Opinion: No, Rep. Bush, the war in Gaza isn’t about ‘white supremacy’

File photo/Al Drago/The New York Times / U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, confers with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, right, during a news conference calling for a permanent ceasefire of the Israel-Hamas war, outside the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.
File photo/Al Drago/The New York Times / U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, confers with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, right, during a news conference calling for a permanent ceasefire of the Israel-Hamas war, outside the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

For someone who has been writing about politics for the past several years in this current political environment, it came as a surprise when I heard a politician say something that shocked me. Yet that was my exact reaction when I heard U.S. Rep. Cori Bush's speech at her re-election campaign kickoff Jan. 27.

Bush, the Missouri Democrat from St. Louis, spoke in front of the crowd of about 200 of her supporters at a rally. About 20 minutes in, she started talking about U.S. aid to Israel.

For context, at the end of October, President Joe Biden requested from Congress at least $14.3 billion in additional assistance to Israel.

Bush, like many others on the political left, has been a vocal critic of Israel's military response in Gaza and U.S. support of it. In Bush's speech to her supporters, she referenced money being used "to help drop bombs on kids."

A few minutes later she added: "[T]his is not about antisemitism. It's not about whether I hate Jewish people or not, because I absolutely don't. What it is about is white supremacy."

You read that right: Bush called the act of Israel defending its very existence "white supremacy." Absurd.

White supremacy is an ideology that believes the white race is superior to nonwhite people. Jewish people are generally not considered "white" in this context. According to the American Jewish Committee's website, "Jews are a primary target of the white supremacist movement."

Look no further than the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh as an example. The antisemitic terrorist attack by Robert Gregory Bowers killed 11 people and wounded six, including several Holocaust survivors.

I wonder how many Jewish Americans, specifically those living in the St. Louis region, know that Bush is lumping them together with white supremacists — the very same groups that have tried to eliminate Jews from the face of the Earth?

Bush uttered those words on the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Joining Bush at the campaign kickoff event was fellow "Squad" member Rep. Rashida Talib, D-Mich., the first Palestinian-American elected to the U.S. House, as well as three members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

Bush has been vocal in her support of Palestinian rights and an outspoken critic of Israel, especially following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which about 1,200 Israeli men, women, children and babies were killed. Some 240 others were kidnapped and many were raped.

Bush seemingly glosses over the fact that Hamas' mission charter states their goal of destroying the state of Israel through Jihad, or Islamic Holy War.

Israel has every right to defend itself and attempt to rescue its hostages. One can certainly be critical of Israel's response or of the leadership of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and grieve for the thousands of innocent Palestinians killed during the retaliation. It is also Bush's prerogative and duty as a member of Congress to question the amount of U.S. aid to Israel.

But calling Israel's conduct "white supremacy" is incorrect, not helpful, and shows a profound lack of understanding of the very complex situation taking place in the Middle East.

Bush's speech, like those of other politicians like her from both sides of the aisle, is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution. In fact, political speech has the greatest protection.

Still, it is the job of institutions like the press to highlight inaccuracies and ridiculousness in such speech, as well as to attempt to break through the constant barrage of misinformation and disinformation.

It is then up to Bush's voters, constituents and political party to decide if she is speaking and acting with their best interest and benefiting the district.

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