No special treatment for Israel, Jill Stein says

Americans who tuned into CNN’s Green Party town hall last night were exposed to political ideas and analyses that are rarely given airtime on mainstream news networks.

Moderated by CNN host Chris Cuomo, the town hall allowed people in the audience to ask questions of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka.

An audience member identifying herself as a US army veteran expressed dismay at Stein’s support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to hold Israel accountable for ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians.

“Why do you single out Israel being that they are a democratic ally to us?” she asked, reciting a standard pro-Israel talking point. “Why don’t you do the same for other Middle Eastern States, many of which are committing horrific crimes and abuse of people?”

Stein pushed back, noting that she emphatically supports ending US aid to human rights abusers across the board.

“What we’re saying is our foreign policy will be based on international law and human rights,” said Stein. “So when we say to Israel that we will not continue to give you $8 million a day when the Israeli army is occupying territory in Palestine, conducting home demolitions and assassinations and things of that sort that are recognized by the UN, we’re not going to do it for the Saudis either.”

Stein added that the same would apply to Egypt which continues to receive major US subsidies despite “incredible human rights violations.”

Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, accounting for 55 percent of the total, to the tune of about $3 billion a year.

President Barack Obama is currently negotiating a new deal that his administration vows will be the biggest military aid package to any country in history.

Egypt is in second place, receiving $1.5 billion in US military aid annually, an estimated 20 percent of the total.

“Have you advocated to boycott Saudi Arabia?” Garcia asked.

“Yes, absolutely,” Stein replied.

Arms to Saudi Arabia

While Saudi Arabia receives little direct military aid from the US, it does rely on US technology and has been the top purchaser of US arms every year since 2011.

Despite the mounting civilian death toll and famine-like conditions that have resulted from the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, the Obama administration recently approved another $1.15 billion weapons deal with the Saudis.

“The international community must go ‘all in’ on a peace agreement,” Scott Paul, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam America, told Foreign Policy. “A sale of major arms to Saudi Arabia signals the opposite — that the US is instead all-in on a senseless war that has created one of the world’s largest humanitarian emergencies.”

Saudi Arabia’s wanton destruction of Yemen is so severe that the editorial boards at both The New York Times and The Guardian are calling on the US to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Of course neither newspaper has applies this logic to American sponsorship of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians as Stein has done.

Singling Israel out?

As though playing the role of Israel’s lawyer, CNN’s Chris Cuomo argued that Israel “occupies a special alliance with the United States and, supporters would argue, faces an existential threat that others do not.”

In other words, Israel should be singled out, but for special treatment rather than boycott.

Cuomo’s brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is a strong believer in giving Israel special treatment.

In what has been slammed by civil liberties groups as a McCarthyite violation of constitutionally protected speech, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order in June that requires state agencies to divest from companies and institutions that back efforts to boycott Israel.

“I happen to be of Jewish origin,” Stein responded, noting she has relatives living in Israel. And because of that, “I don’t think we are doing Israel a favor by condoning a policy that makes Israel very insecure, that makes Israel the target of hostility from its neighbors,” she said.

Ignoring Stein’s response, Cuomo repeated his question: “Do you believe that as a state Israel has a preference as an ally … do you believe they’re a special ally, yes or no?”

Stein refused to play into his narrative, saying, “I believe all our allies are special allies.”

She added: “I think we have responsibilities to everyone to create a world that works for all of us. And by sponsoring a very hostile military policy that violates international law, that doesn’t do us any favors.”

Stein hopes to persuade disaffected supporters of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to vote for the Green Party instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in November.

While Sanders raised the issue of Palestinian human rights during the primary, he never went as far as supporting BDS and largely refrained from talking about foreign policy more generally.

With Stein polling around 4 percent, she has no realistic chance of winning. And it’s unlikely she’ll meet the 15 percent polling threshold to be included in the presidential debates.

But with the majority of Americans heavily dissatisfied with both of the major party candidates, there is more interest than ever in learning about third parties.

Stein’s message about boycotting Israel and ending military support for it and Saudi Arabia are rarely given air time.

And as the CNN town hall demonstrated, mainstream journalists have no counterargument against such a reasonable and universally applied demand.

