Elizabeth Warren won’t stand up to Israel’s crimes

A woman holds a microphone and gestures

Elizabeth Warren’s approach to Palestine resembles failed Obama policies. (Gage Skidmore)

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has made her clearest statement on how she would approach Israel’s decades of occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

It is arguably a microscopic improvement from previous positions.

But that’s not saying much, because those amounted to fleeing hard questions, as she did when confronted about Israel’s massacre in Gaza in 2014.

At best Warren’s approach amounts to a return to President Barack Obama’s policy of enabling Israel’s rampant crimes while paying lip-service to “peace.”

The Massachusetts senator lays out her foreign policy in a Q&A with the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank that reflects the interests of US elites.

The think tank asks Warren, “Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, if so, how would you go about trying to achieve it?”

She begins with feel-good pablum about how “I believe in the worth and value of every Israeli and every Palestinian.”

“The way we respect all parties is through a two-state solution – an outcome that’s good for US interests, good for Israel’s security and its future, and good for Palestinian aspirations for dignity and self-determination,” Warren adds.

She also endorses “an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip living alongside Israel.”

She does not mention the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes – something Israel bars solely on the racist grounds that they are not Jewish.

In fact, she doesn’t mention Palestinian rights at all.

Jerusalem dodge

Warren does promise “immediate steps to reestablish America’s role as a credible mediator.”

(Let’s leave aside whether America ever had such credibility to begin with.)

These include the symbolic step of re-opening the Washington office of the Palestinian Authority closed by the Trump administration and, more substantially, restoring US contributions to UNRWA.

Restarting funding to UNRWA, the UN agency providing vital services to millions of Palestinian refugees, would be helpful.

But it’s important to remember that “humanitarian” aid has served as a long-term palliative for the worst effects of Israeli crimes. It does nothing to reverse the injustice.

Warren addresses the thorny question of Jerusalem with a dodge.

She says, “both parties should have the option to locate their capitals” in the city.

What’s important is what’s missing: Warren pointedly does not say she will reverse Trump’s internationally condemned decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there.

Nor does she say she will do anything to stop Israel’s violent colonization and Judaization of the city at the expense of its indigenous Palestinians.

Who dunnit?

The senator pledges to “focus real financial and political resources on fixing the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.”

But she fails to name which men – and women – created that catastrophe.

It is the direct product of Israel’s 12-year blockade on Gaza, which is calculated to produce conditions so dire that many of the two million people who live there will be forced to leave.

It is Israeli ethnic cleansing by siege.

More aid will only mitigate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza as long as the US continues to support Israel’s cruel and illegal blockade.

If Warren can’t even name who is doing the blockade, don’t expect her to do anything about it.

Following Israeli talking points

Showing absolutely no political courage, Warren promises to “oppose incitement to violence and support for terrorism by Palestinian extremists like Hamas.”

This refusal to deal with Hamas as a political force dooms any US effort to failure.

Ignoring Hamas’s serious proposals for breaking the deadlock and repeating Israeli talking points about “terrorism” is not leadership.

As I’ve argued before, if the US had not been willing to deal with the IRA and Sinn Fein, there would have been no Good Friday Agreement in Ireland.

In Afghanistan, the US is negotiating directly with the Taliban – which it accuses of harboring the people who did 9/11 – because it is in the US interest to do so.

Hamas, by contrast, is not an enemy of the United States. It is an enemy of Israel, because Israel occupies and colonizes Palestinian land and kills Palestinians with abandon.

If Warren really believes – as she claims – that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a US interest, she should be ready to deal with all Palestinian parties and tell Israel to do the same.

Finally, Warren pledges to “make clear my unequivocal opposition to Israeli settlement activity and to any moves in the direction of annexation of the West Bank.”

What does that mean? Will she return to the policy of previous administrations of issuing occasional timid statements that settlements are “unhelpful” while continuing to arm Israel to the tune of billions of dollars each year?

That’s what it sounds like.

Contrast her vagueness on Israel with her pledge of “real consequences in terms of a more limited relationship” with Saudi Arabia if that absolute monarchy does not meet US “expectations.”

Warren is not making serious proposals when it comes to Palestine and the Israeli question.

In this day and age, babble about a “two-state solution” while ignoring the one-state apartheid reality is merely a cynical exercise in seeking political cover.

It’s just Warren saying “I have a plan for that” while taking absolutely no risks.

Status quo

There are other troubling signs of what a Warren foreign policy would look like.

Following neoconservative talking points, she labels Venezuela’s elected President Nicolas Maduro a “dictator” and endorses ongoing regime change efforts.

