rope ladder to the moon

Tlaib agrees to Israeli terms, then reverses herself on West Bank visit
Barry Grey, WSWS, Aug 17 2019

The events of the past two days have provided a fresh demonstration of the inveterate cowardice of the Demagog Party and the absence within it of any principled opposition to Donald Trump’s authoritarian agenda. On Thursday morning, Trump took the unprecedented step of publicly urging a foreign government to bar entry to elected Pindo elected officials because of their political views. He called on Netanyahu to ban the planned visit this weekend of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to the OPT. The two are critics of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians and supporters of the BDS movement against the Israeli state. In pressing Netanyahu to reverse a previous decision to allow the visit, Trump repeated the lie that Omar and Tlaib “hate Israel and all Jewish people.” Shortly thereafter, the Israeli government announced that it was barring the visit of first two Muslim women elected to the Pindo Congress. For Trump, the move was a renewal of his attack on Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez, whom he denounced last month as socialists who “hate our country,” adding that they should “go back where they came from.” For Netanyahu the move was likewise an appeal to far-right and fascistic forces, made with a view to next month’s contentious Israeli elections. Facing multiple corruption charges, a loss could mean a prison term for the four-time prime minister. On Thursday night Tlaib sent a letter to Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri pleading to be given permission to visit her family on the West Bank. She wrote:

Minister Deri: I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit. Thank you.

Tlaib said nothing about lifting the ban on her fellow congresswoman Omar. In response to this capitulatory note, Deri announced Friday morning that the Israeli government would allow Tlaib to visit the West Bank, provided that she “live up to her promise and that the visit will only be for humanitarian needs,” meaning that she would remain silent on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Then the Detroit-based congresswoman reversed herself and announced that she would not accept the Israeli offer, issuing a statement that said in part:

I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in: fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.

Tlaib had evidently come under pressure from critics of Israel and supporters of the BDS movement. For example, the Guardian quoted former PA spox Nour Odeh as saying:

What is truly upsetting is that Rashida Tlaib fell in this trap and accepted to demean herself and grovel.

Tlaib’s response to Trump’s dictatorial violation of constitutional norms, according to which Congress is a co-equal and independent branch of the federal government, was a particularly sniveling example of the general response of the Demagog Party and media outlets aligned with it such as the NYT and the WaPo. Despite the fact that Trump’s attacks on “progressive” Demagogs such Omar and Tlaib are calculated to incite violence from the fascist elements among his supporters, leading to events such as the mass shooting by a Mexican-hating fascist gunman in El Paso, the Demagogs have once again brushed over the profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian substance of his actions. Instead, they have criticized the ban as a threat to the bipartisan “special relationship” between Pindostan and Israel. In the lead editorial of its Friday print edition, the NYT complained:

But to put at risk, so cynically, Pindostan’s special relationship with Israel solely to titillate the bigots in his base … How sad that two leaders … are risking a bipartisan relationship built between these two nations over generations.

A column by the WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin argued against the ban on the grounds that it weakened bipartisan support for Israel and strengthened the BDS movement under the title:

Israel’s ban of Omar and Tlaib is a grave misstep.

The Demagog-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution last month condemning the BDS movement. Moreover, Faschingstein is set to give Israel $3.1b this year as part of a 10-year, $38b military aid package reached under the Obama administration. The Demagog leadership has echoed Trump’s efforts to brand critics of Israel on the left as anti-Semites. In March, the Demagogs in the House spearheaded a resolution tacitly singling out remarks by Omar critical of Israel and the Israel lobby in Pindostan as “anti-Semitic.” In their news articles and commentaries on the current controversy, both the NYT and the WaPo have made a point of alluding to Omar’s supposed anti-Semitism. In its lead article on Friday the NYT wrote:

Ms Omar has drawn criticism even from fellow Demagogs for engaging in anti-Semitic tropes in criticizing Israel.

The WaPo editorial on Friday stated:

Both have made statements that play on anti-Semitic tropes.

The Trump administration is a government of permanent crisis, despised by a large majority of the Pindo creeple and buffeted by mounting signs of recession, financial instability and the growth of working class opposition in Pindostan and internationally. Its greatest asset is the feckless right-wing character of its nominal opposition, the Demagog Party. On Thursday night, in the midst of the controversy over the barring of Omar and Tlaib, Trump continued his fascist demagogy at a campaign style rally in Manchester, NH. He reiterated the three major themes of his reelection campaign: anti-immigrant racism, promotion of the police and military and rants against socialism, which he absurdly links to the Demagog Party. He declared:

Thugs believe our cities should be sanctuaries for law-abiding Pindos, not for criminal aliens, and we will always support the amazing heroes of ICE and Border Patrol, and we will always support law enforcement. No matter what label they use, a vote for any Demagog in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the Pindo dream.

