At Least 18 Black Caucus Members Boycotting Netanyahu’s Speech

Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says they are motivated by defending the president against Boehner’s slight

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

In Washington on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present his highly controversial speech to Congress, lobbying against a negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran. But he’s facing some backlash with some congresspeople who say they won’t attend because House Speaker John Boehner broke protocol and invited Netanyahu without President Obama’s approval.

But where does the Congressional Black Caucus stand on all of this?

Well, now joining us to discuss this is Glen Ford. Glen is the executive editor of Black Agenda Report.

Thanks so much for joining us, Glen.

FORD: Thank you.

NOOR: Something like 16 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, according to The Wall Street Journal, are skipping Netanyahu’s speech. What does this mean? And we’re taking a look at some of the names on here. They’re well known progressives like Keith Ellison and some others. But that still leaves the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus that are attending. Give us your thoughts.

FORD: Well, there are well-known so-called progressives like the one that you mentioned on that list. There are also some very, very conservative and backward black congresspersons who are also that list, top among them G. K. Butterfield, who’s one of the most right-wing members of the Congressional Black Caucus. But he’s the chair of the caucus.

I’m not sure what this demonstration by the caucus means, but I do know for sure what it does not mean. It is not meant as a criticism of Israeli policy. It’s meant, of course, as a gesture of solidarity with this president.

So I don’t think we can look at it as a principled action of any sort. It is an action of loyalty, of party loyalty, and possibly of racial loyalty, but not one of principle. The Congressional Black Caucus and the whole of the Congress, both chambers, had a chance to make a principled statement about the U.S.–their view of Israeli policy when Israel was doing its last murderous invasion of Gaza. And what did they do? They were part of the unanimous congressional statement that basically said Israel and the United States are one. And this took place in the midst of unspeakable carnage against Palestinian women and children, and of course civilians. Even Barbara Lee, who justifiably earned a reputation for political courage when she was the only member of Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan–and this is right after 9/11, and it did take some courage for her to be the lone dissenter–even Barbara Lee does not dare take any kind of stuff that might be construed as somehow questioning Israel–at least one–not one that is on the record.

And why is this? Well, it’s because of the tremendous clout that is exercised by the Zionist lobby, what’s called the pro-Israel lobby. There used to be more than just a Barbara Lee, a Barbara Lee of yesteryear, that would challenge Israeli policy and U.S. policy. We used to have Cynthia McKinney from Atlanta and Earl Hilliard from the area around Birmingham, Alabama, who were quite vocal critics of Israel’s policy towards Palestinians, but they were defeated with the help of lots of Zionist money back in 2002. And that sent a shiver into whatever spine the Congressional Black Caucus had left. And so now they have no will whatsoever to criticize Israel, but they do get their dander up when an Israeli Prime Minister insults their black president.

NOOR: Well, Glen Ford, thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.

End

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