Power Suits 8 July 2019
Senator Kamala Harris earned a big bump in the polls and gained credibility as a serious presidential contender after the first Democratic candidates’ debate last month.
Much attention focused on her admonishing Joe Biden over the former vice president’s praise for racists and history of opposition to busing – a policy to integrate segregated schools.
“It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris told Biden in a riveting exchange.
Harris was moving when she talked about how as a child, “my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents [said she] couldn’t play with us because we were Black.” She recounted that as a little girl, she was a member of only the second racially integrated class in her public school.
She touted her record fighting for civil rights as attorney general of California and defended the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, and called for passing an Equality Act.
But whatever her record in the US, Harris’ support for freedom, civil rights and equality does not extend to one group of people systematically and violently denied them: Palestinians.
Over recent months, The New York Times asked 21 Democratic hopefuls a series of questions, including: “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?.”
Most offered very mild and cautious criticism.
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was relatively forthright that “Israel’s human rights record is problematic and moving in the wrong direction.”
Former Texas Congress member Beto O’Rourke suggested that Israel could “do a better job.”
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard acknowledged that “there are some challenges with Israel that need to be addressed,” but failed to specify what those might be.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker affirmed his support for Israel’s “right to defend itself,” but paid lip service to the “dignity and self-determination of Palestinian people.”
Even Bill de Blasio, the staunchly pro-Israel mayor of New York City, offered that the “current Israeli government has made a lot of mistakes that have hindered the peace process.”
Harris, however, seemed determined to say nothing that could be remotely construed as critical.
Her initial answer consisted of this word salad: “I think that Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy and is one of our closest friends in that region and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy, and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.”
Unsatisfied, the interviewer followed up: “Does Israel meet your human rights standards to your personal satisfaction?”
Playing for time, Harris asked, “What specifically are you referring to?” before finally answering the question: “Overall, yes.”
This means that Harris sees no problem with Israel’s policy of sending snipers to systematically and deliberately kill unarmed civilians, including children, who protest their internment in the besieged Gaza Strip.
It means she sees no problem with Israel’s skyrocketing demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank to make way for Jewish-only settlements – a war crime.
It means she sees no problem with Israel’s military detention and torture of Palestinian children.
It means Harris sees no problem with dozens of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel solely for not being Jewish. These include laws and policies that promote the kind of housing discrimination and official segregation that is banned in the US thanks to the civil rights laws she claims to uphold.
It means she sees no problem with Israel’s recent Nation-State Law explicitly affirming superior rights for Jews over Palestinians.
Kyle Kulinski, an influential left-wing commentator and a founder of the progressive political action committee Justice Democrats, offers a scathing response.
He says that Harris brushing aside Israel’s horrific record shows that her “moral” and “ethical concerns” are “nonexistent.”
“She’s playing the political game that people play in the United States of America to try to get ahead.”
“It shows you that she’s unlikely to change anything,” he adds. “That’s why this is important.”
Bernie stands out
While most Democrats are making cautious rhetorical nods to the party’s increasingly pro-Palestinian base, Bernie Sanders remains the clear standout when it comes to offering a shift in policy.
The Vermont senator has his own decidedly mixed record on Palestinian rights, including opposing the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – while also speaking out against legislation backed by the Israel lobby aimed at thwarting BDS.
Sanders said nothing critical of Israel to The New York Times – though he did criticize Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister.
“I believe 100 percent in the right for Israel not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security,” he said, adding that the United States needed to be “even handed.”
However, in a more recent interview with CBS’ Face The Nation, Sanders was much more explicit, stating he would use US military aid to Israel as leverage – something no other candidate has promised.Referring to the billions in annual aid Israel receives from Washington, Sanders said, “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.”
“We’re not simply going to give more and more weaponry to Saudi Arabia, to Israel,” Sanders also said, pledging to do everything he could to end the US-backed war in Yemen and prevent war with Iran.
Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator and the other heavy-hitting progressive in the race, remains far behind Sanders.
She said nothing critical of Israel to The New York Times, and even repeated the racist trope that Israel is in a “tough neighborhood” – the kind of language often used to demonize predominantly Black inner cities impoverished by decades of deliberate government segregation policies and disinvestment.
It appears that Harris and Warren still think that in 2019 you can get away with being progressive – and even presenting yourself as an anti-racist champion – except when it comes to Israel’s lethal system of apartheid against Palestinians.