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The disastrous foreign policy of the US is now so apparent , I wonder why there are not enough American people that would realize that a real change is needed. Not the change that Obama promised and was just a smoke screen .Jill Stein is the only one that could give Americans the real change that is needed, if Americans want to continue believing that they are world leaders.Jill has integrity , a very important virtue today in politics.Otherwise I am afraid that they will go down with the ship as it sinks into oblivion.Time is fast running out.

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The answer is very simple: yes, it is. Why? Because the boycott began as and still is a movement run by by the Palestinians because the only country responsible for their distress is ISRAEL.** In fact the 'singled out' accusation is actually rather stupid. Whom else would you expect the Palestinians to boycott?-- China? Russia? Argentina? Iran?
** you might add the US, of course

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Really good point Linda! You've hit the nail right on the head.

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16 years ago Ralph Nader presented about the same face Jill Stein does now and it was just as good then as it is now and just as pertinent to Palestine, with the election coming on the heels of the 2000 Gaza invasion.
I hope I don't need to recite any of the history of the intervening years but suffice it to say that progress in the middle east has been... slower perhaps, than it might have been.
Obviously, it is every citizen's right to vote for whom they wish and Hillary apparently represents a decades old, unjust status quo on Israel/Palestine policy. And early in his campaign Trump did promise he would be a fair broker. But alas, in this election, as in 2000's, basing one's vote on this one issue would be wrongheaded, given the radical departure, possibly from unjust but certainly from rational governance, represented by Trump.
Of course voting is our right and we should obey our consciences. I would only submit though, that voting ones conscience may not always consist of simply cross referencing a laundry list of stated ideals with a ballot. It may, like any really important decision we make in life, be based mostly on our best evaluation of its consequences.
The difference for some of us is that we may not really be in danger of suffering those consequences directly. That is, to my mind, a consciousness threshold where our definitions of the word 'progressive' can diverge.
I would feel privileged to vote for Jill Stein. Too privileged.

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NOT WORRIED ABOUT "MY CONSCIENCE"

My "conscience is important to me but a small
factor in the scheme of things. I am not about to
be dispossessed, murdered, etc. etc.

I do not support Green as a disillusioned Bernard
Sanders supporter.

I contacted the Green party in particular ab out
their position on Palestine-Israel and received
their statement. I know of their position on #BLM
which I sujpport.

I sujpport Green b ecause of what they are FOR.

And, of course, what I am for as well.

(Full disclosure: Having no TV, I was unable
to watch the presentation myself. By the
descriptions and analyses of Rania Khalek
and writers for COUNTERPUNCH of August 21
(articles dates 8/19), I know in my heart I have
done the right thing.)

---Peter Loeb, Boston, M, USA

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The title of this article, "No special treatment for Israel" actually misrepresents what Stein said in the interview. She admitted she is a left Zionist who feels "a special connection to Israel" and her entire discussion of Israel argues for its legitimacy as a nation-state rather than a colonizing power.

More importantly, she said her campaign has been "very careful to avoid the pit fall of targeting Israel." Targeting Israel for what? Avoiding discussion of what? Israeli colonialism? Apartheid? Ethnic cleansing?

This article is shameful to publish in Electronic Intifada whose mandate is to educate about Palestinian self-determination, not to broker discounts like the Oslo Accords.

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While I agree that Jill Stein, though far and away more progressive on Israel/Palestine than Hillary (and Bernie too for that matter), still mouths our mainstream Zionist perspective. I would urge you Mary to imagine those words coming out of a mainstream candidate. It's actually inconceivable.
Of course they all cater to their bases and evaluate the risk of every issue but a little perspective here is perhaps wise and I credit Stein for getting what she got past the gatekeepers. And I see no conflict at all between EI's role as educator and it's occasional foray into electoral politics, especially when it so clearly exposes differences between more purely progressive politicians and the status quo power structure. EI certainly doesn't focus on the Punch and Judy daily antics that consume the mainstream media.

Ali Abunimah's picture

We don’t endorse or support candidates, but we do report on issues and debates relevant to Palestine, regardless of the party. You can see our coverage here.

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I'm glad to hear that but coverage of Bernie Sanders came perilously close to endorsement. My problem is that this article misrepresents the left Zionist politics of Jill Stein.

