CAMERA Op-Ed: POLITICO Provides Cover for Congressional Antisemitism

“Six months after a shooting war in Gaza,” reporter Andrew Desiderio recently wrote, “Congress is more involved in controversies over Islamophobia and anti-Semitism than it is in resuscitating a two-state solution in the Middle East.” The opening line in Politico’s Dec. 6 report is as revealing as it is wrongheaded.

Its dispatch is ostensibly about partisan political battles on Capitol Hill. But the report itself serves as a source of misinformation about anti-Semitism and the Israel-Islamist conflict.

“Support for the creation of a Palestinian state has notably declined on Capitol Hill,” Politico tells readers. But in a 1,296-word article, the publication fails to note one glaringly obvious reason for the decline: Palestinian leaders and their commitment to rejecting both peace and statehood.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has frequently highlighted, Palestinian leaders themselves have declined numerous opportunities for statehood. Over eight decades, the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United Nations have made more than half a dozen offers of statehood to Palestinian Arab leaders, only to be met with rejection every single time.

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In more recent years, the United States proposed a Palestinian state in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. The latter offer, made by Israel, included more than 93 percent of the West Bank with land swaps for the remaining territory and capital in eastern Jerusalem. In a move that was later celebrated by Palestinian “peace negotiator” Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas refused the Israeli proposal and declined to even make a counteroffer. Similarly, Abbas declined 2014 and 2016 offers to restart negotiations, the latter being made by then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

The reason for the consistent rejection of statehood in exchange for peace with and recognition of Israel is simple: Palestinian leaders consider all of Israel to be “Palestine.” Indeed, their official statements and media routinely say as much. Ditto for their textbooks, as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), among others, has documented. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have even steadfastly refused pressure to end their policy of paying salaries to terrorists.

Politico’s lengthy article, however, omits this crucial context. Desiderio doesn’t mention the squandered opportunities for peace and statehood. He declines to inform readers that Palestinian leadership pays tax-deductible salaries to those who murder Jews. In nearly 1,300 words, there isn’t the slightest hint that Palestinians have independent agency.

Indeed, what he described as a “shooting war”—a curious term, if there ever was one—was a war initiated by Iran when its terrorist proxies launched rockets at civilian populations while using human shields as cover.

Instead of facts, the report offers apologetics and obfuscation on important issues, including the plague of anti-Semitism. Desiderio writes that “Jewish Democrats in particular” have been upset with Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s claim that Israel is an “apartheid state”—noting that they’ve described the statement as “anti-Semitic.”

But Tlaib is an anti-Semite. As CAMERA has noted, Tlaib and her colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tried to go on a trip to Israel—which their itinerary labeled as “Palestine”—that was sponsored by an organization, Miftah, which has claimed that Jews consume Christian blood and which praises suicide bombers.

Two members of Congress tried to go on a trip that was sponsored by a group that traffics in blood libels and supports anti-Jewish violence—and, in a report on anti-Semitism, Politico’s “congressional reporter” couldn’t be troubled to report that fact. That’s pathetic. It’s also a sign that the report in question is partisan hackery and not real journalism.

More signs abound.

In journalism, it is common practice to provide facts and to get quotes from sources with differing views. But here, too, Desiderio fails spectacularly.

The reporter quotes J Street, describing the organization as merely “pro-Israel.” In fact, J Street is hypercritical of the Jewish state. Members of its board have even expressed regret that the Jewish state exists, and it has partnered with organizations like the National Iranian American Council, whose staffers have been caught making anti-Semitic remarks. Indeed, J Street supporters and activists have heckled Israeli soldiers, harassed pro-Israel students and called for the end of Israel.

Elsewhere, Politico’s article uncritically quotes J Street boosters, many of whom have defended Omar and Tlaib, including Joel Rubin of the American Jewish Congress, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). All are quoted claiming that those accusing Omar and Tlaib of anti-Semitism are guilty of “weaponizing” anti-Semitism. Additional J Street backers, like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are also cited.

Politico’s report is so heavily tilted with quotes from one side that it reads more like a partisan press release than an actual news report.

In keeping with this trend, lies and half-truths are presented as facts—all in service of a narrative that minimizes congressional anti-Semitism.

For example, Desiderio notes that the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was critical of Rep. Jamal Bowman (D-N.Y.) for traveling to Israel and “backing funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.” But Politico fails to note that DSA opposes Israel’s very existence—there’s even publicly available footage of DSA members chanting for the Jewish state’s destruction. DSA also supports Reps. Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, all of whom have spoken before the group.

In another example of Desiderio’s carelessness, he writes that “the vast majority of Democrats are aligned on the legitimacy of a Palestinian state that neighbors Israel and opposed to aggressive settlement construction by the Israeli government.” The deliberate wording implies that “settlements”—that is, Jewish homes being built in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland of Judea—are rapidly expanding. But as CAMERA noted, this is false.

A March 31, 2017 Washington Post report, for example, was titled “Israel set to approve first new settlement in 20 years.” Similarly, the Post, in a Sept. 17, 2017 editorial detailed the “revelatory” results of a study on settlements conducted by David Makovsky, a former aide to Secretary of State John Kerry. The paper pointed out:

“Of the some 600,000 settlers who live outside Israel’s internationally recognized borders, just 94,000 are outside the border-like barrier that Israel built through the West Bank a decade ago. Just 20,000 of those moved in since 2009, when [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu returned to office; in a sea of 2.9 million Palestinians, they are hardly overwhelming. Last year, 43 percent of the settler population growth was in just two towns that sit astride the Israeli border—and that Abbas himself has proposed for Israeli annexation.”

Finally, Politico’s report also uncritically quotes Ocasio-Cortez’s claim that she and her fellow “Squad” members—including Bowman, Tlaib and Omar—care about “Palestinian rights.” This, too, is a demonstrable lie. They’re silent when the Palestinian Authority or Hamas repress, torture and murder their own people. For example, when Hamas was shooting protesting Palestinians in the streets during the so-called “Hunger Revolution” of 2019, Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez didn’t say a word. Not even a tweet. They and their DSA friends only pretend to care when they can paint the Jewish state in a negative light.

Mere weeks after Politico’s report, an AOC legislative aide named Hussain Altamimi called Israel a “racist European ethno-state built on stolen land from its indigenous population.” Jews, of course, are indigenous to the land.

But why should congressional staffers concern themselves with being factually accurate when their foibles will be covered by party press stenographers pretending to be congressional reporters?

(Note: A slightly different version of this op-ed appeared in JNS on Jan. 6, 2022)

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