But if progressive candidates are going to cower before the Israel lobby, there’s no reason to think that with enough pressure or incentive they would not also cave in to every other lobby as well – no matter how tough their rhetoric on fighting global warming, the pharmaceutical industry or rapacious banks.
- 2020 US presidential election
- Democratic Party
- Kamala Harris
- Joe Biden
- Peter Buttigieg
- Beto O'Rourke
- Tulsi Gabbard
- Cory Booker
- Bill de Blasio
- Kyle Kulinski
- Bernie Sanders
- Elizabeth Warren
Permalink gbb replied on
Position on Palestine will continue to damage democrats. I am in the US and voted for BO in '08 but I don't think I'll ever vote for a democrat for president again. It's difficult because people blame me for Trump. But I can handle it!
Permalink Ghana replied on
Any person regardless of position or power who supports Apartheid in any shape or form is beyond redemption. There is only two places for them. Prison or the gallows.
Racism in Israel
Permalink Story replied on
The treatment of Ethiopian and other non-white Jews in Israel belies the fact that it is actually more plain old white racism than the fact that Palestinians are not Jewish. They also have brown skin which is abhorrent to the white racist people in Israel that claim to be Jewish. How can you be Jewish if you are an atheist like the Stern Gang founders of Israel? Are they claiming to be of the Jewish race? It's more about being white. This is not a criticism of this excellent article. It just seems Kamala Harris is also defending White Supremacy and Racism, not just crimes against humanity committed against Palestinian people.
Foreign policy is not Warren's thing
Permalink Eliza replied on
Great comments from Kyle Kulinski; Harris is trying to play the political game and the puzzle is that Harris is not responding to the changing perceptions of Israel within the Democratic base. Is it that she doesn't see it or that she does, but doesn't rate it being important enough to challenge the benefit of the AIPAC donations.
Kamala Harris is not a conviction politician and will go way of least resistance and pacify powerful lobbies rather than work around them. On Israel she is behind the curve; if and when unfettered support of Israel becomes recognized as a liability, Harris will politely drop them like a hot potato. Harris appears to see Biden as her main rival and is concentrating on demolishing him; that's OK as Biden probably is genuinely committed to the Zionist cause. Harris is just an opportunist.
But am not so sure that Warren should be included in with Harris. Warren is dragging on Israel but foreign policy is not her major concern. I get the impression that its all just a distraction for her from her real passion which is financial and other domestic reforms within the USA. Given that foreign policy is the main area of the President, this makes Warren a good choice as a running mate for the eventual nominee but the Presidency...no.
It's now up to the progressive base of the Democrats not only to get Sanders as the Presidential candidate but to work down ticket. As for Sanders, I don't mind him not actively supporting BDS as such - this is a grassroots movement. BDS does not need the support of Sanders to be effective. It is enough that he supports the right to BDS and openly discusses conditioning aid to Israel and Saudi Arabia on their conduct.
Kamala Harris' reluctance to criticize Israel
Permalink Yesh Prabhu replied on
When I watched Kamala Harris in the first debate, I admired her as an eloquent speaker. At the time I did not know what she thought of Israel's occupation of Palestine and Israel's abominable treatment of Palestinians, especially Palestinian children. I cringed when I heard her answers to questions from the New York Times reporter in the video. She was determined to not say anything critical of Israel. It showed me very clearly that she has no conscience. It is time to bring to the White House a person who knows what is right and what is wrong, and one who has courage to criticize Israel's occupation of Palestine. Supporting Israel's apartheid policies is obviously wrong. If she becomes Democrat's candidate, I will not vote for her.
Yesh Prabhu, Bushkill, Pennsylvania
Defenders of Apartheid
Permalink John replied on
Any black politician who defends an apartheid state is a venal fraud who is worthy only of our scorn.
Permalink Roderik replied on
No American politician will get elected supporting BDS or being anti Israel. Harris understands that.
Permalink Sean Breathnach replied on
Cory Booker says there’s no ‘greater moral vandalism’ than abandoning Israel (and he’ll cut off his hand first). Harris may not go so far, but she definitely supports Israel, not matter what atrocities they commit against the Palestinians. The majority of Congresspeople are unfortunately, puppets of Netanyahu.
These two Zionist will not
Permalink Sam Sirriyeh replied on
These two Zionist will not get my vote.
Permalink John Burr replied on
What is it that Israel has over Harris and Warren? Are they so scared of the false antisemitism accusations?
It's particularly disappointing that Harris has a blind spot fot this racist regime.
IMHO everyone who refuses to condemn the occupiers of Palestine is a RACIST!
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