Photo Credit: Aaron Klein
Aaron Klein

Ilhan Omar And Her Democratic Supporters

In defending Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic tropes, which suggested that pro-Israel interests pushed allegiance to a “foreign country” and that pro-Israel politicians are motivated by financial support, some progressive Democrats seem to be arguing against the State Department’s very definition of anti-Semitism.


Prominent among Omar defenders are Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, each of whom are 2020 presidential contenders.

“Like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk,” Harris told reporters.

She continued: “We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy. You can both support Israel and be loyal to our country. I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.”

Sanders weighed in on the debate, arguing that criticism of Omar and campaigns seeking to have her removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee are really intended to stifle debate about Israel.

Warren came out in support for Omar, saying: “In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focuses on policy. Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Threats of violence – like those made against Rep. Omar – are never acceptable.”

Omar’s charge about loyalty and her allegation that money is behind support for Israel both fall under the State Department’s public examples of anti-Semitism.

Drawing on its own previous definition, the State Department in 2016 adopted the “working definition” of anti-Semitism established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, of which the State Department is a member.

The following non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism was adopted: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Consistent with that definition, the State Department offers official “contemporary examples of anti-Semitism.”

Among those examples are these two, which Omar’s comments clearly exemplify:

*Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.

*Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.


Bibi Should Nix China’s Footprint In Haifa

In light of serious U.S. national security concerns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should strongly consider nixing Israel’s shortsighted agreement with a Chinese government-controlled company to operate a new seaport in the Israeli coastal city of Haifa.

Haifa is home to Israel’s largest international seaport and has long been a safe docking hub for American warships from the Sixth Fleet. The Haifa port has routinely hosted joint U.S.-Israeli naval drills.

In 2015, the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), which is 44%-owned by the Chinese government, won a tender to operate the Haifa seaport for 25 years starting in two years. The deal faces renewed scrutiny from the Trump administration, which has been confronting China on trade and has expressed deep concern about the possibility of Beijing using its infrastructure and high-tech projects for espionage or expansionism.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton reportedly told Israeli leaders that China could utilize its newfound foothold in Haifa to potentially spy on U.S. interests or strengthen its strategic position in the Middle East.

The close proximity of Chinese port workers to U.S. naval ships carries an obvious potential risk of espionage. According to multiple reports, the U.S. is so worried about the Chinese oversight deal that the U.S. Navy is considering making changes to its traditional operations at the Haifa port.

Additionally, the Haifa port deal and larger Chinese investment in Israeli infrastructure and high-tech have raised questions about whether U.S. intelligence shared with Israel could become vulnerable to Chinese spying.

Besides the Haifa port deal, a second Chinese firm won a 2014 tender to construct the South Port in Ashdod. A subsidiary of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is helping Israel build the Tel Aviv Light Rail line, while another Chinese company will construct a hydroelectric power station in the Jordan Valley.

If it is not going to nix the Haifa port deal, meanwhile, Israel should at a minimum strongly consider founding a governmental agency similar to CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a coalition of agencies that together review national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies and operations. According to local reports today, Netanyahu is already leaning in that direction.