The inability and refusal of the Demagogs to defend democratic principles and expose Trump’s fascist agenda shows that the collapse of bourgeois democracy and turn to authoritarian forms of rule are not rooted in the personality of Donald Trump. Rather, Trump is an expression of the breakdown of democratic forms under conditions of an unprecedented crisis of world capitalism, an immense growth of social inequality, an eruption of great power conflict and trade war and a resurgence of the class struggle. The Demagogs’ central preoccupation is to politically disarm the working class, suppress its struggles and channel the mass opposition to Trump behind an agenda of war and austerity. This is equally true of its phony “progressive” wing.

Don’t be shocked Israel would ban Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar
Joshua Leifer, Groan, Aug 16 2019

Anyone paying attention to the politics of Israel-Palestine could sense this was coming. It was was only a matter of time before a prominent Pindo politician was blocked from entering Israel on political grounds, and now that moment has arrived. After being goaded by Donald Trump, the Israeli government announced on Thursday that they would deny Pindo Reps Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib entry to the country. This move didn’t come out of nowhere. The Israeli government passed a law in 2017 barring supporters of the BDS movement from entering the country. Omar and Tlaib have expressed support for the BDS movement at various points, After they entered office, the question loomed whether Israel would refuse to let them in. That this was even a question reflects the extent to which the Israeli government has designated opposition to its policies as not just illegitimate but also illegal. Israeli ambassador to Pindostan Ron Dermer said in July that Omar and Tlaib would be permitted entry. And though it did seem that Benjamin Netanyahu initially wanted to avoid creating a diplomatic spectacle, a combination of pressure from the Pindo president and domestic political considerations appear to have led him to decide otherwise.

Trump tweeted that allowing Omar and Tlaib in would be “a show of great weakness” by Israel and that they “hate Israel & all Jewish people.” This is part of his 2020 re-election strategy. Trump and the Thugs have made it explicit that they intend to continue demonizing Omar and Tlaib with the goal of tarnishing the Demagog Party’s image and peeling away Jewish voters. That strategy, always unlikely to succeed, appears to have backfired in this instance. Not only have Demagog politicians across the board condemned the Israeli government’s decision, but so has AIPAC and Thugs including Marco Rubio. It seems Netanyahu may not have anticipated the breadth of the backlash, and it is still possible that he might reverse the decision. However, Netanyahu is facing a difficult re-election campaign and multiple corruption investigations, and denying entry to Omar and Tlaib is an opportunity to refocus attention away from his own scandals and shortcomings and to strike his favorite pose as “protector of Israel” against its external enemies. Several members of Netanyahu’s current cabinet are under criminal investigation as well, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib came on the same day as the announcement of possible graft charges against interior minister Aryeh Deri, who signed off on the denial of entry decision. In Israel, as elsewhere, ethnocracy and kleptocracy go hand-in-hand.

Throughout the hallways of Pindo power and among the mainstream pundits, many have reacted to the barring of Omar and Tlaib with outrage and shock, but there is nothing exceptional about the Israeli government’s decision, which should be an object lesson about contemporary Israel for those who either haven’t been paying attention or have preferred to avert their eyes from the reality on the ground. Israel criminalized not only support for the BDS movement but also boycotts of settlements years ago. Netanyahu and his successive administrations have turned human rights NGOs into villains. “Leftist” has become an epithet used interchangeably or alongside “traitor.” Arabs, Muslims and especially Palestinians are considered first and foremost enemies and treated as such. The designation as threats of two progressive Muslim congresswomen who support BDS, one Black, the other Palestinian, is entirely consistent with the Israeli government’s delegitimization of dissent and its routine use of the rhetoric of security to justify punitive measures and violence against populations it deems undeserving of basic rights: Palestinians, African asylum seekers, and even Ethiopian Israeli citizens.

By attempting to enter Israel-Palestine on their own, without the imprimatur of the pro-Israel establishment, Omar and Tlaib demanded to be treated as equal to their rightwing peers. The Israeli government refused to do so. But there is more to Omar and Tlaib’s denial of entry than that. Tlaib is Palestinian; her parents were born in Palestine, and her grandmother still lives there. That Israel could bar her unilaterally from visiting her family’s home – despite her status as a member of Congress – reflects the gross injustice of Israel’s border regime and should dispel any residual illusions that what exists in Israel-Palestine is anything other than a one-state regime with a hierarchy of rights and privileged based on ethno-religious identity. And, sadly, Tlaib’s situation here is not exceptional either. Israel routinely denies Palestinians living in the diaspora the chance even to visit their families and ancestral homes while Jews from anywhere in the world can become Israeli citizens with full rights. If the pro-Israel right had hoped that the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib would shield Israel from threats to its legitimacy, the practical effect could very well be the opposite.

