It’s not often that the Center for Security Policy praises Nancy Pelosi, but this is one of those times. Speaker Pelosi’s speech at the 2019 America Israel Public Affairs Committee was a masterpiece expressing bipartisan American support for Israel and strongly condemning anti-Semitism.
Pelosi began her 16-minute speech by discussing her family’s long support for Israel and the Jewish people, beginning with her father, former Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, who pressured President Roosevelt to support the founding of the State of Israel which she called “one of the great historic achievements of the 20th Century.”
Pelosi repeatedly reassured conference attendees that the U.S. Congress stands behind Israel and against anti-Semitism, saying “support for Israel is relentlessly bipartisan,” “support for Israel in this Congress is ironclad,” and “to be anti-Semitic is to be Anti-American.” Pelosi also condemned the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, noting that it does not recognize the right of Jewish people to national self-determination or a two-state solution.
Pelosi praised Israel as “an ally for peace and security in the region,” and said “if you care about American security, you must care about Israel’s security.”
This was a remarkable speech reflecting the bipartisan support of the vast majority of the U.S. Congress for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Sadly, Speaker Pelosi’s words do not appear to represent where the Democratic party is going.
For example, Democratic presidential candidates, in response to demands by far-left groups like MoveOn.org, boycotted the AIPAC Conference. Vice President Pence condemned this boycott in his remarks to the conference:
“As I stand before you, eight Democrat candidates for president are actually boycotting this very conference. So let me be clear on this point, anyone who aspires to the highest office in the land should not be afraid to stand with the strongest supporters of Israel in America. It is wrong to boycott Israel, and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC.”
Pelosi seemed to take aim at Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments, including their support for the BDS movement and for promoting the anti-Semitic myth of “dual loyalty” to smear pro-Israel members of Congress.
Omar responded to Pelosi’s AIPAC speech by saying “a condemnation for people that want to exercise their First Amendment rights is beneath any leader, and I hope that we find a better use of language when we are trying to speak as members of Congress that are sworn to protect the Constitution.” Omar also attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks that “The reason the people of America support Israel is not because they want our money, it’s because they share our values” by saying this came from a man “facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs investigations.”
I am deeply worried that Pelosi’s laudable AIPAC speech represents the words of a fading generation of Democrats who soon will be replaced by lawmakers who reflect the anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel of the party’s far-left. Despite Pelosi’s strong support for Israel and stand against anti-Semitism, she has been unable to rein-in Congresswoman Omar and was forced to water down a recent House resolution responding to her anti-Semitic statements because of opposition from House progressives. The stunning decision of Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the AIPAC conference also was a very bad omen of the direction of the Democratic Party on Israel and anti-Semitism.
While Speaker Pelosi’s speech and a similar excellent speech by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were efforts to respond to growing concerns about hostility to Israel and anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party, these efforts do not go far enough. If the Congressional Democratic leadership is serious about halting this dangerous trend, they must take much more aggressive action, such as censoring members of Congress by name who make anti-Semitic remarks. I also believe it is crucial that Speaker Pelosi immediately remove Congresswoman Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee since her extreme views are incompatible with this committee’s important work overseeing U.S. foreign policy. I note that Rep. Omar skipped an important House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday during testimony by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo which raised new questions about her suitability to be a member of this committee.