Dear Editor: Dana Milbank, in his article “Tlaib’s bigotry comes from MAGA handbook,” denies sitting Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, her right to criticize Israel and question its special dispensation to defy international law and norms.

He cites a Democratic Socialists of America event and her statement: “Cutting people off from water is violence. And they do it from Gaza to Detroit,” which he says is anti-Semitic because of the word “they.” And unbelievably, because during a typical leftist invective against the rich and powerful, she described ‘them’ as hiding behind a curtain, using a gesture which ambiguously evoked an old Nazi trope, she’s accused by Millbank of anti-Semitism.

What Milbank didn’t mention is the event coincided with a letter to Janet Yellen from Tlaib, Mark Pocan and others, asking that tax exempt status be denied to U.S. charities directly and indirectly supporting Israel’s illegal settlements.

Milbank’s right though. Anti-Semitism is growing along with criticism of Israel, but that’s not Tlaib’s fault. We share our weapons and impunity with Israel, and Israel then violates international law and gets criticized. So if anyone’s exacerbating anti-Semitism it's Israel and its apologists, like Milbank, who conflate being Jewish, whether any Jew likes it or not, with hardline Israeli government policies that contravene international law, again with the support of the U.S. through its veto power in the UN Security Council and its on again-off again contempt for the notion of lawful internationalism.

It’s been 22 years of far-right Israeli government, along with a general movement toward nationalism and government sanctioned racism, which has opened up the floodgates to a very serious threat of anti-Semitic violence. Tlaib’s efforts are exactly aimed to stop policies that threaten us all, Jews and Palestinians especially. We’ll all benefit in the bargain.

John Costello


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