Tulsi Gabbard tries to defend anti-Palestinian vote

Congress member Tulsi Gabbard is feeling the heat over her vote last week in favor of a resolution that misrepresents and harshly condemns the nonviolent BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement for Palestinian rights.

The Hawaii Democrat, a candidate for her party’s presidential nomination, posted a video on Twitter on Saturday trying to spin her vote for HR 246 as a defense of free speech:

She acknowledges receiving messages via social media “asking for more information about why I voted the way I did.”

She asserts that the resolution “does not in any way limit or hinder our First Amendment rights.”

Gabbard also pledges to continue opposing any legislation to “restrict freedom of speech by imposing legal penalties against those who participate in the BDS movement.”

She notes that she is cosponsoring Representative Ilhan Omar’s resolution HR 496, which backs the right to engage in political boycotts.

Those are laudable positions, but they are undermined by Gabbard’s vote for a resolution that is a stepping stone towards more state and federal anti-BDS laws.

Israel and its lobby warmly welcomed HR 246, undoubtedly seeing it as a clear victory in their ongoing effort to pass laws criminalizing BDS activism.

“Based on lies”

Gabbard’s reasoning falls apart further when she explains why she backed the resolution in the first place.

“I voted for HR 246 because I support a two-state solution that provides for the rights of both Israel and Palestine to exist and for their people to live in peace with security,” Gabbard says.

“I don’t believe BDS is the way to accomplish that.”

(Note: In a written version of her statement, she is more nuanced, stating, “I don’t believe the BDS movement is the only or best way to accomplish that.”)

But Gabbard does not explain why a nonviolent movement, modeled on the one that helped end apartheid in South Africa, is harmful, or what her approach is to ending decades of Israeli military occupation and settler-colonization of Palestinian land.

Does she propose to continue the decades-old US and international policy of doing nothing, and even rewarding Israel, as it commits these crimes?

Platitudes about a two-state solution that equate the military occupier with an occupied people can’t hide the lack of a principled position.

In a message to supporters Monday, Omar Barghouti, the BDS movement cofounder singled out for criticism in HR 246, hit back at the House of Representatives for passing “a McCarthyite, anti-Palestinian resolution.”

“The resolution, based on lies, passed while Israeli military bulldozers were busy demolishing tens of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem,” Barghouti added.

Just 17 members of Congress voted against the resolution, while 398 backed it.

The resolution is a litany of standard Israel lobby talking points.

It claims, for instance, that the BDS movement “undermines the possibility for a negotiated solution” and demands “concessions of one party alone” – namely Israel.

But the BDS movement does not demand any “concessions” from Israelis of any legitimate rights.

Rather, it seeks to end Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights by ending Israeli military occupation and colonization of the lands conquered in 1967; ending all Israeli laws and policies that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees, including the right to return to their lands and homes in accordance with international law.

The resolution makes no mention of these rights, and instead claims that it is Palestinians dispossessed by Israel who seek to deny “the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination.”

Israel and its lobby routinely demand that Palestinians and others explicitly recognize Israel’s purported “right to exist as a Jewish state.”

This demand means in practice that Palestinians would have to grant Israel a right to be racist against them in order to maintain Israel’s desired and violently gerrymandered domination of Jews over indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians.

Israel bars Palestinian refugees from returning to their homeland solely because they are not Jews.

By contrast, the BDS movement is explicitly anti-racist and based on universal principles of human rights.

By centering Palestinian rights, the BDS movement has succeeded in exposing Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, for what it is: raw racism against Palestinians.

The resolution backed by Gabbard and the vast majority of lawmakers aims to reverse this progress and demonize Palestinians merely for seeking basic rights and freedoms.

Growing pressure

Gabbard is not the only one feeling heat over her vote.

Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna Pressley also tried to explain why she broke with the rest of the progressive “squad” – Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – to back HR 246.

“What I heard resounding in community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two-state solution,” Pressley said.

Like Gabbard, Pressley used the moribund two-state solution as an alibi, and compounded the offense by equating opposition to the Palestinians’ struggle for their basic rights with affirming the feelings of Jewish Americans – many of whom actually oppose Zionism and support equality for Palestinians.

And also like Gabbard, Pressley has taken the seemingly contradictory step of backing Omar’s resolution.

Tulsi Gabbard is not part of the progressive squad, but she has attracted curiousity, attention and support from many on the left because of her outspoken opposition to disastrous US “regime change wars” and interventions, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Yet she undermines her own anti-war stance in her video.

