Mal Hyman, a supporter of Palestinian rights, is again running for US Congress in the conservative state of South Carolina.
Tom Rice, a Republican, defeated Hyman, a professor at Coker College, in 2016. Hyman finished with just under 40 percent of the vote tally.
Undeterred, Hyman is running again. To stand against Rice in November, he will need to defeat three other Democratic contenders in the primary.
Hyman has not silenced himself on Palestinian rights in the past few weeks, but rather has been outspoken in voicing his alarm about Israel’s actions against Palestinians in Gaza.
Sending a strong message to potential voters, he added, “Since the US government is one of the biggest supporters of Israel, the onus is on us to send the message that these kinds of massacres go against every human rights principle.”
This sort of principled language on behalf of Palestinians is rare in American politics and may point to changes taking place in the Democratic Party over the Israeli subjugation of Palestinians.
Just six days later, Hyman was back at it again, tweeting his concern about the Israeli military shooting dead Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja.
Offering his condolences to Murtaja’s friends and family and challenging the US government for blocking a UN Security Council statement condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza for the second consecutive week, he asserted: “Israel’s actions have been inhumane. The US is the only country blocking Israel from having any accountability at the UN.”
Hyman followed up his concern about Murtaja’s death with a 12 April op-ed in Medium noting the journalist “had been meticulously covering the increasingly deteriorating situation.” In that piece he describes Israel’s “barricade” at the Israel-Gaza boundary as one that “segregates Jews from Arabs.”
Hyman does appear to fit squarely within the two-state paradigm, tweeting on 9 April, “We should join the rest of the world in calling for a good-faith negotiation.” Yet in his Medium op-ed he notes that for negotiations to be successful the US must “abandon its colonial mentality.”
Hyman’s campaign website appears to put him well within the mainstream of Democratic Party thinking with its assertion that a “more balanced policy toward Israel and the Palestinians will diminish terrorist recruitment.”
There’s nothing groundbreaking with that statement and nothing that indicates he regards freedom and equality for Palestinians as one of the great movements for liberty in the 21st century.
The recent tweets and op-ed about Palestinians in Gaza, however, suggest there is far more substance to the man and his campaign than the website’s boilerplate would suggest.
An earlier op-ed – published in Medium during February – indicates that Hyman has a long track record of concern and mentions his first trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank occurred in 1973. He returned in 1989 with the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee to monitor the human rights situation during the first intifada in Jenin, Bethlehem and Gaza City.
He calls in that op-ed for a foreign policy more oriented around human rights and makes three demands of President Donald Trump: Ending Israeli expansion, ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and abandoning the plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
In the Medium op-ed from February, Hyman notes a more recent trip to determine if a two-state solution is still possible.
In responding to a Reddit question he describes himself as “a Jewish man and an activist who has done human rights work in the West Bank and Gaza three different times.”
Breaking with traditional Democratic language, he asserts, “Israeli settlements on the West Bank can only be called colonization, which calls to question our uncritical support for the Israeli government and weakens our national security.”
He adds: “I believe that a two-state solution is still possible. I would be one of the few members of Congress who has done human rights work in the West Bank, I can bring a new voice to the table that has not been traditionally heard.”
There’s no doubt Hyman’s eyewitness view of Israeli human rights abuses extending back decades is different and new. If other progressive candidates employ such language regarding Palestinian rights in the run-up to the November elections it will be a watershed moment in the Democratic Party.