While pledging renewed diplomacy with Iran, she repeats standard Washington talking points blaming Tehran for supporting “destabilizing regional proxies.”

This simplistic claim ignores how Iranian policy has amounted to a defensive response to the utter chaos the US has sowed in the region from invading Iraq and Afghanistan to arming al-Qaida-linked militias in Syria.

A minimally progressive position would be to end the intensifying economic war that the US is waging against the people of Venezuela and Iran – two countries whose major crime appears to be pursuing independence from the United States.

But Warren fails to offer even that.

Barely progressive

Alongside Senator Bernie Sanders, Warren is seen as one of two “progressive” heavyweights in the Democratic race.

Sanders has his own very mixed record when it comes to Palestinian rights.

He, too, has pointedly refused to say he would withdraw the US embassy from Jerusalem.

Sanders refuses to endorse BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, modeled on the campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Like Warren, Sanders takes the minimalist position of opposing efforts to legislate against BDS.

But Sanders has made one concrete pledge no other major candidate has made: to use US military aid to Israel as leverage.

“I would sit down with Israel and say, look … if you want military aid from the United States, you’re going to have to treat the Palestinian people and that region with respect,” Sanders said earlier this year.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that a President Sanders would actually keep that promise. But in campaign terms, it sets a bare minimum benchmark: Sanders is not that progressive when it comes to Palestine.

So anyone who doesn’t at least match his pledge to end unconditional US military funding of Israel is offering nothing notable.

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Comments

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Warren is the Right's idea of an acceptable candidate from the Left- whom they will crush at the polls. If nominated, she'll run in Hillary Clinton's sodden footsteps.

As for Sanders, the man is a fully committed Zionist. If that seems incomprehensible when speaking of someone who espouses a (very mild) version of socialism, we'd do well to remember the historical contradictions and imperial entanglements of the socialist movement as a whole. It's an unhappy but instructive fact that socialist policies have often been seen as compatible with racist aims and with militarism. Put another way-

Socialism isn't a brand- it's a struggle.

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Let's support two candidates who have a chance at beating Trump and are much better on Middle East issues and Palestinian Human Rights than he is. Those two candidates are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. We need to get involved in their campaigns and attend their functions and push them more in doing what is right for peace and justice in the Middle East. I see tha Arab Community here in the US as uninvolved or nit picky/negative. We can't have everything we want unless we unite and work for it! We need to all become political activists and most are not. Spend your energy educating friends and colleagues on Middle East issues and get them to join in on the activism. Lastly join other progressive groups and bring the subject of Palestininian Human Rights up and get them on board. We need to stay positive and active!

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Agreed in principle but there seems to be disagreement about your two candidate's commitment to Palestinians rights. I think that given the malignancy of "the Lobby's" affect on all US politics but especially high level Dem electoral politics, we can't really know how these people will act in office. It may sound trite to all the master analysts around here but I put a lot of effort into judging character. What I have trouble with is gauging electability and the Trump phenomenon hasn't helped in that regard at all!
My gut tells me, even though I agree with him almost to a tee, that Sanders is just too shrill and strident to appeal to enough of the soft center and maybe Warren too. I've still got my eye on Biden. He's a skilled politician and a good man, I think, despite his offensive centrism. I think he would be as likely to make good decisions as any of the candidates but I have the same concerns as many about his composure and stamina.
Unfortunately, I don't think our major media will be responsive to the minor candidates.

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Warren is indeed disappointing and Bernie inhibited at best. This is the predicament we mono-issue zealots will always face. It’s worse than not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good...it’s not having any choice.

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If you take the time to attend pro-Palestinian demonstrations and public information meetings, you'll meet people whose support for Palestine and opposition to apartheid bring them into association with many other campaigns. That's also true for the readers of this site. There's a word for it these days- intersectionality. It's been my experience that someone who takes the time and trouble to inform themselves about the situation regarding Israel/Palestine generally does so out of a pre-existing concern for and often an involvement in similar, related issues. Far from pursuing a narrow field of interest like, say Zionists (a mono-issue group if ever there was one), we share and exchange support with an array of causes linked to the need for justice and equality in this world. I will add that an initial encounter with pro-Palestinian organisations and activities is likely to educate newcomers to see their own community's problems as having common roots in the settler colonial model embodied by Israel. In other words, the cause of Palestine cannot be understood in isolation, nor do the people engaged in this struggle throughout the world exhibit the restricted sensibility implied in your comment.

