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Questioning US-Israel Ties Has Long Been Impermissible in Congress

House Democrats will vote on a resolution that is seen as a direct rebuke to Rep. Ilhan Omar.

House Democrats will vote today on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The resolution is seen as a direct rebuke of recent comments by Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar questioning the U.S.’s relationship with Israel — even though the draft resolution does not explicitly name the freshman congressmember. The vote was indefinitely delayed Wednesday after a revolt from progressive Democrats, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reportedly announced Thursday in a closed-door meeting that the vote would move forward. We speak with Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel and Vietnam War veteran, author and professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.


AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, before you leave, Andrew Bacevich, I’m wondering if you could weigh in, as you talked about progressive foreign policy, a meeting you were having yesterday, on the battle royale that’s being waged in Congress right now around an anti-Semitism resolution, with a lot of first-term congressmembers, younger, progressive congressmembers, really pushing back and saying, “If we’re going to have this kind of resolution, it has to be against racism, it has to be against Islamophobia, as well.” It’s apparently targeting Ilhan Omar, the congressmember from Minneapolis, questioning the U.S. relationship with Israel, who said last week, “political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” referring to Israel. She has said she calls out the fossil fuel industry, she calls out the NRA, and that the lobby for the right-wing government of Israel right now is very powerful. What is your take on this? You have Bernie Sanders weighing in and saying being critical of Israel—I mean, you know, you have the prime minister who’s about to be indicted. Bernie Sanders says being critical of Israel is not being anti-Semitic—of course, Bernie Sanders Jewish himself. Your thoughts?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, it has not been possible to have—it’s not been permissible to have an honest conversation about the U.S.-Israeli relationship and about Israeli policies, particularly with regard to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. To insist on having that honest conversation is to invite punishment. And we’re seeing that again today. And yet, again—and I sensed this in this forum that I participated in yesterday in the House of Representatives—I sense that something may be turning, that there may be—there’s an inkling of a possibility of openness on these matters. And I would argue that honesty is greatly needed, not simply about the U.S. relationship with Israel, but on a whole host of other issues, to include the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. So, one of the ironic effects of the Trump moment and the bizarre approach to policy undertaken by the Trump administration may be to further that opening. You know, we’ll see what’s going to happen, but it does make for an interesting time.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much for being with us, Andrew Bacevich, retired colonel, professor emeritus at Boston University. William Hartung will be staying with us to talk about his latest report on the arming of the Saudi-UAEbombing campaign in Yemen, weapons provided by the U.S. and Britain, among others. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.