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Israel, Nancy Pelosi and the Squad

Squad, Palestinian, Israel

Opinion

Israel, Nancy Pelosi and the Squad

Squad claims Israel is putting Palestinian children in cages on the West Bank, as well as asserting that supporters of the Palestinians are being censored and ignored by the media. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald

A report on the generational changing of the guard in Congress and what it means for Israel is discussed here: “Do we pay too much or too little attention to ‘The Squad?,’” by Jonathan S. Tobin, Israel Hayom, February 21, 2022:

It was, to all appearances, a great day for the US-Israel alliance. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of House Democrats on a visit to the Jewish state, where she sounded all the right notes. The most powerful woman in America knew exactly what her hosts – and many of her party’s Jewish donors – wanted to hear, and she laid it on thick.

It was also in sharp contrast to the latest broadside about Israel from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the ringleader of the congressional “Squad,” who claimed that Israel is putting Palestinian children in cages on the West Bank, as well as asserting that supporters of the Palestinians are being censored and ignored by the media.

AOC Is both deeply ignorant about, and malevolent towards, the Jewish state. Her preposterous charge that Israel is putting Palestinian children “into cages” leaves one speechless; her claim that supporters of the Palestinians are “ignored by the media” is absurd. A quick Internet search of “Palestinians” brings 999,000,000 results, more than four times the number that come up for “Israelis,” and the international media devote endless stories to the “Palestinians” – their plight, their mistreatment, their fight for freedom — more than to any other “people” in the world.

AOC gets more publicity than most rock stars, but political experts are always telling us that the press pays way too much attention to what she and her other radical “Squad” members say, especially when it comes to Israel. They argue that it is Pelosi and the other old-guard veterans of the Democratic Party who really matter, and that they are a better indicator of the enduring strength of the bipartisan pro-Israel coalition that still exists in American politics.

There are those who think that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is a media phenomenon who will eventually fade from view. But how likely is that? She has 12.8 million Twitter followers, 1.8 million friends on Facebook, and 8.5 million followers on Instagram. Even though AOC is a relative newcomer to politics, her election to a second term in the House of Representatives was reported on around the world. She has also appeared on the cover of numerous publications, including TIME Magazine and Vanity Fair.

As much as it would be nice to believe that this is true, it isn’t. At the moment, the 81-year-old Pelosi and the other octogenarian members of the House Democratic leadership, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (82), Majority Whip James Clyburn (81) as well as slightly more youthful Democrats like President Joe Biden (79) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (71), are the ones with their fingers on the levers of power. But not only are those elderly Democrats routinely bullied by their supposedly powerless younger left-wing colleagues who hate Israel, some of what the veterans who espouse pro-Israel positions say and do with regard to the Jewish state is largely meaningless.

The older generation of reliably pro-Israel Democratic congressmen are in their seventies and eighties; they are on their way out. d The younger ones, coming up, are much less sympathetic to the Jewish state and some, like the members of the Squad, are openly hostile. AOC is considered to be the leader of the “Squad”; two other members of the group are the Muslim Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom are virulently anti-Israel.

Pelosi’s trip to Israel is a classic example of something that we’re supposed to believe is of great significance but is actually of little or no value to the alliance.

Once in the Jewish state, Pelosi began with the usual pieties about the “bipartisan commitment to an unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States built on mutual security, our economic interests, and our common values and commitment to democracy.”

After that, the savvy congressional powerbroker made sure to comment on the most important security challenge facing Israel, in addition to the one that is causing the most friction between the two nations.

We are together in the fight against terrorism posed by Iran, both in the region and also its nuclear development. The nuclear threat by Iran is a global one. It is a threat to the world. Israel’s proximity to Iran is a concern to all of us and a responsibility for all of us,” she said.

These expressions of support were ecstatically welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other Israeli leaders who were happy to have photo ops with the House speaker.

Why were these routine expressions of solidarity so welcomed by Israeli leaders? It’s because they have been so ill-treated by the Bidenites that any signs of strong and continuing support from Congress is heartening. Some Israeli leaders, deeply worried about the “very bad” agreement about to be signed by the capitulationist Bidenites in Vienna, are hoping that Congress will not approve it. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, passed in 2015 with bipartisan support, requires any new agreement negotiated with Iran to be submitted to Congress for approval. What the Bidenites are planning is to claim that the new deal is “almost identical” to the old deal, and so does not require Congressional approval. It will require a battle royal to put that one over on Congress, and on the American public.

That’s [Bennett’s eagerness to please Pelosi] in line with Bennett’s strategy of trying to publicly downplay any differences with the Biden administration in order to influence them to halt the Democrats’ drive for another round of appeasement of Iran. It was a good idea in theory, though in practice it’s proved a disaster, since Biden and his foreign-policy team have ignored Israel’s concerns about their willingness to reinstate the dangerously weak nuclear deal concluded with Iran by former President Barack Obama in 2015. And without Israel sounding the alarm about an impending catastrophe, it’s harder for pro-Israel politicians to do so without sounding more Catholic than the pope.

When Bennett chose to mute public criticism of the Biden Administration for how it was handling the return to the 2015 Iran deal, he also made it more difficult for Congressional allies to voice their own concern. If Israel wasn’t objecting, why should Congressmen? In the last few weeks, as the terms of the deal are becoming better known, the Israelis have changed course and started to openly denounce this “bad, very bad deal,” and to reiterate that they will not feel bound by it. That has helped some members of Congress, such as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez (D.-N.J.), to denounce the likely deal themselves.

While it makes sense not to alienate powerful American politicians and even to cheer when they make anodyne statements about the US-Israel relationship, Pelosi’s mention of Iran gives the lie to her assurances about Congress having the Jewish state’s back.

