Nick Schifrin talks to The Israel Project’s Josh Block and J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami about Rep. Omar’s comments, the broader debate over anti-Semitism and bigotry in the US today, and how accusations of anti-Semitism are sometimes weaponized to shut down legitimate debate over US foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The pro-Israel organization J Street welcomed the resolution and urged lawmakers to pass it ‘immediately.’ ‘We believe it is an important step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community to stand together with Muslim-Americans and other vulnerable communities of color and faith that are subjected to discrimination and attack on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or other status,’ the group said.”
“The liberal Jewish organization J Street too said the resolution was ‘an important step forward in the fight against anti-Semitism for the Jewish community to stand together with Muslim-Americans and other vulnerable communities of color and faith that are subjected to discrimination and attack on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity or other status.’ ‘This congressional resolution puts questions about anti-Semitism raised in recent weeks into the broader context where they belong and makes it unequivocally clear that core American values and principles are violated by anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and racism,’ J Street added.”
“J Street, an influential liberal advocacy group, describes itself as ‘pro-Israel’ and expressed in a statement disappointment in how some lawmakers have criticized Israeli policy but did not specifically name Omar. And while the organization expressed support for the resolution Democratic leaders are considering, it noted the optics of singling out Omar given far more harmful comments coming from the Right side of the aisle. They wrote: ‘We are concerned that the timing of this resolution will be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color – as if her views and insensitive comments pose a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white nationalist right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minority groups in our country. It is also our view that the far greater threat to the Jewish community – to its security and its values – comes from the surge of ethno-nationalism and racism that forces on the right, including President Trump, have unleashed here and across the globe.’”
“[A]s Congress prepares to issue a sweeping rebuke of anti-Semitism this week, many will be looking at whether the resolution is a genuine stand against bigotry or an excuse to sideline a freshman congresswoman and suppress legitimate critiques of U.S. support for Israeli policy. ‘We agree with and support the sentiments expressed in the resolution which House Democratic leadership plans to introduce this week in opposition to anti-Semitism,’ the organization J Street, which advocates for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict, said in a statement. ‘At the same time, we are concerned that the timing of this resolution will be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color—as if her views and insensitive comments pose a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white nationalist right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minority groups in our country.’”
“Is this only about anti-Semitism, or is it also about how critical Democrats can be of Israel? Some are seeing the current resolution debacle as a sign that the pro-Israel lobby’s influence in Congress is waning — over one party, anyway. ‘This is coming from the center of the party to say, no, were not going to do business the old way,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a moderate pro-Israel lobbying group. ‘We have definitely entered a new era.’”
“The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution broadly condemning hate and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, in the wake of controversy over Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar. The vote was 407-23. Twenty-three Republicans voted against the measure, and all Democrats — including Omar — who voted voted in support of the resolution. Passage of the resolution comes after an intense internal debate among House Democrats over how to respond to recent comments Omar made related to Israel that sparked criticism, including from fellow Democrats. That debate led to uncertainty over the past 24 hours over when the resolution would come to a vote and what exactly it would say.”
“Clashes broke out at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday morning as thousands of ultra-Orthodox youths descended on the holy site in an orchestrated attempt to disrupt a special service organized by Women of the Wall. At the instruction of their rabbis, thousands of teenage girls from religious high schools around the country gathered at the Kotel, while hundreds of young ultra-Orthodox men tried to break through police barricades to attack the prayer group. Hundreds of women, including many from North America, joined Women of the Wall in the special Rosh Hodesh service to mark the 30th anniversary of the multi-denominational feminist prayer group, which also falls this year on International Women’s Day.”
A delegation of senior Israeli officials paid a visit to Jordan Thursday in an attempt to reach a solution over the crisis sparked surrounding a disputed prayer site in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Jerusalem and Amman have so far failed to reach an agreement regarding the future of the Bab al-Rahma building in the compound, but discussions are still underway between representatives of the two countries.
Palestinian negotiator calls for boycott of new US embassy unit, Times of Israel
The Palestinian leadership on Thursday urged the international community to boycott the newly created US embassy unit that will handle relations with Palestinians. Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat issued a statement calling upon the diplomatic community “not to engage in any kind of formal relationship or collaboration” with the new Palestinian affairs unit, which will take over the responsibilities of the shuttered US consulate in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his war on the media to Army Radio Thursday, accusing the military broadcaster of campaigning for his ouster and seemingly threatening to shutter it if it does not bring in right-wing voices. “There is a limit to the leftist thought police and silencing of voices,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “We aren’t in North Korea. If there is no expression given to the right — Army Radio has no right to exist.”
Akiva Eldar writes, “Who is a greater threat to Israel’s democracy? Is it the Kahanist duo from Otzma Yehudit appended to a rather marginal right-wing alliance or the sitting prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has excoriated every pillar of that democracy — the judiciary (denouncing both the attorney general and the state prosecutor), law enforcement (denouncing impartial police investigators as well as the police commissioner) and the press (attacking independent journalists from the print media to television)…Ben Gvir and Ben Ari are diverting attention from the main enemy of Israeli democracy, serving as camouflage for Netanyahu.”
NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., who is the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial comments and the resolution condemning hate speech.
Hanna Alshaikh writes, “Just as it is becoming clearer to many Americans that a progressive agenda in the United States includes solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality, Omar’s support for Palestinians is part of her core belief system. As such, she and other new members of Congress are creating the space for others to speak up on this issue without fear….If Democratic shifts and recent outcry in US public opinion on Netanyahu’s policies and Israeli military actions are any indicator, more like-minded progressives will join the ranks of Rep. Omar in the future. Democratic Party leaders would be wise to pay attention and stand on the right side of history by following their lead.”