Senator Sanders’s Nakba

The Vermont socialist hosts in the Capitol an event to denounce the Jewish state on its 75th anniversary.

AP/Jacquelyn Martin, file
Senator Sanders on Capitol Hill, March 29, 2023. AP/Jacquelyn Martin, file

Senator Sanders swooping in to ensure that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s event commemorating “Nakba Day” after Speaker McCarthy vetoed it on the House side provides a snapshot of the state of play on Capitol Hill when it comes to Israel. While the Vermont socialist has long sided with the enemies of the Jewish state, lending his Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing room as a stage sets a new low.

Ms. Tlaib’s invitation asserted that “May 15th marks 75 years since the beginning of the Nakba, which means ‘catastrophe.’ Seventy-five years ago, Zionist militias and the new Israeli military violently expelled approximately three-quarters of all Palestinians from their homes and homeland in what became the state of Israel.” It did not mention that five Arab armies attacked Israel after the United Nations approved it for statehood. 

The hearing was preceded by an act of moral courage. Mr. McCarthy pulled rank to block the Capitol Visitor Service, her first choice for a venue, from being used for Ms. Tlaib’s programming. He said that it is “wrong for members of Congress to traffic in antisemitic tropes about Israel.” The congresswoman shot back that the speaker is trying to “rewrite history and erase the existence and truth of the Palestinian people.” 

While the event was not filmed — permits could not be secured on such short notice — photographs showed standing room only. “Nakba Day” commemorations have been featured on campus seething with anti-Jewish sentiments, and now they have jumped to Capitol Hill. On the day it was held, 500 rockets were launched at Israel’s civilians, a nice corollary to the war of words that appears to be Ms. Tlaib’s occupation.

Palestinian Arabs and their fellow travelers mourn the founding of Israel — by that United Nations mandate voted at Lake Success — and mark it as a day of sorrow and rage. Ms. Tlaib, who is of Palestinian Arab heritage, has accused Israel of being an “apartheid state” and engaging in “ethnic cleansing.” With her fellow Squad members, she forms the anti-Israel bloc among American lawmakers. Their efforts are often met by silence from Democratic colleagues.

A signal moment came in 2019, after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” to explain why she came under fire for her criticism of Israel.  Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues backed down from forthrightly naming that as antisemitism. In her caucus’s “All Lives Matter” moment, the resolution was rewritten to include a laundry list of bigotries. The dodge was dubbed by President Trump to be “shameful.”

Ms. Tlaib has said that “you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government,” a prescription that Mr. Sanders has done nothing to dispel. On a debate stage during the 2020 primary, he called Prime Minister Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” who is “now running” Israel. Mr. Sanders had spent some months at a kibbutz, Sha’ar HaAmakim, where the ideological climate was likely to have been to the left of Lenin.

If Ms. Tlaib hosted “Nakba Day” and Mr. Sanders was its sponsor, its invisible enablers were two more Democratic elders — President Biden and Senator Schumer. Mr. Sanders has been a frequent visitor to the White House. It was Mr. Schumer, no stranger to the Jewish after-dinner circuit, who named Mr. Sanders as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, in whose room the Nakba was enthusiastically marked.


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