Democrats advance Palestine censorship ahead of Trump

Fears are running high that US President-elect Donald Trump will crack down hard on civil liberties once he takes office next month. But Democrats are missing the opportunity to stand up for free speech when it comes to advocacy for Palestinian rights.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act – presenting itself as a force against anti-Jewish bigotry, but actually a means of censoring campus criticism of Israel’s policies – was unanimously passed by the Senate earlier this month.

While it sailed through the Senate, the bill was killed in the House – not by Democrats concerned with basic freedoms, but after Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia who chairs the House Committee on the Judiciary, delayed it. Goodlatte reportedly wanted more time to consider its profound First Amendment implications.

Both the Senate and House will have to take up the bill anew in 2017 if it is to proceed. This should be a wakeup call that Democrats are not waiting for Trump to gut civil liberties, but are out in front with legislation giving vent to anti-Palestinian enmity they share with Republicans.

White nationalist Steve Bannon is closely advising Trump and there are very real incidents of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hatred occurring around the country. Yet politicizing the definition of anti-Semitism and codifying speech on campus is not the appropriate response.

For the moment, student attention on Israeli human rights abuses remains – despite the US Senate conflating advocacy for Palestinian equal rights with anti-Semitism – entirely legitimate political speech in the eyes of the law.

Should the legislation pass next year, universities can be expected to monitor pro-Palestinian speech, presenting a profound threat both to academic freedom and to democratic norms. The record will show that Democrats were as zealous in their pursuit of censorship as their Republican colleagues.

Out-of-step Democrats

There is one vital contrast between Congressional Republicans and Democrats regarding legislation pertaining to Palestinian rights. Republican elected officials represent the views of their constituents on these matters; Democrats do not.

A recent poll from Shibley Telhami, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, makes explicitly clear the disconnect between attitudes towards Israel held by Democratic politicians versus those held by Democratic voters.

Telhami describes a “deep polarization” among Americans regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Republicans, he says, want the US to side with Israel while Democrats increasingly prefer a tilt toward neither side.

“This has created a political imbalance, where Republican politicians – especially in Congress – take positions that are in tune with their constituents; Democratic politicians, meanwhile, seem more at odds with their constituents.”

Most striking in Telhami’s November poll is that Democratic support to impose economic sanctions or other “more serious action” rose from 48 percent in 2014 to 49 percent in 2015 to a head-turning 60 percent this year.

Congressional Democrats are almost entirely out of step with this viewpoint.

Even Representative Keith Ellison, viciously attacked in recent weeks by Haim Saban and Alan Dershowitz in his bid to head the Democratic National Committee, has announced his opposition to the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions to secure freedom and equal rights.

He has received scant public pushback from allies because advocates for Palestinian rights have so few other options and because there is a tendency among activist groups – making difficult judgments on what is possible in the current political climate – not to press politicians seen as better than most.

Democrats lead blacklisting

The anti-Palestinian bigotry is filtering down to the states as well.

In New York, the Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, this month released a blacklist of those companies that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

With Democrats and Republicans standing virtually unanimous in their willingness to run roughshod over the fundamental rights of Americans to advocate for Palestinian freedom, there can be little doubt Republicans will be able to push through even wider abuses of the rights of Muslims, Latinos, women and the LGBTQ community.

If Democrats are not willing to stand up for the First Amendment when it comes to Palestinian rights, we can expect it will be all too easy for Republicans to peel away Democrats on other issues.

Palestinian-American advocates – and perhaps their allies – are likely to be the ones most targeted and suppressed in the months ahead due to the clear bipartisan nature of anti-Palestinian animosity.

Grassroots advocates should clean house and make clear that anti-Palestinian sentiment of the sort expressed by the Clinton Democratic platform team is unacceptable. Until then, Democratic politicians will continue to take the path of least resistance and permit – and perhaps even lead – legislation that targets the civil liberties of one group after another in the US.

Yes, Republicans will be worse on these matters. But too many Democrats are already showing a willingness to stand aside when the targeted group lacks sufficient size or importance to their reelection prospects.

