AIPAC and the Company that Rashida Tlaib Keeps
The annual AIPAC Policy Conference always draws protests by anti-Israel activists who have contempt for the well-documented fact that a majority of Americans strongly support the close alliance between the US and Israel.
While the activists who regularly rail against AIPAC are usually members of fringe groups that espouse extremist views, they apparently feel emboldened this year because they now have new allies in Congress.
Take the fanatical anti-Israel activist Abbas Hamideh who co-founded and leads the group Al Awda, which considers Israel an illegitimate “terrorist” entity and demands a Palestinian “right of return.” Hamideh attracted attention when the media noticed that he boasted of having ties to Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who had posed for several photos with him. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on Tlaib to “clarify” these incidents, and to distance herself from Hamideh’s extremist and antisemitic statements that were documented in an ADL backgrounder.
As the ADL rightly emphasized, Hamideh has “a record of praising terrorist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah, equating Zionists with Nazis, and denying Israel’s right to exist.” He even objected to showing any solidarity with Jews following the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last October.
Tlaib seemed to feel that her photos with Hamideh didn’t really warrant any critical attention, and dismissed them as meaningless, arguing that posing with someone for a photo doesn’t imply agreement “with anything someone says.” However, it is clear that Tlaib does actually agree with some of Hamideh’s views. Like him, she opposes Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, and she has expressed several other views that reflect positions promoted by radical anti-Israel activists.
It was therefore hardly surprising that Hamideh remained unfazed by Tlaib’s perfunctory dismissal of him, and continued to promote her and other radical groups that regard her as an ally.
Inevitably, Hamideh has also become an ardent fan of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose repeated remarks demonizing Israel and its supporters in the US have endeared her even to the far-right former KKK leader David Duke. Duke vocally praised Omar for taking on AIPAC.
Politicians who want to claim mainstream credibility but attract supporters from the extreme fringes should be concerned about the message they are sending. The far-right and the far-left have found common ground before by demonizing Jews, and even if it’s now about demonizing the world’s only Jewish state and its supporters, the slightly updated conspiracy theories and insinuations they spew are as hateful as the older versions.
To be sure, not all anti-Israel activists acknowledge their support for terrorism as openly as Hamideh. But it’s a safe bet to assume that most of the people and groups who will show up to protest AIPAC will support the “15th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week,” scheduled to run from March 18 to 23 (with additional events until April 8). You can look no further than the official poster for the event to see the barely disguised support for the Hamas-orchestrated riots at the Gaza border.
The poster celebrates the kites modified by terrorists with incendiary or explosive material, and launched across the border into Israel in order to start devastating fires and threaten Israeli lives and property. The poster’s dominant black and red colors convey a certainly unintended visual honesty by symbolizing the fires and the blackened landscape left by these arson kites. The demand to “Stop Arming Colonialism” casts Israel as an illegitimate state that should be defenseless against those who want to eliminate it.
To burn defenseless Jews is an age-old and all-too-often realized dream of Jew-haters. Those who will participate in Israeli Apartheid Week and then go to protest AIPAC may not want to do the murderous work themselves, but they are obviously happy to cheer on and support those who are eager to do so.
Petra Marquardt-Bigman is a German-Israeli freelance writer and researcher with a Ph.D. in contemporary history. Her blog, The Warped Mirror, has been published by The Jerusalem Post since late 2006, and her writings have appeared at The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, World Politics Review, The Commentator, and other sites.