Ali Abunimah's picture

Individual writers are entitled to their views, but there was absolutely no endorsement of any candidate from EI, which does not even publish editorials representing a view of the publication. Sanders was a very notable and newsworthy phenomenon given the prominence of Palestine as an issue for many of his supporters and surrogates. 

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Of course individual writers are entitled to political views and candidate endorsements & I know EI did not publish endorsement editorials. But the articles on Sanders and Stein allowed subtly promoted those candidacies when both are completely compromised on Palestinian self-determination. The articles should accurately reflect the political views of the candidates and not the political preferences or electoral illusions of the writers.

I am not alone in my concerns about EI articles on Sanders and Stein. Many longtime Palestinian supporters consider them compromising. Perhaps the articles will bring a broader readership from supporters of those candidates but they water down an uncompromising support for Palestinian self-determination. Political principles are involved.

Ali Abunimah's picture

I reject the notion that the articles do not accurately reflect the positions of those candidates. All our articles are carefully fact-checked and sourced and all discussion is within the context of accurately reporting their relevant statements. That you may not like those candidates or views is your right, but our reporting has been careful and meticulous. Obviously there’s always going to be more to say than can be reasonably included in any particular article.

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There is no perfect world. However, regarding the position of the
Green Party on Palestine I suggest that you contact them for their
statement. (See also relevant portions of Black Life Matters'
"Visions").

Each of us would like the "self" of "self-determination" for
Palestine to be what we wish.

Of course, I support Palestinian self-determination. But is it
meaningful without the complete demilitarization of
Israel? The UN General Assembly has often proposed such
demilitarization which has always been blocked at the
Security Council on behalf of its client Israel and of course
of itself.

The settlements are an integral part of any meaningful
"self-determination".

The total elimination of Israeli Military Law would
be required.

There is more.

In short, I would envision the same deal recently
made in the "Iran Deal" to apply to Israel
including sanctions and embargoes for non-compliance.
This would, of course, include random inspection
of all sites, the "protocol", the dismantling of
all sites with the "capacity" to make nuclear weapons
and other weapons of war (eg drones).

(Left out are the wall, siege etc, as in this context
they are vital but distinct issues.)

Without this and many other changes, self-determination
by itself is more a slogan than a meaningful change.

(Obviously, the current "maximalist" policies of the
Israeli government must be completely discarded.)

American saying: "What's good for the goose is good for
the gander."

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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The issue is not whether Stein is better than Clinton or Trump on Israel and Palestinian politics. Her support for BDS makes her an improvement. But her left Zionism and caution about criticizing Israel fall far short of what is required for Palestinian self-determination.

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Yes it would seem to me that if Jill Stein has admitted she is a left Zionist who feels "a special connection to Israel" and as you say her entire discussion of Israel argues for its legitimacy as a nation-state rather than a colonizing power, then she is in denial about the true nature of that racist, apartheid, genocidal,zionist entity.
What on earth is a left zionist anyway? For me you are either a zionist or not a zionist.

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Risking coming off as too right to join the party, let me just say that what I'm hearing seems a little absolutist and academic. Leaving Stein's self-labeling aside, it seems to me she was pretty condemning of Israel, while maintaining an essential recognition of Israel as a fact of life. And while I agree that, at least within the context of post WWII international law, it can be argued that Israel is not a legitimate nation-state, it certainly has established itself as a colonizing power.
The problem is that historically the two entities are not at all mutually exclusive and unless that vaunted law is enforced, the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. Like it or not, Israel isn't going anywhere and to continually intimate that it should and that politicians - like Stein - should voice that view, just isn't very constructive and in fact only reinforces the false accusations of anti-Semitism used to marginalize voices for Palestine's just claims against Israel.
I have to side with Norman Finkelstein on issues like this; there is THE LAW. It's best that nobody forgets that or is distracted from it.

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That point of view is Zionist and would put you in agreement with a lot of people, including Jill Stein. I have no wish to discuss this issue further since a bantustate solution is not the point of my original comment.

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"What is required for Palestinian self-determination" is far more than a President's commitment to a Palestinian state. We need a politically educated and ethical public that will change the nature of the Congress, so a President can get the support needed to forward such an agenda.
It seems hopeless, yet we're always only an event or two away from real change. Unfortunately, it may just as well be negative change.
I hope to see HC draw the line at settlement construction as a beginning, rhetoric aside. Hopefully, we'll see.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.