Nel's New Day

March 7, 2019

House Democrats: Get Back to Work

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A claim about Fox network is that it’s the far-right against everyone else. The same is true with the existing rank and file GOP, leaving lots of “everyone else” in the Democratic party, a diverse batch of people known in the past for many internal differences. One of these emerged when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that the strong support for Israel, despite its genocidal behavior, came from the dollars poured into paying politicians. In an initial knee jerk reaction, Democratic leadership talked about a resolution to condemn her. The Republicans were all for the idea, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) demanded that she be taken off the Foreign Policy Committee.

An assumption to silence any debate about Israel was the anti-Semitic accusation of any suggestion that U.S. fails to support equal rights for Palestinians with one-sided support for Israel. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) addressed the narrowness of the proposed resolution when she asked why “no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” on the floor).” Later she added, “Where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’” Jeremy Cahill, editor of The Intercept, tweeted:

“If we lived in a sane society, those politicians who promote the Israeli government even as it slaughters Palestinians and cozy up to its lobbyists would be the focus of investigation and condemnation. Instead, they attack the woman, @IlhanMN, who bravely calls it out.”

When some representatives and the public protested a resolution rebuking Omar, it got softened to condemning anti-Semitism and then moved to including a condemnation of anti-Muslim positions. By now the resolution may have disappeared after many House Democrats want to go farther in condemning all religious hatred. In a caucus session, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) said, “Why are we doing this?” After the meeting, she said:

“We’ve individually and collectively already responded to the fact that we oppose all ‘-isms’ that do not treat people in this country fairly and justly. To continue to engage in this discussion is simply an opportunity to give both the media and Republicans distractions from our agenda. We’ve got important work to do.”

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) demonstrates how biased some representatives are over the issue when he tweeted that “questioning support for the U.S.-Israeli relationship is unacceptable.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) advised her Democratic colleagues: “Everyone stop tweeting.” It’s a start. Thanks, ladies!

A sampling of the GOP representatives who stay in Congress but smeared Omar and/or threatened to take action against her:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA): Accused three Jewish billionaires of trying to “buy” the midterms the day before one of them got a pipe bomb at his New York home. McCarthy refused to apologize for the anti-Semitic tweet but deleted it. McCarthy also funded attack ads in which Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) called his Mexican-Palestinian opponent a “terrorist.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA): Attended and spoke at a white supremacist convention by a group founded by David Duke, Holocaust-denying former grand wizard of the KKK and described by the Anti-Defamation League as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

Louie Gohmert (TX): Attacked a Jewish billionaire on the Fox Business channel with this falsehood, “George Soros is supposed to be Jewish but you wouldn’t know it from the damage he inflicted on Israel and the fact that he turned on fellow Jews and helped take the property that they owned.” Host Stuart Varney had to clarify that Gohmert’s views to represent those of Fox—and Fox’s views tend to be fairly far out.

Matt Gaetz (FL): Invited notorious Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to be his guest at the State of the Union, suggested that the George Soros funded the immigrant caravan to “storm the U.S. border,” and appeared on Alex Jones Infowars when Jones said that “it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.” (DDT called Gaeta “one of the finest and most talented people in Congress.”)

Steve King (IA): Re-tweeted a neo-Nazi, sat on a panel with white supremacists, praised both German and Austrian neo-Nazis, and finished by defending white supremacy and many more racist statements. [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out that Republicans didn’t notice King’s offensive remarks for 13 years.]

Paul Gosar (AZ): Claimed that the Charlottesville (VA) rally where marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” was “created by the left” and funded by Soros, repeating Gohmert’s lie about Soros.

DDT has used Jewish stereotypes since he began his presidential campaign. Most recently he labeled Adam Schiff, the Jewish Democrat from California who leads the House Intelligence Committee, “shifty”—a stereotypical remark for “crafty” Jewish people. DDT’s cozying up to white supremacists has also led to far more hate crimes against Jewish people than in the past. Anti-Semitic crimes rose 37 percent in 2017.

In his push to remove Ilhan from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, DDT cited a letter from organizations that he called “Jewish groups.” The coalition, also called “leading Jewish organizations” by conservative media included those who spread anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and one has ties to a longtime neo-Nazi. The anti-Muslim groups have ties to DDT’s administration and favor military intervention in the Muslim world, raising questions about why DDT wants Omar removed. One of the hate groups, ACT for America, calls State Secretary Mike Pompeo a “steadfast ally” in its publicity and presented him with its National Security Eagle Award in 2016. Frank Gaffney Jr., founder of another anti-Omar group called the Center for Security Policy, has called for U.S. war in the Middle East since 9/11 and makes Islamophobic and xenophobic comments, including those against Somalian immigrants. Omar is a Somali refugee. The group is now led by Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff to DDT’s national security adviser John Bolton.

Omar made a statement about how her being Muslim automatically leads to accusation of anti-Semitism, a useful method of shutting down debate:

“What I’m fearful of—because Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim—that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. And so to me, it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of—yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, ‘The words you used, Ilhan, are resemblance [sic] of intolerance.’ And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that.

“But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement or advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled something, and that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

If the House decides to propose any “anti” resolution about religious and ethnic bigotry should be inclusive, not an attack. In the meantime, Watson Coleman got it right: “Everybody stop tweeting.” And get back to work.

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