March 2, 2019


Ilhan Omar's Latest Remarks on Israel Draw Criticism (Karen Zraick, March 1, 2019, NY Times)

The sentence that garnered the most attention was, "I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." [...]

At one point, Mr. Shallal asked about anti-Semitism, saying it was "an issue that tends to keep popping up over and over again."

"I know that's a very sensitive topic and I know it's an issue that has been out there and it's used oftentimes to quiet people, to disparage them, to isolate them," he said.

He asked Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib to discuss how the issue was playing out in the political sphere and how progressives could support them so their criticism of Israeli policies would not be seen as anti-Semitic.

"Because you're not criticizing the religion. You're not criticizing Jewish people. You're criticizing government policies," he added, "just like we criticize government policies here in the United States."

Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, then talked about her love for her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, and her drive to humanize the discussion around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This conversation and debate around human rights for everyone, this conversation around what that looks like, is not centered around hate, it's actually centered so much around love," she said.

Ms. Omar sounded a similar note, saying the country had not "uplifted" the stories of Palestinians. But she added that she had heard Jewish constituents, colleagues and friends say that some Palestinians do not want or deserve safety.

She said she did not "go into the dark place" of assuming those people were Islamophobic. But she said she was afraid that people were labeling her and Ms. Tlaib as anti-Semitic because of their Muslim faith.

Ms. Omar said she felt pained that she had been linked to intolerance. But she argued that the persistent focus on those accusations was detracting from substantive discourse about American foreign policy.

"We end up defending that, and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine," she said to loud cheers.

This is a moment where she should be forcing the contradictions of her opponents, not getting herself in trouble, as political Zionism reveals its ethnonationalist face.  This is not just about the way Israel treats Arab citizens but about the nature of modern Judaism (Zionism) itself and whether America will continue to ally itself with a nation that rejects our ideals:

American Israel lobby condemns Netanyahu deal with far-right party (Ruth Eglash, February 25, 2019, Washington Post)

"The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel," AJC wrote in its statement. "The party might conceivably gain enough votes to enter the next Knesset, and potentially even become part of the governing coalition."

AIPAC's tweet simply said it agreed with the AJC and added that it "has a long-standing policy not to meet with members of the racist and reprehensible party."


Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding troubling developments between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the American Jewish community.  Specifically, I have become aware that the Chief Rabbinate has taken upon itself to unilaterally reject Jewish status letters written by my constituent, Rabbi Avraham Weiss of New York, on behalf of those seeking to marry in the state of Israel.  This trend of rejecting status letters written by Rabbis Weiss and others undermines the bond between Diaspora communities and the state of Israel, and I fear, may ultimately lead to the wholesale prohibition on community rabbis in the Diaspora from participating in the religious life of Jewish people in Israel.  

Rabbi Weiss has for many years supplied Jewish status letters to those seeking to marry in Israel without raising questions about his halachic credentials by the Chief Rabbinate.  As you may know, Rabbi Weiss has led the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale for nearly four decades, and also founded Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, both of which are in my congressional district.  He has served as a powerful activist and a defender of clal yisrael on issues ranging from Soviet Jewry to Jonathan Pollard's release.  To those such as myself who have known Rabbi Weiss for many years, it would be unthinkable to question his commitment to Jewish law.

As dismayed as I and many of my constituents may be by the Chief Rabbinate's decision in regards to Rabbi Weiss specifically, I am concerned that this is simply the latest instance of the broader marginalization of the many diverse streams of Judaism in Israel. 

Posted by at March 2, 2019 10:44 AM