Elise Stefanik says there are “strains of anti-Semitism” in the Democratic Party, and I agree with her.
Bias against Jews is a weed that human culture does not seem to be able to root out, and it grows in all sorts of environments.
Acknowledging that it grows among Democrats as well as Republicans, not to mention people in various political parties around the world, would be a good thing, if that were what Stefanik is doing; but it’s not. Instead, she’s trying to use the presence of the first Muslim women in Congress — Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar — and their views on Israeli policies toward Palestinians as an opening for an anti-Semitism charge against the Democratic Party.
Omar is from Somalia. Tlaib grew up in Detroit, the oldest of 14 children in a working class family. Her father, who had emigrated from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, worked on a Ford assembly line.
Tlaib went to college, then law school, then got elected to Congress. This is the sort of American dream that the president Stefanik supports wants to make impossible. Donald Trump is trying to change immigration rules to exclude families that might, as they strive to improve their lot, occasionally rely on social services, as the Tlaibs did.
Undoubtedly, Tlaib regards Israeli policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere differently from Stefanik, which doesn’t mean either one of them is being anti-Semitic — meaning, in this case, anti-Jewish (Semitic can be used to describe both Israelis and Palestinians, the source of much confusion.)
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Anyway, there should be room for diversity of opinion in Congress, and people should be able to criticize policies pursued by the Israeli government without being called bigots. Since Tlaib is a Palestinian-American whose grandmother still lives in the West Bank, it’s no surprise her views on politics in that region are very different from Stefanik’s. That doesn’t make either one of them a bigot.
We’re talking a lot about bigotry these days, because Donald Trump has made attacks on minorities a centerpiece of the way he governs. His constant belittling of people and demonizing of folks who are not white Americans has infected our politics and our culture.
We’ve always had the capacity to be mean and petty, but Trump has empowered the worse devils of our nature, so the nastiness is surfacing everywhere, even in the public squares of Glens Falls. Local groups have formed to rally in support of Trump, and statements from some of their members and their behavior in public have mimicked his bullying style.
You can see it, too, in the way Stefanik conducts herself now, with misleading press releases that attack opponents with buzzwords, like socialism, that don’t fit the circumstances. Back when Donald Trump was seeking the Republican nomination, Stefanik expressed confidence he would never get it, leaving unspoken the many reasons he shouldn’t get it.
But she’s all-in on the Trump train now, even to the point of embracing the bullying she looked down on before. That is such a shame. The least people who support President Trump can do in these uncivil times is admit that he sets a terrible example in personal behavior and decline to follow it.