“Nothing is more fundamental to the identity of our country than the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution,” she asserts. “I’ve fought to defend these freedoms both as a soldier and a congresswoman.”

Is Gabbard now really claiming that the Iraq invasion she has excoriated as a human catastrophe launched “based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders” was indeed a justified fight for American freedom and the Constitution?

Gabbard has previously sent mixed signals about her views on Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians.

She was one of the very few members of Congress to openly criticize Israel’s massacres of unarmed Palestinians during Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

But she had earlier courted hardline anti-Palestinian extremists such as Shmuley Boteach and Miriam Adelson.

HR 246 was an opportunity for Gabbard to demonstrate clearly that she stands against Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and in solidarity with people struggling for liberation.

Instead, she and far too many other Democrats opted to side unambiguously with the oppressor.

Still, the fact that Gabbard and Pressley felt they had to try to justify their votes shows that the mood is shifting and progressives can no longer adopt reflexive anti-Palestinian positions without strong grassroots pushback.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the state represented by Ayanna Pressley.

Tags

Comments

picture

In her explanation of her vote in favor of H. Res. 246 Tulsi Gabbard said that she is a co-sponsor of Ilhan Omar's H. Res. 496 supporting the right to boycott. As of this morning (Tuesday) the Congressional website does not list Tulsi as one of the co-sponsor's of H. Res. 496:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/...

Supporting H. Res. 496 would be a step in the right direction, But Tulsi needs to publicly recognize the right of the Palestinian people to resist apartheid.

picture

AIPAC knew that they could secure passage of a harsher resolution only at the cost of exposing a growing rift in the Democratic party over Israeli war crimes and apartheid. So they presented this draft, which at least furthers the mission of criminalising BDS by increments. Tulsi Gabbard is not stupid. She knows all this. She also knows that one of the resolution's key aims was to isolate the core of support for Palestinian rights in Congress down to the very people Trump has told to "go back where they came from".

When she tells us in her video that she voted for the resolution as an expression of support for a two state solution, she cannot have failed to appreciate that such an outcome is entirely impossible, having been rendered moot by the Israeli and U.S. governments long ago. And how yet another formal profession of adherence to the cause of Israel contributes to that goal is left unexplained. The rest of her statement consists of threadbare flannel of a very faded pattern.

She's running for President, and it's understood that concessions will be made along the way. That she felt the need to signal her acquiescence to Israel at so preliminary a stage in the race cannot be a comforting development for her early supporters. They rallied to her campaign believing she represented a new direction in foreign policy.

Finally, with regard to whether we "recognise Israel's right to exist", we're entitled to ask, "In what form?" Because if the racist supremacist regime of the past 71 years is meant, the answer will have to be, "No".

There is a better way to live than bloody apartheid, and this, too, Tulsi Gabbard knows. Which marks her submission on this matter as all the more craven and, I hope, professionally unrewarding.

picture

Her defense of her vote is right out of the book "1984." "War is peace" - "The Ministry of Truth" is the institute of lies to serve the government. For Gabbard voting against BDS, which is a step toward criminalizing support for BDS, is a defense of free speech. It would be funny if it weren't so dangerous. Her face is the face of opportunism.

picture

So the only boycott (sanctions) that can be placed on another country is by governments alone, basically that's what your saying. People can't sanction countries through boycotts, according to your vote, correct? I just lost complete respect for you Tulsi!

picture

@ "Israel and its lobby routinely demand that Palestinians and others explicitly recognize Israel’s purported 'right to exist as a Jewish state.'”

In reality, that right does not exist. The claim is derivative of another right claimed in HRes 246 itself: "Whereas the Global BDS Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination[.]"

There is no Jewish right of national self-determination. Under the U.N. Charter, the people of all mandate territories are to have the right of self-determination of their form of government. See Article 73. That is a right belonging collectively to all citizens of the former Mandate Territory of Palestine, not to a Jewish subset.

"States have consistently emphasized that respect for the territorial integrity of a non-self-governing territory is a key element of the exercise of the right to self-determination under international law. The Court considers that the peoples of non-self-governing territories are entitled to exercise their right to self-determination in relation to their territory as a whole, the integrity of which must be respected by the administering Power. It follows that any detachment by the administering Power of part of a non-self-governing territory, unless based on the freely expressed and genuine will of the people of the territory concerned, is contrary to the right to self-determination." Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, International Court of Justice (25 February 2019), pg. 38, https://www.icj-cij.org/files/...

