Sukkot, which ends tomorrow night, has been so lovely. The sukkah, shared with family and friends, an oasis of peace. The blessing over the lulav, a delight: I grasp the fronds of palm, willow and myrtle, along with the etrog, and shake it in all six directions as reminder that the Almighty is everywhere.
These moments seem to raise me to a higher level, and I struggle with great determination (let me say it: longing) to stay at that level.
Ha! I check the news. And wham!!! I am in a harsher reality. I feel a bit as if I have been smacked on the side of the head. Hopefully I am fortified. We are meant to contend with the issues of the world.
As Sukkot ends tomorrow night, Simchat Torah comes in here in Israel for one day. (Outside of Israel, there are two more days.) With this, the cycle of holidays will come to a close and we will revert to what passes for “normal” in our everyday world — if there is such a thing as normal any longer.
When that happens I will likely begin to write more extensively again. Here I wish to touch upon a couple of the significant issues that we are facing.
The Squad — a group of far-left US Congresspersons originally comprising Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, of New York; and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, (from left in picture below) — has been bad news from the start. They were joined last year by Cori Bush of Missouri, a Black Lives Matter activist, and Jamaal Bowman, of New York, the only man in this group. They often work with other far-left members of Congress who identify as the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is headed by Pramila Jayapal and associated with the Democratic Party.
Last Tuesday, the Squad, working with the Caucus’s Jayapal, was able to temporarily hold up passage of a funding bill that included $1 billion for emergency aid for Israel to restock interceptor missiles for its Iron Dome anti-missile system, as they had been depleted during the war with Hamas in May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had attached this funding to a bill to provide stopgap funds for the government through December, without which the government would shut down. No Republicans were going to vote for this bill because it suspended the debt ceiling. Thus did the Squad and other cooperating leftists have greater leverage. The Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and the number of far-left Congresspersons who said they would withhold their votes guaranteed that the bill to keep the government running would fail.
Pelosi caved to the Squad and pulled the funding for the Iron Dome from the bill in order to secure its passage.
By Thursday, a stand-alone bill for that funding for the Iron Dome had been brought to the floor by House leadership. It passed very readily, 420-9, with two Democrats voting “present.”
With this, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. In fact, the support for the Iron Dome legislation was so impressive that many shrugged off what the far-left had done as being of no real consequence. What they had achieved was merely “symbolic,” it was said, made possible by the juggling of the legislation.
I see it differently, and I am hardly alone in this assessment. There are several related concerns. Not every Congressional Democrat stands where the Squad does, we can absolutely be reassured in this regard. There is no question, however, that the House is slipping leftward, and this is of considerable concern. What was “far out” runs the risk of becoming acceptable and even mainstream.
What is more, there is a tendency to pander to the far-left. We’ve seen this for years, and Nancy Pelosi, assessing the climate in the nation, is chief panderer.
It is not a question of what is right, but what plays politically. Ilhan Omar has made several anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements, without a word of chastisement from Pelosi, or even a statement from her presenting a different view. We were more likely to encounter words of “explanation,” as to what Omar really meant or what she didn’t understand.
Omar, who supports BDS, was a freshman in the House when Pelosi rushed to appoint her to the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee. Today, she has been promoted to the position of vice chairwoman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Africa and global human rights issues.
Members of the squad made some outrageously far out statements in objecting to the funding for the Iron Dome. Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, declared:
“I will not support an effort to enable war crimes and human rights abuses and violence. We cannot be talking only about Israelis need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system, and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes.
“The bill claims to be, quote, a ‘replenishment’ for weapons apartheid Israel used in a crisis it manufactured when it attacked worshippers at one of the most holiest (sic) Islamic locations, the al-Aqsa Mosque, committing again numerous war crimes.”
That reads like a list of the most popular buzz words for attacking Israel utilized by our enemies: apartheid state, perpetrator of war crimes, executor of attacks on Al-Aksa. Mahmoud Abbas must have been proud. But this was said on the floor of the House of Representatives. I cannot take it lightly.
There is no way to change the opinion of Tlaib or the others with regard to Israel. What each concerned American must do is to keep his or her elected representative honest with regard to speaking out against such statements. Some representatives did, but they must all know their constituents are watching them in this regard.
