Informed Comment / July 16, 2023
Ann Arbor – Remarks Saturday by Rep. Pramila Jayapal may signal the end of the “liberal except on Palestine” ploy of most Congressional Democrats, who decry police brutality against US minorities but are perfectly all right with Israeli government repression of the Palestinians being kept stateless and without rights. She explicitly denounced Israel as a “racist state.”
The major umbrella for the Israel lobbies in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), may have picked this fight when it threw its campaign money behind successful attempts to defeat rising members of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which Jayapal chairs. Game on.
Not only are the Israel lobbies helping keep extremist Republicans in Congress but they are attempting to shape the Democratic Party as a conservative, Blue Dog party and to derail the Progressive Caucus.
At the annual conference in Chicago of the progressive Netroots Nation on Saturday, July 15, Netroots founder Mark Moulitsas of Daily Kos hosted a panel consisting of Rep. Jesus “”Chuy” García, Rep. Jan Schakowski, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. As noted, Jayapal is the chair of the Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, which has 50 members in the House of Representatives, and who achieved some important legislation during Biden’s first two years, including the Inflation Reduction Act.
Netroots Nation, which I have attended in the past, has grown to become the most important gathering of progressive Democrats. This is the panel discussion.
Apparently after the discussion, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in the audience and heckled the panelists. Rep. Jayapal addressed them:
Ben Samuels at Haaretz transcribed her remarks, ““As somebody who’s been in the streets and participated in a lot of demonstrations, I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us, that it does not even feel possible,”
Jayapal has pushed for more Congressional oversight of US aid to Israel and how it is used, since it frequently is used in contravention of US policies.
Jayapal will be pilloried for her observations, but their justice is undeniable. In 2018 the Israeli government passed a law specifying that sovereignty in Israel is restricted to the country’s Jews, excluding the 20% of the country that is of Palestinian heritage. It is hard to know what to call that but racism.
Some 65 laws on the books in Israel discriminate against persons of Palestinian heritage. For this and other reasons Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, all respected human rights organizations, have characterized the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as “Apartheid.”
What is that but racism?
Polls have shown that half of the Israeli public agrees that “”Israeli Arabs suffer from discrimination as opposed to Jewish citizens.”
As for the Palestinians being a “race,” what is a race but an ethnic group? And the Palestinians are certainly that.
So there will be a firestorm about Jayapal’s comments, but it will be led by zealots who have blinded themselves to the truth, or by paid political flacks, or by MAGA crazies who have adopted Israel as a symbol of their white nationalism — i.e. by people who wish they could treat Jayapal and other members of minorities in the US the way the current far right wing government treats the Palestinians.
Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment ; he is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the author of, among others, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam