Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

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

May 22, 2022

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • The racist, antisemitic Replacement Theory espoused by a right-wing extremist who murdered ten people in Buffalo might as well be the Republican Party platform.
  • Each party has always had fringe members who don't represent its views on any given issue, but insurrectionism, racism, and antisemitism are mainstream Republican positions--don't take it from me or the pundits; listen to what Republican leaders say.
  • Those guards at our synagogues are not there to protect us from BDS-supporting editors of the Harvard Crimson or from people who enjoy eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
  • Those of us who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship should reject AIPAC's support for 109 insurrectionists, which is contrary to the basic values shared by both countries.
  • The Democratic Party continues to reject antisemitism in all forms and remains firmly pro-Israel. The votes prove it. The Nakba resolution, which will go nowhere, proves it.
  • According to Israeli security experts, reentering the JCPOA, even at the nominal cost of lifting the terrorist designation on the IRGC (the sanctions will remain), is in the best interests of the U.S. and Israel, which is why Congress will not block it.
  • Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff.

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What will it take for the American people to start treating the Republican Party–and by extension, those who support Republican candidates–as clear and present dangers to our lives and our democracy? Republicans succeeded in packing the Supreme Court with political hacks intent on overturning Roe v Wade and paving the way for a national abortion ban. So much for privacy, freedom of religion, and healthcare. 

We have mass shootings in the country nearly every day, but Republicans fight gun control tooth and nail. Banning abortions is cool with them, but banning or even restricting gun ownership? Taking meaningful action to oppose antisemitism? That’s where they draw the line. 

The #3 Republican in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY)–hardly a fringe member of the GOP–supports Replacement Theory, the same racist, antisemitic conspiracy theory that the shooter who killed ten Black Americans in Buffalo believed in. Former South Park writer Toby Morton created a version of Stefanik's website that is more accurate than hers.

The #2 House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), blamed “radical, Soros-backed elements of the Democratic Party” for violence against Republicans in 2018 and previously described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”

The #1 House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), is an insurrectionist who tweeted the day before the horrific Tree of Life synagogue massacre that three Jews, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and of course George Soros, were trying to buy the 2018 election. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to directly condemn Replacement Theory when recently asked to do so. Adam Serwer explains how this racist theory has entered the Republican mainstream.

Donald Trump, the leader of the Republican Party–it doesn’t get more mainstream than that–referred to the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville with tiki torches chanting “Jews will not replace us” as “very fine people.” Trump was not only nominated by the GOP for president in 2016, but he was renominated in 2020, the GOP refused every time to impeach or convict him, and he leads the polls for the 2024 nomination. 

The GOP is not the party of Trump. Trump is a creature of the GOP. Dan Pfieffer explains that "the Republican Party was headed in this direction long before Trump showed up...Trump didn’t turn the Republicans into a party of ethno-nationalist, conspiracy theory-believing authoritarians. He just figured out the Republicans were a party of ethno-nationalist, conspiracy theory-believing authoritarians before anyone else."

This has been obvious to anyone who's paid attention since at least 2012, when political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote that the Republican Party "is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

Those guards at our synagogues are not there to protect us from BDS-supporting editors of the Harvard Crimson or from people who enjoy eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They are there to protect us from the shooter in Buffalo and other violent right-wing extremists that the GOP is emboldening. Yet some of our communal institutions play the “both sides” false equivalency game, driven by an almost pathological need to be seen as “nonpartisan.” But pretending both sides pose the same threat level is the worst exercise of partisanship.

The First Amendment limits our ability to restrict speech, even the hateful speech that inspires right-wing violence. The classic answer to bad speech is good speech. Unfortunately, an entire political party refuses to accept, as the New York Times wrote, that "the health of American democracy also requires the constructive use of free speech, especially by the nation’s political leaders. There are always demagogues whose stock in trade is the demonization of immigrants and other minority groups, and American society has long allowed those on the fringes to air their views. The question in any era is whether such views are voiced, or echoed, by those in positions of responsibility."

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WI) answered the question: "the House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."

