The US electorate refused to follow pied piper Donald Trump down the path of Islamophobic extremism. Overall, of the 83 notably Islamophobic candidates, only 20 won their races, while 63 lost, according to Muslim Advocates. Those results may discourage future candidates from thinking they can score cheap political points and easy victories by joining the Muslim-bashing bandwagon.
Victories by the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, made mainstream media headlines — generally with a neutral to positive spin. Tlaib’s support for a one-state solution in Palestine alienated Zionists of all stripes, causing the Zionist wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing “peace” group J Street to refuse to endorse her… but that didn’t stop Tlaib from getting positive coverage in the Zionist-dominated mainstream media.
In the past, any Palestinian who ran for Congress on a one-state solution platform would have been relentlessly smeared. In fact, any congressional candidate who displays any sympathy for Palestine usually gets quickly annihilated by the Zionist lobby and its lapdog media. Former six-term Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has described how every incoming member of Congress is bullied into signing a pledge of loyalty to Israel. Those who don’t sign are put on the Zionists’ enemies list, and soon face monstrous obstacles in their path to reelection — including media collusion in setups and smears. So how could an anti-Zionist Palestinian like Tlaib draw positive media coverage? What’s different about 2018?
It seems that many Jewish Zionists in American media are increasingly liberal, educated, and appalled by Donald Trump. More and more of these liberal Zionists, especially the younger more left-leaning ones, are beginning to awaken to the justice of the Palestinian cause. To them, a young female Palestinian supporter of Bernie Sanders who endorses the one-state solution looks a lot less scary than Trump himself does. And even the older liberal-centrist Zionists may prefer Rashida Tlaib to Donald Trump, who is perceived as a threat to the liberal order in which Jews have thrived. Though they may be uneasy with Tlaib’s support for the one-state solution, those moderately liberal Jews who care for America as much as for Israel still viewed Tlaib’s victory as a welcome slap in the face to Donald Trump.
Perhaps they also understand that one Rashida Tlaib in Congress poses no immediate threat to Israel’s stranglehold on US Mideast policy. The vast majority of Congressional representatives are still taking mountains of money from AIPAC and other hardline Zionist organizations, signing the loyalty pledge to Israel, obeying Israeli orders concerning which bills to vote for and against, giving enthusiastic standing ovations to the likes of Netanyahu, and otherwise demonstrating their abject and obsequious fealty to the Israeli regime.
Another reason Rashida Tlaib’s victory doesn’t bother most American Jews all that much is that Muslims are still grossly underrepresented in the US government, while Jews are increasingly overrepresented. As I noted in my satirical online article “Kavanagh converts to Judaism to save Supreme Court nomination,” Jews represent less than 2% of the US population yet have three seats on the Supreme Court. Prior to the midterms there were 30 Jews in the US Congress, despite the fact that Jews and Muslims make up roughly equal percentages of the US population. And Jewish political money dominates federal elections, making up close to half of the bribes, euphemistically known as “campaign contributions,” that buy and sell American politicians like cattle.
The 2018 midterms reinforced the already strong Jewish position in Congress. According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) Jewish Congress members are “poised to take key leadership roles”: “Five Jewish Democrats are set to chair key House committees, including three representatives from New York: Jerrold Nadler, the Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, Foreign Affairs; and Nita Lowey, Appropriations. Adam Schiff of California will head the Intelligence Committee and John Yarmuth of Kentucky will lead the Budget Committee.” The JTA rundown on “races of significance to Jewish voters” offered lots more good news for Jews, including more than a dozen victories to celebrate, along with only two bits of bad news: Rashida Tlaib’s victory in Michigan and pro-Palestinian Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win in New York. So despite hopeful signs, the gradual erosion of support for Likudnik Israel in the American Jewish community has not yet reached the tipping point. Barring unexpected developments, it will be years before the US frees itself from Israeli occupation.
But how many years? What is worrisome to the Zionists is that “criticism of Israel is part of a package among young progressives along with healthcare for all and jobs for all,” as Democratic strategist Brad Bannon puts it. And that young progressive wave, which Bernie Sanders almost surfed into the White House in 2016, could become a tidal wave, driven by the tectonic shock of revulsion against Trump, in 2020.
Should Muslims join the “young progressive wave”? Islam shares many core values with American progressivism including concern for social and economic justice, opposition to tyranny and usurious piling up of wealth, and an egalitarian ethos that emphasizes morality and ethics. Add the young progressives’ opposition to Islamophobia and support for Palestine, and the movement seems to resonate well with Islam.
But the young progressives also tend to support identity politics: the tendency to think and vote “as a woman,” “as a black,” or “as a Hispanic”. This unhealthy and narcissistic approach has undermined the concern for social justice that once was the hallmark of the Left. It has allowed billionaires and bankers to divide and conquer working people. And certain perverse manifestations of identity politics have contributed to the erosion of the traditional family values that most Muslims share with other socially conservative Americans.
So if Muslims choose to support the young progressives, they ought to try to steer the movement toward social justice for all, rather than petty obsessions with this or that form of identity politics. And fortunately the young progressives are relatively open to that message. After all, the major difference between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns was that Sanders was proposing concrete solutions to problems of economic inequality and injustice, whereas Clinton’s message was “make me the first woman president.” Sanders’ triumph over Clinton, which was undone by rigged voting machines, illustrated what Democrats could achieve when they campaigned for economic justice rather than identity politics.
But isn’t a concern with economic justice for Americans rather petty in light of the fact that US economic policies and military actions are causing the ruination and death of millions of Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world? This was a common critique of Bernie Sanders, who rarely spoke about US foreign policy during his campaign for president. It might also be a valid critique of whoever picks up the torch from Sanders and runs with it in 2020.
But opposing US or Zionist empire too radically or effectively is a recipe for political or even actual suicide, as the Kennedy brothers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Wellstone, and others learned the hard way. Likewise, if Sanders intended to challenge the Likudniks, which seems likely, he was politically wise to avoid announcing those intentions too loudly and clearly.
The 2018 midterms showed that Muslims should be guardedly optimistic about their chances of helping ensure that the inevitable decline of US empire occurs, and that Palestinians finally achieve a modicum of justice, perhaps even outright victory. And as the US empire declines and finally collapses, and Americans seek new ways of understanding their place in the universe, the next generation of Muslims could find itself in a position to convey the timeless message of Islam to those who had previously rejected it.
(By Kevin Barrett, a scholar and one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror)