Congressional Black Caucus: Deep in the Israel Lobby’s Pocket

September 5, 2016.    by Jeffrey Blankfort

“[Debbie] Wasser­man Schultz em­bod­ied the enor­mous in­flu­ence that Amer­i­can Jews have within the Demo­cratic Party. A Jew with deep com­mu­nal in­volve­ments who was a key pil­lar of sup­port for the main­stream pro-Is­rael lobby in Congress and within the party, Wasser­man was both chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of Congress sit­ting on the pow­er­ful House Com­mit­tee on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions — a panel that votes on all ma­jor gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures.

“This put her at the nexus of U.S. pol­icy, pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing in a way that few oth­ers matched.”

— NATHAN GUTTMAN, Forward, August 5-12, 2016

This article is not about Debbie Wasserman Schultz but of the influence of who and what she represented as chair of the Democratic National Committee until taken down by Julian Assange, and still represents, in Congress, the interests of Israel, and the power of its domestic supporters over the Black American political establishment as represented by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

To be sure, the CBC’s subjugation by what is generally referred to as the pro-Israel Lobby is not unique. Thanks largely to American Jews having long been the Democratic Party’s major source of funds, estimated by reliable sources to be at least 60% in every election cycle, the Israel Lobby has been not only able to shape the party’s’ Middle East agenda but, of equal importance, determine who will be the chairs and the ranking members on the Congressional committees and subcommittees that have an impact on US-Israel relations. (The same thing can be said about the Republicans but there we see more variety among the donors.)

What makes the Congressional Black Caucus exceptional is that its very presence in Congress has been portrayed as symbolizing the success of the often bloody civil and voting rights struggles of a half century ago of which they are the beneficiaries. Some, like John Lewis, were even notable participants.

Consequently, something more might be expected of them. That the CBC, however, regardless of who comes and goes in their congressional districts, has consistently, as a bloc, voted to send billions of US taxpayers dollars to provide weapons for a foreign government that oppresses another people of color, the Palestinians, is, under the circumstances, nothing less than shameful.

To realize the extent of the problem requires some effort, mainly on-line searches of each CBC member’s name linked to Israel. The link won’t appear on their websites or, if there, is hard to find. (This is actually the case with most members of Congress, whatever the color of their skin). Outside of Jewish audiences who they view as potential donors and for whom, quite literally, they audition, they prefer that their constituents and the general public not know the degree to which they are willing to humiliate themselves for campaign contributions.

Their collective lack of concern for the plight of the Palestinians, with but some scattered exceptions was all too predictable given that In the late 1980s, at the height of Israel’s arm sales to its sister apartheid state, South Africa, the Congressional Black Caucus was so cowed by AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment that it agreed to utter not a peep about it in public.

As chair of the DNC, Wasserman Schultz was in a position to make the critical appointments to the Democratic Party’s platform committee. From Congress, with Hillary Clinton’s pro-Israel position in mind, she selected two members of the CBC, Berkeley-Oakland’s Barbara Lee, a favorite of the liberal Left, and Baltimore’s Elijah Cummings, making the latter the committee’s chair. Their votes turned out to be instrumental in insuring there would be no criticism of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and its construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the party’s 2016 platform while maintaining Democratic Party support for Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital.

Cummings’ genuflection to Wasserman Schultz’s demands was expected since the 65 year old congressman is the very picture of the “faithful family retainer” from Old South novels and films when it comes to his relations to Israel and Baltimore’s Jewish community.

This past February, with Israeli Ambassador, US-born, Ron Dermer, Cummings co-hosted a celebration of Black History Month at the Israeli Embassy. It was Dermer, a former Republican functionary from Florida, who had collaborated with House Speaker John Boehner to have Netanyahu speak before a joint session of Congress in March, 2015 in a last ditch Israeli effort to sabotage Washington’s negotiations with Iran.

Most of the more senior members of the CBC, including Cummings, were obliged by their constituencies to view it as a slight against the first Black president—which it clearly was–but while joining some other Democrats in boycotting the Israel prime minister’s appearance, they made sure that their decision to do so was not viewed within the Jewish community as diminishing their support for Israel but as a criticism of Boehner.

Cummings was the perfect choice to be co-host. For each of the past 20 years, his Jewish-community funded Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, “an elite two-year leadership fellowship,” according to its website, has sent a dozen Baltimore area African American high school students to Israel to be suitably indoctrinated into the special relationship between the two countries.

It dovetails neatly into the successful and aggressive outreach program focused on African-American college students conducted in recent years by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Barbara Lee is not in Cummings’ league when it comes to public bowing and scraping before Israel’s domestic supporters but, like her predecessor, Ron Dellums, for whom she served as an aide, Lee has shown herself willing to do just that when called upon by the likes of Wasserman Schultz. Dellums, a Teflon coated living legend among most Bay Area Left activists, managed to serve 13 terms in Congress without losing their support while maintaining the backing of AIPAC and the Jewish voters in his district.

Lee was the sole member of Congress to vote against giving President Bush the war authority after 9-11, for which she was justly praised. That act, apparently, took less courage than criticizing or withholding praise for an Israeli head of state as she had previously sent messages of congratulations to Ariel Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, on his election and, later, re-election as Israel’s prime minister.

Sharon had been given that title in the wake of crimes committed by the Israeli forces under his command following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and his having given the green light to Lebanese Christian forces to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila on the outskirts of the Lebanese capital in September of that year and, with Israeli soldiers backing them up, slaughter up to 2,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. This led to him being sacked as Israel’s defense minister. Why would a Black member of Congress congratulate him under any circumstances?

Like everyone else in Congress, Lee has consistently supported military aid to Israel. The closest she came to actually casting a vote critical of Israel was in 2006, following Israel’s most recent invasion of Lebanon when she voted “present” on a House bill strongly supporting Israel’s brutal actions.

In January, 2009, she had been one of five members of Congress, including one other CBC member, Keith Ellison, to send a letter to Hillary Clinton after her appointment as Secretary of State, calling for humanitarian aid for Gaza without saying a negative word about the country that was responsible for the need of such aid.

In August, 2014, in the midst of Israel’s last assault on Gaza, she was reproached by some of her pro-Palestinian constituents for approving an additional $626 million appropriation for Israel. In a written response to her critics she justified doing so as a life-saving measure:

Last week, I cast a vote in support of Iron Dome, which is a defensive anti-rocket missile system that saves civilian lives.

I would not have supported funding for offensive military weapons in the midst of this horrific crisis. I continue to mourn the tragic loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel.

I have called and will continue to call for a sustained ceasefire to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, end the blockade of Gaza and stop the loss of civilian lives.

Unless asked to do otherwise by Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

When I phoned Lee’s Oakland office to complain about her vote, I was told by a member of her staff that they had already received 150 similar calls. Lee, he said, was actually against Israel’s occupation and settlement building. Her reason for voting the way she did, he told me, was “complicated” and that Lee would put something up on her website explaining her decision. She never did and we can guess why.

She has no reason to fear being called out for it by supporters of justice for Palestine in her district any more than did Dellums who, while providing occasional lip service to Israel’s critics, his deference to the demands of AIPAC and his liberal Jewish supporters in Berkeley at critical moments is a matter of record.

While issuing a statement criticizing Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 as “a deadly overreaction… [which] cannot be rationalized or justified….only…deplored,” just two years later, Dellums refused to take a public stand on Measure E, a proposition on the Berkeley ballot that would have required the federal government to withhold from the annual aid package to Israel the amount of money it spent on building settlements in the West Bank that the US and the world considered to be illegal.

Early in April, 1984, Dellums received a letter from Lee Marsh, the president of the Berkeley/Richmond Jewish Community Center, demanding that he oppose the measure that concluded with a warning of “the political fact that the Jewish people will consider mere neutrality on this issue as insensitivity to our deep, near-unanimous feelings on a vitally important issue to us.”

In response, Dellums acknowledged that his “gut reaction is that the problems of the Middle East are so complex that it is of questionable value to approach solutions in such a piecemeal fashion; such efforts seem better calculated to cause anguish and divisiveness than to move us to a realistic position of solving these problems.”

“On a personal level,” he went on, “I resent being pushed into kneejerk reactions on ballot initiatives that are irrelevant to any political solution to the problem….a neutral position makes perfectly good sense.” (Emphasis added). And that’s what he took which, of course, played into the hands of Measure E’s opponents. In the end, Measure E lost by a 2-1 margin. Had Dellums stepped up and publicly endorsed the initiative there is no question that it would have influenced the vote and not only of the city’s Black residents.

At the time there were 42,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Today there are over a half million. Would Mr. Dellums still insist that Measure E was irrelevant?

In 1988, some residents of Berkeley, active in the Palestinian cause, placed a measure on the ballot that would have made the refugee camp of Jabalya in Gaza a sister city to join more than a dozen Berkeley sister cities across the globe including two American Indian tribes. Again, Dellums, not wanting to face down the liberal Jews who control Berkeley’s politics, remained neutral.

Dellums’ main contribution to Israel and its US supporters would come three years later when he was the point man in Congress opposing South African apartheid. Before introducing the 1987 Anti-Apartheid Act in the House, he withdrew a plank that would have penalized Israel for its arms sales to South Africa which, at the time, were estimated to be over $800 million.

The plank, added the previous year to the Senate version by retiring senator, Maryland Republican Charles Mathias, called for penalties against any recipient of US foreign aid that was found to be selling weapons to South Africa. While Israel was not mentioned by name it was the only country known to be doing so.

Had the Moony-owned Washington Times not reported on Dellums’ decision in its April 2, 1987 edition, it is likely the story would never have become public.

The change was made “to expand the scope of congressional support,” Dellums’ spokesperson, Max Miller told the paper, adding that Dellums’ bill had been modified to reflect a recent announcement by Israel that it would phase out its arms relationship with South Africa.

“He’s not so concerned about past violations as he is about future violations,” Miller said.

“But,” noted the Washington Times reporter, “the modified bill was introduced March 12, about a weekbefore Israel announced its new policy towards South Africa.” (Emphasis added).

Dellums defended his action in a letter to a constituent on June 11, writing that:

[It] quickly became clear that the bill would rapidly lose significant support among a large number of the co-sponsors if that provision [penalizing Israel] remained in the bill. We faced the prospect of daily loss of support—a situation that would have sent a wrong signal to everybody about US resolve to confront apartheid.

Consulting with the anti-apartheid groups involved in pushing the bill, we decided it would be better to withdraw the section in order to achieve a broad base of support for the main goal of the bill [imposing US sanctions on South Africa.]

The wrong signal? What it would have revealed is that the majority of Democratic members of Congress, including the Black Caucus, gave a higher priority to protecting Israel’s image in the public’s eyes, as well as its funding, than putting an end to South African apartheid. In the Senate, it should be noted, that California’s Alan Cranston, one of the major recipients of pro-Israel funding, withdrew the Mathias plank without any announcement to the public.

In the following year, Dellums was the featured speaker at an anti-apartheid conference at UC Berkeley. During the question period I had an opportunity to ask him how he had been obligated and pressured by his fellow Democrats to pull the plank censuring Israel from the anti-apartheid legislation which, beyond theWashington Times article, had been publicized only by the Middle East Labor Bulletin which I edited and Jane Hunter’s excellent Israeli Foreign Affairs. It had been ignored, to their shame, even by the publications of the anti-apartheid movement for whom Dellums had become an untouchable icon.

Drawing himself up to his full height, Dellums expressed his objections to my use of the words, “obligated” and “pressured,” but then, slowly bending over and with his voice almost a whisper, he told the packed lecture hall how one Democrat after another had come to him and said, “Ron, if you don’t pull that plank you’ll have to take my name off the legislation.” At which point a Black San Francisco State professor sitting beside me gently poked me with her elbow, saying “it sure sounds like obligated and pressured to me.”

It was only later that I learned that a dozen Black South African exiles sitting in reserved seats in the front row appeared to be stunned by Dellums’ response..

About the time the Washington Times article appeared, the State Department issued a report that had been mandated by the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act to provide the House and Senate Intelligence Committees with a list of countries selling arms to South Africa. It included Israel.

“Nevertheless, at a press conference last week and elsewhere,” reported the No. California Jewish Bulletin(4/10/87), “black members of Congress bluntly rejected invitations to denounce Israel in particular, even as they issued a scathing broadside against all the countries cited in the State Department report.”

The NCJB article described a meeting between members of the CBC, including caucus chair, Mervyn Dymally, from Compton, California, Mickey Leland, from Texas, and New York’s Charles Rangel, and Jewish House members, Howard Berman and Mel Levine, from Los Angeles, and Howard Wolpe, from Michigan. Tony Coehlo, a Catholic from Merced and a strong supporter of Israel, sat in.

It was no coincidence that Berman, who formerly represented the San Fernando Valley and who is now a corporate Washington lobbyist, was also one of Wasserman Schultz’s appointees to the Democratic Platform Committee. A Democratic power broker in Southern California, he had once told a group of his Jewish constituents that he had run for Congress to help Israel.

Wolpe was the chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa which seemed strange except for the fact that Israel had strategic interests on the continent which, as the arms sales case indicated, needed to be protected. This obviously trumped the importance of having an African-American serve in that capacity.

That meeting came on top of another between a number of Black Caucus members and leaders from most of the major Jewish organizations led by AIPAC executive director, Tom Dine, all of whom were anxious to quash any rebellion from below.

A stated concern of the CBC members, according to the No. California Jewish Bulletin (4/10/87)—such meetings are ignored by the mainstream media–was attaining greater aid for the African continent which, despite the terrible famines it had experienced, had its appropriations cut by 37% while aid to Israel, Latin America, Asia and the Philippines had increased with Israel ending up with one third of the total foreign aid allocation.

The article noted that an amendment to the foreign aid bill proposed by Wolpe would increase aid to Africa by $115 million over last year but that, pointed out Dymally, was less than the Reagan administration had asked for which he called a “source of embarrassment” to the Democrats.

The meeting reportedly ended with the Jewish delegation agreeing to support greater aid to Africa in return for the CBC’s not making an issue of Israel’s arms sales to Pretoria.

It quickly became clear that the Israeli government had been apprised by its American agents of the CBC’s ignominious retreat since the day before the NCJB article appeared. Israel’s Ha’aretz reported that:

Senior [Israeli] government officials estimate that as a result of the relatively mild response in the US to the report on the issue of arms trade between Israel and So. Africa, at this time the government will refrain from any meaningful steps whatsoever against the apartheid regime and satisfy itself with decisions of a declarative meaning only. (4/9/87).

Four months later, on August 5, another Israeli paper, Davar, was even more straightforward in reporting that business between Israel and South Africa would be unchanged, regardless of its public statements to the world.

An official Israeli delegation headed by Efrayim Dovrat, the finance minister’s assistant director general, will shortly depart for South Africa to ratify the agreement on economic cooperation between the two countries.

This will be the first agreement the countries have signed since the cabinet decision not to strike and new agreements with South Africa.

The CBC’s decision to say nothing about Israel’s arms sales to South Africa, three years earlier, had greatly distressed Dymally.

“We’ve reached a compromise to which our constituents won’t be very receptive,” the NCJB quoted him as saying. He reportedly warned that unless Israel took further steps, that compromise will unravel and “we will want to see stronger language on Israel.” Israel must not only refrain from signing new contracts with South Africa, he said, but terminate the ongoing ones.

“In the pipeline already are enough arms to kill many innocent people,” said Dymally, but he was speaking only for himself. (He declined to be interviewed after he left Congress in 1992 and returned to the California State Assembly because, as I was told, he “didn’t want the hassle.”) Both Mickey Leland and Charles Rangel had by that time, become, like Elijah Cummings, “faithful family retainers” of the Jewish political establishment.

Leland, a civil rights activist in Houston in his youth, began serving in Congress in 1979 and died in a plane crash in Ethiopia a decade later. According to his Congressional obituary, “One of his first acts in Congress was to fund a six–week trip to Israel to allow underprivileged black teenagers from the Houston area to learn about Jewish culture and to create a cross–cultural dialogue between the youths in the two countries.”

He then prefigured Cummings by setting up the Mickey Leland Kibbutzim Internship Foundation in 1980. Financed and operated by Houston’s Jewish Community Relations Council, it sends 10 Black high school juniors annually to Israel for a six-week work and travel experience, as well as, we must assume, for political indoctrination.

Leland’s most obscene display of support for Israel followed its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when he was chair of the CBC. He flew to Tel Aviv, then bicycled throughout the country and across the Lebanese border to express his “solidarity with the people of Israel.” Hard to top that in “faithful retainer” lore.

Rangel is retiring this year after serving 45 years representing Harlem. Back in 1973, his second year in office, he participated in a very special meeting.

At that time, as the newly elected chair of the CBC, he was invited to dinner with Arthur Hertzberg, president of the liberal American Jewish Congress and Sidney Yates, a Jewish member of Congress from Illinois.

Hertzberg’s intention was to find a way to counter the more militant Black organizations of the late 60s and 70s, most notably the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee or SNCC, led by Stokely Carmichael, later to become Kwame Ture that had declared their independence from white influence. Hertzberg described the meeting in his book, “A Jew in America.” (Harper, 2002):

In the course of our talks over the dinner table, we had little difficulty in understanding one another. We agreed that the continuing need for Blacks in national politics was and would remain the welfare state. Only through welfare programs for the poor could a large number of Blacks live in some minimum decency.

On the Jewish side there was one concern that united all the factions of the Jewish community: the defense of Israel. As a lamb among the wolves of the Middle East, Israel needed sufficient American support to defend itself. Therefore Jews needed friends and allies in American politics who would help make Israel more secure.

The three of us quickly saw the obvious conclusion: let an alliance be made between the Black congressmen and the Jewish congressmen so that each group would vote for the agendas of both sides. Jews would remain committed to the welfare state, even as it meant higher taxes for the middle class, and Blacks would support Israel.

The alliance that was defined that day has lasted many years. It represented a quiet consensus both among Jews and among Blacks. (p.361)

Hertzberg’s recounting of the meeting, what it says and what it implied about the Black-Jewish relationship in America demands our attention. Reeking with paternalism, it consigned the majority of African-Americans to an indefinite untermenschen status while depending on the good will and generosity of Jews for their survival. The Black Caucus would serve as the Jewish community’s intermediary.

And so it has come to pass, and despite the fact that the “welfare state,” as Hertzberg described it, disappeared almost a decade before his book was published, courtesy of Bill Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus still does the Jewish establishment’s bidding and clearly has been rewarded for doing so. Whether the Black Americans have benefited is another matter.

That isn’t the entire story, of course. There have been periodic efforts by some CBC members to break free of the yoke that Rangel accepted that night. What happened to them is instructive.

In March, 1990, emboldened by Sen. Robert Dole’s surprise suggestion (that he was quickly forced to retract) that 5% of the aid going to the six largest recipients, of which Israel and Egypt ($3 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively) were by far the biggest, should be diverted to Eastern Europe, 10 members of the CBC sent a “dear colleague” letter to fellow House members, noting that “the current distribution [of aid] is unfair, inequitable and indefensible, and does not serve U.S. interests.”

They pointed out that in the proposed budget “every Israeli would receive $700 in US aid while every African would receive a little more than a $1. How can that be justified when Israeli per capita income is $4,990 and African per capita income is only $683?”

The letter was initiated by Rep. Charles Crockett (MI), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and its signers included Dymally, William Clay (MO), Augustus Hawkins (CA), Charles Hayes (IL) Donald Payne (NJ), Gus Savage (IL), Alan Wheat (MO), Walter Fauntroy (DC), and Dellums, then chair of the Black Caucus.

Blanked out by the national media, it was widely publicized in the Jewish community press, thus exposing the congressmen to attacks from sectors of the pro-Israel lobby in each of their constituencies. In Dellums’ district, the first shot was fired by Lucie Ramsey, executive director of the influential Jewish Community Relations Council, who, according to the NCBJ (2/16/90) was “shocked” that he signed the letter.

“I know how poor the African nations are, and perhaps in terms of equity they should be getting more than they do–but not at the cost of Israel losing out,” wrote Ramsey.

AIPAC’s Bay Area regional representative was more diplomatic, acknowledging Dellums as “a supporter, close to the [Jewish] community. We consider him a friend.”

In the end, the letter writers capitulated, not all willingly, to Dellums’ decision to walk back the call for more foreign aid budget fairness.

AIPAC’s Jonathan Kaufman, the lobby group’s chair in Dellums’ Eighth Congressional District, was a gracious winner, hailing his decision to recommend maintaining aid to Israel at its then $3 billion level

“Dellums told us he’s in favor of maintaining the amount of foreign aid to Israel,” said Kaufman, referring to a meeting that took place with Dellums and AIPAC members (NCJB, 3/30/90) “It was refreshing to hear him,” Kaufman said. “He’s all along been very much on our side. What he wants to do with the Black Caucus budget is to increase the pie so there’s more money for the third world.”

Dellums’ Oakland spokesperson, H. Lee Halterman, told the NCJB that “Dellums has been in regular contact with [congressional] members such as Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Stephen Solarz (D-NY) and Howard Wolpe (Mi.) about the need to forge a coalition between Black members and Jewish members to press for an expanding foreign aid pie.” (NCJB, ibid.).

