While establishment Democrats remain nominally pro-Israel, the beating progressive heart of the congressional delegation views Israel as the problem, and they’ve added members.
Listen to this article
As regular readers doubtlessly know, the 2018 midterm elections presented Americans with a new phenomenon in the form of the congressional “Squad“: several avowedly anti-Israel (and often Islamist-allied) first-term U.S. Representatives. Now, as the smoke from #Election2020 begins to dissipate, it seems that (spoiler alert) The Squad’s congressional anti-Zionist cabal is about to get a little bigger.
Introduction: “The Squad”
Despite the unique disdain they’ve often shown for Israel—America’s best ally in a volatile region of the world—Ilhan Omar (MN-04), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), (three “Justice Democrats” who, with Ayana Pressley (MA-07), make up The Squad) were each re-elected on November 3rd 2020. We’ve covered their anti-Israel (and often anti-Jewish) shenanigans in-depth, including when:
- Ilhan Omar insinuated that Jews and AIPAC use money to push Congress towards Israel; suggested that her critics are “weaponizing” charges of anti-Semitism to silence her; spoke at an event for the Council on American-Islamic Relations during which she minimized Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 terrorist attacks; actively campaigned against a House bill condemning BDS; sponsored a pro-BDS House resolution; endorsed Linda Sarsour only hours after joining the congressional Black-Jewish caucus; and gave an interview to Al Jazeera and Mehdi Hasan in which she dismissed Islamist terrorism as less concerning than “white men”.
- Rashida Tlaib participated in the 2020 annual “Palestine Advocacy Days” with American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), during which AMP volunteers lobby their reps to help erode Israel’s relationship with the United States; delivered a keynote speech at the AMP annual conference (from whence I was booted for having previously written about the group’s links to Hamas) in which she echoed longstanding efforts by anti-Zionists to stoke racial tension against Israel by falsely accusing it causing police shootings of Blacks; blamed “white supremacy” for Black Hebrew Israelite zealots’ murders of Jews; called for a boycott of Bill Maher’s show after he criticized BDS; planned to visit Israel on a tour with Miftah—a group that has “trafficked in anti-Jewish blood libels“; later backed out of the trip when the Israeli government mandated she not advocate BDS while inside Israel; falsely claimed that Palestinians gave Jews a “safe haven” after the Holocaust; used the old “dual loyalty” canard against Israel supporters; and wrote for a Nation of Islam publication.
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked Israel despite her admitted ignorance on the subject; met with members of extremist fringe Neturei Karta, but avoided meeting with progressive Zionists; pulled out of a Yitzhak Rabin memorial event after radical Islamists complained; co-opted the Holocaust to emphasize her perspectives regarding the US-Mexico border; forged a political alliance with terrorist fan-boy Jeremy Corbyn; and spoke at the 2019 Women’s March amidst allegations that some of the group’s leaders were anti-Semitic.
(Ayana Pressley is arguably not in the same anti-Israel league as her fellow Squad members. While she is a “Justice Democrat, and has erroneously warned that Israel’s annexation of the West Bank would create “apartheid-like conditions“, she also voted to condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and she fostered positive relationships with a few mainstream Jewish organizations in her district.)
The above list is staggering on its own. But there are still other members of the upcoming 117th Congress whose anti-Israel machinations are less widely known—including incumbents and Freshmen. The latter group (all 50+ of whom are listed here) might be the most important to watch, since some of them appear ready to match The Squad’s bombastic anti-Zionism shot for shot.
I looked into every single confirmed Freshman member (and our previous material on dozens of incumbents) of the January 2021 U.S. House of Representatives. Following are highlights from some (not all!) of the most egregious Israel-haters of the whole 117th bunch.
Cori Bush (MO-01)
One of the newest Justice Democrats-elect, Cori Bush also ran against Democratic long-time incumbent Representative William Lacy Clay in the 2018 primaries, but failed to unseat him. This time, she succeeded.
Mike Brown was murdered 2,278 days ago. We took to the streets for more than 400 days in protest. Today, we take this fight for Black Lives from the streets of Ferguson to the halls of Congress. We will get justice.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) November 4, 2020
She is also unmistakably the most extreme of a small group of incoming House reps who are likely to make trouble for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Indeed, she is so anti-Israel that incumbent candidate William Lacy Clay incorporated criticism of her anti-Zionism in his campaign before the August 2020 primary election.
scoop, possibly: here’s where Rep. Lacy Clay has decided to take the campaign in its final days facing a challenge from progressive activist Cori Bush pic.twitter.com/vHXLbosLhw
— Todger Strunk (@NickTagliaferro) August 1, 2020
When Clay’s efforts failed and Bush emerged victorious, the anti-Israel publication Middle East Monitor rejoiced:
“Cori Bush has always been sympathetic to the BDS movement, and she stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, just as they have stood in solidarity with Black Americans fighting for their own lives,” said a statement released by her team.
A local Palestinian solidarity group also released a statement to highlight her strong anti-Israel position. “Cori Bush has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights and harsh critic of Israel. She spoke at our rally on July 3 to oppose Israel’s move to annex the West Bank and she shares our principles of anti-imperialism abroad and anti-racism at home,” a statement by St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee read.
The Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) is part of the pro-BDS NGO network; various PSC chapters regularly harass and attempt to ‘cancel’ campus speakers who don’t toe their anti-Israel line, lie and dissemble about their goals in order to elicit others’ support, advocate a discriminatory double standard for Israel, and encourage terrorism against Israelis.
Given Bush’s apparent willingness to associate with the PSC, it makes sense that she has also befriended fellow anti-Israel politicians and pundits. For example, in August , she defended Linda Sarsour as a “fierce advocate…for the Jewish community”.
View this post on Instagram
It was great to have this moment together @sxsw with my lovely sisters @amy4thepeople and @AOC! But it wasn’t the same without @paulajean2020, we missed you! #KnockDownTheHouse pic.twitter.com/3AWt2N7Zb9
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) March 11, 2019
Linda Sarsour and I took this photo at a rally to liberate children detained at the US border. She is a fierce advocate for justice for all of humanity – including the Jewish community.
My Democratic opponent used this photo in an attack ad against me to stoke xenophobia. pic.twitter.com/Mc4XJY0GSI
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) August 20, 2020
If all that wasn’t clear enough, Jewish Insider reported in August that,
…In a now-deleted page on her campaign website, Bush expounded upon her foreign policy views.
On the page, she expressed support for BDS, which she said had been “mischaracterize[d] and demonize[d] by its opponents.”
The page goes on to express support for the Iran nuclear deal and calls to “end the war on sanctions.” Bush also said she “oppose[s] our imperialist foreign policy and the runaway influence of the military-industrial complex.”
…In her latest congressional bid, Bush picked up endorsements from [Bernie] Sanders, on whose presidential campaign she worked, as well as Jamaal Bowman, who won his primary against longtime Rep. Eliot Engel in New York. Bush has also been endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Sunrise Movement. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who supported Bush in 2018, has not endorsed her this time around.
Jamaal Bowman (NY-16)
While Representative-elect and Justice Democrat Jamaal Bowman’s anti-Israelism is less extreme than Cori Bush’s (he says he does not support BDS), his anti-Israel leanings are nevertheless notable here because they evidently didn’t hinder his defeat of long-serving Democrat and pro-Israel stalwart Eliot Engel—who also served as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee—in New York’s June 2020 Democratic primaries.
Traditionally anti-Israel media have rejoiced at Bowman’s victory; in a June column, The Intercept called it “an incontrovertible defeat for the Israel lobby”. Its Walt-and-Mearshimer-inspired language notwithstanding, The Intercept correctly highlighted Bowman’s J-Street-esque “criticism” of “occupation” and “annexation”.
Bowman’s paternalistic finger-wagging over Israel’s efforts to defend itself from terrorism will hardly be a unique phenomenon in the 117th Congress (for example, Representative-elect Sara Jacobs of CA-53 and Representative Jesús “Chuy” Garcia of IL-04 show similar stances). Nor will his other J-Street-approved rhetoric (for example, see Ro Khanna of CA-17). Yet Bowman’s endorsement by deeply committed BDS advocates suggests he may turn out to be as dangerous to the U.S.-Israel relationship as Representative-elect Bush.
Indeed, The Intercept noted that
Another leftist Engel challenger, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, did unequivocally support BDS, and did not limit his criticism to Netanyahu; instead he saw Netanyahu as the latest in a long line of Israeli leaders who pursued land grabs and territorial expansion. Ghebreghiorgis’s campaign did not take off in the same way Bowman’s did, and he endorsed Bowman in early June, helping consolidate the progressive vote.
In June, local rabbi Avi Weiss penned an open letter to Bowman detailing some concerns over his Israel-related policy positions.
Bowman’s response to that letter, published in The Riverdale Press, was cordial and declared his personal opposition to BDS. But it also echoed the bizarre and incongruous comparison between the plights of American Blacks and Palestinian Arabs that is so popular with naked anti-Semites—from (the inaptly named) Jewish Voice for Peace to the Nation of Islam to the Ayatollah Khaminei.
The uprising we’re witnessing across the country against police violence also makes me empathize with the everyday experience and fear that comes with living under occupation. Just as the police force is a violent intimidating force in so many black communities, I can connect to what it feels like for Palestinians to feel the presence of the military in their daily lives in the West Bank.
