Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

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

October 24, 2021

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • Republicans pretended to be incensed about a two-day delay for Iron Dome funding in the House but have nothing to say about a month-long (and counting) Republican-induced delay in the Senate. Weird how unimportant Iron Dome has become for them.
  • Progressives condemned Sunrise DC, an environmental group, for issuing an antisemitic statement calling for the exclusion of "Zionist" groups from a voting rights rally. Antisemitism must be condemned from all sources and in all forms.
  • Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced legislation to fight Islamophobia.
  • No matter how many times our right-wing friends falsely claim otherwise, Ben & Jerry's is not engaging in BDS. You don't support settlement boycotts? Neither do I. But make your case on the merits, not by inaccurately accusing Ben & Jerry's of participating in BDS.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield's intelligence and integrity is a wonderful contrast to Nikki Haley's bombast and bluster.
  • Sen. Angus King (I-ME) made the case for democracy last week. We need to abolish the filibuster and unpack the Supreme Court by expanding it.
  • Read to the end to RSVP for an event with Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) with special guest David Makovsky and the usual fun stuff.

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I'm old enough to remember when Republicans were demanding immediate action to fulfill President Biden's pledge to replenish Israel's Iron Dome batteries. It was one month ago. On September 23, the House overwhelmingly approved the $1 billion stand-alone bill 420-9, with two voting present and one not voting. Eight Democrats (Rashida Tlaib, Andre Carson, Ilhan Omar, Raul Grijalva, Ayanna Pressley, Marie Newman, Cori Bush, Chuy Garcia) and one Republican (Thomas Massie) voted no. Two Democrats voted present (Hank Johnson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

Roughly 96% of all Democrats, 90% of the 95-member Progressive Caucus, and 90% of the Black Caucus voted for Iron Dome. Democrats might have problems, but overwhelming support for security assistance to Israel ain't one of them, not as a party and not among key constituencies.

A month later, the Senate has yet to act because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is blocking the bill and Republican leadership is doing nothing to help Senate Democrats expedite it. Democratic leadership can advance legislation in the House without GOP assistance, but even though all 50 Senate Democrats support the bill, Democrats cannot quickly advance it unless Republicans help them overcome the Senate's arcane procedural barriers. The GOP is not lifting a finger. The House Republicans who were incensed about a two-day delay in September have said nothing about this month-long Republican-induced delay. The organizations that accused Democratic outliers of antisemitism because Iron Dome protects Jewish lives have lost their tongues.

Do missiles not hit Israelis if they know that Iron Dome was not replenished because it was a white male Republican who blocked the funding? Or was the outrage last month never really about funding? The hypocrisy is matched by the silence. Democratic Kentucky Senate candidate Charles Booker is right: “In the midst of the ongoing conflict that has cost so many Israeli and Palestinian lives, Rand chose to pit our allies against one another when he made a dishonest, empty excuse to singularly oppose funding for Israel’s ability to defend itself and keep families safe. [Paul] opposed funding for the Iron Dome because he likes playing political games with people’s lives no matter the consequences.” Is that so hard to say?

Sunrise, sunset? The Sunrise Movement is dedicated to stopping climate change and creating millions of good-paying jobs in the process. Its DC chapter is boycotting a voting rights rally because it objects to the participation of Zionist organizations, specifically the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA). You don't need a page-long definition of antisemitism to see that this is, as the Jewish Democratic Council of America put it, "antisemitism, plain and simple."

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) responded that "for the life of me, at a time when racism, anti-Semitism and right-wing authoritarianism are on the march in the United States and all over the world, I cannot comprehend the political or moral logic of this statement from a progressive group committed to saving humanity from climate disaster."

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that "refusing to participate in civic life with Jewish groups--especially those groups who are committed to social justice here in the US, in Israel and around the world--is misguided, unproductive, offensive and wrong." Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), and Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) condemned Sunrise DC's statement. Raskin, Nadler, Levin, Torres, Meng, and Jones are members of the House Progressive Caucus, and Jones was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement in the last election. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who was also endorsed by Sunrise, said that “antisemitism in any form is appalling and must be denounced by anyone dedicated to fighting for social justice."

