Cowardly Democratic leaders continue to ignore the underlying grievances of Palestinians – apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation – and focus instead solely on the immediate violence.
Worse, once the current fighting ends, this leadership can be expected to return to managing the conflict rather than insisting root causes be addressed.
Such weakness is repeatedly seen in the comments and tweets of Democratic leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on Monday: “I condemn the escalating and indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel.
She added that Israel has the “right to defend herself against this assault, which is designed to sow terror and undermine prospects for peace.”
Pelosi said nothing specific about Israel’s move to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem and instead settled for vaguely criticizing “the recent inflammatory provocations including by extremist forces in Jerusalem.”
Israel lobby groups AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) applauded her for the comment which made no mention of whether Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against a superior military involved for decades in what the International Criminal Court is investigating as war crimes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, similarly asserted that Israel “unequivocally has the right to defend itself” and condemned “unjustifiable attacks by Hamas against innocent civilians.”
Making a gesture toward both-sidesism, he added: “Israelis and Palestinians both deserve a future of peace and security, and I hope both sides take positive steps to promote that end.”
Acknowledging apartheid and stopping military aid as a result would be two such positive steps the majority leader could take.
It’s difficult, however, to imagine Hoyer’s “peace and security,” particularly with Israel pursuing aggressive military actions with the backing of $3.8 billion in annual US military aid.DMFI also praised Senator Bob Menendez, the Democratic chair of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, for his declaration that the rockets fired by Hamas are “terrorism and no country should have to tolerate this kind of threat against its population.”
He, like the others, failed to express any concern about Israeli apartheid and he did not acknowledge that the discriminatory reality is tightly tied to the violence currently being witnessed.On Saturday, Menendez changed his tune a bit in expressing alarm about Israel’s actions against “innocent civilians in Gaza” and “international media” – apparently local media aren’t a concern of his – but still was quite vigorous in promoting Israel’s “right to self-defense” against a refugee population essentially imprisoned within the Gaza Strip. As is typical of DMFI, which undercut the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders in favor of pro-Israel stalwart Joe Biden, the group attacked Democrats expressing concern over Israel’s actions.
DMFI and Congressman James Clyburn, the majority whip, got what they wanted in pushing for Biden and now the world is saddled with a White House unwilling to stand up to Israel’s apartheid practices and bombing that has killed more than 140 Palestinians, including more than 35 children since Monday.
One such DMFI target was Congressman Mark Pocan who had merely tweeted: “We cannot just condemn rockets fired by Hamas and ignore Israel’s state-sanctioned police violence against Palestinians – including unlawful evictions, violent attacks on protesters and the murder of Palestinian children.”
Nicholas Kristof, a columnist with The New York Times who is cautious in expressing his concerns about Israeli policies, penned a piece titled “What your taxes are paying for in Israel.”
He noted that “The Biden administration has been timid and restrained, slowing the UN Security Council’s engagement on the issue.”
“The administration should also express strong concern about the planned evictions of Palestinians that provoked the crisis,” Kristof further asserted.
This is a columnist from The New York Times, a publication which for years ran the likes of A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire with all their antipathy toward Palestinians.
If Kristof is raising these concerns about the Biden administration’s response then the Democratic grassroots is surely at least as far along in the process of recognizing the legitimacy of Palestinian concerns.
The White House, however, isn’t a major concern for either AIPAC or DMFI.
President Joe Biden in a 12 May telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”
Making no mention of Palestinian security and rights, he sided with Israeli settler-colonialism in conveying “his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”
He then spoke of “restoring a sustainable calm,” as if returning to the status quo ante of apartheid is acceptable.
Biden also “shared his conviction” that Jerusalem “must be a place of peace.” The readout did not mention Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing in the city and the right-wing Israeli mobs shouting “Death to Arabs.”
The US president tweeted Eid wishes on 13 May and got significant pushback about his silence on Israel’s violence against Palestinians – as did Vice President Kamala Harris for her similar tweet.Muslim organizations are calling for a boycott of the White House Eid event scheduled for Sunday.
Marc Rod in Jewish Insider points to the developing split within the Democratic Party over Israel’s anti-Palestinian actions.
Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida, who chairs a House subcommittee that deals with Middle East issues, claimed to be defending democracy and fighting evil. “That’s what we do when we support Israel as it battles Hamas terrorists.”
This conveniently overlooks how Israel expelled Palestinians into refugee camps in Gaza in 1948 and now is practicing apartheid.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t name Deutch, but did begin pushing back against Biden. This came after she was rightly criticized by Glenn Greenwald for only blasting New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang for his comments about the situation in Gaza and not significant powers in the Democratic Party such as Nancy Pelosi.
Ocasio-Cortez argued that Biden’s statement failed to acknowledge “what precipitated this cycle of violence.” She said this dehumanizes Palestinians and implies “the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong.”For this and other recent comments, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon anti-Semite gun fanatic who loves Israel from northwest Georgia, placed congresswomen Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley in what she termed the “JihadSquad.”
The Islamophobic Greene loves the attention her bigotry brings.
She also said “any US Member of Congress supporting terrorist Hamas should be expelled.” But apartheid is no problem in her eyes – or those of most of her colleagues.In fact, Ocasio-Cortez called Hamas’ actions “condemnable.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib have recently called to condition aid to Israel, though oddly have not been recommending immediately cutting it altogether.
They should expand their argument rather than suggesting aid to an apartheid state can somehow be rationally conditioned.Nobody Greene can point to in Congress has expressed any support for Hamas’ rockets. But very few have raised any concerns about Israel’s resort to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. It’s a deeply conservative body. They’ll be the last to grasp that there is no moral equivalence between the occupied and the occupier.
There’s little consolation in Republicans being even worse than Democrats on Israel and Palestinian rights. More should be expected of Democrats. Most are delivering the same pathetic defenses of Israel’s actions they’ve relied upon for decades as apartheid became entrenched on their watch and with their funding.
That is not, however, the case for Congresswoman Cori Bush who won election just last year. Thursday evening she announced her opposition to Israeli apartheid, occupation and US military funding to Israel better spent in her St. Louis community.
The video is worth watching in full:Addressing the same House session as Bush, Congresswoman Tlaib also denounced Israeli apartheid and Congresswoman Omar lambasted Netanyahu as an “ethno-nationalist leader.”
Tlaib again called to “condition aid to Israel on compliance with international human rights” rather than urging a complete cessation of aid to the apartheid state.Several Democrats rose to disagree with the Democrats rejecting the Biden administration’s position and to express abiding support for Israel.
This is a fight worth having within the Democratic Party. It is inconsistent for many Democrats to stand – quite rightly – against the entrenchment of voting discrimination in the US South while supporting various forms of Israeli discrimination against Palestinians. Their double standards merit highlighting.
- May 2021 attack on Gaza
- Nancy Pelosi
- Democratic Majority for Israel
- International Criminal Court
- Steny Hoyer
- Bob Menendez
- Bernie Sanders
- Joe Biden
- James Clyburn
- Mark Pocan
- Nicholas Kristof
- A.M. Rosenthal
- William Safire
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Death to the Arabs
- Eid al-Fitr
- Kamala Harris
- Marc Rod
- Jewish Insider
- Ted Deutch
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
- Glenn Greenwald
- Andrew Yang
- Marjorie Taylor Greene
- Rashida Tlaib
- Ilhan Omar
- Ayanna Pressley
- Cori Bush