The Democratic revolt over Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress continues to grow. Indeed, more Democratic representatives have stated that they either will be boycotting Netanyahu’s speech or are undecided about their attendance than those who have stated they will be attending.
This is being punctuated by the fact that John Lewis (D-GA), civil rights icon and an elder statesman in the Democratic caucus, has now publicly pledged to skip Netanyahu’s speech. As of this writing, he is the fifth Democratic representative to do so, with the others being Jim McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jim McDermott (D-WA), and head of the Congressional Black Caucus, G.K. Butterfield (D-NC).
This in addition to a handful of representatives, including several Jewish members of Congress, who have admitted that they have not yet decided if they will attend. This includes John Yarmuth (D-KY), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). Of these, Yarmuth made waves last week when, during a radio interview, he expressed outrage at John Boehner’s invitation of Netanyahu, calling it “close to subversion” of the President.
As I wrote last week, what Boehner and Netanyahu have actually done is subvert bi-partisan support for Israel:
The irony here is that, instead of subverting Obama, Boehner has ended up subverting bipartisan support for Israel on the issue of Iran. Indeed, Boehner and Netanyahu together have done the unthinkable: they have turned Israel into a political wedge now dividing Democrats and Republicans. For in response to the Netanyahu invitation, Democrats in Congress who supported the Iran sanctions bill, including some of its critical backers, have currently pulled such support.
Evidence of this subversion is playing out as members of Congress announce they will be boycotting Netanyahu’s speech. While it is a speech that may help Netanyahu as local elections loom in Israel, it is also a speech that has turned Israel into a political football here in America, something hawkish ‘pro-Israel’ backers have long feared.
As a progressive Jew who stands firmly against Netanyahu’s policies, I’m simultaneously outraged by the man’s chutzpah and heartened by how this episode has emboldened lawmakers to publicly stand against AIPAC (which supports the speech) and against Netanyahu’s militarism in favor of J Street’s call for a change in approach.
This is something only the team of Boehner and Netanyahu working in conjunction could have accomplished.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.
A couple points are in order. First, the author would be cheering for a boycott of this speech even if Bibi had been personally invited by Obama. Second, Lewis is not doing this as a means to oppose AIPAC, as he made clear in his starement explaining his decision.
So, yet again, the diarist manipulates facts to suit his own agenda, and then makes it about himself with his “[a]s a progressive Jew” remark.
A point of clarification is in order. John Lewis is not boycotting the speech in order to take a stand against Israel or AIPAC. His statement makes that clear. And, it should be noted that even if Bibi had been invited by Obama, the diarist would still be cheering for a boycott of the speech.
Lewis’ non-attendance is a Very Big Deal. He is a HUGE supporter of Israel. Note that he is pointedly saying that he is objecting to Boehner’s actions and not making a statement about Netanyahu.
And John Lewis is not a BDS advocate.
I guess that Netanyahu forgot that most American Jews are democrats. But Boehner does know. So now he has set a wedge in the political leanings of Jews. The Jewish vote might not be so uniformly left anymore. I’d bet that was Boehner’s original hope—pretty smart of him.