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By Tony Morrison
Our US Correspondent
23rd August 2019
It’s summer break for Congress which means the Congress folk have been busy making plans for their vacations in exotic foreign lands, all on the taxpayer dime. This week the media is all over this annual rite.
The story, however, is not about the excessive waste of taxpayer funds on swanky congressional pretend work junkets, as time has long rendered this horror merely part of the Congressional benefits package. Surprisingly, the media is only focused on two individuals who have been denied their boondoggle by a cheeky ally, and they’re a-gonna raise a fuss, they’re a-gonna raise a holler. But the story is about so much more than the sad plight of two women tearfully unpacking their suitcases.
The story began several weeks back as the Congress folks organized their summer holidays. 71 of them (41 Democrats, 30 Republicans), or 17% of Congress folks, organized a traditional trip to Israel with the help of a US NGO, AIEF. It was one focused on celebrating the deep-rooted alliance between Israel and the US. Meanwhile, two members, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, of the four-strong group of congresswomen, “The Squad” (it’s always gangs of four with the lefties, isn’t it?), saw the trip as a little too Jewish for their taste and organized a very different one.
The Squad-Lite are Muslims of the stripe who have a serious hatred for Israel, and whose hatred has often made them stray into flat-out anti-Semitic views. It was only last year Omar was forced to retract some of her more awful utterances such as Jews controlling the world with money.
Tlaib is even more vitriolic about Israel, wearing her Palestinian heritage (her parents are West Bank immigrants) proudly.
They are big proponents of the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement that seeks the economic destruction of Israel. So much so that they jointly sponsored a pro-boycott resolution last month in Congress (it failed miserably). Their particular trip was organized by a very dodgy Palestinian NGO, Miftah, who have a history of supporting Palestinian suicide bombers and terrorists, and publishing virulently anti-Semitic articles. The itinerary of the trip was focused on the West Bank and pro-Palestinian state groups. In fact, the published itinerary had the destination listed as “Palestine,” as opposed to Israel, to ensure the trolling was turned up to eleven.
So far, so good. Off went the 71 the first week of August, and the Squad-Lite tour was to follow a little later beginning August 18th. Except there was one little problem. The Knesset had passed a law in 2017 prohibiting entry to Israel for all those seeking to destroy the state with economic boycotts. Israel’s Interior Minister, Ayre Deri, signalled on August 14th that Israel would use the law against the two. Trump began tweeting about how terrible the Squad-Lite visit was on August 15th, and the denial was then announced. And, lo, there was much lamentation throughout the land of the American-ites, as like the revered Islamic prophet Musa (or Moses) before them, Tlaib and Omar could not enter the Promised Land!
Squad-Lite went medieval on everybody’s ass – Trump, Netanyahu, Israel, etc., – on all platforms they could find. The ladies vociferously claimed the injustice of a Muslim ban in reverse (a reference to the recent US entry ban on folks from six predominantly Muslim countries which cannot guarantee identities of their people). It is hard to keep track of bans in that part of the world as they are as plentiful as leaves in Vallombrosa.
Coincidentally, the West Bank Palestinians were also banning up a storm last weekend and announced this at the same time Israel was banning the two warriors. Only the West Bankers don’t do anything by halves. Their ban was aimed at approximately 150 million people in the world as it was a ban on all LGBTQ activity. In hindsight, it was also lucky that the two never got to Israel, as then they would have encountered a real Muslim ban. If your passport is stamped as entering Israel then you are not allowed to enter ten predominantly Muslim countries, e.g., Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen.
The real motive of the Squad-Lite activities was soon revealed. On the very day the two were moaning about Israel having the effrontery to ban them just because they wanted to destroy it, Tlaib wrote a letter to Dyere asking for a humanitarian visit to the West Bank to see her much-loved grandmother, Mufta, and promised to not engage in any BDS activities while there.
Now grandma love seems to have been followed more in the breach than the observance, as Tlaib has not seen Mufta for thirteen years, but much to her surprise Dyere responded the next day with a humanitarian visa. Of course, she had to turn this down as all she wanted was to brandish the refusal from Israel on TV and whine about how cruel it was she could not see her beloved grandmother.
So it became clear that both the initial visit and the grandma stuff were entirely planned as a publicity stunt from beginning to end, and designed to show Israel in the worst possible light. And they scored extra bonus points for getting Trump involved (bit hard to keep him out of course) because he makes such a better villain for them than Netanyahu.
Although the stunt was at this point crystal clear to the American and Israeli peoples, it was not that clear to most Democrat and some Republican politicians, and much of the media, who proceeded to go to town on the outrage.