At the same time, Israel’s arms sales to South Africa were ongoing. Still it was not something that Dellums and his CBC colleagues were ready to raise, even though, at a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad in Washington, according to the Washington Jewish Week (3/15/90), “Israeli officials could offer [them] no timetable for ending Israel’s military contracts with South Africa”.

The WJW, citing “informed sources;” reported that “Israel’s failure to even offer a timetable disappointed the congressmen attending. Nevertheless, none of the congressmen even hinted at cutting aid to Israel at this time.”

“A cut in aid is not called for,” said Missouri’s Alan Wheat, “but this is not to suggest we’re pleased with the current state of affairs.”

Attending the meeting besides Wheat, were Dellums, Berman, Solarz and Wolpe. The Black congressmen were said to have repeated an extraordinary promise previously made to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir “that the [CBC] members were willing to initiate legislation to compensate Israel for any security losses it might incur from cutting its arms ties to South Africa.”

Within two years, the remaining vocal critics of Israel within the caucus: Geoge Crockett, a legendary civil liberties lawyer, who had organized the original letter, Charles Hayes, and Gus Savage, all from Illinois, and Dymally, would be gone from Congress, either through retirement in the case of Crockett and Dymally, or having been targeted by AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment as was the fate of Hayes and Savage.

Hayes, weakened by having had too many overdrafts on his congressional bank account, was successfully challenged in the 1992 Democratic primary by Bobby Bush, a former Black Panther turned Israeli bootlicker. In his position paper on Israel, one that AIPAC demands of each candidate for Congress from both of the major parties, Rush wrote, of his “strong commitment to the survival of the State of Israel [which] has long been the one strategic ally for the US in the Middle East.”

“It is also,” his statement said, “the one nation in the region to be founded upon and demonstrates the democratic values and concerns required in a country of such diverse cultures such as exists within the state of Israel.”

That same year, Savage became a victim of redistricting, a common tactic used by loyalists of both parties to keep key members in office while getting rid of those who make “trouble” and otherwise can’t be defeated at the polls. Savage was the latter.

Against Savage, AIPAC put up Mel Reynolds, who had endeared himself to prospective Jewish donors by having spent time on an Israeli kibbutz. In 1990, that wasn’t a particularly effective inducement for voters in his predominantly Black district and Savage retained his seat.

As a result of that year’s census, AIPAC was successful in having Savage’s district redrawn so that by 1992, it would contain a significant number of white voters and less Black voters and that was all that was needed to reverse the previous election result and put Reynolds in Congress.

What particularly angered AIPAC and Jewish supporters of Israel was that Savage had the audacity to read aloud at a rally the names of Jewish donors to his opponent from outside his district and the state and the amount of money each had contributed to Reynolds’ campaign.

For that he was condemned as being “anti-Semitic,” it being just fine, of course, for Jews who lived in Beverly Hills, Brooklyn, or Bel Air to determine who should represent a largely Black congressional district on Chicago’s South Side. He was also denounced in a headline in the Washington Jewish Week, as “Savage Savage,” a patently racist jibe that merited no attention at the time.

Reynolds managed only to serve two years, when he was convicted and sent to prison as a sex offender for having relations with a 16-year old campaign worker. After being released, he was later convicted and resentenced for an additional term for fraudulently obtaining bank loans and diverting campaign contributions to his personal account.

Following the defeat of Hayes and Savage and with Dymally’s retirement, the last vestiges of resistance to AIPAC’s domination were history and the Israel Lobby’s control of the CBC would never again be challenged. It was then what it remains today, another Israeli Occupied territory.

No Black member of Congress has more epitomized this capitulation than Atlanta’s John Lewis, the same John Lewis who had become a national icon when, as one of the heads of SNCC, he was so badly beaten by Alabama state police on the march to Selma in 1965 that he needed to have a metal plate inserted in his head.

Lewis kicked off the 1992 Congressional session by co-hosting with AIPAC a welcoming reception for new and old CBC members. As AIPAC’s Near East Report described it, Lewis “spoke eloquently of Israel and the common goals and principles that the Jewish and Black communities share.”

In that June, before the vote on aid, Lewis and five other CBC members toured Israel at AIPAC’s expense, afterwards telling the Near East Report that he “hopes visits such as ours will strengthen the bonds between African-Americans, American Jews and Israelis.”

In 1995, Lewis joined his Atlanta Republican colleague Newt Gingrich in signing a Congressional letter to President Clinton, reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and insisting that it maintain total control over the city.

Seeking to protect it from any Palestinian claim, the letter cautioned against “Any policy that makes Jerusalem a center of activity with officials, rather than the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho where they have authority, [and] would legitimize Palestinian claims at the very time that the PLO is seeking to establish symbols of sovereignty over Jerusalem.”

As I wrote at the time, “send Lewis his 30 pieces of silver and wrap them in a handkerchief.”

In 2008, Lewis was a featured guest at a “unity” meeting in Brooklyn between Blacks and Jews organized by New York Democratic state assemblyman, Dov Hykind, formerly a lieutenant in racist Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League.

At the meeting, Lewis “emphasized the shared history and values of the black and Jewish communities,” according to the Jewish weekly Forward, which he “summed up at one point with the observation that blacks and Jews “came to this land in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat,” a message that he would not dare say in the streets of Harlem, Chicago’s South Side, or his native Atlanta, but “was clearly embraced by the audience of roughly two dozen, which was divided between members of Norpac and members of the local African American community.”

Norpac is one of the wealthiest and most influential of several dozen Jewish political action committees spread across the country that exist solely to contribute money to candidates who push a hardline pro-Israel agenda. According to the Forward, Lewis was at that meeting to get some of the swag from “leaders from Norpac, who are raising money to help Lewis fend off his primary challenge.”

Norpac exemplifies why pro-Israel PACs have long been referred to as “stealth PACs.” Unlike almost every other political PAC, until the era of Citizens United, they deliberately hide their connections to Israel or American Jewry.

Lewis, since his heroic endeavors in the South a half a century ago working and marching at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr., has made part of his life’s work repeating King’s words of praise for Israel and accusations of anti-Semitism against its critics, made before his assassination in April, 1968.

On each of these occasions Lewis implies that King, had he lived, would not have been appalled by and would not have spoken out against Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian land, by its siege and wars on Gaza, by its use of cluster bombs in Lebanon, as he eventually did condemning America’s war on Vietnam and its role as the world’s “leading purveyor of violence.” Nothing, I would argue, is a greater insult to King’s memory.

Lewis likes to tell audiences and interviewers that “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to speak up, to speak out.”

That’s what he said earlier this year, when accepting the 2016 Elie Wiesel Award from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for “never [having] abandoned his commitment to promoting the human dignity of all people.” The award was entirely and ironically appropriate since Lewis, like Wiesel, excluded the Palestinians from the ranks of “all people” and like Wiesel, has never felt any moral obligation to speak up or speak out in their defense.

To set the record straight on King, he did have second thoughts about what Israel was up to almost a year before he died, thoughts he obviously felt he could not express publicly to Jewish audiences that were proving key funding for the civil rights movement.

In a recorded phone conversation with his advisers on June 24, 1967, two weeks after Israel’s quick victory over Egypt and its conquering of the West Bank and Gaza, King canceled a previously announced trip to Israel that Jewish leaders in the US and Israeli government officials had been planning for him, ostensibly to raise funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King’s organization. Said King, speaking presciently about Jerusalem:

I just think that if I go, the Arab world, and of course Africa and Asia for that matter, would interpret this as endorsing everything that Israel has done, and I do have questions of doubt…  Most of it [the pilgrimage] would be Jerusalem and they [the Israelis] have annexed Jerusalem, and any way you say it they don’t plan to give it up… I frankly have to admit that my instincts – and when I follow my instincts so to speak I’m usually right – I just think that this would be a great mistake. I don’t think I could come out unscathed. (Jewish Virtual Library)

It is not only highly unlikely that John Lewis is unaware of that conversation, he well may have been a part of it.

It has been now a decade since we have seen any member of the Congressional Black Caucus, or, arguably of any color or gender for that matter in Congress, with the courage to stand up to AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment.

Cynthia McKinney, also from Atlanta, was the last one. In her six terms in office, she defined “fearless,” challenging US foreign policy, questioning the official narrative of 9-11, openly defending the Palestinians and criticizing Israel which resulted, as it had in Gus Savage’s case, in pro-Israel Jews from all over the United States sending money to her opponent in Atlanta to defeat her. It worked in 2002 when she lost in the primary to Denise Majette, also African-American, hand-picked by AIPAC, who was aided by cross over Republican votes.

Two years later, McKinney ran to regain her seat and succeeded, after Majette had angered her Jewish backers by electing to run for the Senate where she was defeated. One of those backers was so upset with Majette’s decision to give up her congressional seat that, in a letter to the editor of a local weekly, he demanded she return the money he had invested in her.

More recently, Rep. Donna Edwards, who hoped to become the first Black senator from Maryland failed to get the support of her CBC colleagues in what turned out to be a losing race with fellow Democrat Chris Van Hollen to succeed the very pro-Israel Barbara Mikulsi. It is likely that her votes on two bills heavily supported by AIPAC were the reason.

In 2009, she was one of 21 members to vote “present” on a resolution that recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. The bi-partisan resolution, co-sponsored by Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, passed by a margin of 390-5.

In 2013, Edwards had been one of only 20 members of Congress to vote against the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which contained measures to strengthen already existing sanctions on Tehran which has held the top spot on AIPAC’s enemies list since the US invasion of Iraq.

Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress, who was picked by Bernie Sanders to be on the Democratic platform committee, is the only member of the CBC who has not been afraid to show support for the Palestinians but that support only goes so far.

In a statement issued during the last Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, Ellison faulted Israel and Hamas while implying that the latter had initiated the violence and that Israelis and Gazans were being equally victimized:

The current escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians won’t get either side closer to security. It empowers bad actors and puts innocent people on both sides in harm’s way.

Therefore I call on Hamas to immediately stop launching rockets, and for Israel to cease air strikes and not send in ground troops.

I support strong diplomatic intervention by the United States and regional partners to help establish an immediate ceasefire agreement.

There was not a word in his statement about ending Israel’s siege of Gaza or noting that this was Israel’s third war on Gaza in six years.

The sorry state of CBC’s affairs was best expressed by Greg Meeks, its current chair, who represents New York’s 5th Congressional District.

On this past March 11, Meeks issued the following a statement from his office in honor of “Israel’s Independence Day.”