Just last week, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, tweeted his frustration that the Obama administration didn’t veto a UN Security Council resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israel’s settlements:

He may yet lead on some civil liberties issues, but there are gaping holes and disturbing double standards in his awareness, particularly when it comes to Palestinian rights.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is something of a test case. Democrats cannot be relied on to lead the resistance to Trump and the Republican Congress. Concerted grassroots pressure will be called for and those failing the test will have to confront primary challenges in 2018 of the sort they rarely face.

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When American politicians and leaders are afraid or beholden to a manipulative alien nation, democracy flies out of the window, and they do not hesitate to go against the policies of their own country. This is control, pandering, and an ugly display of unreasonable actions in display.
Cuomo has become a shameless tool of the zionists.

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A one state solution for Palestine/(Israel) where everyone lives together in a democracy with peace and equal rights is the only solution for peace. This was done in South Africa, the American South and can be done in Palestine/(Israel). A two state solution is fantasy and will not happen. US weapons and aid to Israelis has enabled them to devastate Palestinians through genocide and ethnic cleansing under apartheid, especially in Gaza. This terrible holocaust of Palestinians must stop! This is not anti Semitic but is anti Zionist. As with South Africa there comes a time when enough is enough and something must be done!
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

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I ran as a Mountain Party candidate for the House of Delegates in West Virginia.
I switched my party affiliation to Republican the week after the election, and before Stein announced her bogus recount. My plan is to challenge the half-anti-Castro and first "Hispanic" elected to Congress from WvA. in the Republican Primary. Palestian rights, reparations. DC, Statehood, along with the canceling of the Puerto Rican will be part of my platform-multiculturalism, not identity politics.

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The Democratic Party has been a focal point of the Zionist movement since before the inception of the State of Israel. Democratic administrations have been more lavish than Republican- which is saying plenty- in satisfying the demands of Israel's leaders. In this respect President Obama stands as the most compliant figure to have yet occupied the White House. Despite being subjected (very unfairly) to every form of vilification by Israeli propagandists, including the unprecedented insult of Netanyahu addressing a joint session of Congress to demand their rejection of the Iran deal, Obama has loyally adhered to all aspects of the unwholesome relationship. He's praised each massacre, turned a blind eye to every settlement expansion, and given Israel more in military aid than any previous President.

As well, Democratic office-seekers at the national, state and local level depend on endorsements from right wing Jewish organisations and donors if they are to mount viable campaigns, while active opposition from those quarters generally results in defeat.

Finally, on the issue of free speech and McCarthyism, let's not forget that liberal Democrats were eager participants and beneficiaries of the post-war purge of leftists. If you look past Roy Cohn whispering in Joe's ear, you'll see a young Robert Kennedy seated right behind them. Stevenson, Humphrey, Johnson, JFK- they all made their bones in the anti-communist crusade that silenced free speech for a generation.

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In years gone by I was an (unpaid) advocate on medicaid and
social security issues on a federal level. A private mantra for
me was: "I want a YES vote!"

I could not rely on one party to deliver for me despite promises
made and political rhetoric wasted in the Congressional Record.

Note: I carefully avoided ideologues.

I testified before Congressional subcommittees five
times on these issues. Social Security Subcommittee
of the House Ways and Means, Senate Budget Committee
etc.

If nothing else, the above article tells us that we cannot
rely on one political party or faction to" save" us. Trump or
no Trump, Republican or no Republican, such support
must be encouraged if we are to succeed in this otherwise
dismal political era.

When I contacted my very Democratic Congressman, I
highlighted Constitutionally guaranteed issues of free speech.
I am not a legal expert, but I felt such an approach would
be more persuasive and would allow him even to ereach
out to Congressional colleagues.

If I has asked for everythibng (or nothing?), there
would be little support. And believe me,I have many
everythings!!!

So for those of you in VA, thank Bob Goldlatte, R-VA
and urge his continued opposition to this measure on
Constitutional grounds.

(You might even shame some who pose as "liberal"
Congressional Reps into opposition along with
Rep. Goldblatte.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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US electoral politics, as far as Palestine goes, have little to do with representing one's constituency, and everything to do with the fear of AIPAC and the fear of being branded an anti-Semite-Jewish-Israel. It is a courageless age, when principles politicians swear up and down it is their duty to stand up for, mean nothing when it comes to taking a public stand, on principle, for an 'unpopular' issue.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.