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CNN anchor Jake Tapper rarely misses an opportunity to pick a losing fight with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and he did it again on Monday, strongly implying Tlaib was a racist anti-Semite for the crime of referencing a story that happened less than a week ago.
The backstory of this latest self-own is Tlaib responding to a tweet by former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir praising the selection of Antony Blinken to be President-elect Joe Biden’s secretary of state. “So long as he doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies,” Tlaib said. “The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.”
Now, to someone who isn’t consuming 24/7 political coverage—most people who don’t have their own shows on CNN, in other words—this might be an obscure reference. Tlaib was talking about the ongoing effort by the Trump administration and its current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to effectively render the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid illegal. Tlaib explained this in a follow-up tweet.
Enter Tapper, ever the cheerleader for the Israeli government‘s whataboutism, to strongly imply Tlaib was targeting Blinken for being Jewish.
After getting pushback, he deleted the tweet, then rephrased it in a second tweet which was effectively the same as the first:
Tapper knows what Tlaib meant: that Blinken might not be her first choice for Secretary of State, but that to some extent, anyone not named Mike Pompeo is cause for a sigh of relief. Tlaib explained what she meant hours before Tapper’s initial tweet!
But even if Tlaib were to express skepticism of the next State Department’s tolerance of pro-Palestinian views, could anyone actually blame her? This is a president-elect who won’t leverage aid to Israel in order to stop settlement building or the annexation of parts of the West Bank or really any decision by Israel to commit further human rights abuses, and whose campaign publicly denounced Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour to, you guessed it, Jake Tapper.
Blinken played a large role in walking that public criticism back in an off-the-record phone call just days later. “Historically, Republicans and Democrats have been quick to dismiss Muslim, Arab-American and especially Palestinian-American voices, and I want to reiterate on behalf of all of us our support for your communities,” Blinken said in a call with activists during which he also reportedly claimed that the Palestinians “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
It’s not hard to be an improvement over Mike Pompeo, but this goes beyond Blinken and any one State Department nominee. The fact is that being anti-Palestine and pro-Israel is one of the great bipartisan traditions in American politics; it was just last year that the House formally denounced BDS with nearly 400 votes. That Tony Blinken might be the best-case scenario for Palestinian human rights is an abject shame, much more so than it would be if Tlaib were to press the Democratic Secretary of State to not stifle free speech that the Israeli government doesn’t like.
Jake Tapper is far from the only useful idiot for the State Department line, but he may be its most useful in promoting the equivocation of criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism. Unfortunately for him, it’s painstakingly easy to see right through it.