Moreover, Bowman acknowledged “the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States”, but attributed it fully to “a rise in ethnonationalist authoritarianism” and “fringe right-wing extremists”. His glib assessment ignores numerous recent expressions of Jew-hate by Marxist fan-boys and “Democratic Socialists” (some of which we have documented here, here, here, and here)—even though leftist anti-Semitism is arguably far more dangerous precisely because self-identified “progressives” like Bowman so readily ignore it for the sake of ‘social justice’.
Marie Newman (IL-03)
Justice Democrat Marie Newman is a lesser-known quantity than either Bush or Bowman, but her views are just about as extreme. In March, The Times of Israel reported that,
Newman, whose husband is Jewish, used to back the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, but then she reversed that position…Pro-Israel America, a non-partisan group that seeks to help congressional candidates supportive of Israel, endorsed [incumbent and her opponent in the primary] Lipinski.
…“She used to support the BDS movement, but no longer does even though she continues to oppose legislation that would outlaw this anti-Israel movement,” the group said. “Newman also believes that a Palestinian right of return must be part of a two-state solution, which would, ultimately, undermine the existence of a Jewish state in Israel.”
Pro-Israel America’s description is indeed accurate. In an October 2019 piece, The Chicago Sun Times quoted Newman and another of her earlier Democratic primary challengers, Rush Darwish:
Though Newman claimed to have reversed her pro-BDS position and endorse a “two-state solution”, her contradictory support of the Palestinian “right of return” casts doubt on any of her subsequent policy recommendations that could be considered even remotely pro-Israel. As renowned anti-Semitism scholar, Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, recently wrote:
On her website, Newman has a detailed statement regarding her stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A rapid look at its 12 points shows that she has many demands of Israel but only one of the Palestinians…Newman shows herself to be an extreme whitewasher of Palestinian Arab crimes by not mentioning them on her website…[and] perversely proposes American evenhandedness between a democratic U.S ally and a corrupt entity. Newman doesn’t mention that the national aspirations of the Palestinians include the disappearance of Israel.
You can read the entire statement—what Newman calls her “Israel-Palestine” platform—below.
While Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were the first House Representatives to endorse and praise BDS as vociferously as any member of American Muslims for Palestine, the two were joined in the 116th Congress by a cadre of other Reps who have long pursued just as anti-Israel an agenda.
Several of them entered Congress in 2018 alongside The Squad—and, like The Squad, have just been re-elected. They include:
- Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), who accused Israel of “paving a path toward an apartheid system”; defended both Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib during controversies over their anti-Semitic statements; and spoke out and voted against a law that would require the Department of Defense to study Islamism and Islamist terrorism.
- Antonio Delgado (NY-19), who falsely claimed that Israel is “not a democracy” and then excused this assertion by citing his wife’s Jewishness.
Dem Candidate: ‘Israel Is Not a Jewish Democracy’ https://t.co/VMvxXVEgJs
— Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) October 24, 2018
- Deb Haaland (NM-01), who reportedly characterized a 2018 Israeli army defensive operation as having “murdered” innocent Palestinians; and refused to condemn Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments (although later partially walked back her refusal).
Meanwhile, longstanding members of the congressional anti-Israel caucus include:
- Rep Betty McCollum, who has repeatedly worked with radically anti-Zionist and often anti-Semitic organizations such as American Muslims for Palestine and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights; erroneously refers to Israel as an “Apartheid state”; and has spearheaded numerous House bills designed to whitewash Palestinian terrorism using the language of human rights.
- Rep Mark Pocan (WI-02), who has met with Issa Amro—an anti-Israel activist who claims Israelis drink Gazan children’s blood; condemned Israel’s legal deportation of anti-Semite and BDS activist Omar Shakir; helped host an event (and introduced the speaker) featuring a “Palestinian activist” who has claimed that Palestinian terrorists’ weapons are “planted”; and anonymously sponsored an event on Capitol Hill organized by pro-BDS NGOs (his sponsorship was revealed by the press).
— Issa Amro عيسى عمرو 🇵🇸 (@Issaamro) September 27, 2017
- André Carson (IN-07), who reportedly met several times with infamous Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan; refused to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism when asked and instead changed the subject to an attack on Israel; joined reps Judy Chu (CA-27), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Donald Payne (NJ-10), Betty McCollum, and Rashida Tlaib in speaking for AMP in September at their annual “Palestine Advocacy Day”;
Though they still number relatively few, the members of the informal anti-Israel congressional caucus are clearly gaining ground. A new generation of Democrat lawmakers—hostile to our best ally in a complex region (not to mention, a secure Jewish state in the ancestral Jewish homeland)—is upon us. What that will mean for the U.S.’s strategic interests, for Israel’s defensive capabilities, and for Jews everywhere is anyone’s guess.
Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.