Having visited Israel many times and most recently just weeks ago, I have seen first-hand the importance of the partnership between our two nations.

The United States has an obligation to uphold Israel’s right to defend itself; it is our closest ally and the lone democracy in the Middle East.

Under constant threat, the Israeli people demonstrate tremendous strength and resilience.

Through dialogue, collaboration, and shared determination, our two nations remain committed to making the world safer and freer, and to ensuring our vital and durable bond continues for perpetuity.

Yes, reading that might be called a barf bag moment—and certainly not the only one in this article–but what is important to consider is that with only minor changes here and there, Meeks’ statement of affinity for a particularly oppressive foreign government is essentially no different from what most members of Congress, regardless of their color, gender, age, or political party have been making for decades.

If that is not a demonstration of Jewish political power, what then is it?

***

Now that power is facing a major test. On August 1st, the Movement for Black Lives, representing 50 Black organizations across the country, issued a lengthy, comprehensive platform, “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” detailing its views of the problems and challenges facing Black Americans and people of color, generally, and what needs to be done to meet and correct them.

The section of the platform that attracted the most attention was, predictably, one in which the movement expresses its solidarity with the Palestinians, describes the situation under which they live as apartheid and that the actions that Israel has taken against them over the decades as genocide, as defined by the United Nations and the International Court at the Hague.

That drew an angry and anguished, “How dare they!” response from the Jewish establishment whose spokespersons have long accorded themselves the right to determine the language with which Israel may be criticized in the African-American community and by whom. They were joined by Jews who saw themselves as part of the movement and who now claimed to be hurt and bewildered.

Linking of the protests against the epidemic of police killings in America to that experienced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation had already begun on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, following the murder of Michael Brown so the statement of solidarity and criticism of Israel contained in the platform should not have come as a surprise.

There doesn’t appear to have been, as yet, any statements on this issue from CBC members who were in their districts campaigning during the month of August. But at some point, unless the Movement for Black Lives leadership, bowing to threats, rolls over and pulls the offending plank, as Ron Dellums did with the anti-apartheid legislation in 1987, the CBC will be pressed to take sides. That is not likely to happen. A new movement has been born that is in no mood to be turned around.

———–

Jeffrey Blankfort is a radio host and journalist in Northern California and can be contacted atjblankfort@earthlink.net.

Truth is Stranger Than Science Fiction: Cabinet Picks of Donald J. Trump 45th President of the United States of America

As a child growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, I used to absolutely love to watch science fiction television shows.  Especially the ones that were “safely” scary, like Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone in which my mind would be tickled without too much gore and violence.  As I explore his Cabinet picks, who would have thought that fifty years later, I’d actually have a front-row seat with an intimate view in a real-life Twilight Zone called the Administration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump?

Trump Swearing In

Many who tuned in to see the swearing in of the 45th President of the U.S. thought   it was the beginning of yet another U.S. Presidential Administration.  But, this is not just any other U.S. Administration: the Donald J. Trump Presidency has already been declared in the media over 1,000 times as an uncomfortable episode in the 1950s US science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.

“You unlock this door with the key with the key of imagination: beyond it is another dimension—the dimension of sound; the dimension of sight; a dimension of mind.  You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas.  You’ve just crossed over into the twilight zone.”

So begins one of the versions (I found three) that introduced the TV series.  It is this intro that I read into the Congressional Record about the Presidency of George W. Bush.  But, only a few days into his Presidency, I do believe that Donald J. Trump has even surpassed W.  After his election win, there was much media speculation on how the spoils of war would be distributed—and who would get what plum positions.  On November 15, Trump tweeted that only he knew who his finalists would be; therefore, all the wild speculation was just that.  Now, one week into his Presidency, let’s just take a look at who actually got what, focusing on his Cabinet picks thus far.

Alabama U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was President Trump’s first nomination, for the Attorney General slot, taking over leadership of the Justice Department from President Obama’s Loretta Lynch.  Although he was the Trump’s first nomination, Sessions is yet to be confirmed by his Senate colleagues.  Southerners who are “men of their times” are often dogged by allegations of being racist because they did not rise above that time.  I personally know some of those making the most egregious allegations against the Senator whose judgeship aspirations were derailed due to the charges.  This time, the Senator seems poised to take office in the Trump Administration—maybe before this month ends.

Next, Trump announced that he was considering General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Pentagon Secretary.  Of course, I objected because of the doctrine of civilian control that Trump was just obliterating with his nominations.  Then, Dr. Ben Carson was announced as Trump’s choice for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and I complained because despite Dr. Carson’s obvious talents as a world renowned neurosurgeon, and despite his knowledge of health care and how the neoliberal health industry drains dollars from the public, but fails to demonstrate enough care about public care, it appeared to me that Trump had selected the Black man to deal with the Cabinet post perceived to deal with the issues of urban America—a euphemism in polite circles for Black and Brown people in the U.S.  So, I tweeted back to Trump, “Why HUD and not HHS [Health and Human Services]??????”  This is a classic way to pigeon-hole someone with the intent to “keep them in their place.”  Tellingly, Congressman Dr. Tom Price from my home state of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon, was selected by Trump to serve as his HHS Secretary.  Trump nominated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, and previous Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush, Taiwan-born Elaine Chao, to serve him at the helm of the Department of Transportation.

In stunning fashion, Trump kicked off nominations on what seemed to be “Billionaire Week” when he selected billionaire Betsey DeVos (who is also the sister of Blackwater founder, Erik Prince) to serve as his Secretary of Education.  He rounded out the week by tapping Wilbur Ross to become the country’s Secretary of Commerce; hundred millionaire Steve Mnuchin (who is registered to vote in both California and New York, according to Fortune) to serve as Treasury Secretary; and from a billionaire family, Todd Ricketts, to back up Ross as the second in command at Commerce.  A few days later, Trump stuck with the hundred millionaire club when he nominated Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO at ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State.

Serving at Cabinet-level positions, while not formally being in the Cabinet, are Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.  Haley is already on the job representing the U.S. at the United Nations while President Trump is rumored to be considering an executive order threatening drastic cuts in current U.S. funding levels at the global body.  Therefore, as of this writing, President Trump has only two Cabinet officials actually serving in office right now, other than his Vice President:  Secretary of Defense General Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly, who oversaw torture and illegal detentions at the U.S.-held prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba.  Thus, so far, the Trump Cabinet can be seen largely as a group of multimillionaires and billionaires and generals.  Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts says that President Trump needs strong personality types who won’t be pushed around by bullies in the press or in Congress.  While that is probably true, too, still I wonder if this is the right mix of leadership to put the U.S. on the right track.  And honestly, I wonder if people who have been so consumed with personal interest and bottom line corporate interest even possess the necessary character and personality ingredients to become servants of the public interest—a greater good than the bottom line.  I wonder if generals who are trained and prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat should command offices like Pentagon Secretary; and if the general at Homeland Security is willing to work his way out of a job by abolishing that Bill of Rights nightmare after ushering in immigration reform and securing U.S. borders— whatever that means—when a clear and more present danger to the U.S. honestly exists within the U.S. Congress.  But that’s another topic for another day.  Therefore, I have to end this article exactly where I began it:  on the outskirts of The Outer Limits (another popular TV show of the same genre and time period) and on my way to my ringside seat in The Twilight Zone.

Actually, it was a newspaper in Scotland that first intoned The Twilight Zone moniker for the Trump Presidency by publishing this:  “After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history.”  It was writing about the Trump inauguration.  But in an even stranger twist of facts, some intrepid social media maven was able to track down a 1950s-era TV show entitled Trackdown which focuses on the Wild West of the U.S. during the late 1800s.  One particular 1958 episode is entitled “The End of the World.”  And believe it or not, the star of this episode is a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Trump who claims that by building a wall he can prevent the world from coming to an end by midnight at the end of that very day—November 14th.  Robert Culp (1930–2010) plays the role of Hoby Gilman, the Texas Ranger charged with tracking down crooks and criminals—and in this episode, the crook is Dr. Trump.  In the end, Gilman gets his man, arresting Dr. Trump for fraud.  Yes, truth can be stranger than fiction—including science fiction.  And every time I think about the Trump Cabinet of Generals and Billionaires, I can’t help but wonder if I’m a two-bit star in The Twilight Zone, The X Files, or The Prisoner.

My Personal Experiences with Travel Detentions; Wrong Under Obama, Wrong Under Trump

I was detained too many times under President Obama’s rules that I had to publicly write about it. Such a policy was wrong under President Obama and is still wrong under President Trump. Here’s what I wrote in 2015 about my own experiences:

I arrived yesterday only to be detained a second time–this time in Atlanta–as I tried to reenter the United States from an overseas trip. Now, when I was returning from Malaysia, I reentered the U.S. by way of Los Angeles and the gentleman Customs Agent in the booth was so surprised that my passport didn’t seem to work properly when he swiped it confirming my reentry. He apologetically said that he would have to call someone from the other side and that I would have to wait in front of him. But it didn’t take very long for the armed guard to arrive. After more than an hour, questioning, searching, etc., I was released to go about my business as I wanted. In the meantime, however, I had the opportunity to school the Agents on the senseless priorities being demonstrated by our elected and appointed leaders–that they are being asked to tighten their belts, with student loans in tow, while spending for the war machine of death and destruction rages on. When they escorted me out, they were telling me about their travails with student loans. One told me that he wakes up every morning wondering how/if he will ever be able to pay his student loans. He also was proud of his education, but pointed out to me that although he was allowed to carry a gun on his job (Customs Agent), a college education wasn’t even required. He took that as an example of how much his employer actually cared about him as a person. I told him that in Libya, education was free, but that the U.S. bombed that country. He wrote down the name of my book on Libya and took my e-mail address down. The other armed Customs Agent told me that his daughter was a Ph.D. candidate, but that she was burdened by student loans and asked if I could help with that situation. I told them both that maybe one day I will be in a position to help students burdened with student loans. My one hour delay was an opportunity for me to see the ultimate weakness in the plot by whoever put my name on the list for extra attention: it gives me an opportunity to let them see just how stupid–if they already hadn’t figured that out–the policies and regulations that lead this country are and that in the end, we are more alike than the ones who ordered them to give me this extra harassment. The lesson wasn’t lost on them, either.

Yesterday, I arrived in my home city of Atlanta. Here’s what happened:

They put me in a glass cell so they could watch what the people inside were doing. It’s their small jail because you can’t get out unless they let you out.

All of the people were Muslim surnamed except one Spanish surnamed male.

They sent another family male, with his hijabbed wife and daughter into an interview room. I presumed that would be my next stop.

They sent three armed guards to escort me to get my bags. One Indian looking woman who refused to tell me her “personals.” The others were three black males who all knew me.

