Kevin McCarthy, speaker in the US House of Representatives, cozied up with the apartheid-supporting prime minister of Israel this week. While in the region, McCarthy and a bipartisan congressional delegation celebrated Israel’s 75th anniversary and the permanent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
During his brief time there, he put in place an effort to pull the US House of Representatives and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, closer together.
McCarthy also wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Washington.
He decried President Joe Biden’s reluctance to invite Netanyahu to the White House. “It’s been too long,” he said to Israel Hayom, a newspaper published by the conservative and anti-Palestinian Adelson family.
“If [a visit to the White House] doesn’t happen, I’ll invite the prime minister to come meet with the House. He’s a dear friend, as a prime minister of a country that we have our closest ties with.”
McCarthy’s language recalls a March 2015 Netanyahu speech to a joint session of Congress hosted by Republicans seeking to undermine President Barack Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Democratic anger toward Netanyahu has very slowly built since then among congressional Democrats, but has taken significant root among grassroots Democrats who reject Netanyahu’s discriminatory policies and now sympathize more with Palestinians than with Israel.
On Monday, McCarthy addressed the Knesset. Miriam Adelson was reportedly in attendance. McCarthy follows Republican Newt Gingrich as the only other US House speaker to address a full session of the Knesset.
Members of the delegation joining McCarthy were former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Representatives Anthony D’Esposito, Andrew Garbarino, Greg Landsman, Josh Gottheimer, Garret Graves, Erin Houchin, Thomas Kean, Jr., Nick LaLota, Mike Lawler, Julia Letlow, Robert Menendez, Max Miller, Jared Moskowitz, Jimmy Panetta and Bruce Westerman.
McCarthy was introduced to the Knesset by Amir Ohana, that assembly’s own speaker, who has claimed that Muslims are inclined to “cultural murderousness.”
McCarthy’s speech was boilerplate. Americans, Palestinians and Israelis have heard it all before, including the total absence of any mention of Palestinians.One of McCarthy’s opening lines was typical: “It is an honor to join you in the city of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel.”
In other words, you Palestinians have no national rights here.
His words were full of empty religiosity – “Israel is blessed” and “the Lord blessed you from Zion” – with not a thought given to the absence of justice for Palestinians. It was a triumphalist religious reading of the current reality, disregarding altogether Palestinian calls for justice related to dispossession, occupation and discriminatory policies.
Netanyahu’s applause for McCarthy was joined by both finance minister Bezalel Smotrich and national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. The well-known anti-Palestinian ministers were both separated from Netanyahu by just one person.
The imagery and symbolism could not have been more stark. Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are now very close to Netanyahu and the prime minister isn’t shy about displaying his political proximity to Israel’s best-known racists.
In fact, CNN’s Hadas Gold raised Ben-Gvir to McCarthy when she noted “one minister was once convicted of inciting racism and supporting terrorism.” She then asked, “Are you concerned about the direction of this Israeli government?”
McCarthy, unsurprisingly, didn’t flinch. Ben-Gvir is his sort of racist and terrorist.
“Just as we decide upon our own leaders, the people get to decide upon their own leaders. If there are people in the cabinet that the people disagree [with], the great thing about a democracy [is] the people have a right to say – reject or promote – so they can do it.”
But the people of Israel didn’t say no to Ben-Gvir. His racism is increasingly in favor with him speaking just days ago in front of an inscription calling Baruch Goldstein, the murderer of 29 Palestinian men and boys at prayer, “holy.”
That “acceptable” racism in Israel is why Netanyahu has made him national security minister.CNN, however, didn’t highlight Gold’s question or McCarthy’s sidestep. Instead, Gold’s other question to McCarthy about the debt limit – Republican extortion and exceptionalism that the US doesn’t need to worry about paying its national debt or crashing the world economy – received attention.
Most CNN viewers, of course, will never see the full press conference.
Elsewhere in his Knesset speech, McCarthy claimed that “despite the constant threat of terrorism, Israel remains a thriving democracy in the Middle East.” He did not explain how an apartheid state is a “thriving democracy.”
Israel, he argued, is a “story about making the deserts bloom.” Israel’s discriminatory water use is not about to stand in the way of a good sound bite for McCarthy.
“Peace” minus Palestinians
“The progress towards peace of the past few years has simply been remarkable,” McCarthy claimed.
“Thanks to the Abraham Accords, coexistence and cooperation are beginning to replace conflict and intolerance. As a result, a future where your children can enjoy a just and lasting peace is not only foreseeable, it is attainable.”
But such notions continue to write Palestinians out of the equation and ignore that Israel was not at war with any of the countries which signed the Abraham Accords.
Donald Trump’s smoke and mirrors are peace for McCarthy.
The House speaker proceeded to hail congressional support for the Abraham Accords and renewed congressional support for Israel to defend itself (against Palestinians, many of them refugees, fighting occupation and dispossession).
The threats to Israel have one cause in McCarthy’s book: Iran. Decades of Israeli subjugation of Palestinians were not considered by McCarthy in this public address and it’s unlikely he gives the matter much thought in private discussions.
The man who would make US foreign policy instead of President Joe Biden, then, thinks Palestinians are driven by the outside influence of Iran rather than lived experience.
A speech more out of touch with reality could scarcely be conceived.
But McCarthy’s words match the times: “Our values are your values.”
Indeed, racism and violence thrive from the US to Israel.
The difference is that most Democrats have some willingness to fight racism and violence in the US.
Yet when it comes to Israel, and certainly this bipartisan delegation, both parties – with rare congressional Democratic exceptions – are united not just in looking the other way at Israeli discrimination, but in arming the apartheid state as fully as possible.
Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-described “fascist homophobe,” approves. He voiced his support for “an important Zionist speech” that avoided any mention of Palestinians much as the minister has sought to have Palestinians from the village of Huwwara “wiped out” and ethnically cleansed from their land.The aligned values of McCarthy and Smotrich speak volumes and indicate greater Israeli violence will be supported by a significant part of the US government.
But it won’t be supported by Rashida Tlaib. She pushed back on McCarthy’s mythmaking with a tweet highlighting Israeli apartheid.
Consequently, she was subjected to misleading and outright erroneous Twitter community notes casting doubt on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the lack of equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.Kevin McCarthy, if he knows, is surely pleased to see the ongoing whitewashing of Palestinian history and reality.
- Kevin McCarthy
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Israel Hayom
- Steny Hoyer
- Anthony D'Esposito
- Andrew Garbarino
- Greg Landsman
- Josh Gottheimer
- Garret Graves
- Erin Houchin
- Thomas Kean, Jr.
- Nick LaLota
- Mike Lawler
- Julia Letlow
- Robert Menendez
- Max Miller
- Jared Moskowitz
- Jimmy Panetta
- Bruce Westerman
- Amir Ohana
- Bezalel Smotrich
- Itamar Ben-Gvir
- Hadas Gold
- Abraham Accords
- ethnic cleansing
- Rashida Tlaib