Most of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will take a rain check when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to Congress on March 3, Politico reported Wednesday.
Not only will the audience be mostly Republican, it also will be almost all-white.
The CBC’s only Senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, has not committed himself to stay away or attend the joint session where Netanyahu will speak.
Many black Congressmen will stay away on an individual basis and not as a group protest by the CBC.
Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Keith Ellison, a Muslim from Minnesota and Donna Edwards of Maryland are among those who said they will not attend the joint session of Congress when Netanyahu speaks.
CBC member Rep. Maxine Waters of Maryland has co-signed a letter with Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen to call on House Speaker John Boehner to postpone the speech.
“To me, it is somewhat of an insult to the president of the United States,” New York Rep. Greg Meeks, a black Democrat, said earlier this week after leaving a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who plans to be out of the country while Netanyahu speaks.
Barack Obama is my president, he’s the nation’s president, and it is clear therefore that I’m not going to be there, as a result of that, not as a result of the good people of Israel.
The CBC’s negative reaction on the one hand splits the traditional Jewish-black political alliance but on the other hand is in line with the sentiments of the liberal American Jewish establishment that is critical of Boehner and of Netanyahu for scheduling the speech two weeks before Israeli elections.
Netanyahu has made it clear he will talk about the Iranian nuclear threat, which President Obama insists is exaggerated and which he can contain through diplomacy and without stiffer economic sanctions.
Black Congressman can easily rely on Jewish groups to back their boycott position.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Abraham Foxman has called Netanyahu’s scheduled speech a “tragedy,” and even the conservative AIPAC lobby has been strangely silent.
Black Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia said, “It’s not just about disrespect for the president, it’s disrespect for the American people and our system of government for a foreign leader to insert himself into an issue that our policy makers are grappling with. It’s not simply about President Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader. It’s deeper than that.”
The CBC made it clear many of its members are boycotting only the speech in Congress and not Netanyahu.
North Carolina Rep. G. K. Butterfield, chairman of CBC, told reporters that the black caucus is in contact with Israeli officials, including Ambassador Ron Dermer, to meet with the Prime Minister during his visit.
Dermer is a sore point for Democrats because he is a Republican. Johnson called Dermer a “long-time, right-wing political hack” whom he is not interested in meeting,