The Indian woman asked me who i visited in Pakistan. I told her Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s family. She asked me who else and I responded ambassadors, diplomats, academicians, because lots of Pakistanis studied in the U.S.

They then proceeded to take all of my things out of all of my bags including my pocketbook. I asked them by name (except for the Indian-looking girl who did not give me her name and she was wearing a jacket so her name was not visible–she’s probably not Customs, but Intelligence)–why I was getting this individualized attention. They responded that they were just following orders. I told them that I do understand that they are just following orders, but isn’t it rather silly to even have such orders for harassment every time I return to my own country? Of course, I don’t blame them. But their boss in DC who put my name on a list.

One respectfully said that Pakistan was a country of interest due to training camps. I responded, “you mean the US training camps?” He smiled knowingly.

One said Middle East. I responded that West Asia and North Africa are the correct geographic descriptions and shouldn’t they be worried about health care, education, infrastructure, etc while the war machine rages on. I also asked them why did the TSA bosses took away the dosimeters when the TSA agents have to stand up all day next to those radiation-emitting machines not knowing the amount of damage being done to them?

I told them that I would not be deterred from protesting the war machine at home and abroad and that they should remember my name because I will not stop standing for peace.

Like little boys they stood and listened–and agreed–with me and then said, almost in unison, Ms. McKinney, we know who you are! They had just been schooled in the McKinney Madrassa. Each time such searches give me an opportunity to spread the good news about the work that we must do for peace and for justice, I will do so while highlighting the contradictions.

I don’t think I have to do too much schooling of the Agents; one of them told me that he admired what I do. Somehow, after that, I feel stronger in my position today that the people of this country are beginning to “get it” and that my struggle along with thousands of others has not been in vain.

Mise en point de Dr. Cynthia McKinney au sujet de la RDCongo

Étant en possession d’importantes informations sur le processus électoral actuel en République Démocratique du Congo et sur le trucage prévu lors du scrutin présidentiel de 2016 où certains, aux États-Unis et dans la région des Grands Lacs, ont déjà choisi le futur le président de la RDC, j’ai été contactée par des Congolais qui souhaitaient que j’aide à dénoncer cette mascarade, comme je l’avais déjà fait il y a plusieurs années au moment de la publication du rapport des Nations Unies de 2001 sur le pillage du Congo.

Je rappelle qu’à l’époque, j’avais communiqué plusieurs documents bancaires et autres preuves en ma possession aux enquêteurs de l’ONU. Connaissant donc mon engagement en faveur du respect des droits humains et de la souveraineté de la RDCongo lorsque je siégeais au Congrès américain, des Congolais sont venus me voir espérant que je pourrais à nouveau contribuer à rendre publiques des informations majeures sur la RDC. J’ai donné mon accord de principe pour cette action mais j’ai été surprise d’apprendre, dans un document diffusé sur internet et visant manifestement à nuire à ma réputation, que j’étais prête à faire du lobbying en faveur du gouvernement congolais alors que je n’ai jamais eu d’atomes crochus avec le régime de Kinshasa.

Vu la façon dont ce document est formulé et la vitesse avec laquelle il a été publié sur les réseaux sociaux, cela me donne surtout l’impression que soit quelqu’un a cherché à me salir soit que j’ai été victime d’un traquenard.
Dans tous les cas, si je m’exprime publiquement sur cette affaire, c’est pour dire qu’ayant toujours demandé la vérité sur l’assassinat de Patrice Lumumba, celui de Laurent-Désiré Kabila et sur tous les crimes commis contre le peuple congolais, je ne peux pas tolérer que mon nom soit associé à des basses manœuvres politiciennes qui visent à défendre le régime de Kinshasa ou à spolier le peuple congolais qui souffre depuis plus de soixante ans de violence et d’injustice.

Je rassure tous les Congolais sur le fait que je n’ai touché aucun centime du gouvernement de Kinshasa et que je n’ai jamais touché un centime pour tout ce que j’ai fait jusqu’ici pour la République Démocratique du Congo. Je vais soumettre cette affaire à mon avocat pour savoir quelle suite lui donner.

Ceux qui espèrent par ces actes indélicats m’empêcher de défendre le droit du peuple congolais à l’autodétermination, à la vérité et à la justice se trompent. J’aiderai de vrais patriotes Congolais déterminés à sortir leur pays de l’impasse, de l’occupation étrangère et du pillage dont il est, aujourd’hui encore l’objet.

Truth Foretold, Specious Journalism, And Spurious Assertions: The Case of Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View, and The Charlotte Observer

While it is true that I was “booted” by pro-war Democrats who worked in concert with like-minded Republicans, your assertion of my being booted for “peddling conspiracies” deserves a deeper look. My booting, by the way, resulted in the GOP takeover of my home State of Georgia, an outcome that seemingly makes both pro-war Democrats and Republicans (now called “globalists”) comfortable. Therefore, I want to take a deeper look at what I did “peddle:”

 

  1. That Presidential candidate George W. Bush worked with his Florida Governor brother, Jeb, to orchestrate election theft in the 2000 Presidential election. Now that the public has caught up with the facts that I put on the table in 2000 and 2001 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdPhXuTzQeI), this position is supported by evidence that is available to all;
  2. That President George W. Bush received warnings about an impending attack on the US (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/11/cia-directors-documentary-911-bush-213353) and actively blocked an investigation (http://edition.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/01/29/inv.terror.probe/) into the September 11, 2001 attacks. Now that the public has caught up with the facts that I put on the table in 2001, this position is supported by evidence that is available to all;
  3. That the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (https://www.vcf.gov/faq.html) was really set up to thwart 9/11 wrongful death lawsuits because it prevented victims’ survivors from getting justice in US Courts; I felt that victims and victims’ survivors should be able to sue the culprits as well as receive support from the Fund. The President recently vetoed legislation that would allow lawsuits to move forward against Saudi Arabia and Congress just overrode his veto. Fourteen years later, I am pleased that, once again, my position has been supported by evidence that has been clearly available to all for at least a decade;
  4. That the US was not justified in attacking Iraq in 2003. The most thorough investigation into the 2003 decision to go to war against Iraq is the Chilcot Report (http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/) which found that war was not the last option and that U.S. allegations of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq were not justified. Now that the public has caught up with the facts that I put on the table in 2002, this position is supported by evidence that is available to all;
  5. That the then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, failed to perform his job during Hurricane Katrina and that thousands needlessly died because he failed the Gulf States and the country. After joining with Republicans and writing a Congressional Report on the subject that is available to the public (www.nola.com/katrina/pdf/mainreport.pdf), my position is supported by evidence that is available to all;
  6. That a specific allegation had been made to my Congressional Office that thousands of bodies had been dumped in Louisiana swamps after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now, we know that 9/11 human remains were dumped in a landfill (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/us/panel-recommends-more-oversight-and-training-at-dover-mortuary.html?_r=0) with such action having been deemed “dereliction of duty,” so who has conducted an independent investigation into what happened in Louisiana, in particular, with respect to body disposal?
  7. That racism exists in Capitol Hill Police Department similar to what exists in other police departments around the U.S. and that I was a victim of that discrimination after I supported a lawsuit filed by Black police officers after one of their superior officers used the word “nigger.” Black police officers have been waiting fifteen years for justice and recently held a demonstration in support of their claim (http://www.rollcall.com/news/policy/former-capitol-police-call-attention-discrimination-lawsuits). One need only hear the moving testimony of the U.S. Senate’s lone Black GOP Member and his interactions with the Capitol Hill Police (http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/floor-speeches/tim-scott-black-republican-emotional-powerful-dramatic-race-speech-targeted-capitol-police) to understand that my experience was surely possible. Now, again—after the fact— that the public has caught up with the evidence that I put on the table in 2006, my position is supported by evidence that is available to all, sadly now most of all, the family of Keith Lamont Scott and all of those young people who were just recently in Charlotte’s streets.

 

If only the press had decided to investigate my assertions rather than castigate me for making them! Maybe things would be far different than they are today in Iraq, Libya, Louisiana, and elsewhere. But, instead of investigation of the inconvenient or unpleasant facts that I repeatedly put on the table, the response was a frenzy of specious journalism and spurious assertions where true journalism was needed. Your column, with mention of my name, is an example of that. Such “reporting” is precisely why Trump’s attacks on the media resonate so well with the American and global public. The polling data on the public perception of the U.S. media is a damning indictment of the role the media has played in this country for too many years. That is why the U.S. public more and more now seeks its information from foreign media outlets, the internet, “alternative” media, and less and less from “newspapers” like yours.

 

Cynthia McKinney, Ph.D.

Cynthia Praised By Journalist Jeff Blankfort for Standing Strong for Palestine

Congressional Black Caucus: Deep in the Israel Lobby’s Pocket

“[Debbie] Wasser­man Schultz em­bod­ied the enor­mous in­flu­ence that Amer­i­can Jews have within the Demo­cratic Party. A Jew with deep com­mu­nal in­volve­ments who was a key pil­lar of sup­port for the main­stream pro-Is­rael lobby in Congress and within the party, Wasser­man was both chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of Congress sit­ting on the pow­er­ful House Com­mit­tee on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions — a panel that votes on all ma­jor gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures.

“This put her at the nexus of U.S. pol­icy, pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing in a way that few oth­ers matched.”

— NATHAN GUTTMAN, Forward, August 5-12, 2016

This article is not about Debbie Wasserman Schultz but of the influence of who and what she represented as chair of the Democratic National Committee until taken down by Julian Assange, and still represents, in Congress, the interests of Israel, and the power of its domestic supporters over the Black American political establishment as represented by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

To be sure, the CBC’s subjugation by what is generally referred to as the pro-Israel Lobby is not unique. Thanks largely to American Jews having long been the Democratic Party’s major source of funds, estimated by reliable sources to be at least 60% in every election cycle, the Israel Lobby has been not only able to shape the party’s’ Middle East agenda but, of equal importance, determine who will be the chairs and the ranking members on the Congressional committees and subcommittees that have an impact on US-Israel relations. (The same thing can be said about the Republicans but there we see more variety among the donors.)

What makes the Congressional Black Caucus exceptional is that its very presence in Congress has been portrayed as symbolizing the success of the often bloody civil and voting rights struggles of a half century ago of which they are the beneficiaries. Some, like John Lewis, were even notable participants.

Consequently, something more might be expected of them. That the CBC, however, regardless of who comes and goes in their congressional districts, has consistently, as a bloc, voted to send billions of US taxpayers dollars to provide weapons for a foreign government that oppresses another people of color, the Palestinians, is, under the circumstances, nothing less than shameful.

