Mondoweiss / May 17, 2023
Rashida Tlaib has proved to be the most potent force for Palestine in mainstream American politics, which is why Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League is working to destroy her political career.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has proved to be the most potent force in mainstream American politics in pushing the Palestinian perspective, lately leading a Nakba commemoration in the Capitol.
So Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, a leading Israel lobbyist, has smeared Tlaib as a dedicated antisemite who “literally propounds that every problem in the world is a function of the only Jewish state on the planet.” But Greenblatt laments that the Democratic leadership refuses his urging to push her to the sidelines.
Greenblatt made his remarks to Steve Schmidt, the political consultant, on Schmidt’s internet show on May 11, even as Tlaib was organizing a Nakba at 75 commemoration in the Capitol.
Asked about extremist Republican Congress-people Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene, Greenblatt said that in the past the leadership had “kneecapped” the “craziest members.” But now leadership refuses to do so. And that goes for Tlaib too.
Extremism is not a partisan phenomenon. Neither side of the political spectrum is exempt from intolerance… You get haters on both sides… What’s happened recently with this hyper-partisanship, people are now unwilling to acknowledge those who offend when they are within their own ranks.
You see it on the Democratic side too. I mentioned Rashida Tlaib. She is a hardcore unrepentant anti-Zionist who uses every opportunity she can to slander the state of Israel, despite the fact that we know that that kind of slander leads to antisemitism here in the United States. It doesn’t matter, she has got an intersectional worldview that ends where Israel begins. And so she literally propounds that every problem in the world is a function of the only Jewish state on the planet.
Greenblatt went on to say that Tlaib appears to be “embraced” by the Democratic leadership. So the ADL is not able to marginalize her.
That makes it much harder for a group like mine when we go to a leader [Hakeem] Jeffries or speaker [Kevin] McCarthy to get the kind of basic results we would expect where people who espouse radical views instead of being pushed to the sidelines are welcomed into the center, into the forefront of politics. It’s a crazy sign of these crazy times.
Greenblatt is distorting Tlaib’s views because she has insisted on describing Israel, accurately, as an apartheid country, and cited the many human rights reports reaching that conclusion. In fact, Tlaib is embraced by leadership because she is a charismatic and effective politician. Joe Biden met with her during an Israeli massacre in 2021 and called for an end to it because of her intervention. Tlaib is a “nice person,” a pro-Israel Democrat said lately, shocking one rightwing religious Zionist group.
At one point in the discussion, Greenblatt even appeared to put Tlaib in the category of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Jewish genocide in death camps in 1942-1945. Schmidt brought up Eichmann, saying that Eichmann’s Israeli police interrogator, Avner Less, concluded that “there are Adolph Eichmanns everywhere, they are all around us.” But when there is a “dictatorship, they turn deadly in an instant.”
Greenblatt appeared to agree, speaking of Eichmanns “in positions of power” in both parties.
Yeah maybe there are latent Eichmanns around, but once they were marginalized. Now to see them mainstreamed, to see them moving into positions of power, it’s not troubling– it’s terrifying. I think we’ve all got to think collectively, beyond our party, beyond our political frame, How do we do something about it.
Greenblatt clearly was calling out rightwing racists in answering the Eichmann question– he spoke of “white supremacy” and “structural racism” and the dehumanization of immigrants. But he injected Israel into the answer, saying “Israel is a Jewish state. Saudi Arabia is a Muslim state. There are other countries that have a longstanding identity based on a particular faith or ethnicity.” And he considers anti-Zionism “a deeply antisemitic thing.”
Asked about Israel, Greenblatt said that being a Jewish state was perfectly compatible with being a democracy.
Is Judaism or being a Jewish state incompatible with it being a democracy? The answer to that is resoundingly No. [It is] the only democracy in the region. You’re born in Israel, you’re a citizen, you can vote. It is a very vibrant democracy.
Greenblatt said Israel’s Jewish character is no different from Spain’s Catholic character, or Muslim countries having a Muslim character. Israel has provided a refuge for “religious minorities” and been a “welcoming place” for 75 years.
That is poppycock, and Nakba denial. You can’t say that Israel has been welcoming for 75 years when it refused to allow 750,000 Palestinians to return to their homes after the Nakba. You can’t say that people born in Israel can vote, because actually many Palestinians born in Israel were pushed east of the Green Line, and denied that right. The fact that half of Israel’s subjects don’t regard it as a democracy but see it as a state of “Jewish supremacy” ought to mean something to any protector of human rights.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006