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Questioning Israel isn’t anti-Semitic

While the threat of growing anti-Semitism is real, the accusations being lobbed against Rep. (Rashida) Tlaib is blatant fear-mongering. Criticizing the policies of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic. Nor is questioning the influence of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

My generation has been challenging the actions of our government ever since we tried to stop a war in Vietnam. We did that out of love for our country and countrymen. White nationalists holding torches at a Nazi rally, a president who responds by saying “very fine people on both sides,” (people) killing worshippers in synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego, arsonists burning black churches in Louisiana, growing hate crimes toward people of Middle Eastern descent in the wake of 9/11 – these are real threats.

I represented Albuquerque’s 1st Congressional District for Deb Haaland as part of a national Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) delegation to Congress on April 2. JVP is a growing grassroots movement of American Jews and allies that promotes a foreign policy based on justice, equality and human rights for Palestinians and Israelis.

The only member of Congress who found time to greet us was Tlaib, a Palestinian-Muslim-American from Detroit. With a warm smile and dynamic hand gestures, Tlaib told stories about her family and her commitment to civil rights in Detroit and in Palestine. Two-thirds of Congress – including Democrats and Republicans – had attended the national AIPAC conference the week before where everyone professed their desire for a secure Israel. But uncritical, unconditional support condemns that 70-year country to virulent nationalism, increased domestic violence, militarization of another generation of Israelis, environmental degradation, international isolation and an ongoing subjugation of a civilian population, including the torture of Palestinian children. That is not pro-Israeli or pro-Jewish.

Tlaib reminded us that Jesus was a Palestinian rabbi who believed in human rights and equality. Justice is the cornerstone of Judaism, so we had no problem with that sentiment. When Tlaib shepherds a congressional trip to Israel, the West Bank and possibly Gaza, I will encourage my representatives to bear witness.

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