On Thursday, JDCA called out the hypocrisy of the Republicans who joined Democrats in voting for a resolution condemning antisemitism introduced by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Brad Schneider (D-IL). As if to prove JDCA's point, only one Republican voted with every Democrat in passing Rep. Schneider's Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.

In Tuesday's primaries, Republicans voted out Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), but despite Cawthorn's history of unacceptable behavior, it was not until he suggested that his colleagues participated in hosting orgies and using cocaine that the GOP turned on him. As long as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, and their ilk avoid that bright red line, Republican leadership will do nothing to remove them from office.

Case in point: The same night Cawthorn lost, Pennsylvania Republicans "nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again." Greg Sargent explains the "role of Christian nationalism in fueling the growing insurrectionist streak on the right."

AIPAC is undermining the values that underlie the U.S.-Israel relationship by supporting insurrectionists. Apparently, AIPAC's single issue includes neither opposition to Christian nationalism nor support for democracy. The 109 insurrectionists that AIPAC supports include not only Stefanik, Scalise, and McCarthy, but four of the five members of Congress subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee last week (including McCarthy). The question is not whether you should support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. You should. The question is whether you should support AIPAC, and the answer to that question depends on whether you think supporting insurrectionists is consistent with your values.

We don't need insurrectionists to get a majority in Congress that supports Israel. The Democratic Party overwhelmingly supports Israel. The votes in Congress prove it. Democrats fast-tracked $1 billion in emergency funding for Iron Dome by calling a special, stand-alone vote on September 23. The bill would have passed even had every insurrectionist voted against it.

Roughly 96% of all Democrats, 90% of the 95-member Progressive Caucus, and 90% of the Black Caucus voted for the emergency Iron Dome package. It languished in the Senate for six months because Republican Rand Paul blocked it and the same GOP leadership that rammed through three hack Supreme Court justices suddenly lost its cunning--or didn't care.

A strong majority in Congress supports both Israel and democracy. Let's strengthen that majority instead of supporting those who tried to tear down our democracy.

At a time when the right to abortion and the fate of our democracy is at risk and when right-wing conspiracy theorists are murdering people, focusing on defeating Democrats in the name of protecting Israel is insanity.

The recently introduced Nakba resolution, which garnered six Democratic cosponsors from more than 200 Democrats, is a good example. The resolution won't even make it out of committee, much less be called for a vote. This is not proof that anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic Party is growing. It's proof that members unfairly critical of Israel have no influence within the Democratic Party on Israel. Any member or group of members can introduce a resolution on anything. This resolution is going nowhere fast. Why? Because Democrats overwhelmingly oppose it.

The only "Squad" we need to worry about comprises Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Elise Stefanik. Or Lauren Boebert, Majorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, and Paul Gosar. Or any insurrectionists of your choice--you have 147, not four, to choose from. If we allow Republicans to distract us from the threat they pose to our health, democracy, and lives by obsessing over a handful of Democrats far out of the mainstream on Israel, we will allow ourselves to fall for the oldest political trick in the book: "Nothing to see here--look over there."

The problem is the Republican Party, and we cannot, we dare not, look away.

ICYMI. IRGC terror designation should not prevent Iran nuclear deal. Two Israeli security experts explain that through a simple process of elimination, it is clear that a restoration of the nuclear deal is the best option for both the U.S. and Israel.

Tweets of the Week. Andy Ostroy and John Sabine.

Video Clip of the Week. Pearl Jam's drummer had Covid, so they invited a local high school kid to play drums. (If you don't like the music, at least watch the beginning and the end.)

Upcoming Events. Time is running out. In just a few hours (depending on when you open this), please attend Rep. Brad Schneider's biennial Women for Brad Event, this Sunday, this morning, May 22, at 10:30 am at the Hilton in Northbrook. Timna and I have co-hosted this event since its inception. Congresswoman Shontel Brown (OH-11) and Congresswoman Kathy Manning (NC-6) will be our featured special guests, along with Nikki Budzinski, candidate for IL-13. RSVP here.

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