absent in the upper house of Congress. The late Robert Byrd, from West Virginia, who died in 2010, was the last senator who dared to vote against legislation favored by AIPAC.

Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Diane Feinstein of California, both in their 80s, are mildly critical of Israel, but still vote with AIPAC most of the time. (Feinstein only recently started criticizing Israel perhaps because support in her state is secure). “Social Democrat” Sen. Bernie Sanders gets heralded for challenging Israel. But that only shows the depth of the general silence. In fact, Sanders usually criticizes Israel in the most restricted terms: (“I am not a fan of Netanyahu.”)

In the House, in recent years the number of members who–on rare occasions–vote to defy the Israeli agenda, has risen. But unlike in previous years, little is ever said about the rights of Palestinians or directly against AIPAC.

Dennis Kucinich, former member of Congress from Cleveland, and a former presidential candidate, may have been the last member to publicly champion the Palestinians. (He once told me that he made it a point to speak about Palestine weekly.) He lost his seat after redistricting in 2012. 

The question now is whether some of those new faces in Congress, who carried the progressive torch in the campaigns, have the courage of a Kucinich on Israeli matters. Will any of them break the taboo against speaking for Palestine or against AIPAC? Their silence regarding the on-going Israeli assault on Gaza so far is deafening.  

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New “War on Terrorism” (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.

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47 comments for “Newly Elected Progressives Face Palestine Taboo

  1. November 26, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot.
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  2. Bro43rd
    November 18, 2018 at 9:46 am

    They have overused the term antisemitic & now it’s almost meaningless. Same goes for racist, misogynist, nationalist, liberal, conservative & too many more to list. But I can’t figure why the same has not happened to conspiracy theorist.

    • Hank
      November 22, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      If you want to get a good look at the “civility” of Israel look no further than the Gaza Strip. Any nation that would subject human beings to this type of experience should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. And any government that turns a blind eye to this man-made human suffering is a coward and doesn’t deserve to be called a “leader”. Why is Gaza/Israel such a complex issue to be resolved? Because the power-holding and backed entity, Israel, does NOT want peace, just other people’s lands! The power of the USA(alleged power?) does NOT excuse someone for takin g the WRONG side of history.

  3. November 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    The Overton Window has narrowed over the decades since Reagan.

    Now there is no room in DC to accommodate different views on foreign policy issues such as Palestine. Neoconservatives own it.

    Same with the economy. Neoliberals own it. No room for regular people.

    Despite the hype, Trump hasn’t changed anything, he just rode the spectrum’s shift to the rise, which accommodates the crazy nonsense he spouts.

    http://opensociet.org/2018/11/17/network-propaganda-and-the-overton-window

  4. R Davis
    November 16, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Are you telling me that these new left-wing progressives got this far without being vetted ??
    Someone took their eye off the ball – no ??
    Go figure.
    I’m not so sure that this group of persons matter any more.

    • Peter
      November 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      lol Eye on the ball? Oh man, the British and Vatican social engineering slave masters have devised, over the centuries, bread and circus’ for their slaves, PRECISELY for the proverbial eye OFF the ball distractions. I would venture to say these “progressives” have thoroughly conspired to Ponzi
      bait-and-switch
      boiler room
      bunco game.
      Sadly, the uneducated poor fall haplessly for these mind control flim flam hustlers. This is very serious stuff just look at what happened in Nazi Germany.

    • jd2021
      November 17, 2018 at 6:23 am

      @R Davis- if they were genuinely “left-wing”, they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are.

      • Peter
        November 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm

        ***Ron
        Paul, Tsipras, Trump, Corbyn…. In every political arena these ‘faint
        hopes’ are kept around to provide vents for public exasperation with the
        Establishment. They are part of the system of financial management,
        ‘party politics’ being the cleverest system of social control ever
        devised, in that it makes the population complicit in their own
        domination, while permitting them perpetually to imagine that change
        might come with the next election. The media can instantly silence or
        sideline any politician, so if one is being kept alive politically you
        know that, wittingly or otherwise, he/she is serving the Establishment’s
        purposes.***
        author unknown

    • Hank
      November 25, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Why even have elections when a foreign power entity holds such massive sway over elected officials? Russia colluding in an American election? How about Israel? Is this UN Resolution-disobeying-apartheid nation unaccountable to the USA and the world for its actions? Are the rules different for Israel and AIPAC? Why? If we truly have a democracy in the USA then we can’t have organizations like AIPAC sucking all the influence out of DC!