The national Sunrise organization initially issued a tepid statement in response to Sunrise DC that the ADL said "failed to clearly and unequivocally condemn the antisemitic call to exclude Jewish groups." JDCA CEO Halie Soifer said, "without a clear condemnation I don’t understand what the point of the statement was."

But to its credit, Sunrise listened to its Jewish and progressive allies and clarified the next day that "Sunrise DC’s statement and actions are not in line with our values. Singling out Jewish organizations for removal from a coalition, despite others holding similar views, is antisemitic and unacceptable."

David Schraub wrote that "what Sunrise DC is doing is targeting Jewish groups for especial scrutiny and exclusion as Jewish groups...This is antisemitism."

Schraub ended his analysis "on a very small hopeful note. There are many differences between the situation of Jews in Democratic Party politics compared to Jews in UK Labour. But one major one is that there are simply more of us, who have been doing this for a very long time, and are deeply embedded in the fabric of the entire liberal political apparatus at every level. Groups like the NCJW and the RAC have been building out connections and coalitions and relationships across the liberal political space since well before the Sunrise DC activists were a twinkle in anyone's eye. We have the high ground, in more ways than one. And if a few political performance artists think we'll be dislodged that easily, they are in for an awakening."

Sunrise DC is an example of antisemitism on the left (not within the Democratic Party, but on the left). The swift condemnation from so many individuals and organizations is an example of how to respond to antisemitism from any source, even one many of us never heard of--and apparently has done some good work--until last week.

Combating Global Islamophobia. If we expect others to stand up for us, we must stand up for others--and because it's the right thing to do. Last week, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Combating International Islamophobia Act to address the rise in incidents of Islamophobia worldwide.

Ben & Jerry's is not participating in BDS. This is a matter of fact, not opinion. Yet right-wing ostensibly pro-Israel groups continue to raise money, stoke fear, and boost BDS by falsely claiming that Ben & Jerry's is engaged in BDS. Ben & Jerry's will no longer sell in the West Bank, which is not part of Israel. It will continue to sell in Israel which is...Israel. Selling in Israel is the opposite of BDS. Read Ben & Jerry's statement and its accompanying FAQs for yourself and read my explainer for more information. On the plus side, we now have an easy way to determine which pro-Israel groups deserve our support: the ones that tell the truth.

A breath of fresh air at the UN. The contrast between the intelligence and integrity of Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our ambassador to the UN, and the bombast and bluster of Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the UN, is striking. Thomas-Greenfield's remarks at a recent UN Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East and her comments on rejoining the UN Human Rights Council represent a welcome return to sanity.

Time to end the filibuster and unpack the Supreme Court. Thanks to Republican abuse of the filibuster, a minority of senators representing a minority of the country can block vital legislation. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) explained last week in a must-read speech what is at stake for our democracy (skip the summary and read the actual speech).

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) and nearly 100 House Democrats sent a letter urging Senate Democrats to end the filibuster so that Congress can deliver on the promises made to the voters who gave Democrats control of the U.S. House, Senate, and Presidency. Meanwhile, more Democrats are signing on to the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13. Even if the Senate abolishes the filibuster and passes the legislation we need, a court packed with Republican hacks could still reverse progress unless this bill passes and Democrats act on it quickly.

ICYMI. Education should teach you how to think, by Rabbi Jack Moline.

Tweet of the Week. Paul Rudnick.

Twitter Thread of the Week. Oren Jacobson.

Facebook Post of the Week. You just lost yourself a customer.

Video Clip of the Week. Honest Trailer: Squid Game.

Upcoming Events. Join me and Dana Gordon on Wednesday, November 3, from 6:30 pm to 7:15 pm CT for an event with Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and special guest David Makovsky, noted Middle East/Israel analyst. As always, contributions are welcome but not required, but you must RSVP here to get the Zoom link. Brad condemned Sunrise DC, calling their action "the height of intolerance, bigotry and antisemitism."

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