Things You Should Read at NJ.com: Prof. Stephen R. Shalom on Josh Gottheimer’s anti-Semitism charge against Rep. Ilhan Omar

We’re taking a break from our morning News Roundups, which may be permanent. They’re time consuming, we needed the break. But I miss using BJ to point to great stuff we otherwise might miss. And here’s a big one:

UPDATED & bumped by Rosi: Aaaand … now we have Trump tweet-screaming that Rep. Omar’s an anti-Semite for her quite-correct calling out the President’s white nationalist adviser Stephen Miller, author of the Muslim travel ban, migrant and family separation policy, who has increasing influence on the Trump.


Prof. Shalom has written extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. He is also on the Editorial Board at New Politics

Stephen R. Shalom is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern NJ and teaches political science at William Paterson University. His piece in last night’s NJ.com is: No, you’re not automatically anti-Semitic if you criticize Israel, N.J. professor says. Thoughtfully written, IMO fair, and directed at Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s pants-on-fire (my term, not his) response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s AIPAC remarks, his piling on to the charge that Omar, first Muslim woman (with Rep. Rashida Tlaib) ever elected to Congress, is an anti-Semite. Quoting Prof. Shalom:

“Anti-Semitism is a vile ideology with a long, ugly history. But there’s also a history of using the charge of anti-Semitism as a way to deflect criticism from Israel.” – Stephen Shalom

Omar, the target of death threats – and of both Trump and some Dems – with her daughter on Inauguration Day. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

He’s responding to a Star-Ledger interview with Gottheimer who condemned fellow Dem Omar’s remarks, and helped craft a resolution condemning anti-Semitism clearly aimed at her. Shalom takes issue with both Gottheimer’s evidence and his logic. Shalom does not appear confused, as so many centrist Dems have been, that there’s a difference between how Omar expressed her opinion, and the point being made. He reminds us that Omar apologized after allies pointed out the trope of Jewish manipulation is offensive and common in anti-Semitic slurs. It is, and she was right to apologize, even though she did not intend to offend. But as Shalom points out, the pro-Israel lobby is not “the Jews”. For one thing, it’s loaded with Christian evangelists obsessed with Israel as their rapture launchpad (that last bit is me, Shalom makes a similar, more dignified point). And for another, the Israel lobby is losing support from many Jews. And for cause, I’d add.

Gottheimer has also referred to Omar as one of the “fringe members” of the Dem Party on US/Israel issues. Nice talk from a congressman with a D after his name who votes with Trump’s position 55.2% of the time. Sigh.

Equating BDS with anti–Semitism: MoveOn called a boycott of AIPAC’s yearly gathering. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand said they would not attend (playing both sides, Harris had AIPAC reps come to her office during the conference, so Klobuchar and Gillibrand). But Cory Booker? He’s very close to AIPAC. He was there, speaking to NJ members, but his event was off-the-record. And journalists covering the event were not informed. Jerusalem Post broke the story Booker was there, and The Intercept posted a leaked recording of what he said. After saying joining protest was “the Jewish way,” Booker flipped that argument and told the members about his key role in punishing BDS, the global movement to use financial pressure on Israel to end their human rights violations and military occupation of Palestinian territories – a movement similar to the worldwide boycott focused on ending apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. From his remarks, Booker equates the BDS movement with anti-Semitism. The senator is co-sponsor of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which he says “opposes international efforts to encourage BDS while protecting First Amendment rights”. But the ACLU says it “criminalizes political boycotts that are protected by the First Amendment”.

I’m with ACLU; they’ve been protecting the First Amendment for 99 years. And shutting down BDS activism is a major Israeli foreign policy priority – and thus AIPAC’s priority. I can’t see how that should be my priority.

Loretta W. Equating BDS with anti-Semitism, and protecting Israel’s financial interests with NJ financial clout

Cory & Bob, Josh Gottheimer and Loretta Weinberg: But now we go to Rep. Gottheimer, to my knowledge the only NJ House member who showed up at AIPAC (Sen. Menendez was also there publicly; both our senators have backed AIPAC and Israel through some of that nation’s ugliest moments). And – surprise! – Gottheimer equates BDS with anti-Semitism too. As does NJ Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-sponsor of legislation that now prohibits the state’s pension & annuity funds from investing in any company that boycotts Israel or Israeli businesses – using NJ’s financial investment heft to protect Israel’s interests at the expense of American political expression. I so often agree with the fierce and intelligent NJ Senate Majority Leader. Not on this.

Here again is the link to Prof. Shalom’s post last night: No, you’re not automatically anti-Semitic if you criticize Israel, N.J. professor says

For more with Shalom, this podcast: The Weaponization of Anti-Semitism, an A Correction podcast

Comment (1)

  1. Sally G

    Thanks for this viewpoint on the BDS/antisemitism controversy—which, as you point out, should not be problematical at all: criticizing the actions of a government, and using financial pressure to reinforce that criticism through boycott or divestment, is far different from demonizing an ethnicity, religion, or other identity. I too am disappointed in Sen. Weinberg, and our U.S. Senators’ stance on BDS and AIPAC are not new to me, still distressing.
    The real reason that BDS is being called antisemitic may be that it brings attention to the USA’s imperial geopolitical interests in the region—which do not necessarily coincide with best practices for human rights. That can be uncomfortable, leading to a defensive accusation of antisemitism. Professor Shalom’s article is well worth a read.

    Reply

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