  5. Catman
    November 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

    Really? No comments on the stranglehold that the Zionists hold on our ‘elected` officials? What had happened to this site?

  6. Don Bacon
    November 15, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Will any of them [those new faces in Congress] break the taboo against speaking for Palestine or against AIPAC?
    No, because if they do they would suffer the fate of Cynthia McKinney who wrote “. . . many of us here in the United States have long been concerned about reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others.”

    Soon she was gone from Congress, and nobody since has had the strength to question Israel.

  7. jo6pac
    November 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Nailed it As`ad AbuKhalil. We’ll see how many newbies congresscritters make the trip to israel to finish with their training.

    On another note I’m glad to see you writing here.

  8. Maxwell Quest
    November 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Ahhh, new representatives, flush with victory and their eyes glistening with idealism, are headed to Washington for orientation, only to have seasoned mentors take them under their wings and suffocate them. The French have a saying: “A man elected is a man lost.” Why? Because the newly elected neophyte disappears into the gears of the machine, having their idealism crushed in an environment of partisanship, corruption, horse-trading, and logrolling.

    As for Israel, the ME outpost of the US empire, it is needed for regional security, thereby ensuring the steady extraction of the region’s oil resources. No one person, or newly elected group, will be able to put a chink in this well-defended alliance. All the gatekeepers are well paid and carefully selected for their loyalty.

    And just as AIPAC capitalizes on the public’s inability to differentiate between Israel foreign policy and anti-Semitism in order to stifle dissent, so they also easily manipulate religious fundamentalists in the US who conflate today’s Israel with the one spoken of in the ancient biblical record. Never mind that in that same record their deity was constantly threatening them with annihilation for their misdeeds and betrayals. Yet today, somehow, God’s chosen people can do no wrong in the eyes of fundamentalists.

    • JWalters
      November 16, 2018 at 3:30 am

      Very good points. But regarding your statement, “As for Israel, the ME outpost of the US empire”, I would revise that. A LOT of evidence points to the US being the dumb muscle of the Israeli empire. Further, Israel is indisputably a project of the war profiteering Rothschild bank’s empire, which also has a great deal of stealth ownership in the American economy, including the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank and major industries. This vast wealth is what enables such blanket control of America’s press and Congress. This is what makes websites like Consortium News so essential for regaining America’s lost democracy.

      A great deal of evidence supporting this analysis is in four articles at “War Profiteer Story”
      http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

      For people who prefer watching videos, a lot of this evidence is presented in “How the Jewish Rothschild Zionists Created Modern Israel”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qlGVkHaeFc

      and in “The Dire Threat of Israeli Zionist Control Over America”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFw31j035OQ

      We’re talking here about a large mass of solid historical facts that are being suppressed by the mainstream media, which tellingly acts exactly like a monopoly owned by Israel, or by Israel’s owners.

      • Maxwell Quest
        November 16, 2018 at 2:55 pm

        Your feedback is much appreciated, JWalters.

        Although my attention is primarily focused in other areas of study, I find it is constantly being drawn back to issues such as these in an effort to better understand the world and its social power/control systems. The more layers I peel back the more that evidence (and common sense) seem to point in the direction you suggested; however, I’m not comfortable getting too far over my skis, as they say, so often tone down my rhetoric so that my ideas will be taken seriously.

        In past comments I’ve made several references to a “global wealth extraction machine”, because this is the picture that comes into view when connecting all the dots, but I’m still uncertain as to its origin and ownership. I have not yet penetrated to the ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ of this mystery, but would not be too surprised to find an Old Europe Rothschild banking cabal sitting at the controls, and being the recipients of a vast river of wealth that endlessly flows in their direction. This would certainly bring world events into a much sharper focus.

        • JWalters
          November 18, 2018 at 8:07 pm

          Maxwell Quest, thank you for your very perceptive comment. I too am a hard evidence person, and make a point of not going beyond the evidence. I also appreciate the goal of being taken seriously. Unfortunately, the severe restrictions on facts by the mainstream media somewhat constrains everybody who wants their analyses to be seriously considered. Again, that is why sites like Consortium News are so important.

          Thanks also for your brilliant image. It is completely consistent with known facts, and does indeed bring reality into a sharper focus.

