It must burn something fierce, if you’re a radical activist and you watch Donald Trump, annoying old rich guy, shift the Overton Window on a topic with a single tweet.
Sometimes it’s not a tweet, of course. Sometimes it wasn’t even a topic until it had the name “Trump” associated with it. An example this week is the Sudden Topic of buying Greenland, which wasn’t on anyone’s radar until – out of nowhere – it was.
Now it’s not only on the radar, it seems kind of obvious. Few are ready to say that just yet, and there will no doubt be a period of naysaying and throat-clearing about the concept. Nothing is going to happen in the near future.
But the Overton Window on it shifted instantaneously. It went from being not just unthinkable but unthought, to being acceptable for non-hysterical discourse, in the space of a few hours on a Thursday in August.
Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar don’t have that effect. They’ve been laboring for months to shift the Overton Window for American discourse on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, lobbing out Hamas talking points and anti-Semitic tropes. They’ve had a little success with the effective (if not the explicitly declared) policies of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. After a series of genuinely appalling anti-Semitic remarks from Rep. Omar earlier this year, the House Democrats voted on one of the biggest bait-and-switch resolutions in memory: it was supposed to condemn Omar’s anti-Semitism, but ended up condemning “Islamophobia” instead.
The appearance of the House leadership being dragged around on a leash by Omar, Tlaib, and their partners in the “squad” – Ayanna Pressley and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – was unmistakable. A number of Democrats in the caucus expressed disappointment and reservations about the outcome in the House, but they were overruled.
And the false proposition of voting to condemn “all forms” of “hatred,” as if that were an urgent concern, meanwhile going out of the way to highlight “Islamophobia” and downplay anti-Semitism, seemed to be solidified as the new coin of transactions on the topic.
Perhaps Omar and Tlaib were encouraged by this progress to attempt a major radicalization of America’s public dialogue regarding Israel. That’s what it looks like, at any rate. They worked for weeks this summer to set up a visit that was deceptively touted as being to “Israel,” and put in a request for it to the Israeli authorities. Initially, back in July, the Israelis said the visit would be fine with them, since Tlaib and Omar are members of the U.S. Congress, even though their radical views on Israel are well known.
It turned out this week that Tlaib and Omar were planning a visit not to Israel, but to what their itinerary identified as “Palestine.” This included a few stops in Jerusalem, with the bulk of the itinerary in the Palestinian-administered West Bank. The visit was sponsored and arranged by a group called Miftah, which a Daily Caller News Foundation article reported earlier is connected with terror organizations. It also deals in the grotesque “blood libels” of anti-Semitism; it’s an all-around hotbed of Jew-hatred.
The itinerary itself, including a visit to the Temple Mount – thoroughly incendiary however you slice it – comprised one opportunity for radical incitement after another. Even aside from flouting U.S. policy on the status of Israel and the PA-administered area – namely, that there is no such entity as a state called “Palestine” – the itinerary would afford plenty of chances for things like advocating BDS, an activist program opposed by a large majority in Congress that seeks to destroy Israel with an economic and political siege. Both congresswomen actively advocate BDS; they will of course do it wherever they can find a platform. Significantly, for this incident, entering Israel for that purpose is now against Israeli law.
Notably, moreover, the itinerary included no visits with officials of the Palestinian Authority. As recalcitrant and radical as the PA leadership is, it’s apparently too unwoke for the purposes of the two U.S. representatives.
No one seems to have noticed that the itinerary for Tlaib and Omar did not include any meetings with Palestinian Authority leaders.
Terrorist supporters and BDS leaders regard the PA as collaborators with Israel and tend to boycott them, too.
Abbas is too pro-Israel for them.
— Elder Of Ziyon ҉ (@elderofziyon) August 16, 2019
The revelation that Tlaib and Omar didn’t intend to make a good-faith visit to Israel, but a bad-faith visit to a non-existent “Palestine,” and in the company of terror-linked radicals, confirmed the fears of many U.S. observers.
It also changed the proposition enough for Israel that the Netanyahu government decided not to authorize the trip. On Thursday, Netanyahu made the announcement on that, accompanied by a point-by-point tweet thread laying out his reasoning (click through for full thread).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
No country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the State of Israel.
As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) August 15, 2019
LU contributor Jeff Dunetz wrote this reasoning up in his own treatment yesterday. Trump also tweeted about it, expressing (somewhat preemptive) support for the Israeli decision, which naturally set off a howl of cheap political sound-bites about Netanyahu and his government (and of course Trump and his).
It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
The howl has been cacophonous and predictable; Tlaib and Omar claimed they were being banned by Israel because they are Muslim women, for example. These and other cries were taken up by the mainstream media. We all know the drill by now: Israel is intolerant of dissenting points of view; Trump is a racist; Bibi might as well be a racist; Bibi is a squirrel in Trump’s pocket; Trump is a rat in Bibi’s pocket; Trump is a white supremacist and white nationalist; in fact, exercising sovereignty, as Israel just did, is all about excluding Muslim women the way those evil white nationalists do; yada yada yada.
In the media echo chamber, the net effect of the great howling has been to obscure the simplest and most salient of all the facts. It’s not that Israel has a right to make her own sovereign choices about national security, although that’s very important. It’s not even that the American people have a right to reject seeing the name of their Congress – their name – stamped on acts of destabilizing radicalism in the precincts of our closest partners abroad, although that’s of paramount importance to U.S. voters.
No, the simplest and most salient of facts is that none of this entire exercise was even necessary. Tlaib and Omar could have gone to visit Israel last week with the big congressional delegation (CODEL) of 41 House Democrats and 31 Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The CODEL, focused on orientation and introductions for new members of Congress, took advantage of the congressional recess in August.
All Omar and Tlaib had to do to get into Israel was go with that CODEL and follow its itinerary. The CODEL made a number of stops around Israel and the West Bank, visiting facilities and sights and meeting with both Israeli and Palestinian Arab leaders.
We need not view every particular through rose-colored glasses to recognize that this 100% available option is where the Overton Window is for the American public dialogue and Israel. It’s policy; it’s popular; it’s sensible; it’s acceptable. It’s what the American people want. It’s where the American voters are.
Omar and Tlaib, and their backers in organized activism, were trying to change that. Their abortive trip plans for “Palestine” were an attempt to shift the Overton Window on the U.S. and Israel, under the assumed aegis of the U.S. Congress and the American people. It was an attempt stuffed with falsity, from the secretive agenda-making up front to the red-herring howl set up after Israel said no.
The howl is shrieky and abrasive, in fact, largely because Tlaib and Omar have failed. They strong-armed Nancy Pelosi on the House resolution back in March, but they couldn’t shift the window for the American dialogue in general by sneaking de facto tolerance of radicalism in, under cover of Congress’s privileged standing with our allies and partners.
Netanyahu, exercising his nation’s rightful sovereignty and with Trump’s backing, gave them a shuddering open-field tackle on that. The Overton Window on the U.S. and Israel remains where it was. The outcome is righteous. It reflects truth that doesn’t have to lie about what it is or what it’s for. Congress has privileged standing because of the American people, and for no other reason. The big CODEL last week is what we the people want, what we intend, what we think we’re paying for and letting our name be used for.
The attempt made by Omar and Tlaib is a classic of its kind. It’s had everyone going this week, chasing each other around the public square arguing irrelevancies, as if there’s any need to plead that Israel’s veto is not a “Muslim ban,” or make excuses for Trump calling out two U.S. congresswomen who proposed to go radically flout American policy abroad.
No excuses or pleas are in order. Tlaib and Omar were trying to sneak the nose of a very radical camel in under the tent. Baiting, switching, and piling up red herrings are how that’s done. It’s how anti-Semitism has been “mainstreamed” in the past, by radicalizing the public’s general sense of normality under the bombardment of thematic noise – usually irrelevant blame-games – and chaos.
None of this was ever “about” all the collateral arguments. Those were distracting fire. It was about an attempt to shift the terms of policy and public dialogue on a central issue: Israel’s security and U.S. support for it. And it’s about the fact that that attempt failed. It failed for the most important reason of all: because the Overton Window is where we know it belongs, and shifting the window is not what the people on either end – the U.S. or Israel – want.