A card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America is all but assured to join the U.S. House of Representatives in November, and her views on Israel have proven disconcerting enough for J Street, the left-leaning advocacy group, to withdraw its support for her.
Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants to the U.S., won the Democratic primary in a deeply blue district in Michigan that covers part of Detroit and some of its suburbs. Her victory, over Detroit City Council president Brenda Jones, came by less than 1,000 votes. Ms. Tlaib will be running essentially unopposed for the seat that was held by John Conyers Jr., who resigned in December 2017.
During her campaign, Ms. Tlaib secured the endorsement of J Street for her support of a “two-state solution” — a new Arab country comprised of parts of Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza captured by Israel in 1967, alongside Israel.
The liberal lobbying group had praised her presumptive election as “a historic milestone for the Palestinian-American community and for the United States as a whole.” And it described the candidate as “personally familiar with the costs that the conflict has brought to Israelis and Palestinians.” It also donated some $3, 000 to her campaign.
“She believes that the U.S. should be directly involved with negotiations to reach a two-state solution,” read the J Street profile of Ms. Tlaib. “Additionally, she supports all current aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, particularly to fund initiatives that ‘foster peace, as well as economic and humanitarian services.’ Tlaib does not support the expansion of settlements and believes that they make it difficult to reach a sustainable two-state solution.”
These positions dovetail with the stances of J Street. But more recent comments Ms. Tlaib made apparently gave the liberal lobbying group political heartburn and, for the first time ever, the group backtracked on its endorsement of a candidate.
Citing the seemingly irrelevant fact that her “teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King” and in a neck-wrenching about-face from her previous position, Ms. Tlaib asserted that “this whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.” Instead, she declared: “It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work.”
Apart from that bewildering comparison — “separate but equal,” of course, refers to a society whose populace consists of two racial or ethnic tiers, not to two discrete, independent countries — the candidate also surprised her Jewish supporters by declaring her backing of “the rights of people who support BDS,” of a Palestinian “right to return,” and of cutting military aid to Israel if “it has something to do with inequality and not access to people having justice.”
J Street’s Political Action Committee reacted by noting that it was created to support candidates “who take pro-Israel, pro-peace positions, including support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and explaining that “we cannot endorse candidates who come to the conclusion that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for the two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”
“We have come to the unfortunate conclusion,” the PAC’s statement continued, “that a significant divergence in perspectives requires JStreetPAC to withdraw our endorsement of her candidacy.”
Another Democratic Socialists of America member who recently won a Democratic primary election and is expected to join Congress is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upset victory in New York’s 14th congressional district over the incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley shocked many seasoned observers.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has criticized Israel’s use of force against protesters in Gaza who launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel as “a massacre,” describing the targeting of would-be terrorists as “mass shootings of protesters.” Later, though, to her credit, she admitted that she is “not an expert on Middle East affairs,” and vowed to “learn and evolve” on the issue.
A third “progressive” Congressional candidate is Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American who hopes to occupy the Democratic seat now occupied by Rep. Keith Ellison.
Ms. Omar has made her animus toward Israel baldly clear. In 2012, after more than 100 missiles were launched at Israel in one day, she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may [G-d] awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Although she professes support for the “peace process,” she hopes to “uplift the voices of Palestinians demanding an end to the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and end the siege of Gaza” and says she will “oppose the killing of civilians in Gaza and the expansion of settlements into the West Bank.”
No one is expecting any change in Congress’s broad support for Israel. But the likely addition of three new members of the House of Representatives who have shown ignorance or hostility toward the Middle-East’s only democracy is troubling.