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Trump Wins, Israel Loses in Travel Flap

Don Rose 21 August 2019 No Comment

Donald Trump is getting just what he wanted in the still boiling controversy over Israel’s banning two Muslim congresswomen from entering their country–at the unprecedented suggestion of the US president–after first approving their travel there.

   The state of Israel, however, in following Trump’s lead with the flip-flop on his two enemies–presumably to help his re-election campaign as he has helped Benjamin Netanyahu’s–got far more criticism than it bargained for and seriously damaged its longtime, bipartisan support from American officialdom.

   You’re probably familiar with the bizarre episode by now. Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan–Israel’s two strongest critics in the congress– planned a tour of Israel and the occupied West Bank, sponsored by an anti-Israel Palestinian organization.


   Both being supporters of the Boycott, Disinvest, Sanction Movement (BDS), it was expected they would attempt to exploit any observations of mistreatment of Palestinians in Israel or the occupied territories, but travel has never been denied any members of congress.

   Then came Trump’s vicious tweets saying it would show weakness on Israel’s part to let the pair in because–in his typical grossly overstated tweet style–they “hated” Israel and hated Jews, said horrible things about Jews, etc ., etc.

    Their criticisms of Israel policies have been no worse than many Jewish members of the Knesset and while Omar did echo some anti-Semitic tropes months ago, she apologized and neither has been heard saying anything critical of Jews since. Both then voted for an anti-hate resolution passed by the House.

    Nevertheless, the Israeli government obediently reversed itself and for the first time in history barred members of congress from entering. They did a quick partial change by permitting Tlaib to come to the West Bank to visit her grandmother under stringent speech and travel limitations, which she turned down, denouncing the restrictions as “racist.”

    The controversy, however, plays right into Trump’s re-election strategy. Aside from diverting from bad news such as impending fears of recession, hurtful trade wars and embarrassing emanations from Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, it brings two Muslim members of “The Squad” back into major headlines and TV commentaries.

    He works hard at making them the  “face” of the Democratic Party, turning them into hate symbols as Republicans did with Nancy Pelosi for several election cycles before it failed to work. Right now he finds it stimulates his base and hopes it will generate electoral turnout–while purportedly peeling Jewish voters away from the Dems.

   He is helped immensely by the fact that they are Muslims, who lie high on hate-groups hate lists–opponents to be “sent back” to where they came from.

  So count the total brouhaha as a short-term “win” for him.

   Israel, however, once unassailable in congress, suffered stinging rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike, including talk of affecting its billions in aid–plus BDS got more publicity.

    Its own powerful right-wing lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) actually admonished the action.

    Welcome again to Trump World, where it doesn’t matter who loses as long as he wins–for the moment.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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