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The problem I have with articles like this is WHO WILL? You see, having gone to Palestine-Israel (and I mean West Bank and Gaza dozens of times since the late 1990s - NO politician "stands up to Israel." So if that's your litmus test you can't vote for anyone.

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Problem is in the USA esp given its lack of preferential / run off voting system if you don't vote for anyone then you effectively vote for Trump or others almost as bad. If even more Americans had voted for Hillary Clinton instead of not voting
- or as bad voting for 3rd party ppl like Nader or Jill Stein - then she would have become POTUS as a majority of Americans (48% vs 46%) actually wanted.

How much difference would that have made? So much in so many areas but esp on Palestine where it is extremely unlikely she would have moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognised the Golan as Israeli territory, etc...

If even the worst progressive when it comes to Palestine - or even Biden - is the Democratic party nominee then they will still be better for the Palestinians than the Rapeublicans here whether Trump or Pence. They won't, say, recognise the annexation of the West Bank which seems a Trump or Pence regime likely would. There is a significant difference between parties & not voting is essentially voting for the worst outcome & leader possible.

Also if even the most progressive, most left wing ppl in USA politics say you won't be getting X then just maybe it is time to think realistically about conceding X and accepting it won't ever happen & that insisting on X at all costs could cost you everything & get you nothing painful as that reality might be to accept? Perhaps its time to say we 'll accept for example a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital and without a right of Palestinian generations born outside Israel returning to what is now Israel rather than the alternative of no Palestinian state ever at all?

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At this stage of time, it is not expected from any democratic candidate to carbon copy the palestinian positions/aspirations. So lets concentrate on defeating President T and not concentrate on the detailed positions on the palestinian issue. Noting that ANY candidate that has a chance to succeed has to have centrist positions on all issues. Extreme left will not defeat T.
Crtiticizing Warren/Sanders will only decrease their support from left wingers which could make a difference if the elections were too close.
If Warren sticks to her commitments mentioned above it would be great. Let's take it step by step.

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Demand nothing and you will get nothing. Political discourse shifts because people demand changes, not because they hide and hope that one day things will turn in their direction. I have said before and say again the left needs to learn this lesson from the right: never take “yes” for an answer. Always make your demands clear and if any of them are met, demand more. That’s how change happens. That is true on healthcare and it is true on Palestine.

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In principal I agree, but here we are talking about Warren against Trump. Who do we prefer?
If we keep pointing out her negative points time and time again, even a democrat/leftist who is against Trump might end up not voting at all. Who wins? We get this monster back again.
In my opinion it is good to get more and more positive positions during her campaign, as she is answering to voters. But hold on the criticism for now until she is elected in order not to be working for Trump's favor without meaning it.
Neverthless, thank you for your efforts and web site. Palestine needs it.

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The Democrats ran a bland careful centrist against Trump in 2016 and lost. Had they run someone like Sanders they would have won. As I said elsewhere, we need to change public opinion, not timidly wait for it to change through some mysterious force. People thought Obama would bring change after he was elected. He did not, because there was no movement pushing him. So he served the powers that be.

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That's all well and good and the opportunity to target candidates to make their points,is understandably irresistible BUT, not if but when these 'progressive' critics blast them to smithereens for making themselves marketable at the polls, there appears to be a downside, the spoiler side. I'm fine with pushing the discourse; in fact I'm going out of my wits trying to get alternative views past the gatekeepers. But progressives would be far more intellectually honest and instructive if their criticism of elected and campaigning pols was contextualized.
I'm not endorsing careerist positions for politicians, just getting real about reality. You know, what's Cynthia McKinney up to nowadays. I don't know, maybe Tom's run into her at one of his intersectional events.
If you won't recognize the difference between sending your Sec of State out on a 2 1/2 year fool’s errand for two states and cutting off vital aid to Palestine, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and backing the annexation of the Golan Heights - for starters - I don't know where to begin pushing the discourse with you.

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Can you provide a single example of when not pushing for a position produced change? A candidate who is “marketable” is one who has already sold themselves to someone else. You have to make public opinion by changing the discourse, not waiting for it to change by some mysterious force.

