Cori Bush Fights All Types of Bigotry — Except Antisemitism
Many young voters view Cori Bush as a leader who can help bring about the change they desperately want to see.
Bush has been the US Representative of St. Louis since 2021, and is likely headed back to Congress after her recent Democratic primary win. Beyond her work as a Congresswoman, Bush is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and has a proven track record of boots-on-the-ground activism. During the Ferguson protests, she helped organize a crisis-response team to support the local community. In another show of commitment, Bush slept on the stairs of the Capitol to protest the end of the eviction moratorium in 2021 during the peak of Covid-19.
Her outspokenness and staunch commitment to progressive causes carry a lot of weight for left-leaning voters in a post-Trump America. Trump’s administration yanked away the façade of America as an accepting melting pot, and revealed a country in cultural turmoil where racists were emboldened and white nationalism became mainstream. For some, the rise of the right highlighted the need for a louder, more assertive left, which is where Cori Bush stepped up to the plate. As a Black woman in a white-male-dominated Congress, Bush has taken it upon herself to advocate for marginalized groups and minorities — well, most minorities.
As a left-leaning woman, I want to support Cori Bush, who supports many of the same causes and policies that I do. Yet, as a Jewish woman, I have found myself and my community at odds with her.
Bush’s association with known antisemites — as well as her own antisemitism — have left many Jewish Americans feeling unsafe, ostracized, and politically homeless.
When it comes to the Jewish community, Bush’s advocacy and activism has been lackluster, to say the least, falling short of the efforts that she demonstrates for other minority groups. In fact, she has a history of parroting antisemitic tropes under the guise of social justice, and often holds Israel – the only Jewish state — to a drastically different standard than any other county. To be clear, criticizing the Israeli government and specific Israeli policies is not antisemitic. However, when criticism strays to demonization — and when Israel is held to a double-standard — it becomes antisemitism.
On August 4 2021, Bush claimed in a speech to Congress that the US’ aid to Israel was to blame for homelessness in St. Louis. She claimed that by providing aid to Israel, the US was taking away money that could have gone to her constituency. She did not criticize US aid to Egypt — which has the highest rate of female genital mutilation in the world — or even Afghanistan, which was about to come under the control of the Taliban — just Israel. With the list of recipients of US aid including a slew of countries with egregious human rights abuses, Bush zeroed in on the only Jewish country. I recognized a trend in Bush’s words that is engrained in the historical memory of my community: being scapegoated for a country’s troubles.
Even worse, Bush has repeatedly endorsed boycotts and sanctions against Israel, but has vocally opposed imposing broad-based sanctions on Russia and Cuba, citing that such measures are inhumane and punitive to the people. Is the population of Israel, most of whom are Jewish, not deserving of the same concern she voices for Russians and Cubans? Skeptics may accuse me of “whataboutism,” but it is difficult to write-off her fixation on Israel and the double standard she applies to it as merely a coincidence.
Most recently and most disturbingly, it was discovered that a fundraising partner of Rep. Bush, Neveen Ayesh, has tweeted horrific antisemitic vitriol, calling for the death of Jews and even expressing a desire to join Hamas’ military wing.
Cori Bush and Neveen Ayesh began fundraising together in 2017, and have continued their partnership to this day. In 2014, Ayesh tweeted: “I want to set Israel on fire with my own hands and watch it burn to ashes along with every Israeli in it.” Chillingly, she also tweeted: “#crimesworthyoftherope being a Jew” — stating point-blank that being Jewish is a crime worthy of death in her eyes.
When Ayesh’s vile tweets resurfaced, she took to Twitter to defend herself rather than to apologize. She claimed that every one of her tweets coincided with times of unrest and violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, insinuating that her antisemitic outbursts online were a form of catharsis for her trauma and anger.
Cori Bush’s failure to condemn Neveen Ayesh or to distance herself from her — along with her extensive track-record of anti-Israel measures — speaks volumes about her priorities. Bush’s silence in the face of blatant antisemitism stands starkly in contrast to her respect and activism for other minority groups.
I am not just disappointed in Bush and her supporters for their hypocrisy and self-righteousness — I am angry. How can they claim to be anti-racist and morally superior to the right when they themselves perpetuate a form of racism and bigotry? How can she advertise herself as a champion of human rights when she neglects and ostracizes a demographic that has one of the longest histories of persecution?
Jews make up 2% of the US population and are disproportionately targeted by hate crimes — according to FBI data — but Bush has decided that we are not a minority group worthy of the same sensitivity and respect as other minority groups. That Bush’s hate is tolerated in Congress and American politics is a worrisome sign for the future. In the words of the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris: “antisemitism may begin with Jews, but, ultimately, targets the fabric and fiber of any democratic society.”
Laura Patou graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in international relations, and currently works in New York City in investor relations.