Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s outrageous attack on Israel yesterday in VICE reveals ignorance of both history and current events, while also employing an anti-Semitic canard of the far right.
While Prime Minister Netanyahu proudly wears the right-wing label as McCollum asserts, and while many of us have serious disagreements with some of his polices, he came to office in a fair and democratic election in which every Arab citizen of Israel had the same right to vote as any Jewish citizen. Indeed, that same election resulted in the Joint Arab list being the Parliament’s third largest party.
Those facts alone give the lie to Congresswoman McCollum’s vicious name calling.
Leading human rights activists have already spoken out about this false comparison:
“…the comparison with South Africa is intellectually lazy, morally questionable, and possibly even mendacious.” — Israel critic, and former Human Rights Professor Ian Buruma
“The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.” — Israel critic, and former Justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, Richard J. Goldstone
“As a movement we recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognise the legitimacy of the Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders but with equal vigour support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.”i — Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa
Neither Israel under Netanyahu, nor the US under Trump, is a perfect society. But we can critique both American and Israeli polices without resorting to odious and inaccurate comparisons that set back rather than advance the peace process.
Morever, by suggesting that Jews have disproportionate influence on U.S. elections, the Congresswoman exploits an anti-Semitic trope widely used by far right forces from Czarism to fascism.
It’s particularly unfortunate that that her repulsive comments come at a time when Democrats should be focused on responding to the dangerous and divisive policies President Trump is likely to advance in his State of the Union address.
Congresswoman McCollum owes Democrats an apology for her hateful remarks.
i Address by Nelson Mandela at the opening of the 37th Congress of South African Jewish Board of
Deputies, Johannesburg (http://www.mandela.gov.za/mandela_speeches/1993/930821_jewish.htm)