U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), accepting an award from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights last month, referred to Israel’s Nation-State law as sanctioning apartheid.
“Friends, the world has a name of that form of government that’s codified in the Nation-State Law, and it’s called ‘apartheid,’ ” said McCollum.
Rep. Betty McCollum on Israel’s Nation-State Law: “The world has a name for the form of government that is codified in the Nation State Law — it is called apartheid.” #TogetherWeRise pic.twitter.com/2v1x5mJcIo
— Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) September 30, 2018
Members of the pro-Israel and Jewish community weighed in on her comments.
“Something like 126 countries have laws similar to Israel’s new nation-state law,” said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. “I guess apartheid is everywhere.”
Dan Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president, said, “it’s a slander and a grotesque mischaracterization of the State of Israel, which is an exemplary member of the community of democracies.”
And Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein said, “McCollum’s bigoted and absurdly false propaganda claim only proves her ignorance and her unhinged hatred of the Jewish State of Israel.”
He explained that “Israeli Arabs hold 10 percent of the seats in Israel’s Knesset; have a seat on the Supreme Court and many other Israeli Courts, have full voting rights; large numbers of Israeli Arabs are students and professors at Israeli universities. Many of the doctors there are Israeli Arabs, as are half the patients; Israeli Arabs serve as ambassadors and are players on Israeli sports teams; they have their own media and full freedom of speech; and more Israeli Arab women are running for political office than ever before.”
“None of this was true in apartheid South Africa,” added Klein. “McCollum is a racist, prejudiced disgrace.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas was also disturbed by the legislator’s remark.
“Given Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s past support for a two-state solution, we are very troubled by her embrace of an organization which labels itself as a champion for Palestinian rights, but is primarily focus on the delegitimization of Israel, denying the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and advancing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] movement,” said the organization’s executive director, Steve Hunegs.
He added that moments before McCollum accepted her award and “outrageously declared Israel an ‘apartheid state,’ Professor Noura Erakart praised the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — an avowed terrorist organization responsible for the murder of scores of civilians, including children.”
‘Inflammatory and wrong’
Noting that her comments were wrong, Democratic strategist Mark Mellman told JNS that McCollum’s Israel views do not represent her party.
“Her comments represent only her own poorly informed and intellectually dishonest opinion,” he said. “It does not reflect the views of Democrats at large, Democratic members of Congress or the Democratic Party.”
Mellman’s firm released a poll on Oct. 17 showing that 74 percent of American Jewish voters are expected to cast their ballots for Democrats in the November midterms.
Ron Klein, chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, echoed Mellman’s sentiment.
“Rep. Betty McCollum’s labeling Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state was inflammatory and wrong,” he told JNS. “While Rep. McCollum was responding to Israel’s passage of the controversial nation-state bill, which the Jewish Democratic Council of America also disagreed with, her rhetoric does not reflect mainstream views within the Democratic Party and does not advance the cause of peace.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee declined to comment, as did J Street.
In November 2017, McCollum introduced a bill that would mandate the U.S. government certify that its military funding to Israel is not used for “Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.”
The watchdog group NGO Monitor accused the legislation of “exploiting Palestinian children,” noting that it is based on “invented international legal claims.”