It is clear from their widespread condemnation of the decision that the pro-Israel establishment would have much preferred if Omar and Tlaib’s visit to Israel had passed without incident, that they would have liked to have avoided Israel appearing so obviously in the wrong. But the tactically savvy pro-Israel groups, those that fret about keeping support for Israel a bipartisan issue, no longer possess the same power they once did. Today, the Trump administration’s Mideast policy is determined by an alliance of the religious pro-settler Jewish right and Christian evangelicals. Such an alliance has little need for bipartisanship, which for the Jewish right entails compromises that they are unwilling to make, like lip-service to two-state solution. Instead, for this newly empowered Jewish right, the entire land of Israel is God’s exclusive gift to the Jewish people. The conflict is a zero-sum struggle that only one side can win. Any criticism of Israel is illegitimate and anti-Semitic. Pindo ambassador to Israel David Friedman is a representative of this ideological tendency, and has played a major role in shaping the Trump administration’s position. In a statement regarding the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib, Friedman called BDS “no less than economic warfare” designed to “ultimately destroy the Jewish state.” The great irony of all this is that the Israeli government and the pro-Israel right have given the flagging BDS movement the gift of free publicity and renewed relevance. Supporters of BDS argue that Israel must face consequences for its systematic denial of Palestinians’ basic rights, and that external pressure is required to democratize the current undemocratic one-state reality in Israel-Palestine. It was already hard to argue otherwise. Now it will be a little bit harder still.

Demagogs watch their words as Israel bars congresswomen
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Aug 16 2019

Israel on Friday agreed to a request from Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit her elderly grandmother and other relatives in the occupied West Bank. Occupation authorities made the “humanitarian” gesture after Tlaib wrote a letter to interior minister Aryeh Deri vowing to “respect any restrictions” and promising she “will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

Amid criticism from Palestinians and others, Tlaib then appears to have made an about-turn. Despite her earlier request to Israel, she announced on Friday that she had decided against “visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions.”

This came a day after a political furor over Israel banning Tlaib and fellow Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first two Muslim women in Congress, from participating in a delegation to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Whether intentional or not, Tlaib has likely thrown Israel a rescue rope with her confused and shifting position: The criticism Israel faced over banning her may well morph into praise for its alleged generosity. Israel can now claim it made a “humanitarian” offer to Tlaib, who is refusing to accept what she herself requested. Possibly lost for her colleagues will be the limitations Israel insisted upon imposing on her speech rights and how Israel similarly limits the freedom and rights of all Palestinians. The situation came to a boiling point Thursday morning when Trump renewed his vitriolic attacks on the pair when he declared that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep Omar and Rep Tlaib to visit.” He claimed that “they hate Israel and all Jewish people.”

There is not an iota of evidence that they hate Jewish people. It is the case that they disagree profoundly with discriminatory Israeli policies. Netanyahu issued his own statement defending the action against the two increasingly prominent members of the Demagog Party. “As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry of people whose perception harms the country.” Israel is, in other words, a democracy except in how it treats Palestinians and what it will permit to be seen of their lives.

Israel passed a law in 2017 that bars entry to non-Israelis who support the BDS movement, as both congresswomen do. While much media coverage did mention this law, few noted that since its establishment in 1948, Israel has barred millions of exiled Palestinians from entering their homeland, regardless of their views and humanitarian crises in their families. solely because they are not Jews. Rather than backing up the authority and prestige of the United States Congress, Pindo ambassador to Israel David Friedman asserted that his government “supports and respects” the Israeli decision to bar entry to elected representatives of the Pindo creeple. Friedman also asserted that BDS is not free speech, disregarding old and new court rulings to the contrary. He also claimed that their planned trip represented nothing more than “an effort to fuel the BDS engine.”

The block on their movement highlighted for observers, including Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC, that Israel remains an occupying power able to ban even members of Congress from entering the West Bank. Mohyeldin said that “the agony and plight of every American of Palestinian descent” was visible in a statement from Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who had expressed appreciation to Israel that Tlaib might be permitted to visit her family in the West Bank.

In the face of the arm-in-arm racism of Trump and Netanyahu, this is no time for diplomatic expressions of appreciation. Hoyer would have been better advised to stick to his criticism of Israel for blocking the full trip as “unwarranted and self-destructive.”

Hoyer’s view was typical of how mainstream Demagogs tried to balance criticism with professions of admiration and concern for Israel rather than Palestinians. Pelosi declared:

As one who loves Israel, I am deeply saddened by the news that Israel has decided to prevent members of Congress from entering the country. Israel’s denial of entry to congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel. Pres Trump’s statements are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the office of the president.

Such statements leavened with copious praise highlight the sharpening divide among Demagogs over whether Israel should be confronted about human rights violations. In sharp contrast, Minnesota Demagog Betty McCollum declared that Trump and Netanyahu were afraid to allow the lawmakers to “witness first-hand the brutality and dehumanization Israel’s occupation inflicts on the Palestinian people.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemned Israel’s “discriminatory decision” to ban her fellow members of the progressive “squad.” She also announced she would not herself visit Israel “until all members of Congress are allowed.”

Stacey Plaskett, the non-voting member of Congress for the Virgin Islands, canceled her trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank, which she was planning to take along with Tlaib and Omar:

More than 40 Demagogs visited Israel this month with the Pindo Israel Education Foundation, a cut-out of AIPAC. Will they refuse future visits and urge incoming members of Congress to reject Israeli apartheid and discrimination against their colleagues? In the current political climate, such basic solidarity is sadly unlikely. But some advocates for change are speaking out. Senator Bernie Sanders told MSNBC:

If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country … maybe they can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.

Sanders’ foreign policy adviser Matt Duss, himself a long-time critic of BDS, accused Demagogs of having a hand in Israel’s ban on Tlaib and Omar. He tweeted:

But frank criticism remains rare. Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted mildly:

Warren has previously run from questions about Palestine. Many more, like New Jersey Demagog Josh Gottheimer, focused on how the decision to block the trip undermines the Pindo-Israel relationship. On MSNBC, he spoke of all the supposed benefits of that relationship while patronizingly declaring that he disagreed with the congresswomen’s planned itinerary because it was too focused on Palestinians, rather than being a standard propaganda tour.

California Democrat Ted Lieu asserted:

This represents a profound refusal to see the larger picture of the subjugation faced by Palestinians. Such criticisms are hardly courageous when even AIPAC publicly disagreed with the decision to bar Tlaib and Omar from visiting “our democratic ally Israel.”

Recently, pro-Israel Demagogs feeling the heat from an increasingly pro-Palestinian party base, have focused their criticism on Netanyahu, rather than on Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies more broadly. Criticizing Netanyahu, a far-right figure closely aligned with the bigoted Donald Trump, is now seen as relatively safe even for the likes of House Speaker Pelosi. Even Sanders has been doing this:

But the days and months ahead will tell whether it is the critics of Netanyahu or those willing to make a more profound critique of Israel’s policies who are ascendent within the Demagog Party. Elected officials will undoubtedly continue to feel the heat from grassroots solidarity organizations, including CodePink, Jewish Voice for Peace and Palestinian groups that condemned Israel’s action in forthright terms:

Demagogs must not simply see the ban as the problem, but as a small part of a much bigger picture: military occupation and Israel’s violent denial of equal rights to millions of Palestinians. Every few months there seems to be a new opportunity for congressional Democrats to move forward in their grasp of on-the-ground realities faced by Palestinians. Will they continue to sidestep grassroot activists’ demands to hold Israel accountable with more than just a few mild words?

Ilhan Omar lays out Israel’s crimes
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Aug 16 2019

Hebron’s Shuhada Street (Photo:Wisam Hashlamoun APA)

In a series of Tweets on Friday remarkable for their clarity and honesty, Ilhan Omar has laid out Israel’s crimes and abuses of Palestinians. On Thursday, Israel confirmed that it would bar Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from traveling on a congressional delegation to Israel and the occupied West Bank. The information Omar provides will not be new to many readers of this publication. But it is almost unheard of for a member of Congress to use their platform to make it available to an even wider audience. In an attempt to prove to a mostly shielded Pindo audience the facts of the Israeli occupation, Omar often uses Israeli sources to document Israeli abuses and violations of human rights and international law. Such sources can be valuable, but one hopes her exceptional courage will also mean she can use more Palestinian sources to document what their occupiers do to them. Her recommendation that Twitter users follow the human rights group Al-Haq is an excellent start. Here are all of Omar’s tweets:

2 Comments

  1. PB
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    “After all we’ve done for her. Oh the sufferink…..”.

    Typical of them. Offer an untenable proposition, then play the aggrieved victim whose profound generosity and …yes… selflessness has been spurned when the inevitable rejection has occurred. She hates Israel more than she loves her Grandmother, we are told here by them (which I don’t think is really a bad policy).

  2. niqnaq
    Posted August 17, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry for Rashida Tlaib, writing that letter then being (presumably) forced to reverse herself.

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