Israel lobby group J Street withdraws Rashida Tlaib endorsement

Rashida Tlaib (Rashida Tlaib for Congress)

The Israel lobby group J Street has withdrawn its endorsement from Rashida Tlaib.

“After closely consulting with Rashida Tlaib’s campaign to clarify her most current views on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have come to the unfortunate conclusion that a significant divergence in perspectives requires JStreetPAC to withdraw our endorsement of her candidacy,” J Street announced on Friday.

JStreetPAC is the political action committee of J Street. It endorses and channels contributions to political candidates.

“JStreetPAC was created to demonstrate the wellspring of political support that exists for candidates who take pro-Israel, pro-peace positions, including support for a two-state solution,” J Street said.

“We cannot endorse candidates who conclude that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for a two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”

The page JStreetPAC had established to collect donations for Tlaib was taken down on Friday, but an archived version was still visible online.

J Street had endorsed Tlaib on the basis that she supports “all current aid to Israel” – which necessarily means all military aid, the vast majority of US assistance – and a two-state solution.

J Street also requires candidates it endorses to oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), the nonviolent Palestinian-led movement that aims to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian rights and international law.

Moreover, J Street rejects the right of Palestinians to return to lands and homes from which they were expelled by Israel solely on the racist grounds that they are not Jewish – although adhering to that view is not an explicit requirement to receive J Street’s endorsement.

But following her primary victory in Michigan’s 13th congressional district last week, this writer raised questions about Tlaib’s acceptance of an endorsement from an Israel lobby group under political conditions that contradict support for Palestinian rights.

Amid mounting controversy, Tlaib at first evaded giving a clear explanation of the J Street endorsement, which she herself had reportedly “sought out.”

But on Tuesday, Tlaib made a clear break with the Israel lobby group.

In an interview with In These Times, Tlaib expressed strong support for the right of activists to engage in BDS.

She also distanced herself from the two-state solution.

“One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work,” she said, citing America’s history of racial segregation that was challenged by the civil rights movement. “This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”

Tlaib moreover said she would not support aid to Israel.

In an interview with Democracy Now on Thursday, Tlaib appeared to pull back a little bit, saying she was open to the “possibility for a two-state solution.”

But she ultimately stuck to her position that a single state in which everyone was equal was more in keeping with democratic values and more likely to succeed.

“I prefer and lean towards one state,” Tlaib said.

That was clearly not enough for J Street, which has parted ways with the candidate who is set to become the first Palestinian American woman in Congress, and to join Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar as one of the first two Muslim women in the US legislature.

A request for comment has been sent to Tlaib’s campaign.

Tags

Comments

picture

Welcome news re Rashida. Given her expected move to Congress, she is now a politician rather than an activist. Thus, the most important thing is that she stands firm regarding the right of Americans to boycott/divest according to their conscience including boycotting Israel and uses her vote accordingly re any anti-BDS bills.

If we take the Democrats at their word, they support a 2SS as a means of Palestinians gaining their freedom from occupation and full political/civil rights and security for Israelis. She can move into pollie speak and reiterate this goal and state that it is debatable if this can be better served by aiming for one state with equal rights or two states. Given the movement of Israeli Jews into the W/B, the 2SS may now not be possible.....and so on. Just always keep the discourse on Palestinian human rights.

No way to wriggle out of the aid to Israel question - so good on Rashida for meeting this head on.

As for J-Street, let their endorsement go. There is no other choice. If AIPAC and associated groups are true to form, they will look to providing electoral funding to future opponents to knock Rashida out of the next nomination process and/or election. But I hope that this becomes a little bit risky for them in that they may fail and thus dent their aura of invincibility. Looks like Rashida has the right constituency to make this possible.

As a member of Congress, Rashida's first duty is to the well-being of the American people and I doubt that the I/P issue is a vote changer for the bulk of her constituency. But hopefully she can withstand the pressure from pro-Israeli groups and also use her platform to give voice to the I/P conflict from American Palestinian perspective. Gently and politely.

Activists don't have to be quite so gentle or polite and it is activists who need to spearhead the debate and expand the respectable space available to elected politicians.

picture

Unfortunately, JStreet and most members of Congress are hanging on to a 2 Street Solution that simply is no longer possible.

The settlement building left unchecked does not allow for this any longer and Israel's goals for a Greater Israel gave mixed messages, of their intentions.

As an American Jew, I support Betty McCullums bill, and I am against allowing criticism of Israel to be confused with anti-Semitism, or the anti BDS laws to erode civil liberties of free speech and religion. (As a Jew I *must* speak out).

The occupation is harming the collective Soul of the Jewish people.

It is time to stand with the values of Judaism, our Holy Torah and true Democracy.

We can no longer oppress another people, the occupation and Palestinian suffering must end.

We were strangers in Egypt... we survived the Holocaust, we cannot look the other way.

Add new comment

Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.