Rabbi Avi Weiss, a hardline pro-Israel activist, has inserted his anti-Palestinian views into Tuesday’s Democratic congressional primary in New York between the incumbent, Eliot Engel, a long-time supporter of Israel, and Jamaal Bowman.
The reason? Bowman has suggested that US aid to Israel be conditioned on its treatment of Palestinians.
Writing this month in the Yonkers Tribune, Weiss complained about Bowman that, “You’re quoted as saying that American aid to Israel should be conditional on exploring Israel’s human rights record. I am of the opinion, as noted by others, that there is no country anywhere facing the same threats as Israel, that has a better human rights record.”
Weiss does, in fact, believe this sort of Israeli propaganda. In 2014 as Israel was killing more than 1,400 civilians in Gaza, including over 550 children, Weiss went to the border area and reported back that the Israeli military is “the most moral army on the face of this earth.”
He said not one word about the reality of Palestinian civilian deaths, but only promoted empty words about how much the Israeli military was doing to protect Palestinian civilians.
His pro-Israel bias has taken serious form in New York too. Weiss protested Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit to New York City over the South African freedom fighter’s embrace of Yasser Arafat and Palestinian freedom.
Following the death of Mandela, Weiss wrote that he was not sorry he led the protest against his visit.
“I feel a profound connection to my black brothers and sisters, and pray that my actions were not misunderstood. On those days, I was standing up against one thing and one thing only — the embrace of Arafat by this man or any man.”
Today, this time in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement, this “profound connection” has led Weiss to stand once again against a Black leader who has expressed support for Palestinian rights.
Weiss links to a Bowman interview last year with Jacobin in which the Democratic candidate asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “a mini-Trump who warned of ‘Arab turnout’ at the polls and brags about building a wall.”
Bowman noted, quite rightly as Israel gets closer to its anticipated annexation of Palestinian territory, that with Netanyahu calling for “expanding settlements and annexing the West Bank, we should seriously consider placing conditions on the billions of dollars of military aid our government provides him in order to make sure that the rights and dignity of both the Israeli and Palestinian people are respected.”
Voicing an opinion backed by a growing number of Democrats in Congress, he added, “I just don’t understand why American taxpayers are subsidizing the detention of Palestinian children while Democrats are criticizing child detention at the Mexican border.”
Notably, however, more Democrats have remained silent on the rights of detained Palestinian children than the two dozen engaging the matter legislatively.
Yet Bowman remains cautious on Palestinian rights. He only supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as a free speech issue, not as a means to secure an end to the Israeli occupation, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Engel, however, is so weak on Palestinian rights that Bowman easily surpasses him.
In 1994, Engel joined a bipartisan congressional “peace accord monitoring group” organized by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) with the “apparent aim” being “to discredit Israel’s Palestinian negotiating partners by exposing Palestinian violations that Mr. [Yitzhak] Rabin dismisses or ignores.”
In other words, from early in his congressional career, Engel was more hawkish than then-defense minister Rabin who ordered the beating and breaking of bones of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.
Last year, as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Engel spoke at the ZOA’s “Capitol Hill Mission” luncheon. According to the ZOA, at the pre-mission dinner, Jason D. Hill, an anti-Palestinian professor at DePaul University, “urged Israel to retake the traditionally Christian town of Bethlehem.”
This is the sort of hate Engel has gone along with for decades in maintaining his ties with the ZOA.
Though his support of Palestinian rights is a bit tepid, and there are additional issues in play, a Bowman victory would be another sign that grassroots Democrats are tiring of a bipartisanship on Israel that routinely assaults Palestinian rights and smacks of the sort of racism that politicians practiced for far too long regarding apartheid South Africa.
- Avi Weiss
- Nelson Mandela
- Jamaal Bowman
- Eliot Engel
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Donald Trump
- Yasser Arafat
- Yitzhak Rabin
- Zionist Organization of America
- Morton Klein
- Jason D. Hill
- DePaul University
- apartheid South Africa
- peace accord monitoring group
- Black Lives Matter
- Yonkers Tribune
- New York City