Friday, March 8, 2019

The Ilhan Omar Affair Shows the Democratic Establishment's Moral Bankruptcy

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP, taken from the The Intercept)
The new Congress is barely two months into its first session and already the Democratic leadership is using their new power as an opportunity to be worthless little toads. When Ilhan Omar, the first black Muslim Congresswoman, did a few entirely accurate tweets about the pro-Israel lobby's influence on Congress, the House leadership took the opportunity to blast her as an antisemite and bullied an unwarranted apology out of her. Now, after Nancy Pelosi cheerfully appeared with Omar on this month's cover of Rolling Stone, Pelosi and some other hacks have drafted a resolution that slimily associates Omar with genuinely awful examples of antisemitism ("justifying the killing or harming of Jews", "accusing Jews of dual loyalty", "anti-Semitic myths...that Jews control the banks, media, and the United States Government") without mentioning her by name, because Omar correctly identified the allegiance to Israel that's demanded of members of Congress.*

Her remarks in both cases were correct and justified, but her opponents took the opportunity to castigate her because, as a black Muslim, she's particularly vulnerable to accusations of antisemitism, and because they want to silence critics of Israel. Anyone who hand-wrung about her phrasing in these comments is, willingly or not, an accomplice in this utterly cynical smear campaign that emanates from people who want Israel's oppression and murder of Palestinians to continue unabated. I won't go into more detail than that here. If my readers want a more in-depth explanation of why Omar is right and said nothing objectionable, I recommended Glenn Greenwald's excellent piece in The Intercept on the Democrats' utterly loathsome resolution gimmick.

Make no mistake. This is not cowardice on the part of Pelosi and the rest of the leadership. The accusation of cowardice is too generous. It implies that they would do the right thing if only they were braver. The reality is much worse: they themselves are supporters of Israel's worst and most sadistic actions and are trying to ensure that no one challenges them. Representative Juan Vargas did us the favor of making this clear when he tweeted that "questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable." Let's take Pelosi: back in 1995, she supported the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the US government to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which didn't end up happening until Donald Trump became president. In 2006, she voted in favor of a resolution that defended Israel's invasion and attack on Lebanon, which would kill over 1,000 Lebanese, mostly civilians. She faithfully supported Israel in the 2008-2009 Gaza War that killed well over 1,000 Palestinians (16 Israelis were killed in the conflict). As Israel killed over 2,000 Palestinians in 2014, Pelosi once again took its side, blaming Hamas for the conflict (a total of 72 Israelis, 66 of them soldiers, were killed; the vast majority of Palestinian deaths were civilian).

Or we can an even more disgusting case, that of Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, who called Omar's latest comments a "vile anti-Semitic slur." Engel has sponsored a resolution that recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, in complete disregard to the opinion of much of the world; when the UN Security Council condemned Israel's blatantly illegal West Bank settlements in 2016, Engel introduced a resolution to condemn the Security Council's condemnation shortly after; he opposed giving Iran relief from crushing sanctions as part of the nuclear deal because "Iran will be poised to inflict even greater damage to Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and our Gulf partners"; and he attended a rally in support of Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza, also attended by demented Islamophobe Pamela Geller.

Rest assured, you will find the same sort of shit if you delve into the records of the rest of the Democrats decrying Omar. Notably, the Senate Democrats are currently led by Chuck Schumer, who has indicated he believes God appointed him as Israel's guardian and said that the Palestinians should be "strangle[d]...economically," explaining that the source of the Israel-Palestine conflict is that "they [the Palestinians] don't believe in the Torah". Had Omar made equivalent remarks, she would probably be somewhere in Guantanamo Bay right now.

Israel is certainly not the only issue where establishment Democrats would like to stamp out any challenge from the left, as illustrated by Pelosi's derision of the Green New Deal and Dianne Feinstein's hostility toward a group of children who showed up at her office to push for the GND. As Donald Trump, the epitome of everything sick and ugly about American capitalism, promised in his State of the Union that "America will never be a socialist country," Nancy Pelosi was behind him (figuratively and literally), clapping politely along. What did Trump mean by that? We would never be a Soviet-style communist dictatorship? A Nordic-style social democracy? A country with programs that are commonplace or universal across the rest of the industrialized world, like universal healthcare and free college? All of the above, in all likelihood. And Pelosi's no dope—she knew what she was applauding. She certainly doesn't want Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's vision for the country to triumph, let alone anything more radical. "We're capitalist," she told a young audience member who asked her about socialism in a 2017 town hall, "and that's just the way it is."

And why should it be any other way? Pelosi, after all, is a multimillionaireSo is Feinstein, for that matter. Chuck Schumer, meanwhile—along with his fanatical support for Israel, which seems to come from sincere, deranged personal conviction—has to busy himself making sure he can keep raking in campaign contributions from Wall Street. Capitalism is a system that's been serving them and their donors pretty well, even it's been impoverishing many others and condemning humanity to a future of climate disasters. The establishment Democrats are capitalists through and through, not simply accepting the system of capitalism as a necessary evil that can be managed and regulated as it is in many European countries, but rather eagerly perpetuating the inequality and injustice that's inherent in capitalism to their own benefit—with an occasional bone tossed to the poor and middle class so they don't get too rebellious and so the establishment hacks can soothe their consciences, if they're burdened with any.

This certainly goes beyond the reptiles in Congress, too. One of Obama's parting gifts was to foist the milquetoast suit Tom Perez on his party instead of allowing the left to score a symbolic victory by seeing Keith Ellison elected DNC chair. The centrist establishment of the Democratic Party is, to reiterate, hell-bent on protecting the status quo from any dramatic left-wing alterations and the Omar travesty shows that they're willing to join hands with the most despicable elements of the right in order to beat down anyone who strays too far, say, by criticizing Our Ally, The Only Liberal Democracy In The Middle East™or pointing out their own amoral fealty to it. 

The current crop of Democratic Party candidates is largely not promising, either, in this regard: Kamala Harris, the former top cop of California and beneficiary of Steve Mnuchin's generosity; Kirsten Gillibrand, who co-sponsored a bill to criminalize boycotting Israel (before withdrawing her support for it under pressure) and has issued a pathetically middling statement equating Omar's statements with Islamophobia and racism from the right; Cory Booker, who denounced Obama's criticism of Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital in 2012 and opposed the 2016 UN resolution condemning Israel's settlements; and millennial-bashing, tough-on-crime, segregation-enabler Joe Biden, among others. Sanders is once again the best option and Warren's not bad (relatively speaking) but we'll see whether either of them can avoid being railroaded by the Party Establishment.

Major left-wing change is impossible as long as these lizards are in power, at least until it becomes career suicide for them to keep thwarting it. In the meantime, they are major obstacles to any attempt at seriously challenging the hegemony of corporate interests or ending any number of America's horrific foreign policies. Anyone who supports them against challenges from the left is either too stupid to understand this or too evil to care, and those who attempt to embrace both the Democratic Old Guard and the more left-wing upstarts, both the Pelosis and the Ilhan Omars, are trying to straddle the Grand Canyon. Cooperation between the left and the Democratic establishment is to some extent an ugly necessity when it comes to fighting against Trump, but make no mistake: the establishment lackeys will have to defeated one way or another, whether it's before the 2020 election or afterward. Their problem is not cowardice or weakness—it's that they're thoroughly committed to a system that needs to be destroyed.


*In the time since I began writing this post, that resolution has been shelved and instead the House approved a generic one condemning hate in general. This shouldn't be taken as any sort of indication of a sincere change of heart on the part of the leadership, but it could be a promising sign for the left.

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