To realize the extent of the problem requires some effort, mainly on-line searches of each CBC member’s name linked to Israel. The link won’t appear on their websites or, if there, is hard to find. (This is actually the case with most members of Congress, whatever the color of their skin). Outside of Jewish audiences who they view as potential donors and for whom, quite literally, they audition, they prefer that their constituents and the general public not know the degree to which they are willing to humiliate themselves for campaign contributions.

Their collective lack of concern for the plight of the Palestinians, with but some scattered exceptions was all too predictable given that In the late 1980s, at the height of Israel’s arm sales to its sister apartheid state, South Africa, the Congressional Black Caucus was so cowed by AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment that it agreed to utter not a peep about it in public.

As chair of the DNC, Wasserman Schultz was in a position to make the critical appointments to the Democratic Party’s platform committee. From Congress, with Hillary Clinton’s pro-Israel position in mind, she selected two members of the CBC, Berkeley-Oakland’s Barbara Lee, a favorite of the liberal Left, and Baltimore’s Elijah Cummings, making the latter the committee’s chair. Their votes turned out to be instrumental in insuring there would be no criticism of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and its construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the party’s 2016 platform while maintaining Democratic Party support for Jerusalem as Israel’s indivisible capital.

Cummings’ genuflection to Wasserman Schultz’s demands was expected since the 65 year old congressman is the very picture of the “faithful family retainer” from Old South novels and films when it comes to his relations to Israel and Baltimore’s Jewish community.

This past February, with Israeli Ambassador, US-born, Ron Dermer, Cummings co-hosted a celebration of Black History Month at the Israeli Embassy. It was Dermer, a former Republican functionary from Florida, who had collaborated with House Speaker John Boehner to have Netanyahu speak before a joint session of Congress in March, 2015 in a last ditch Israeli effort to sabotage Washington’s negotiations with Iran.

Most of the more senior members of the CBC, including Cummings, were obliged by their constituencies to view it as a slight against the first Black president—which it clearly was–but while joining some other Democrats in boycotting the Israel prime minister’s appearance, they made sure that their decision to do so was not viewed within the Jewish community as diminishing their support for Israel but as a criticism of Boehner.

Cummings was the perfect choice to be co-host. For each of the past 20 years, his Jewish-community funded Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, “an elite two-year leadership fellowship,” according to its website, has sent a dozen Baltimore area African American high school students to Israel to be suitably indoctrinated into the special relationship between the two countries.

It dovetails neatly into the successful and aggressive outreach program focused on African-American college students conducted in recent years by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Barbara Lee is not in Cummings’ league when it comes to public bowing and scraping before Israel’s domestic supporters but, like her predecessor, Ron Dellums, for whom she served as an aide, Lee has shown herself willing to do just that when called upon by the likes of Wasserman Schultz. Dellums, a Teflon coated living legend among most Bay Area Left activists, managed to serve 13 terms in Congress without losing their support while maintaining the backing of AIPAC and the Jewish voters in his district.

Lee was the sole member of Congress to vote against giving President Bush the war authority after 9-11, for which she was justly praised. That act, apparently, took less courage than criticizing or withholding praise for an Israeli head of state as she had previously sent messages of congratulations to Ariel Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut, on his election and, later, re-election as Israel’s prime minister.

Sharon had been given that title in the wake of crimes committed by the Israeli forces under his command following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and his having given the green light to Lebanese Christian forces to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila on the outskirts of the Lebanese capital in September of that year and, with Israeli soldiers backing them up, slaughter up to 2,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. This led to him being sacked as Israel’s defense minister. Why would a Black member of Congress congratulate him under any circumstances?

Like everyone else in Congress, Lee has consistently supported military aid to Israel. The closest she came to actually casting a vote critical of Israel was in 2006, following Israel’s most recent invasion of Lebanon when she voted “present” on a House bill strongly supporting Israel’s brutal actions.

In January, 2009, she had been one of five members of Congress, including one other CBC member, Keith Ellison, to send a letter to Hillary Clinton after her appointment as Secretary of State, calling for humanitarian aid for Gaza without saying a negative word about the country that was responsible for the need of such aid.

In August, 2014, in the midst of Israel’s last assault on Gaza, she was reproached by some of her pro-Palestinian constituents for approving an additional $626 million appropriation for Israel. In a written response to her critics she justified doing so as a life-saving measure:

Last week, I cast a vote in support of Iron Dome, which is a defensive anti-rocket missile system that saves civilian lives.

I would not have supported funding for offensive military weapons in the midst of this horrific crisis. I continue to mourn the tragic loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel.

I have called and will continue to call for a sustained ceasefire to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis, end the blockade of Gaza and stop the loss of civilian lives.

Unless asked to do otherwise by Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

When I phoned Lee’s Oakland office to complain about her vote, I was told by a member of her staff that they had already received 150 similar calls. Lee, he said, was actually against Israel’s occupation and settlement building. Her reason for voting the way she did, he told me, was “complicated” and that Lee would put something up on her website explaining her decision. She never did and we can guess why.

She has no reason to fear being called out for it by supporters of justice for Palestine in her district any more than did Dellums who, while providing occasional lip service to Israel’s critics, his deference to the demands of AIPAC and his liberal Jewish supporters in Berkeley at critical moments is a matter of record.

While issuing a statement criticizing Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 as “a deadly overreaction… [which] cannot be rationalized or justified….only…deplored,” just two years later, Dellums refused to take a public stand on Measure E, a proposition on the Berkeley ballot that would have required the federal government to withhold from the annual aid package to Israel the amount of money it spent on building settlements in the West Bank that the US and the world considered to be illegal.

Early in April, 1984, Dellums received a letter from Lee Marsh, the president of the Berkeley/Richmond Jewish Community Center, demanding that he oppose the measure that concluded with a warning of “the political fact that the Jewish people will consider mere neutrality on this issue as insensitivity to our deep, near-unanimous feelings on a vitally important issue to us.”

In response, Dellums acknowledged that his “gut reaction is that the problems of the Middle East are so complex that it is of questionable value to approach solutions in such a piecemeal fashion; such efforts seem better calculated to cause anguish and divisiveness than to move us to a realistic position of solving these problems.”

“On a personal level,” he went on, “I resent being pushed into kneejerk reactions on ballot initiatives that are irrelevant to any political solution to the problem….a neutral position makes perfectly good sense.” (Emphasis added). And that’s what he took which, of course, played into the hands of Measure E’s opponents. In the end, Measure E lost by a 2-1 margin. Had Dellums stepped up and publicly endorsed the initiative there is no question that it would have influenced the vote and not only of the city’s Black residents.

At the time there were 42,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Today there are over a half million. Would Mr. Dellums still insist that Measure E was irrelevant?

In 1988, some residents of Berkeley, active in the Palestinian cause, placed a measure on the ballot that would have made the refugee camp of Jabalya in Gaza a sister city to join more than a dozen Berkeley sister cities across the globe including two American Indian tribes. Again, Dellums, not wanting to face down the liberal Jews who control Berkeley’s politics, remained neutral.

Dellums’ main contribution to Israel and its US supporters would come three years later when he was the point man in Congress opposing South African apartheid. Before introducing the 1987 Anti-Apartheid Act in the House, he withdrew a plank that would have penalized Israel for its arms sales to South Africa which, at the time, were estimated to be over $800 million.

The plank, added the previous year to the Senate version by retiring senator, Maryland Republican Charles Mathias, called for penalties against any recipient of US foreign aid that was found to be selling weapons to South Africa. While Israel was not mentioned by name it was the only country known to be doing so.

Had the Moony-owned Washington Times not reported on Dellums’ decision in its April 2, 1987 edition, it is likely the story would never have become public.

The change was made “to expand the scope of congressional support,” Dellums’ spokesperson, Max Miller told the paper, adding that Dellums’ bill had been modified to reflect a recent announcement by Israel that it would phase out its arms relationship with South Africa.

“He’s not so concerned about past violations as he is about future violations,” Miller said.

“But,” noted the Washington Times reporter, “the modified bill was introduced March 12, about a week before Israel announced its new policy towards South Africa.” (Emphasis added).

Dellums defended his action in a letter to a constituent on June 11, writing that:

[It] quickly became clear that the bill would rapidly lose significant support among a large number of the co-sponsors if that provision [penalizing Israel] remained in the bill. We faced the prospect of daily loss of support—a situation that would have sent a wrong signal to everybody about US resolve to confront apartheid.

Consulting with the anti-apartheid groups involved in pushing the bill, we decided it would be better to withdraw the section in order to achieve a broad base of support for the main goal of the bill [imposing US sanctions on South Africa.]

The wrong signal? What it would have revealed is that the majority of Democratic members of Congress, including the Black Caucus, gave a higher priority to protecting Israel’s image in the public’s eyes, as well as its funding, than putting an end to South African apartheid. In the Senate, it should be noted, that California’s Alan Cranston, one of the major recipients of pro-Israel funding, withdrew the Mathias plank without any announcement to the public.

In the following year, Dellums was the featured speaker at an anti-apartheid conference at UC Berkeley. During the question period I had an opportunity to ask him how he had been obligated and pressured by his fellow Democrats to pull the plank censuring Israel from the anti-apartheid legislation which, beyond the Washington Times article, had been publicized only by the Middle East Labor Bulletin which I edited and Jane Hunter’s excellent Israeli Foreign Affairs. It had been ignored, to their shame, even by the publications of the anti-apartheid movement for whom Dellums had become an untouchable icon.

Drawing himself up to his full height, Dellums expressed his objections to my use of the words, “obligated” and “pressured,” but then, slowly bending over and with his voice almost a whisper, he told the packed lecture hall how one Democrat after another had come to him and said, “Ron, if you don’t pull that plank you’ll have to take my name off the legislation.” At which point a Black San Francisco State professor sitting beside me gently poked me with her elbow, saying “it sure sounds like obligated and pressured to me.”

It was only later that I learned that a dozen Black South African exiles sitting in reserved seats in the front row appeared to be stunned by Dellums’ response..

About the time the Washington Times article appeared, the State Department issued a report that had been mandated by the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act to provide the House and Senate Intelligence Committees with a list of countries selling arms to South Africa. It included Israel.

“Nevertheless, at a press conference last week and elsewhere,” reported the No. California Jewish Bulletin (4/10/87), “black members of Congress bluntly rejected invitations to denounce Israel in particular, even as they issued a scathing broadside against all the countries cited in the State Department report.”

The NCJB article described a meeting between members of the CBC, including caucus chair, Mervyn Dymally, from Compton, California, Mickey Leland, from Texas, and New York’s Charles Rangel, and Jewish House members, Howard Berman and Mel Levine, from Los Angeles, and Howard Wolpe, from Michigan. Tony Coehlo, a Catholic from Merced and a strong supporter of Israel, sat in.

