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CNN Panel Clashes Over Org Sponsoring Omar, Tlaib Israel Trip: Would You Give Leeway to a White Nationalist Group?

The panel on CNN’s The Lead got heated this afternoon following the press conference held by Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib on being denied entry to Israel over their support of the BDS movement.

Anchor John Berman — filling in for Jake Tapper —  brought up anti-Semitic posts by the organization behind the trip, Miftah, saying “[it’s] an organization that, in the past, has published articles on their website using phrases like ‘blood libel,’ which in the past on their website has praised Palestinians who’ve carried out attacks against Israelis.”

Berman asked, “Is that the type of organization that you should be connected with as a U.S. member of Congress?”

“Palestinians don’t have to be saints in order to have the basic rights we all take for granted,” The Atlantic contributing editor Peter Beinart responded. He said Miftah’s “said things that I’ve disagreed with” and apologized for the anti-Semitic article.

“Judaism is a center of my life. The first time I went to spend time with Palestinians in the West Bank, it was a shattering experience. The only thing I could imagine would be similar for America would be going to visit the Jim Crow South,” he said.

National Review editor Rich Lowry said, “These are strong supporters of the BDS movement. They are not honest brokers. We wouldn’t afford a white nationalist organization the leeway that Peter is giving this organization. ‘Oh, they’re not saints.’ This is an anti-Semitic group that supported terrorism, that supports blowing up innocent civilians and children, and no matter what you think of the dispute between Palestinians and Israel, that is an illegitimate tactic that no one should associate with advocates of.”

“Every time any Palestinian leader or any Palestinian organization tries to expose what happens, this is exactly what happens,” Beinart responded. “People try to discredit them because they don’t want to talk about the real issue. The real issue is an absolutely indefensible denial of basic human rights.”

“What does that have to do with supporting terrorism?” Lowry shot back. “No one has any problem with harshly criticizing Israel. That’s fine. But you don’t support blowing up innocent people.”

As they kept arguing back and forth, Beinart and Lowry said the other was trying to distract from the actual issue.

Beinart said, “Just as National Review defended apartheid, and just as you defended segregation, you now defend Israel’s oppression of Palestinian basic rights. It’s a tradition for you guys!”

“Look, if an organization supports terrorism, that organization should be beyond the pale,” Lowry said.

“I’ve said again and again I disagree with terrorism,” Beinart responded. “What I’m saying is you’re trying to distract from the real issue… American complicity in the denial of basic Palestinian rights.”

You can watch the whole thing above, via CNN.

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Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: josh@mediaite.com Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac