Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

Calling balls and strikes for the pro-Israel community since 2006

June 26, 2022

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • The Supreme Court is doing what Trump promised it would do: striking down gun laws and overruling Roe v. Wade.
  • The conservative 8th Circuit became the first court to uphold a patently unconstitutional state anti-BDS law.
  • Anti-BDS laws are unnecessary, ineffective, and counterproductive.
  • The Republican path to victory depends on appeals to bigotry, vote suppression, and upending our democracy. We now know how close they came to succeeding in overturning the lawful 2020 election and that the conspiracy was directed by the GOP leader, Donald Trump.
  • Democracy is the issue upon which all other issues rest, which is why it is so short-sighted and foolish for AIPAC and like-minded self-proclaimed pro-Israel groups to support insurrectionists.
  • Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff.

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In the final presidential debate of 2016, Donald Trump "said his court would prioritize the right to bear arms and said he would appoint judges who would reverse Roe v. Wade, the decision that protects a woman’s right to abortion." For once, Trump told the truth. Last week, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to misinterpret the Second Amendment and strike down a New York gun control law.

(Congress passed an important but modest first step toward gun control last week. Zero Democrats voted against it but only 30% of Senate Republicans and less than 10% of House Republicans voted for it. The gun reform we need won't happen unless we abolish the filibuster. This bill lacked so much, including a ban on assault weapons, because the few Senate Republicans who backed it would have pulled their support if it went further.)

On Friday, the Supreme Court ignored 50 years of precedent, holding that "the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion," overruling Roe and Casey, and giving the states full authority to regulate and ban abortion. Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion stating that the Court should reconsider Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell — the rulings that protect contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

Elections matter. The Constitution says whatever the Supreme Court says it says. This Supreme Court is packed with Republican hacks who, as the dissent noted, overruled Roe and Casey "for one and only reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law."

Nothing relevant to the law changed in the 50 years since Roe and the 30 years since Casey except the composition of the Court. Sounds a bit like the judicial activism Republicans claim to dislike, doesn't it? President Biden is right: “The court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized.”

This is happening because not enough Americans voted for Hillary Clinton and because too many journalists thought that the appearance of even-handedness was more important than reporting the facts. If last week's January 6 hearings and these Supreme Court decisions don't motivate decent Americans to vote, I don't know what will.

We need to elect enough real Democrats to abolish the filibuster, which would allow us to codify Roe v Wade and pass H.R. 2584, which would increase from nine to 13 the number of justices on the Supreme Court and restore the Court's legitimacy.

Judicial malfeasance is not limited to the Supreme Court. Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, among the most right-wing courts of appeal in the country, ruled that an Arkansas state anti-BDS law was constitutional. This is the first state anti-BDS law that has survived judicial scrutiny--other state anti-BDS laws challenged in court have been struck down. Law professor David Schraub provides a good analysis; the upshot is that the Eight Circuit thinks that boycotts are not expressive conduct and therefore do not merit First Amendment protection.

Truah, which does not boycott Israel, points out that "a company that refuses to do business with Jews or with Israeli nationals in the US would certainly be guilty of discrimination based on religion or national origin. Countries, by contrast, are not protected under anti-discrimination laws."

Can anyone seriously believe that boycotts are not speech? Truah has called for "clothing manufacturers to boycott cotton from China, where it is produced through slave labor by Uyghurs." Isn't it obvious that a law restricting the right to engage in a boycott of China would be an unconstitutional restriction of speech? We might not like boycotts of Israel--I don't, and I don't think you do either, my friend--but the way to fight them is to argue against them on the merits, not to use the power of the government to shut them down. One day, we could be the targets of government restrictions on speech. This amicus brief explains in detail why the Arkansas law is unconstitutional. The next stop is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regardless of whether state anti-BDS laws are constitutional, they are bad policy because they are ineffective, unnecessary, and counterproductive. Anshel Pfeffer explained in 2020 that "the Israel boycott movement is a dismal failure, but the hard-right in the U.S. and Israel is determined to keep it alive" because fear of BDS suits their political objectives.

Pfeffer called the BDS movement "the most failed, overhyped and exaggerated campaign in the first two decades of the 21st century." Israel's status as "the start-up nation" and economic relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors evidenced by the Abraham Accords is proof of BDS's failure. Not only has "BDS failed on every front, with the minor exception of bullying a handful of singers and academics not to take part in concerts or conferences in Israel, but the 15 years of the BDS campaign had seen an unprecedented surge in Israeli trade and broadening of its foreign relations. If anything had gone global during the decade and a half since BDS was launched, it has been Israel."

Remember the story about the boy who keeps clicking his fingers? His teacher asks him why he won't stop, and he replies that clicking his fingers keeps the tigers away. "There are no tigers around here," his teacher says. "See?" says the boy, "it works!"

Our right-wing friends who use irrational fears of BDS to wage fundraising campaigns need to stop clicking their fingers--the only beneficiary of their efforts is the BDS Movement, which gets tons of free publicity and uses these controversies to pit the pro-Israel community against the free speech community.

Some state anti-BDS laws conflate Israel and the West Bank even though the West Bank is not part of Israel (which means boycotting the West Bank is not boycotting Israel). But the last time I checked, settlers in the West Bank somehow survived the inconvenience of having to drive ten minutes into Israel to buy Chunky Monkey, and despite the headlines about a few states taking action against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry's, all of these wonderful state anti-BDS laws have not changed Ben & Jerry's decision--but they have given plenty of panderers a chance to prance and preen about how much they love Israel without actually doing a damn thing for Israel or to help solve the two biggest problems Israel faces: lack of progress toward a two-state solution and lack of progress toward reentry into the JCPOA.

Let's cut the Republicans some slack. What would you do in their shoes? Republican policies benefit the wealthiest 1% of the country. You don't have to believe in science or math to see that if it really is "the economy, stupid," then Republicans would lose every election 99-1 if Americans voted their pocketbooks.

Instead of solving that problem by embracing economic policies that help all Americans, Republicans appeal to racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and antisemitism. They know that LBJ was right: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Unfortunately for our Republican friends, a narrow majority of Americans are better than that. That's why Republicans actively suppress votes wherever they can get away with it and why, as we continue to learn, they attempted to overturn the 2020 presidential election with the active participation of their leader, Donald Trump. Democracy is not a friend of Republicans, and instead of changing their policies to win votes, they are fighting democracy so that they don't have to change their policies.

This is all about politics. A world where judges were impartial arbiters of justice and where both parties adhered to basic norms of decency and democracy is not the world we live in. The problem with democracy is that it contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. If Republicans win in 2022 and 2024, we could lose our democracy forever, and with it the right to advocate for what we believe, including a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. That's why it is so incredibly short-sighted and foolish for AIPAC and the pro-Israel PACs that ape AIPAC's philosophy to support insurrectionists.

AIPAC, which once stood for the values most of the pro-Israel community shared, is supporting 109 of the 147 insurrectionists. As JDCA CEO Halie Soifer wrote in March, these "endorsements are profoundly troubling because they suggest that, at times, one must compromise support of America’s democracy to support Israel. This is a patently false dichotomy rejected by the overwhelming majority of American Jews."

If you support AIPAC, whether you intend it or not, you are supporting the reelection of insurrectionists. The flaw in AIPAC's "single issue" argument is that democracy is not just another issue--it is the fundamental issue on which our ability to advocate for all other issues rests.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL).

Video Clips of the Week. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and for fun, Happy 80th birthday Brian Wilson.

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