First crack out of the box was this had happened to the US once before with Congressman Henry Waxman, who in 1975 was denied entry by Saudi Arabia because he was Jewish. But this was dropped quickly as even the media realized that not letting someone in your country for racial reasons is disgraceful, and not letting someone in because they hate your country is reasonable.
Second up to bat was the infamy of duly elected representatives of the US being denied entry to another country, and an ally to boot. This dog also did not hunt as Israel had used the ban earlier against shady EU and French Israel-hating politicians without any fuss, and there was no drama, even from the French who have made querulousness an art form. And folks with a memory stretching back a few years pointed out the US also has a history of refusing entry to a legislator of another country. And by a strange coincidence, that country was Israel. And this was for exactly the same reasons as Tlaib and Omar were denied. The Knesset member in question was Michael Ben-Ari back in 2012. He was prohibited by the US in attending a conference in Washington DC because he was considered a potential threat as a member of the Kach party that both Israel and the US have deemed a terrorist organization.
However, despite the fact that Tlaib and Omar were engaged in an obvious trolling of Israel, and the fact that there is nothing wrong in countries restricting entry to enemies, the story still had serious legs and dominated the headlines for a few days. This had nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of the situation but had everything to do with Trump’s enmity against the Squad-Lite. When you are driven by the simple logic of viewing everything through the prism of Trump this is what happens. Trump did not want them to go and, as Trump orange man bad, ergo Squad-Lite are not nasty little anti-Semites, but heroines. Much of the media formed this narrative and ran with it despite many decrying articles and media visual segments from mostly conservative news outlets (National Review, NY Post, Fox News, etc.).
The House Dems all jumped on this new anti-Trump train just as it left the station. They are now looking at launching an investigation against the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. And they want to punish Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, as well. Originally, they thought about a vote of no confidence from the House, but they have now progressed to discussing a much worse fate – Dermer will never be allowed to meet with any Democrat Congressperson ever again! They have not yet realized that this is more of a reward.
Unfortunately, this is more than just a silly story magnified by Trump’s involvement, as it hints at what is to come in the future. Israel has always been one of the US’ strongest allies. The US provides military support while the Israelis provide unmatched intelligence on the Middle East. The two find it easy to deal with each as, like the US, Israel is a liberal democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and very unlike the other failed states and autocracies in an important geopolitical region. And Americans have always been sympathetic to the Israelis partly as a consequence of the actions in WWII and partly in admiration of what they have achieved.
Until very recently the Dems and Reps were in lockstep on this issue. However, these days the Dems are increasingly taking up the Palestinian cause, as well as also beginning to back harmful strategies to Israel such as BDS. There are two main reasons for this – the viewing of Palestinians as put-upon victims and the growing influence in the western world’s Muslim populations of fundamentalist strains of Islam, such as Wahhabism and Salafism, that sees no future for the Jews beyond extermination. And the spectre of anti-Semitism, either hidden or covert, is always lurking behind these policies.
We are a long way away from what has happened in some European countries. There is a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US – in fact 58% of all racially motivated hate crimes are against Jews – but we have nothing like the situation in Paris where Jewish children have to be taken to schools by armed police. And although the Dems are beginning to flirt with the anti-Semitic notions of some of its congressional representatives they are a ways away from the situation of the Labour Party in the UK. Their leader, Corbyn, is down with the struggle of the Palestinians as he has never yet met a terrorist he didn’t like, while the rest of the party seems happy with pandering for votes in a constituency of 3.1 million Muslims.
However, the worry is if the US will also begin to go down that road, and the recent event is accelerating that. The Dems are all-in on Trump bad, and it does not really matter what Trump is in favor of, they are against it. So with Israel, activities like BDS and in some dark cases, anti-Semitism
It will be a while before Muslim immigration of the fundamentalist variety will tempt the Dems in this direction as there are only 3 million Muslims in total in the US. But the intersectional grievances will, and that is where the danger lies.
To win the next Presidential election the Dems are staking their claim on all groups potentially opposed to Trump, or Republicans in general, be they African-Americans, Hispanics, women, Muslims, American Indians, Indian-Americans, etc., etc. The nature of grievances politics is you have to have enemies that have caused the grievances, and these are now not just Trump and white men (non-Semitic branch). They will have to add Jews to the list if they continue down this road.
This is exactly why Tlaib and Omar are acting out their nonsense, and judging by the reaction from many Dem politicians and much of the media they are unfortunately succeeding.