      • Peter
        November 16, 2018 at 9:30 pm

        None sense, there is no Israeli Empire. Israel is a front for the Anglo American empire. This Rothschild stuff is a distraction. The British Commonwealth along with the USA constitute the most extensive empire in recorded history. Israel is but a small part of it. Albeit, in recent history, a significant part.

        • JWalters
          November 18, 2018 at 8:18 pm

          Peter, You present your theory without a speck of evidence. You do not address in any way the mountain of evidence in the above links. Banking long ago replaced land tracts as the main source of wealth in England. The Rothschilds have been in the House of Lords for over a century. Key Israel supporter Winston Churchill was financially strapped and dependent on the bankers. The Rothschild bank manages the Queen’s finances (as well as the Vatican’s). I appears to me you are either extremely uninformed, or one of the oligarchy’s many disinformation agents.

          • Peter
            November 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm

            I’ve gone down this road so many times, it does get monotonous. Bankers manage money, it is not theirs. The British Commonwealth and it’s vast empire spanning the 19th and 20th century was not owned by the Rothschilds. They were but a small managing element within that huge structure. You want evidence? It could fill volumes. Jewish/Rothschilds have been the techno bourgeois for European aristocracies for centuries. That same aristocracy have scapegoated their own bourgeois managers whenever their own interests became threatened. It is a story as old as time. I call you a disinfo agent for perpetrating the “jews did it” meme once again. The question to ask is qui bono? Obviously, the ancient European crowned bloodsucking aristos. So please, enough with the “jews did it”. It get tiresome and offensive too.

  9. John Wright
    November 15, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    I have no great expectation that these new members, or any existing members, will carry the torch for the Palestinians in the present political climate. The power of the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. only seems to grow every year and, as the suppressed documentary series “The Lobby” shows, the Israeli government is now directing significant resources on the BDS movement in the U.S. and U.K., in an attempt to dissuade younger generations from the very important cause of restoring Palestinians to their historic homeland (and even change the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party).

    Additionally, privately funded intelligence operations like “The Canary Mission” , which targets pro-BDS activists, demonstrate just how ruthlessly undemocratic and unethical these pro-Israel forces can be.

    End the criminally monstrous Israeli occupation…Free Palestine !!!

  10. mike k
    November 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Those elected in the US care about one thing only $$$$$$$$. They will never vote against their pocket book.

  11. Miranda M Keefe
    November 15, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    I do not expect any Democrat to vote against unconditional aid to Israel, even Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and Talib.

  12. Peter
    November 15, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Clear, clean, crisp, concise writing is necessary to impart any sense of this complex world. Professor AbuKhalil delivers this in a language that is not his own.
    We have essentially two classes in the US today, the rich and the poor. The rich are educated and the poor are not. It becomes obvious who is responsible for the arch criminality in the Anglo American Neo Imperialist circles.
    The rich are guilty for not educating the poor in matters such as these ( I believe this is a very deliberate strategy designed to stratify the classes and keep the poor manageable. But I digress). The rich do not rock the boat. Their only interest is maintenance of their own status quo, socio ECONOMIC positions. It is a shame when we poor under educated have to rely on the educated from distant lands to make us see the truth. Thanks again professor AbuKhalil for giving us the gift of wealth of knowledge something our own educated classes miserably fail at.

    • jd2021
      November 17, 2018 at 6:31 am

      In time, the poor will be educated, as some are already. The rich are more indoctrinated than they are educated, in my opinion, and thoroughly unenlightened. I am speaking in the aggregate, of course, as many of the poor are dumb-as-rocks, also indoctrinated, yet so are some of the rich. Self-education is obligatory in this age.

  13. November 15, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    They will not speak out. They are always cowards when it comes to speaking truth. AIPAC and Israel will continue to operate with impunity.

  14. November 15, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Depressing. That’s all I can say.

    Same in Germany, despite the AfD.

    Americans have no idea how much their country’s positions which I may assume are theirs, in majority, depresses me, on so many fronts, Israel/Palestine only one of them.

    My only solace, I resisted the seduction to ever apply for US citizenship. Most definitely, not my country.

  15. November 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Any man or woman on Earth who can’t see, acknowledge and fully comprehend Israel is an apartheid state is blind. Persons who disagree with the assertion are more than welcome to offer their explanation for “the fence” surrounding the near 2 million Palestinian people of Gaza.

    • jd2021
      November 17, 2018 at 6:32 am

      Hear hear!

