Trump adviser falsely accuses Ocasio-Cortez of anti-Semitism

Boris Epshteyn, co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump, falsely claimed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has engaged in ”anti-Semitism” (Eduardo Munoz - Reuters)

Michael F. Brown

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 22, 2020

Boris Epshteyn, the new co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump, has accused Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of “anti-Semitism.”

The claim was based on Ocasio-Cortez having signed a June letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “asking him,” as Epshteyn put it, “to halt aid to Israel if it followed through with plans to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.”

This is not anti-Semitism.

The authors of the letter to Pompeo argued that annexation “would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.” They warned that “Israel has stated it will not grant citizenship to Palestinians living in annexed territory” and is “formalizing in law the separate and unequal treatment of the two populations.”

Claiming that Ocasio-Cortez’s support for equal rights is anti-Semitism is a dangerous sign of where today’s Republican Party stands on the human rights of Palestinians.

In addition to being co-chair of Jewish Voices for Trump, founded just last week to mobilize Jewish voters for the incumbent, Epshteyn is strategic adviser to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. His voice matters in Republican circles.

Epshteyn also has accused Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of “anti-Semitic attacks on Israel and Jewish Americans” without including details and without admitting that they are far more supportive of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews than he or the Trump administration. They are the only two Muslim women in the US Congress and have repeatedly faced Islamophobic attacks and death threats.

Nor is this the first time Epshteyn has attacked Tlaib.

He leveled a false charge of anti-Semitism against her in 2018 and seems to have a problem with a Palestinian American standing up for Palestinian rights and against Israeli oppression. His own anti-Palestinian racism has not yet been fully challenged on the national stage.

Activists Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory receive additional fire from Epshteyn as he accuses them – again despite also being much more clearly in support of equal rights for Palestinians and Jews than anyone in the Trump administration – of being “anti-Semites.”

The double standards applied to them as opposed to white politicians – Republicans and Democrats alike who routinely deal with anti-Palestinian bigots – are staggering. Sarsour and Mallory have also gone farther than mainstream politicians in addressing criticisms as they seek to build a coalition capable of challenging all forms of bigotry while their critics are frequently not serious about addressing anti-Black racism.

Unsurprisingly, the commentary from Epshteyn ran in the virulently anti-Palestinian opinion section of Newsweek magazine.

The “debate” section there earlier this year came under the leadership of Josh Hammer, a longtime campaigner against the rights of Palestinians who has recently inveighed against Black Lives Matter. The section he edits has also published an outrageous and racist birther claim against vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.

Epshteyn bragged in the piece that Trump “moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

He claimed, wrongly, “While many hysterical ‘analysts’ predicted a wave of violence in response to President Trump keeping his word to the Jewish people and Israel, no such violence took place.”

The US officially moved its embassy to Jerusalem on 14 May 2018. Israel massacred more than 55 people in Gaza that same day.

As The Electronic Intifada reported at the time, “While American officials and Israeli leaders celebrated the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem – in violation of international law – occupation army snipers gunned down children, paramedics and journalists and its air force hit multiple sites across Gaza.”

Does Epshteyn simply not bother to recall Israel’s killing of Palestinians or do Palestinian lives not matter to him? Alternatively, is he saying that more Palestinians needed to be killed to make him question the embassy move?

Ironically, the Trump administration chose anti-Semitic pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee to deliver prayers at the embassy opening.

Jewish Voices for Trump

Epshteyn will be joined on the advisory board of Jewish Voices for Trump by Sheldon Adelson, his wife Miriam, Wayne Berman and Julie Strauss Levin.

Sheldon Adelson maintained in 2013 that the US should drop an atomic bomb on desert territory in Iran and threaten that Tehran will be next if it doesn’t “reverse” itself on nuclear issues. “You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position,” he said he would warn Iranian leaders.

Such a genocidal approach, had it been carried out against Tehran, would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands or quite probably millions of Iranians. Many more in the region would have suffered the horrible consequences of the bomb’s fallout.

The group he now advises, Jewish Voices for Trump, bills Trump – in Epshteyn’s words – as “a champion of the Jewish people and the greatest ally the State of Israel has ever had.”

Epshteyn promotes Israel as an ethno-nationalist state, saying at the Jewish Voices for Trump website, “President Trump has fought against anti-Semitism in America and throughout the world while continuing to ensure the long-term success and security of the Jewish state.” In fact, Trump has repeatedly promoted anti-Semites and expressed anti-Semitic views.

Trump’s strategic adviser trumpets recent deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain without noting that the arrangements disregarding the rights of Palestinians would be akin to post-colonial states backing apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the American South.

He speculates Saudi Arabia may soon reach an agreement with Israel as well. Trump, of course, looked the other way as Mohammad bin Salman’s henchmen dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, so it will come as no surprise if the president actively encourages bin Salman to pursue Israel’s normalization of Palestinian inequality and the (further) dismemberment of Palestine prior to the November election.

Yes, the recent accords are a short-term victory for Trump, but they are a setback for those who genuinely care about the rights and eventual freedom of Palestinians currently living under Israeli occupation and discriminatory law.

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