What was most egregious about the position of those opposed to supporting the Iron Dome is that it is an exclusively defensive piece of military equipment. It saves innocent lives, when Hamas launches rockets intended to destroy those lives. Here we see a night scene during the hostilities on May 14: On the right are seen in the night sky rockets fired toward Israel from northern Gaza, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on the left, rise to meet them. It is a remarkable system of considerable efficiency.
Without Iron Dome, thousands of lives in Israel would have been lost – lives of Arab Israelis as well as Jewish Israelis, it should be noted. But the hatred of Israel on the far-left is so virulent that this fact does not convince them.
AOC was as irrational as Omar, who had said could not “support an effort to enable war crimes.” AOC declared, in explaining why she was going to vote against the legislation (although she ultimately and inexplicably voted “present”) that she is opposed to giving “unconditional” aid to Israel. What “unconditional”? The facts are irrelevant for her. The funds are exclusively for bolstering a very specific form of self-defense. Had Hamas not launched thousands of rockets, the Iron Dome receptor missiles would not have been depleted.
And there is one other point here. The far-left was willing to sacrifice the well-being of the US, as they would have perceived it from their political perspective, in order to hurt Israel. Neither should this be forgotten – it speaks to the passion of their determination to damage Israel at all costs.
As a JPost editorial noted: a purely defensive Israeli system designed to save lives is no longer a matter of consensus in the House.
Before leaving this issue, I want to address one other aspect: Once the vote for Iron Dome passed, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, properly thanking those who supported Israel in the vote, spoke about how much was able to be accomplished in quick time via quiet and effective diplomacy. Actually, I am surprised that Lapid has not yet dislocated his shoulder yet, patting himself on the back.
The point of pride for him here, as it has been elsewhere, is that the current government is more successful because it is doing things differently from the way former prime minister Netanyahu did them. For him, this is the mark of ultimate distinction, and I find it maddening.
In this case, Lapid was arguing that he had success in dealing with the Democrats, whereas Netanyahu, who messed things up by forging ties just with the Republicans, couldn’t have achieved this. But there is another way to look at this. Once the funding for Iron Dome was advanced as free standing legislation, it is highly likely that a majority of the House would have voted for it whether Lapid had made phone calls or not.
What is more, Netanyahu was astute in building on natural alliances, which he perceived: strength for Israel in Congress would be found among Republicans.
As Ruthie Blum so effectively put it (emphasis added):
“[Biden’s] party is being shaped in the image of The Squad, with little resistance from the “old school” Democrats. Anyone who imagines that this is in any way related to the identity of one Israeli leader or another is living in la-la land.
“Which brings us back to Lapid, who – along with the rest of the current Israeli cabinet – seems to fit that description to a tee.”
Blum describes how Lapid took to social media to speak about his phone call to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. In the course of this, writes Blum, Lapid “felt compelled to add, ‘After years during which the previous government neglected Congress and the Democratic Party, and caused considerable damage to Israel-US relations, today we are rebuilding a relationship of trust. I thank the administration and the Congress for their firm commitment to Israel’s security.’
“That he actually believes this bodes ill. Fantasy aside, it’s Republicans who are overwhelmingly in Israel’s corner, not the liberal Democrats who are intimidated by the radicals…
“Bennett used to know this and probably still does, deep down. But his desire to keep intact the coalition he heads requires a combination of self-delusion and ideological acrobatics.
“Sadly, it’s the only skill he appears to have honed since assuming office…
“Lapid also posted…declaring that the government ‘has already changed the country…I want to warn my friends from all the parties of the coalition precisely against arguments in which you are right. If you are right, but weaken the government, the coalition, the unity among us, what good will it have done?’”
Counters Blum, “…There are certain issues on which no compromises can or should be made, regardless of whether the debate surrounding them leads to the fall of the government.
“We Israelis don’t want our ministers to ‘work quietly’ on matters of life and death.”
Ruthie is so very on the mark. She touches on a number of related issues that I will be examining in greater detail. But it is the incompetency of our own government that worries most of all.
I will be looking at the slide to the left of Congress, and the fact that Biden is not a supporter of Israel, no matter that a deluded Lapid chooses to think he is.
Mahmoud Abbas delivered a presentation at the UN, rife with threats against Israel, which I want to look at. As I write, Bennett is on his way to New York for his UN talk. The PR on it has let us know that it will be different from Bibi’s style at the UN. Well, bully for Bennett. Bibi is a superb speaker.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.