  16. Jill
    November 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    There is no reason to vote for any self styled progressive. Yes, it takes courage to stand up against the powerful. We all need to do that. This includes people in Congress.

    If we want cowards to represent us then we should keep voting for them. However, there’s no need to donate money or time to people who will claim they cannot stand up against injustice because they won’t ever get elected (again). There’s no point in getting elected unless you plan to stand up for the oppressed in this and other nations. We don’t need more Congress people who are “open for business”.

    If they only get elected once, great. They can work to accomplish something of value and if the powerful kick them out, so what? If being elected once is what it takes to do good, then get elected once and do some good! End of your carrier? Fine. Do something else of value for other people. I’m tired of Congress being a jobs program. It’s not. They’re there to represent the people, not acquiesce to injustice and cruelty.

    • November 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Right on. Here in Arizona Kirsten Sinema was just elected to the U.S. Senate. She was at one time an actual immigration and anti-war activist. Then she ran for Congress and has steadily moved to the right ever since. She has disavowed her “radical” connections and says she has “evolved.” Her supporters say she has to do that in order to get elected and do “good.” Such B.S. She has turned into a blatant political whore and has further ambitions I’m sure.

    • November 15, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Jill, you speak my mind.

      I have lived in this sorry place for 30 years. “So why are you still here?”… how often have I heard that.

      To give witness and kick ass, by mouth, of all these ignorant, brainless, bootlicker Americans. Sounds like fun. No, it isn’t.

      • jd2021
        November 17, 2018 at 6:34 am

        I’m with you, brother.

    • Sam F
      November 16, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Yes, the elected are corrupted by DC itself, aspiring to stay among the costly surroundings, devices, and seeming honors of the seat of power. They are elevated above the rabble and soon cannot bear the prospect of returning to an obscure life among mere people. Perhaps we cannot restore democracy without requiring the elected to work at home; it is certainly feasible.

  17. November 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

    The claim that being anti-Israeli or supportive of the Palestinian cause is anti-Semitic is beginning to wear thin. The constant intimidation of the Zionists everywhere is making true anti-Semites among those not capable of making the not very subtle differentiation and supplying ammunition to those true anti-Semites to expand their ranks. It is a pity for all Jews worldwide, more and more of whom realise that eventually, the facts on the ground being what they are, the former Palestine will have to become a home for both the expelled Palestinians and the Israelis, who as humans have much to learn and benefit from one another. There is no other long term solution except that the Israelis miscalculate and plunge the whole world into a planet ending war.

  18. Joe Tedesky
    November 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

    To go along with the theme here I would invite you to read the words of Phillip Weiss on the new balance of power which J Street has in our Congress.

    https://mondoweiss.net/2018/11/israel-represents-thanks/

    By the reporting of Phillip Weiss there would seem to be hope.

    • JWalters
      November 16, 2018 at 3:32 am

      Excellent link Joe. I would add that Mondoweiss is a top-notch source of reporting and analysis of what is happening in the amazingly brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, plus coverage of Israel’s control over America’s press and politicians. A must-read for anyone interested in this vital center of America’s major conflicts.

      And I agree with you that sites like Consortium News, Mondoweiss, Truthdig, Common Dreams, and others are creating the possibility that a critical mass of people will see the gaping holes in the mainstream media’s coverage. A great many people in Congress already silently agree with the new critics of Israel in their midst. Strength in numbers could foster a critical mass of courage in Congress as well. Let’s pray and pass the bombshell links.

      • Joe Tedesky
        November 16, 2018 at 6:57 pm

        Just to counter balance things read this…

        https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/16/the-revolutions-here-please-excuse-me-while-i-laugh/

        Once we wipe away our wants there is the reality.

        Thanks for the reply JWalters. Joe

        • jd2021
          November 17, 2018 at 7:21 am

          That’s an important, relevant piece you linked to there…I advise all to read it. Bottom line, there will be no revolution via the Democratic party, for they are the ANTI-revolution party. And by “revolution” I do not mean violence- we wouldn’t stand a chance like that. It has to be a revolution of the mind, of values, and thought-processes. A mass awakening. Thanks Joe.

          • Joe Tedesky
            November 17, 2018 at 11:38 am

            I’m glad you took something from what I posted. It’s important we gather all opinions in my mind. So thanks for your supportive reply jd2021. Joe

  19. ML
    November 15, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Thank you for restoring readible font, CN. I will make a Christmas donation. You’re the “best in da bidness!”

Comments are closed.