The alleged "Jewish right of self-determination" is fraudulent, as is Israel's claimed right to exist.

picture

Raw racism against Palestinians, of course; bit don't miss the chance to undermine the Israeli narrative by insisting that Zionism is antisemitic. It is because it reviles Jews who refuse its position. It subsumes all Jews to a category: Zionists. A Jew who is not a Zionist is a traitor. That is antisemitic per se. It's easy for the Zionists to defend themselves against the accusation of anti-Palestinian racism. They fall back on the old argument that the Palestinians are terrorists. It's far harder for them to refute the argument that they are guilty of the very antisemitism of which they persistently accuse all their opponents.
Gabbard's pseudo-argument from the two-State solution is feeble and transparent. Even the borders defined by UN article 181 are unjust: why should the Jews have more of the land than the Palestinians? Yet there is no the remotest possibility that the Israelis will accept even those limits without being forced to. Without that, where is the Palestinian State going to be? Partition was a crime against the Palestinian people. What is wrong with democracy? The Israelis claim to believe in it. One State. One person, one vote. Everyone obeys the law. That's civilisation. What prevails in Palestine today is barbarism and Gabbard knows it. Her principles are weaker than her ambition. We have only one ambition: justice.

picture

She lost my support, too, and I am going to contact her campaign and tell them so.

And, Frank, you are absolutely right. Zionism is profoundly anti-Semitic. It always was, and that’s especialky true of Christian Zionism, a 19th-century heresy that needs to die ASAP.

picture

Aloha! I’m grateful for your personal reply. Knowing how busy you must be, I wasn’t really expecting to hear back.

Someone had told me about Tulsa’s video but thanks to you sending the link, I finally got to watch it.

HR246 is a travesty and Tulsi can no longer have my support.

I understand politics enough to know the enormous and unchecked influence the Israeli lobby has on Congress. So, I assume Tulsi has determined she has to play ball.

To formally call out a young, little grass roots movement like BDS, however, for promoting

“principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace and a two-state solution”

among other false accusations, and to not call out the biggest obstacle to peace and security, namely the long succession of Israeli governments since 1948 and our own country’s uninterrupted support is fatally damning to her credibility. Everything critical in that resolution could and should be said about Israel times a 1000.

I used to take Tulsi as authentic, principled and coming from the heart. Voting for legislation that so glaringly misplaces blame and demonizes conscientious Americans while ignoring and therefore obfuscating a foreign entity’s generations of internationally recognized crimes against humanity is itself a crime.

The net result is that I will wish Tulsi, the person and not the politician, well-being and forgo any material or spiritual support.

I’m used to being let down by politicians but my disappointment, shared by many, is so much greater for it seemed as president Tulsi would have stopped our reckless military interventions. Now I see she’s no different from Trump and the rest, picking winners and losers based on political pressures at the time.

Again, thank you for your response.

picture

In all due respect to the CNN-based Electoral CollAge, I must rise as a bit off the old byte of the Electronic Intifada in defense of the Palestinian people in calling out Tulsi Gabbard as a legitimate critic of US regime change wars although I will re-consider my opposition if she will erase all the EI's doubts (so clearly expressed above) if she can be seen wearing a kafia while surfing into the shores of the Gaza Strip singing the Palestine National Anthem!

picture

Beyond that, specific to this bill, she could have abstained even. The resolution was first filed in March and she's had that much time to strategize. But, no, it's the typical duopoly head fake on the "two state solution" without teeth. And, for the first time, very publicly, the Tulsi Gabbard Kool-Aid has run head-on into the Tulsi Gabbard reality. https://socraticgadfly.blogspo...

picture

What's the matter with you all? Gabbard has always been a hard-line Zionist. Why are you surprised? From Gabbard's website: "Rep. Tulsi Gabbard signed on as an original cosponsor of H.Res.23 on January 5, 2017, which reaffirms U.S. commitment to Israel and supports the U.S. policy of vetoing any one-sided or anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolutions that seek to impose a negotiated settlement on Israel and Palestine. It also expresses support for bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and **condemns boycott and divestment campaigns and sanctions** that target Israel." Not sure why you all just don't google.

picture

Gabbard lost my support, too, and yes, I should have googled and realised she is in Israel's pocket. But so much of what she says on foreign policy is good. My non-cynical (unrealistic?) side says, let's educate her - hope Omar, McCollum, AOC and Tlaib and the others of the 17 can hold a meeting and enlighten Gabbard and Pressley - and John Lewis! If she'd change on this, and ditch the two-state solution (fat chance, given she undoubtedly gets Israel lobby money), I'd support her again. Who else? O'Rourke? Moulton? Green Party again, I guess.

Add new comment

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.