Her statement provided the extraordinary sight of a US elected representative telling the anti-Palestinian organization enough is enough. She pushed back – and hard.
My statement responding to the vicious and hateful paid Facebook ads from AIPAC intended to demonize my work in support of human rights for Palestinian children. #HR2407 #StopAIPACsHate https://t.co/ViH1rLilm1
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) February 12, 2020
McCollum denounced as “hate speech” the recent AIPAC Facebook ads that she said are “weaponizing anti-Semitism to incite followers by attacking me, my colleagues, and my work promoting human rights for Palestinian children detained in Israeli military prisons.”
Terming the organization a “hate group,” she declared that “the struggle to advance human rights and promote human dignity inevitably results in confronting entrenched forces determined to dehumanize, debase and demonize individuals or entire populations to maintain dominance and an unjust status quo.”
McCollum – who has introduced legislation aimed at preventing US tax dollars from being used by Israel to harm Palestinian children – has not been reticent in criticizing discriminatory Israeli law previously.
In 2018 she termed the Israeli nation-state law “apartheid.”
Such language is simply not employed by members of Congress, who in general would far rather speak nicely to AIPAC’s annual conference than raise the least concern about decades of Israeli subjugation of Palestinians.
The Minnesota congresswoman took particular exception to an AIPAC petition connected to the ad which claimed: “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and – maybe more sinister – right here in the US Congress.”
She rightly termed the language “incitement.”
Particularly revealing in the episode was that McCollum’s comments came five days after AIPAC issued an apology for the ad. She has rejected that apology.
@AIPAC weaponizing anti-Semitism to dehumanize is hate speech. My work for human rights & Palestinian rights goes on. #HR2407 #StopAIPACsHate pic.twitter.com/lbT15bBmhi
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) February 12, 2020
Backers of Palestinian rights across the country highlighted and cheered her words.
Ilhan Omar retweeted McCollum’s statement and Rashida Tlaib tweeted her own message of support for McCollum. Omar and Tlaib, the first Muslim women elected to Congress, were also targeted by the AIPAC ad.
Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.
I doubt our fearless colleague @BettyMcCollum04's voice is shaking, but I know she comes from a place that believes hate that incites violence doesn't belong anywhere. I commend her courage. https://t.co/uMV9cux3qg
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) February 12, 2020
The question from here as Democrats such as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren begin to skip the March AIPAC conference is how many members of Congress will criticize AIPAC’s vicious attack on their colleagues.
How many will also challenge the routine Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights? AIPAC works assiduously to convince Congress that these violations are acceptable and relatively benign because they serve the (falsely) perceived greater good of Israeli dominance over the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Warren commits not to attend AIPAC. Who knows if she would be invited, etc...
But IfNotNow has been effective enough that the more hawkishly pro-Israel Dem establishment coached candidates on how to deal with them back in July: https://t.co/nMB4aSt35j https://t.co/Cm5z9OdCZT
— Daniel Marans (@danielmarans) February 7, 2020
Nor is this the first time McCollum has been a leader in standing up to AIPAC. In a 2006 letter she said the organization would not be welcome in her congressional offices until it apologized for an AIPAC representative having “smeared” her reputation by claiming she gave “support for terrorists.”
Well this is RARE. @BettyMcCollum04 has launched a full frontal attack on AIPAC, calling it a “hate group,” after the Israel lobby group said she, @RashidaTlaib and @IlhanMN were possibly more “sinister” than ISIS because they criticize Israeli human rights abuses https://t.co/JfELOnJiHn
— Alex Kane (@alexbkane) February 12, 2020
Netanyahu assaults free speech
As it happened, McCollum’s most recent statement coincided with a tweet from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, claiming, “In recent years, we have promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted. The UN Human Rights Council is a biased body that is devoid of influence. Not for nothing have I already ordered the severing of ties with it.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 12, 2020
Democratic presidential candidates, while not on board with the nonviolent, Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, have said they support the free speech rights of proponents. Now they are going to have to confront the fact that the government of Israel is promoting laws intended to limit the free speech rights of American citizens.
Whether members of Congress push back on this brazen assault on American rights remains to be seen. Better yet, they might consider the substance of a movement fighting for equal rights and freedom for Palestinians.
At the very least, Netanyahu’s tweet establishes unequivocally that Israel is working to diminish the cherished speech rights of American citizens concerned about human rights and actually doing something to promote them.
Wow. Imagine the response if leader of any other foreign country publicly boasted about interfering in US laws this way.
[All of us following these laws knew this was the case but didn’t date state it so baldly without rock-solid proof. Thanks Bibi for doing that for us!] https://t.co/aOScIubW9v
— Lara Friedman🔥 (@LaraFriedmanDC) February 12, 2020
And AIPAC is working to attack American members of Congress who stand up for Palestinian children living under occupation.
McCollum, for her part, is steadfast, saying, “I will not back down from my commitment to peace, justice, equality, and human rights for Palestinians and Israelis.”
The Democratic Party is finding more courage in supporting Palestinian rights with elected representatives such as McCollum, Omar and Tlaib leading the way.