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Since I clearly said that I support “pushing the discourse”, I guess it’s my complaint that progressive’s critiques of candidates aren’t “intellectually honest and instructive” and so have spoiled elections. Context is really just thorough analysis right? So avoiding it is dishonest and destructive.
And you ridicule my reference to candidate ‘marketability’. Okay, I’d like voters to just honestly assess the facts too but they mostly don’t. It’s interesting though that in another post, you repeat the trope that Dems lost because they “ran a bland centrist campaign” and someone like Sanders would have won. What I heard was Clinton pushing the discourse on issues and Sanders repeating platitudes about systemic unfairness. I agree though that he was far more ‘marketable’, to the progressive community. But you asked that I supply a single example of when not pushing for a position produced change.
The problem I see with the our progressive community, as voters, is that they’re very good at making elected officials and mainstream candidates the goat for the injustices of the ‘market economy’ while not recognizing the fact that these folk’s FIRST obligation is to that economy. The political wing sure but that’s all government is, in a free market economy; a wing and a lame one at that.
And on that mysterious force that’s going to ‘change the discourse’; our course determines the discourse. Or don’t you think it would be different today had a Nobel winning, environmentalist been in office on 911 and its aftermath. I’m willing to admit that things might not be different enough in Palestine, with Hillary in office, but I really do think that we all would stand a better chance of survival.
I’m not waiting for a mysterious force. I’m pushing the position that for us to change we have to be receptive to the world’s demands and for that we need “globalism”. Heck even Trump gets that, why do you think he’s become such a great “patriot”?

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"If you won't recognize the difference between sending your Sec of State out on a 2 1/2 year fool’s errand for two states and cutting off vital aid to Palestine, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and backing the annexation of the Golan Heights - for starters - I don't know where to begin pushing the discourse with you."

I think it's worth pointing out that your sentence actually offers no alternative to the developments you decry. "The difference between..." posits no difference because you left out whatever it is you wished to contrast to Republican policy. I think that's a telling omission. The record of Democratic administrations is entirely aligned with their Republican counterparts. And Trump is not an anomaly. He's simply taking the bipartisan consensus to a logical conclusion. No Democratic President has lifted a finger to help the Palestinians- quite the reverse. Trump has merely formalised the criminal gains of Israel, which are the product of decades of active and ardent collusion from both parties. Concentrating on vague statements by current candidates is a game that's been played since I've been around- and that's a good many years. Every slight indication of a departure from the incumbent's record is accompanied by pledges to arm and protect Israel whatever the cost, and should the challenger be elected, we've seen a resumption of the same policies that have brought us- or rather the Palestinians- to the present pass. As Brecht used to say, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." And this pudding is rancid. I'm merely suggesting that people don't eat it. Necessary change will not come from the top down, particularly in this era of apocalyptic capitalism and the national security state. It will come from community based movements, if it comes at all. There are no saviours. And no stop gap interim solutions.

With respect to Sanders and Warren, the record speaks for itself. Both are committed advocates for Israel.

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Why Tom, I don’t know whatever you mean about no alternative. The whole point of the sentence is to convey to those who would look past major differences, or decontextualize if you will, “developments” they wish to revise to fit their own argument. There is clearly a major difference between Obama’s approach to Israel/Palestine and Trump’s. I’m not arguing it did any more for Palestinians, just that he held out an olive branch whereas Trump’s held out for maximum support from the most conservative elements in Israel. His actions potentially could have put Romney in office and I’ll bet he was hearing that non-stop. But enough, you’ll see what you like.
On the Twiddle Dum & Twiddle Dee thing; I sort of went there but wasn’t very clear, sorry. What I meant when I said progressives are “good at making elected officials and mainstream candidates the goat for the injustices of the ‘market economy’ while not recognizing the fact that these folk’s FIRST obligation is to that economy” is that they keep expecting blood can be squeezed out of a turnip. Rather that expecting the two parties to act so differently try actually keeping in mind that they really are opposite sides of the same $3 bill. They’re both restricted by the nature of the state, which is for now, THE global, capitalist hegemon, or empire. Everything that you depend on came to you as a result of that fact, except your ethos, which came in spite of it. It’s my conviction that the Dem Party filled with those who would love to import lots of goodness but are stymied by the conservatives, who of course want to keep things as they are, or better still, as their vision of what they were when America was still Great. That’s the difference and whereas you and Ralph Nader have faith in the capacity of the American people to rise up and change this leopards spots; I don't. But I'm no absolutist. I'm as hopeful as you that we will, I just doubt we can. I believe events can and openness to the world.

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This really surprises me. I think she's progressive and iconoclastic so expected her to be much more pro-Palestinian here.

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Bernie is too of a class act to talk trash about Elizabeth Warren. They are winning when they divide and conquer. I am pro-Palestine and I believe any educated person or candidate who sees the damage Bibi did/doing they would have to work towards the two state option. Palestine's people have suffered enough. Don't say I'am anti-Semitic because I am a Jew and just believe in justice.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.