It was no coincidence that Berman, who formerly represented the San Fernando Valley and who is now a corporate Washington lobbyist, was also one of Wasserman Schultz’s appointees to the Democratic Platform Committee. A Democratic power broker in Southern California, he had once told a group of his Jewish constituents that he had run for Congress to help Israel.

Wolpe was the chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa which seemed strange except for the fact that Israel had strategic interests on the continent which, as the arms sales case indicated, needed to be protected. This obviously trumped the importance of having an African-American serve in that capacity.

That meeting came on top of another between a number of Black Caucus members and leaders from most of the major Jewish organizations led by AIPAC executive director, Tom Dine, all of whom were anxious to quash any rebellion from below.

A stated concern of the CBC members, according to the No. California Jewish Bulletin (4/10/87)—such meetings are ignored by the mainstream media–was attaining greater aid for the African continent which, despite the terrible famines it had experienced, had its appropriations cut by 37% while aid to Israel, Latin America, Asia and the Philippines had increased with Israel ending up with one third of the total foreign aid allocation.

The article noted that an amendment to the foreign aid bill proposed by Wolpe would increase aid to Africa by $115 million over last year but that, pointed out Dymally, was less than the Reagan administration had asked for which he called a “source of embarrassment” to the Democrats.

The meeting reportedly ended with the Jewish delegation agreeing to support greater aid to Africa in return for the CBC’s not making an issue of Israel’s arms sales to Pretoria.

It quickly became clear that the Israeli government had been apprised by its American agents of the CBC’s ignominious retreat since the day before the NCJB article appeared. Israel’sHa’aretz reported that:

Senior [Israeli] government officials estimate that as a result of the relatively mild response in the US to the report on the issue of arms trade between Israel and So. Africa, at this time the government will refrain from any meaningful steps whatsoever against the apartheid regime and satisfy itself with decisions of a declarative meaning only. (4/9/87).

Four months later, on August 5, another Israeli paper, Davar, was even more straightforward in reporting that business between Israel and South Africa would be unchanged, regardless of its public statements to the world.

An official Israeli delegation headed by Efrayim Dovrat, the finance minister’s assistant director general, will shortly depart for South Africa to ratify the agreement on economic cooperation between the two countries.

This will be the first agreement the countries have signed since the cabinet decision not to strike and new agreements with South Africa.

The CBC’s decision to say nothing about Israel’s arms sales to South Africa, three years earlier, had greatly distressed Dymally.

“We’ve reached a compromise to which our constituents won’t be very receptive,” the NCJB quoted him as saying. He reportedly warned that unless Israel took further steps, that compromise will unravel and “we will want to see stronger language on Israel.” Israel must not only refrain from signing new contracts with South Africa, he said, but terminate the ongoing ones.

“In the pipeline already are enough arms to kill many innocent people,” said Dymally, but he was speaking only for himself. (He declined to be interviewed after he left Congress in 1992 and returned to the California State Assembly because, as I was told, he “didn’t want the hassle.”) Both Mickey Leland and Charles Rangel had by that time, become, like Elijah Cummings, “faithful family retainers” of the Jewish political establishment.

Leland, a civil rights activist in Houston in his youth, began serving in Congress in 1979 and died in a plane crash in Ethiopia a decade later. According to his Congressional obituary, “One of his first acts in Congress was to fund a six–week trip to Israel to allow underprivileged black teenagers from the Houston area to learn about Jewish culture and to create a cross–cultural dialogue between the youths in the two countries.”

He then prefigured Cummings by setting up the Mickey Leland Kibbutzim Internship Foundation in 1980. Financed and operated by Houston’s Jewish Community Relations Council, it sends 10 Black high school juniors annually to Israel for a six-week work and travel experience, as well as, we must assume, for political indoctrination.

Leland’s most obscene display of support for Israel followed its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when he was chair of the CBC. He flew to Tel Aviv, then bicycled throughout the country and across the Lebanese border to express his “solidarity with the people of Israel.” Hard to top that in “faithful retainer” lore.

Rangel is retiring this year after serving 45 years representing Harlem. Back in 1973, his second year in office, he participated in a very special meeting.

At that time, as the newly elected chair of the CBC, he was invited to dinner with Arthur Hertzberg, president of the liberal American Jewish Congress and Sidney Yates, a Jewish member of Congress from Illinois.

Hertzberg’s intention was to find a way to counter the more militant Black organizations of the late 60s and 70s, most notably the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee or SNCC, led by Stokely Carmichael, later to become Kwame Ture that had declared their independence from white influence. Hertzberg described the meeting in his book, “A Jew in America.” (Harper, 2002):

In the course of our talks over the dinner table, we had little difficulty in understanding one another. We agreed that the continuing need for Blacks in national politics was and would remain the welfare state. Only through welfare programs for the poor could a large number of Blacks live in some minimum decency.

On the Jewish side there was one concern that united all the factions of the Jewish community: the defense of Israel. As a lamb among the wolves of the Middle East, Israel needed sufficient American support to defend itself. Therefore Jews needed friends and allies in American politics who would help make Israel more secure.

The three of us quickly saw the obvious conclusion: let an alliance be made between the Black congressmen and the Jewish congressmen so that each group would vote for the agendas of both sides. Jews would remain committed to the welfare state, even as it meant higher taxes for the middle class, and Blacks would support Israel.

The alliance that was defined that day has lasted many years. It represented a quiet consensus both among Jews and among Blacks. (p.361)

Hertzberg’s recounting of the meeting, what it says and what it implied about the Black-Jewish relationship in America demands our attention. Reeking with paternalism, it consigned the majority of African-Americans to an indefinite untermenschen status while depending on the good will and generosity of Jews for their survival. The Black Caucus would serve as the Jewish community’s intermediary.

And so it has come to pass, and despite the fact that the “welfare state,” as Hertzberg described it, disappeared almost a decade before his book was published, courtesy of Bill Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus still does the Jewish establishment’s bidding and clearly has been rewarded for doing so. Whether the Black Americans have benefited is another matter.

That isn’t the entire story, of course. There have been periodic efforts by some CBC members to break free of the yoke that Rangel accepted that night. What happened to them is instructive.

In March, 1990, emboldened by Sen. Robert Dole’s surprise suggestion (that he was quickly forced to retract) that 5% of the aid going to the six largest recipients, of which Israel and Egypt ($3 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively) were by far the biggest, should be diverted to Eastern Europe, 10 members of the CBC sent a “dear colleague” letter to fellow House members, noting that “the current distribution [of aid] is unfair, inequitable and indefensible, and does not serve U.S. interests.”

They pointed out that in the proposed budget “every Israeli would receive $700 in US aid while every African would receive a little more than a $1. How can that be justified when Israeli per capita income is $4,990 and African per capita income is only $683?”

The letter was initiated by Rep. Charles Crockett (MI), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and its signers included Dymally, William Clay (MO), Augustus Hawkins (CA), Charles Hayes (IL) Donald Payne (NJ), Gus Savage (IL), Alan Wheat (MO), Walter Fauntroy (DC), and Dellums, then chair of the Black Caucus.

Blanked out by the national media, it was widely publicized in the Jewish community press, thus exposing the congressmen to attacks from sectors of the pro-Israel lobby in each of their constituencies. In Dellums’ district, the first shot was fired by Lucie Ramsey, executive director of the influential Jewish Community Relations Council, who, according to the NCBJ (2/16/90) was “shocked” that he signed the letter.

“I know how poor the African nations are, and perhaps in terms of equity they should be getting more than they do–but not at the cost of Israel losing out,” wrote Ramsey.

AIPAC’s Bay Area regional representative was more diplomatic, acknowledging Dellums as “a supporter, close to the [Jewish] community. We consider him a friend.”

In the end, the letter writers capitulated, not all willingly, to Dellums’ decision to walk back the call for more foreign aid budget fairness.

AIPAC’s Jonathan Kaufman, the lobby group’s chair in Dellums’ Eighth Congressional District, was a gracious winner, hailing his decision to recommend maintaining aid to Israel at its then $3 billion level

“Dellums told us he’s in favor of maintaining the amount of foreign aid to Israel,” said Kaufman, referring to a meeting that took place with Dellums and AIPAC members (NCJB, 3/30/90) “It was refreshing to hear him,” Kaufman said. “He’s all along been very much on our side. What he wants to do with the Black Caucus budget is to increase the pie so there’s more money for the third world.”

Dellums’ Oakland spokesperson, H. Lee Halterman, told the NCJB that “Dellums has been in regular contact with [congressional] members such as Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Stephen Solarz (D-NY) and Howard Wolpe (Mi.) about the need to forge a coalition between Black members and Jewish members to press for an expanding foreign aid pie.” (NCJB, ibid.).

At the same time, Israel’s arms sales to South Africa were ongoing. Still it was not something that Dellums and his CBC colleagues were ready to raise, even though, at a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad in Washington, according to the Washington Jewish Week (3/15/90), “Israeli officials could offer [them] no timetable for ending Israel’s military contracts with South Africa”.

The WJW, citing “informed sources;” reported that “Israel’s failure to even offer a timetable disappointed the congressmen attending. Nevertheless, none of the congressmen even hinted at cutting aid to Israel at this time.”

“A cut in aid is not called for,” said Missouri’s Alan Wheat, “but this is not to suggest we’re pleased with the current state of affairs.”

Attending the meeting besides Wheat, were Dellums, Berman, Solarz and Wolpe. The Black congressmen were said to have repeated an extraordinary promise previously made to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir “that the [CBC] members were willing to initiate legislation to compensate Israel for any security losses it might incur from cutting its arms ties to South Africa.”

Within two years, the remaining vocal critics of Israel within the caucus: Geoge Crockett, a legendary civil liberties lawyer, who had organized the original letter, Charles Hayes, and Gus Savage, all from Illinois, and Dymally, would be gone from Congress, either through retirement in the case of Crockett and Dymally, or having been targeted by AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment as was the fate of Hayes and Savage.

Hayes, weakened by having had too many overdrafts on his congressional bank account, was successfully challenged in the 1992 Democratic primary by Bobby Bush, a former Black Panther turned Israeli bootlicker. In his position paper on Israel, one that AIPAC demands of each candidate for Congress from both of the major parties, Rush wrote, of his “strong commitment to the survival of the State of Israel [which] has long been the one strategic ally for the US in the Middle East.”

“It is also,” his statement said, “the one nation in the region to be founded upon and demonstrates the democratic values and concerns required in a country of such diverse cultures such as exists within the state of Israel.”

