When dealing with certain politicians, to borrow a phrase from comic Patton Oswalt, I don’t always know where to start or where to begin. Take Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).
Gohmert appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal on Wednesday to discuss immigration reform, but he and host Greta Brawner understandably opened with the Boston Marathon bombings. Gohmert led by singing the praises of 9/12—that is, the day after 9/11: "There were no hyphenated Americans that day, there were no Euro-Americans, African-Americans, everybody was an American, and it was just such a warm time," he said.
Ok, first of all: I have the sneaking suspicion that hyphenated Americans who have the words “Arab,” “Muslim,” “South Asian,” “Iranian,” “Sikh,” or, in some cases, “Latino” to the left of their hyphen would beg to differ regarding the warmth of 9/12. These Americans surely suffered alongside the rest of us (indeed, some were among the dead), but pretty much no one let them forget that hyphen—not for a day, not for a minute.
Then the good Congressman managed to link this week’s bombings to his opposition to immigration reform, using Israeli blood to make his point:
We’ve seen this in Israel, and after Israel had to suffer the slings and arrows, and deaths and the maimings for so long—I’ve been in the coffee shops over there: ‘Oh this was a coffee shop where a bomber killed a bunch of people, oh this is a park bench area where people were killed, that’s where that bus blew up that killed a bunch of people’….
Finally the Israeli people said, you know what: Enough. They built [the Security Barrier] to prevent snipers from knocking off their kids and they finally stopped the domestic violence from people that wanted to destroy them, and I am concerned we need to do that as well.
Where to start? Where to begin?
I know the bombing sites of which Gohmert speaks—at least, I think I do. There was a coffee shop/park bench bombing about two half blocks from my Tel Aviv apartment; the bus I rode nearly every day was bombed at least twice. I covered these stories and others like them for the foreign press, so unlike Gohmert, I actually saw the blood when it was still on the ground.
And yes, the Israeli government said “Enough” and built a massive wall, one which snakes throught the Palestinian West Bank at its leisure and at the Palestinian people’s expense. The wall (along with the Israeli- and American-acknowledged help of the Palestinian security services) did put a halt to most terrorism—a fact which must not be discounted—but in the meantime there have also been three official wars, a war-in-all-but-name (2006’s Operation Summer Rains) and endless skirmishes. “Security,” it would seem, remains an elusive goal.
But there’s more: “snipers” never really entered into it, the violence is not “domestic” (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, after all, a clash of two nationalisms), and whatever threat illegal immigration might pose to the U.S., to suggest that it’s on the level of actual terrorism is grossly inaccurate. But Gohmert would probably disagree. As he told Brawner:
We know al-Qaeda has camps over with the drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border. We know that people are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic when they’re radical Islamists.
We do? We know that? We know that “radical Islamists” are being trained to “act like Hispanic” so that they can—what now? “Knock off” American children in coffee shops? And we know that a wall like Israel’s (which, by the way, Palestinians by the score regularly get around in order to work inside Israel) is what’s going to stop those al-Qaeda snipers? And I presume we likewise know that violent resistance to foreign occupation is just like al-Qaeda’s pan-national nihilism?
Look, Gohmert’s a kook with a Washington office. This is the man who once said that terrorists are coming to America and having “anchor babies” in order to destroy us from within—I don’t expect a lot of sense from his corner of the Capitol Building. I’d ask for verifiable proof of these outrageous allegations, but as I rather suspect he doesn’t have any, I won’t hold my breath.
But here’s the thing: I am so, so tired of American politicians using Israeli blood to score cheap, xenophobic political points on U.S. soil. You hate immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, and/or babies? You go on with your bad self. You spread whatever wild fantasies you want to spread about people acting all “Hispanic” and we’ll leave it to the voters to decide whether or not they want to believe you.
But my people actually bled and died. Again and again and again. Israelis have often lived with a kind of numb, daily fear about which Louie Gohmert knows nothing. It’s a kind of fear that the people of Boston have now come to feel, too—and neither Israel’s blood, nor Boston’s, should ever be used as a tool for political gain.
Louie Gohmert should be ashamed of himself. Lord knows he’s an embarrassment to the rest of us.