Pelosi is a supporter of funding Israeli defense, and that’s no small thing. However, her comments on Iran and supporting Israeli security don’t stand up to scrutiny. So long as congressional Democrats remain committed to supporting reinstating Obama’s pact – though the current negotiations in Vienna will likely ensure that it’s even weaker – guaranteeing that Iran will get a weapon with Western approval in only a few years, her rhetoric must be seen as not only unhelpful. It’s actually part of an administration effort to pressure Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear program on its own.

The author, Jonathan Tobin, seems to think that Pelosi’s claim about supporting Israel’s defense needs is part of an effort by the Bidenites to allay Israeli fears and thereby to keep Jerusalem from attacking Iran’s nuclear program. But there is no need to attribute such a motive to Pelosi. She may indeed want to make a strong statement in support of Israel, without any ulterior motive. Exactly why her rhetoric should be deemed “unhelpful” is unclear; it might equally be interpreted as signaling to Israel that Congress will withhold its approval of any deal made by the Bidenites that it deems too favorable to Iran.

Still, even those pro-Israel Democrats who understand how dangerous their party’s policy on Iran is – and there are still plenty of them – see her [Pelosi] and the other geriatric cases leading it in Congress as a necessary bulwark against the growing influence of AOC and the hard-left.

AOC’s canard about Israelis putting Palestinian kids in cages was denounced by many leading Jewish groups, yet Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership, which has seized upon anything wacky said by extreme right-wing Republicans to censure or ban them from serving on House committees, were silent about it. Her absurd claims about those who are opposed to Israel being censored was actually a defense of those like academic Marc Lamont Hill, who publicly call for the eradication of the Jewish state. But Pelosi remains willing to tolerate AOC and other “Squad” members like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), despite their support of the anti-Semitic BDS movement. That’s because she’s shown at times that she’s genuinely afraid of them and for good reason: They have the support of the party’s activist base.

Certainly Pelosi has so far been unwilling to publicly take on Tlaib, Omar, and AOC directly on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians. She senses their growing number and influence in Congress. She, is aware, too, of their vast power and reach on social media.

More than that, the flattery of AOC by some in the party and media establishment, like Politico founder John Harris, who recently wrote a column touting her as a future leader of the party, as well as the fawning treatment that “The Squad” gets on the late-night comedy shows, makes it clear that the actuarial tables are pro-Israel Democrats’ biggest problem. Simply put, the youth of the party is with AOC. Though she’s not as fanatically anti-Israel as some on the far-left would like – she was recently heckled in Austin while promoting her “Green New Deal” plan and speaking in support of a liberal Democrat who wasn’t willing to formally back Israel’s destruction – the ability of the intersectional left to throw its weight around isn’t a secret.

That accounts for the recent decision of another “Squad” member [a late joiner, not one of the four original members] – Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), to announce that he now opposes the Abraham Accords, which brought normalization between Israel and some Arab and Muslim nations. Bowman had risked the ire of the far-left by visiting Israel on a J Street trip, but he’s been backing away ever since from his attempt at bridging the gap between liberal Zionism and BDS. Bowman’s stand, which essentially argues that peace is bad for the Palestinians, is proving again that the line separating lukewarm friends of Israel and open enemies is thinner than many Democrats are willing to admit….

Bowman went to Israel on a trip sponsored by the infamous J Street, an organization of left-wing American Jews who are unsympathetic both to Israel’s claims to territory in the West Bank, and to its treatment of the Palestinians. This got him into trouble with the far-left anti-Israel brigade, for whom J Street is insufficiently virulent in its hostility to Israel. In order to placate them, Bowman decided to announce that he no longer supported the Abraham Accords, and the promise of peace between Israel and Arab states that they hold. He’s flipped into the Omar-Tlaib-AOC camp, which opposes the Abraham Accords because they further the isolation of the Palestinians, who as a result of the Accords between Israel and four Arab states now realize that their cause is no longer central to Arab concerns.

Bowman, like Congressman Cori Bush, can now be considered a supernumerary member of the Squad. But it is not a given that new, young Congressmen will be anti-Israel. There are many who are not, including such articulate and mediagenic House members as Ritchie Torres (D-NY), a self-styled “progressive” who has emerged as a stout and most articulate defender of the Jewish state, and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), who describes himself as a “Jewish Zionist.” Other new Congressmen who have declared their unswerving support of Israel include Byron Donalds (R-FL), Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA), Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jerry Carl (R-AL), Barry Moore (R-AL), Kat Cammack (R-FL) Kai Kahele (D-HA), Andy Feenstra (R-IO), and dozen others of both parties. There are at least six new Democratic Congressmen who are pro-Israel – equal in number to those in the enlarged “Squad,” consisting of the original four (AOC, Tlaib, Omar, Pressley), along with two others, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman.

Jonathan Tobin claims that those who think the Squad members are given too much attention and that the older, pro-Israel Democrats are still safely in charge, and that there is little cause for alarm, are wrong. He insists that AOC and the Squad are not “marginal,” that they reflect the growing anti-Israel views of the party’s younger activists, and urges that even more attention should be given to them, as they constitute a real threat to Israel that needs to be monitored and opposed. Is he correct? So far the Squad, for all of the media coverage it has garnered, has not successfully introduced any legislation except for Ilhan Omar’s Combatting International Islamophobia Act, which still must pass the Senate. There are as many new Democratic Congressmen who are pro-Israel as there are new Democratic Congressmen who share the anti-Israel views of the Squad. Tobin may be too alarmist for now. But why assume that Israel’s standing in Washington will remain the same, given the rise in antisemitism across the globe, including in the United States? Isn’t it better to assume the worst, and exercise that oft-recommended “eternal vigilance” to foil the Squad and its willing collaborators?

Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on BLiTZ

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