That same year, Savage became a victim of redistricting, a common tactic used by loyalists of both parties to keep key members in office while getting rid of those who make “trouble” and otherwise can’t be defeated at the polls. Savage was the latter.

Against Savage, AIPAC put up Mel Reynolds, who had endeared himself to prospective Jewish donors by having spent time on an Israeli kibbutz. In 1990, that wasn’t a particularly effective inducement for voters in his predominantly Black district and Savage retained his seat.

As a result of that year’s census, AIPAC was successful in having Savage’s district redrawn so that by 1992, it would contain a significant number of white voters and less Black voters and that was all that was needed to reverse the previous election result and put Reynolds in Congress.

What particularly angered AIPAC and Jewish supporters of Israel was that Savage had the audacity to read aloud at a rally the names of Jewish donors to his opponent from outside his district and the state and the amount of money each had contributed to Reynolds’ campaign.

For that he was condemned as being “anti-Semitic,” it being just fine, of course, for Jews who lived in Beverly Hills, Brooklyn, or Bel Air to determine who should represent a largely Black congressional district on Chicago’s South Side. He was also denounced in a headline in the Washington Jewish Week, as “Savage Savage,” a patently racist jibe that merited no attention at the time.

Reynolds managed only to serve two years, when he was convicted and sent to prison as a sex offender for having relations with a 16-year old campaign worker. After being released, he was later convicted and resentenced for an additional term for fraudulently obtaining bank loans and diverting campaign contributions to his personal account.

Following the defeat of Hayes and Savage and with Dymally’s retirement, the last vestiges of resistance to AIPAC’s domination were history and the Israel Lobby’s control of the CBC would never again be challenged. It was then what it remains today, another Israeli Occupied territory.

No Black member of Congress has more epitomized this capitulation than Atlanta’s John Lewis, the same John Lewis who had become a national icon when, as one of the heads of SNCC, he was so badly beaten by Alabama state police on the march to Selma in 1965 that he needed to have a metal plate inserted in his head.

Lewis kicked off the 1992 Congressional session by co-hosting with AIPAC a welcoming reception for new and old CBC members. As AIPAC’s Near East Report described it, Lewis “spoke eloquently of Israel and the common goals and principles that the Jewish and Black communities share.”

In that June, before the vote on aid, Lewis and five other CBC members toured Israel at AIPAC’s expense, afterwards telling the Near East Report that he “hopes visits such as ours will strengthen the bonds between African-Americans, American Jews and Israelis.”

In 1995, Lewis joined his Atlanta Republican colleague Newt Gingrich in signing a Congressional letter to President Clinton, reaffirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and insisting that it maintain total control over the city.

Seeking to protect it from any Palestinian claim, the letter cautioned against “Any policy that makes Jerusalem a center of activity with officials, rather than the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho where they have authority, [and] would legitimize Palestinian claims at the very time that the PLO is seeking to establish symbols of sovereignty over Jerusalem.”

As I wrote at the time, “send Lewis his 30 pieces of silver and wrap them in a handkerchief.”

In 2008, Lewis was a featured guest at a “unity” meeting in Brooklyn between Blacks and Jews organized by New York Democratic state assemblyman, Dov Hykind, formerly a lieutenant in racist Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League.

At the meeting, Lewis “emphasized the shared history and values of the black and Jewish communities,” according to the Jewish weekly Forward, which he “summed up at one point with the observation that blacks and Jews “came to this land in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat,” a message that he would not dare say in the streets of Harlem, Chicago’s South Side, or his native Atlanta, but “was clearly embraced by the audience of roughly two dozen, which was divided between members of Norpac and members of the local African American community.”

Norpac is one of the wealthiest and most influential of several dozen Jewish political action committees spread across the country that exist solely to contribute money to candidates who push a hardline pro-Israel agenda. According to the Forward, Lewis was at that meeting to get some of the swag from “leaders from Norpac, who are raising money to help Lewis fend off his primary challenge.”

Norpac exemplifies why pro-Israel PACs have long been referred to as “stealth PACs.” Unlike almost every other political PAC, until the era of Citizens United, they deliberately hide their connections to Israel or American Jewry.

Lewis, since his heroic endeavors in the South a half a century ago working and marching at the side of Martin Luther King, Jr., has made part of his life’s work repeating King’s words of praise for Israel and accusations of anti-Semitism against its critics, made before his assassination in April, 1968.

On each of these occasions Lewis implies that King, had he lived, would not have been appalled by and would not have spoken out against Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian land, by its siege and wars on Gaza, by its use of cluster bombs in Lebanon, as he eventually did condemning America’s war on Vietnam and its role as the world’s “leading purveyor of violence.” Nothing, I would argue, is a greater insult to King’s memory.

Lewis likes to tell audiences and interviewers that “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to speak up, to speak out.”

That’s what he said earlier this year, when accepting the 2016 Elie Wiesel Award from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for “never [having] abandoned his commitment to promoting the human dignity of all people.” The award was entirely and ironically appropriate since Lewis, like Wiesel, excluded the Palestinians from the ranks of “all people” and like Wiesel, has never felt any moral obligation to speak up or speak out in their defense.

To set the record straight on King, he did have second thoughts about what Israel was up to almost a year before he died, thoughts he obviously felt he could not express publicly to Jewish audiences that were proving key funding for the civil rights movement.

In a recorded phone conversation with his advisers on June 24, 1967, two weeks after Israel’s quick victory over Egypt and its conquering of the West Bank and Gaza, King canceled a previously announced trip to Israel that Jewish leaders in the US and Israeli government officials had been planning for him, ostensibly to raise funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King’s organization. Said King, speaking presciently about Jerusalem:

I just think that if I go, the Arab world, and of course Africa and Asia for that matter, would interpret this as endorsing everything that Israel has done, and I do have questions of doubt…  Most of it [the pilgrimage] would be Jerusalem and they [the Israelis] have annexed Jerusalem, and any way you say it they don’t plan to give it up… I frankly have to admit that my instincts – and when I follow my instincts so to speak I’m usually right – I just think that this would be a great mistake. I don’t think I could come out unscathed. (Jewish Virtual Library)

It is not only highly unlikely that John Lewis is unaware of that conversation, he well may have been a part of it.

It has been now a decade since we have seen any member of the Congressional Black Caucus, or, arguably of any color or gender for that matter in Congress, with the courage to stand up to AIPAC and the Jewish political establishment.

Cynthia McKinney, also from Atlanta, was the last one. In her six terms in office, she defined “fearless,” challenging US foreign policy, questioning the official narrative of 9-11, openly defending the Palestinians and criticizing Israel which resulted, as it had in Gus Savage’s case, in pro-Israel Jews from all over the United States sending money to her opponent in Atlanta to defeat her. It worked in 2002 when she lost in the primary to Denise Majette, also African-American, hand-picked by AIPAC, who was aided by cross over Republican votes.

Two years later, McKinney ran to regain her seat and succeeded, after Majette had angered her Jewish backers by electing to run for the Senate where she was defeated. One of those backers was so upset with Majette’s decision to give up her congressional seat that, in a letter to the editor of a local weekly, he demanded she return the money he had invested in her.

More recently, Rep. Donna Edwards, who hoped to become the first Black senator from Maryland failed to get the support of her CBC colleagues in what turned out to be a losing race with fellow Democrat Chris Van Hollen to succeed the very pro-Israel Barbara Mikulsi. It is likely that her votes on two bills heavily supported by AIPAC were the reason.

In 2009, she was one of 21 members to vote “present” on a resolution that recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza. The bi-partisan resolution, co-sponsored by Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, passed by a margin of 390-5.

In 2013, Edwards had been one of only 20 members of Congress to vote against the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which contained measures to strengthen already existing sanctions on Tehran which has held the top spot on AIPAC’s enemies list since the US invasion of Iraq.

Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress, who was picked by Bernie Sanders to be on the Democratic platform committee, is the only member of the CBC who has not been afraid to show support for the Palestinians but that support only goes so far.

In a statement issued during the last Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, Ellison faulted Israel and Hamas while implying that the latter had initiated the violence and that Israelis and Gazans were being equally victimized:

The current escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians won’t get either side closer to security. It empowers bad actors and puts innocent people on both sides in harm’s way.

Therefore I call on Hamas to immediately stop launching rockets, and for Israel to cease air strikes and not send in ground troops.

I support strong diplomatic intervention by the United States and regional partners to help establish an immediate ceasefire agreement.

There was not a word in his statement about ending Israel’s siege of Gaza or noting that this was Israel’s third war on Gaza in six years.

The sorry state of CBC’s affairs was best expressed by Greg Meeks, its current chair, who represents New York’s 5th Congressional District.

On this past March 11, Meeks issued the following a statement from his office in honor of “Israel’s Independence Day.”

Having visited Israel many times and most recently just weeks ago, I have seen first-hand the importance of the partnership between our two nations.

The United States has an obligation to uphold Israel’s right to defend itself; it is our closest ally and the lone democracy in the Middle East.

Under constant threat, the Israeli people demonstrate tremendous strength and resilience.

Through dialogue, collaboration, and shared determination, our two nations remain committed to making the world safer and freer, and to ensuring our vital and durable bond continues for perpetuity.

Yes, reading that might be called a barf bag moment—and certainly not the only one in this article–but what is important to consider is that with only minor changes here and there, Meeks’ statement of affinity for a particularly oppressive foreign government is essentially no different from what most members of Congress, regardless of their color, gender, age, or political party have been making for decades.

If that is not a demonstration of Jewish political power, what then is it?

***

Now that power is facing a major test. On August 1st, the Movement for Black Lives, representing 50 Black organizations across the country, issued a lengthy, comprehensive platform, “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice,” detailing its views of the problems and challenges facing Black Americans and people of color, generally, and what needs to be done to meet and correct them.

The section of the platform that attracted the most attention was, predictably, one in which the movement expresses its solidarity with the Palestinians, describes the situation under which they live as apartheid and that the actions that Israel has taken against them over the decades as genocide, as defined by the United Nations and the International Court at the Hague.

That drew an angry and anguished, “How dare they!” response from the Jewish establishment whose spokespersons have long accorded themselves the right to determine the language with which Israel may be criticized in the African-American community and by whom. They were joined by Jews who saw themselves as part of the movement and who now claimed to be hurt and bewildered.

Linking of the protests against the epidemic of police killings in America to that experienced by Palestinians under Israeli occupation had already begun on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, following the murder of Michael Brown so the statement of solidarity and criticism of Israel contained in the platform should not have come as a surprise.

Article printed from www.counterpunch.org: http://www.counterpunch.orgURL to article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/05/congressional-black-caucus-deep-in-the-israel-lobbys-pocket/

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