The Israel lobby’s campaign against Keith Ellison and progressive campus student groups

You would think that the recent debacle of the elections would persuade Democrats that they need new leadership that would be more attuned to the needs of ordinary voters than the neoliberal elites that they usually cater to. But it seems like they are determined to stick with their old path. The have re-elected Nancy Pelosi to be minority leader again and it seems like Charles Schumer is going to be the head of their senate minority.

The way that the party treated a progressive voice in Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign was disgraceful and thankfully led to the firing of the awful Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as head of the Democratic National Committee, only to put another awful person Donna Brazile in that same position as temporary head. The head of the DNC is an important position, especially for the party out of power, because it sets the agenda and strategy for the future.

I was heartened to learn that congressperson Keith Ellison had expressed interest in serving in that position. He, along with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, could have succeeded in remaking the party into a truly appealing vehicle for ordinary people, the people that the Democrats are supposed to represent, those that were not enthused enough by Hillary Clinton to vote at all or those who were attracted enough to the fake populist appeals of Donald Trump that they were willing to overlook his glaring faults and defect from the Democratic party.

But the neoliberal elites in the Democratic party seem determined to continue to control the party and Glenn Greenwald describes the odious campaign that they war waging against Ellison, aided by the media and the Israel lobby.

Ever since he announced his candidacy to lead the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has been the target of a defamation campaign that is deceitful, repugnant, and yet quite predictable. At first expressed in whispers, but now being yelled from the rooftops by some of the party’s most influential figures, Ellison is being smeared as both an anti-Semite and enemy of Israel – the same smears virtually any critic of the Israeli government reflexively encounters, rendered far worse if the critic is a prominent American Muslim.

Three days ago, the now-ironically-named Anti-Defamation League pronounced Ellison’s 2010 comments about Israel “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.” Other Israel advocates have now joined in. What are Ellison’s terrible sins? He said in a 2010 speech that while he “wanted the U.S. to be friends with Israel,” the U.S. “can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM.”

As the full speech makes clear, he was referring to the indisputable fact that while Israel continues to take billions of dollars every year from the U.S. – far more than any other country receives in aid – it continually disregards and violates U.S. requests to stop ongoing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, often in ways seemingly designed to impose the greatest humiliation on its benefactor:

And agree or disagree with those positions, it is an indisputable fact that Israel receives far more in U.S. aid than any other country yet continually does exactly that which numerous U.S. President have insisted they not do, often to the detriment of U.S. interests. And many prominent foreign policy experts – including David Petraeus – have warned that excessive U.S. support for the worst actions of the Israeli government endangers U.S. national security by alienating Arabs in the region and fueling support for anti-American terrorism. The idea that a member of Congress is not permitted to debate these policies without being branded an anti-Semite is sheer insanity: malicious insanity at that.

But that insanity is par for the course in Washington, where anyone who even questions U.S. policy toward Israel is smeared in this way – from James Baker to Howard Dean to Bernie Sanders and even Donald Trump. So pernicious is this framework that the U.S. Senate just passed legislation expressly equating what it regards as unfair criticism of the Israeli government with “anti-Semitism.” And when one is an American Muslim, ugly stereotypes and pervasive Islamophobia are added to this toxic brew to make the smears worse by many magnitudes.

Greenwald goes on to describe more of the campaign waged against Ellison by some of the most extreme right wing supporters of Israel’s odious treatment of Palestinians.

The Israel lobby has not stopped just there. They have been increasingly concerned that student groups on college campuses, involving both Jews and non-Jews, have been increasingly critical of the policies of the Israeli government and openly saying so. Alex Emmons writes that the lobby is taking the step of trying to silence those groups by passing legislation that seeks to punish colleges that do not crack down on student groups who criticize Israel.

AFTER DONALD TRUMP’S election emboldened white supremacists and inspired a wave of anti-Semitic hate incidents across the country, the Senate on Thursday took action by passing a bill aimed at limiting the free-speech rights of college students who express support for Palestinians.

By unanimous consent, the Senate quietly passed the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, only two days after it was introduced by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.

A draft of the bill obtained by The Intercept encourages the Department of Education to use the State Department’s broad, widely criticized definition of anti-Semitism when investigating schools. That definition, from a 2010 memo, includes as examples of anti-Semitism “delegitimizing” Israel, “demonizing” Israel, “applying double standards” to Israel, and “focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations.”

Critics have pointed out that those are political — not racist — positions, shared by a significant number of Jews, and qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

“The definition will have a severe chilling effect on campuses, and that is the explicit goal of the Israel advocacy organizations who promote it,” said Liz Jackson, an attorney with the group Palestine Legal. “Student activists for Palestinian rights already operate in a repressive environment. If this bill passes, they will face the specter of federal investigation simply for engaging in criticism of the Israeli government’s abusive policies.”

Campus activists are being subject to an increasingly broad censorship effort by Israeli-allied groups. Each year, Palestine Legal documents hundreds of instances of obstruction, censorship, or punishment of pro-Palestinian activism at colleges and universities.

Jewish groups opposed to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank were quick to denounce the bill.

“Instead of fighting the anti-Semitism entering the White House, this bill will go after 19-year-old students carrying protest signs against human rights abuses,” said Tallie Ben Daniel, academic program manager for Jewish Voice for Peace, in a statement. “This is not how to fight anti-Semitism, this is a recipe for restricting civil liberties like the right to criticize a government for its policies.”

The Israel lobby is determined that voices that are even mildly critical of the expansionist policies of the Israeli government and its increasingly apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians not be allowed into the mainstream discourse. This is why they are fighting progressive voices like Ellison and campus student groups.


  1. says

    I agree with everything else here, but this has long annoyed me:

    The way that the party treated a progressive voice in Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign was disgraceful…

    Bernie Sanders only joined the Democratic Party to run for president. I’ve never understood why Democrats were supposed to be happy that an outsider decided to run against someone who has been a faithful party member for decades.

  2. aashiq says

    When Britain colonized India, Britain was treated like a sacred object in the subcontinent…you couldn’t criticize the British monarch.

    The US is for all practical purposes a colony of Israel. Israel gets 50% of all foreign aid, the Israeli Lobby runs Mideast policy, and in many states you can boycott any country or any US state…but not Israel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *