CNN’s Jake Tapper on 19 October went after Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian in the US Congress, for not climbing down – in a way he found timely – from her assertion that Israel bombed al-Ahli hospital in Gaza.
Tlaib’s fellow Palestinians are being obliterated – and she’s seen Israeli officials lie about matters from the 1996 Qana massacre to the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh – but she’s supposed to instantly believe the Israeli apartheid army’s intelligence.
And, if not, then she’s supposed to accept American intelligence, blotting out US lies from Vietnam to Iraq. More recently, the Biden administration provided Israel considerable space to make its false claims about the death of Abu Akleh.
Tlaib commented on Monday that “Media outlets and third-party analysts have raised doubts about claims and evidence offered by both Israel and the Gaza Ministry of Health, and I agree with the United Nations that an independent investigation is necessary.”
She added, “I cannot uncritically accept Israel’s denials of responsibility as fact, especially in light of confirmation from the World Health Organization that Israel has bombed numerous medical facilities in Gaza and reports from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of ongoing threats from the Israeli military to evacuate hospitals.”
Crucially, she cited the historical reasons that would lead a thoughtful politician to be cautious with American and Israeli intelligence, especially at the height of a brutal Israeli military assault devastating civilian life in Gaza.
“Both the Israeli and United States governments have long, documented histories of misleading the public about wars and war crimes – like last year’s Israeli military assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh and the false claims of weapons of mass destruction that led our country into the Iraq War – and cannot clear themselves of responsibility without an independent international investigation.”
Her agonized post about al-Ahli hospital, albeit with a death toll exceeding that of other sources, comes in the context of other Israeli bombings that have undoubtedly killed hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinian children. One must also consider the absolute fear and terror that surely gripped families and humanitarian workers in the chaos of those first hours and the difficulty any health ministry during wartime and intensive bombing would face in determining casualty figures.What is needed, as Tlaib suggests, is a true international investigation to determine if this time Israel and the US actually got it right as CNN and other western media are strongly suggesting or if serious doubts need ongoing consideration. Simultaneously, though downplayed by western media like CNN, thousands of Palestinian men, women and children have, in fact, been killed by the Israeli military campaign that is being rearmed by the United States.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, is pounding on this case while ignoring in his tweet the mountains of evidence that Israel’s bombardments have killed vastly more Palestinian civilians than were killed by whatever party at al-Ahli hospital.He ignores that Palestinian lives are also at stake. Tlaib and Greenblatt would surely be quick to agree that Jews and Palestinians alike must not be threatened here in the US as tensions rise over the conflict there. Tlaib, like any other American who chooses to, however, should have political space to advocate for Palestinians and their rights under a devastating Israeli assault that goes far beyond al-Ahli hospital.
Millions of people the world over would be upset and protesting even had the al-Ahli hospital deaths never occurred or if it had and an independent international investigation had swiftly concurred with the US and Israel.
When Israel is carpet bombing Gaza and committing massacres that kill multiple families multiple times a day – massacres it doesn’t deny – it is obviously going to be the first suspect in the al-Ahli hospital massacre. This is even more the case when no Palestinian armed group has ever used a weapon causing so much death and destruction. Serious questions are bound to persist when a preliminary analysis by Forensic Architecture, Al-Haq and Earshot have cast doubt on Israel’s explanations.
While none of this is conclusive, if Israel was confident it was not involved and had evidence to prove it then it would welcome an independent international investigation – something American, European and Israeli leaders have not urged.
On top of all this, at least one racist member of Congress wants to bar Tlaib from viewing classified information about the Israeli war on Gaza, though some have suggested she be given access on the al-Ahli hospital incident.
But such an investigation is unlikely now and quite possibly in the future with Senator Tom Cotton suggesting Israel “bounce the rubble” in Gaza.Tapper’s response to Cotton and his support for Israel to resort to bombings so intense they only rearrange the rubble remaining from prior attacks?
Tapper’s response to Senator Lindsey Graham and his urging Israel to “level the place”?Crickets.
Tapper’s response to Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, and his barely euphemistic talk of ethnic cleansing?Crickets.
Tapper’s response to presidential candidate Chris Christie and his similar talk of what can only be understood as ethnic cleansing with CNN’s Abby Phillip?
But the only Palestinian woman in the US Congress, whose people are facing massacres (far beyond whatever happened at al-Ahli hospital), casual American political talk of ethnic cleansing, and threats to turn parts of Gaza into a “fire zone” according to CNN earlier that same day?
Tapper did not respond to my questions.
Democrats don’t care
Tapper stated, “Bubbling beneath the surface of the Democratic Party here in [Washington] DC are some real resentments of fellow Democrats still blaming Israel for the hospital explosion despite US intelligence, classified and unclassified, suggesting that it was actually a misfired Palestinian rocket that did that damage.”
He added that Tlaib “issued [a] political threat to the president of the United States.” In fact, she had merely suggested voters would remember how President Joe Biden helped advance Israel’s onslaught against Gaza.
Jessica Dean, a CNN congressional correspondent, told Tapper that she had talked to several Democrats in the House of Representatives. “And one of them told me in their words, that her [Tlaib’s] colleagues are furious.”
Their lack of awareness of the pain their colleague is suffering speaks volumes about the state of the Democratic Party, the anti-Palestinian racism that grips many members, and how little it cares as Palestinians are pounded by the Israeli military, frequently with American weapons.
Of course, it’s not surprising that many of her colleagues are “furious” with her for speaking out more vigorously than other politicians about what Palestinians face. Most Democrats have for years voiced strong support for Israel while doing nothing to stop Israeli human rights abuses and apartheid.
They continued to lend their support as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filled his government with extremists such as Itamar Ben-Gvir – a follower of the violent racist Meir Kahane – and Bezalel Smotrich, who advocates segregation between Jews and Palestinians.
These Democrats have this month stood silent in the face of other massacres in Gaza, wiping out entire families on a scale unprecedented in Gaza – surpassing even the horrors of past Israeli onslaughts in the tiny coastal strip of territory. And they have failed to call for a proper international investigation of everything occurring since the unexpected attack on Israel’s apartheid soldiers patrolling the Gaza Bantustan which spilled into serious human rights abuses against Israelis and then Israeli bombardments killing hundreds of Palestinian children.
No serious appraisal of policy mistakes over the past 75 years, or during the Biden administration, can be expected. Pro-Israel Democrats have ignored – at best – the rights of Palestinian refugees for decades.
Extremists blame Tlaib
Now there is a right-wing effort to blame Tlaib for the brutal stabbing murder of Detroit synagogue president Samantha Woll because of Tlaib’s al-Ahli hospital tweet. The suggestion is intended to inflame passions.
Tlaib, of course, has never called for anything like the hate that political opponents falsely attribute to her or akin to the violence promoted by Josh Hammer, senior editor-at-large at Newsweek, who has called the al-Ahli hospital claim a “blood libel.”Tlaib and Woll, however, were reportedly friends and organized together.
Those politicians directly calling for overwhelming violence in Gaza – such as Cotton and Graham – are rarely challenged on what role they may have played in creating the environment in which six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed to death – and his mother severely injured – in what is being treated as a hate crime.
Nor are these politicians challenged on the even more direct threat they pose to people in Gaza just trying to survive. Such charges are, of course, quickly and unfairly directed at Tlaib though she hasn’t championed violence.
With so much US and Israeli intelligence having been shown to be incorrect over the years, the charge of a “blood libel” – a very real danger through the centuries to stir anti-Jewish violence – is misplaced against Tlaib and strays into efforts to silence critics of Israel’s policies.
Furthermore, the charge can distract attention from the very real devastation that Israel has rained down on Palestinian civilians. That violence in Gaza is overwhelming and real, erases the humanity of Palestinians, and obscures the reality of Israel employing apartheid against Palestinians for decades along with US and European complicity with it. Expecting those who have closely followed previous Israeli and American falsehoods during wartime to not voice concerns is an impossible ask.
Only an independent international investigation will convince many observers. Israel and the US have themselves to blame for past lies and misrepresentations creating profound doubt.Keeping separate anger at Israeli government policy from Jews generally is imperative. But that’s a two-way street that should also protect Palestinians in the US.
Simultaneously, there must be political space to protest and reject the carnage Israel is unleashing if even worse crimes are to be stopped among efforts to turn Palestinians into Nazis in an American political discourse frequently promoting war crimes.
As terrible as the Israeli violence has been, it has become worse in recent days as the people I know from my time in Gaza report demolished homes and the deaths of family members, including small children. Each morning brings dread over what news of death and destruction will arrive as American politicians and media cheer it on, thrilled at the prospect of an impending ground invasion. The anxiety and fear among people there who are seeing their families and neighbors and friends wiped out – with children writing their names on their bodies for identification purposes as even CNN reported Sunday – is surely enormous.
Notably, Tlaib is the one calling for a ceasefire and working with a diverse coalition to achieve one before even worse horrors seize the region. This is not easy in a media environment in which CNN’s Abby Phillip has suggested that a ceasefire now, even with thousands killed in Gaza, would be to “do nothing.”
In this climate, right-wing politicians are pushing war crimes and ethnic cleansing while Hammer wants much of Gaza reduced to a parking lot.
This is not the first time that Tapper has targeted Tlaib.
On 10 October he interviewed Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.
TAPPER: So you have a Democratic colleague from Michigan, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. She’s the first Palestinian American to serve in Congress.
And she released a statement that said, quote: I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost. The path to peace must include lifting the blockade and ending the occupation and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating dehumanizing conditions that could lead to resistance. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.
What was your reaction when you heard Congresswoman Tlaib’s statement?
Tlaib’s grief for Palestinians and Israelis was insufficient for Slotkin. She told Tapper, “I think for me, it shouldn’t be hard to condemn terrorists and terrorism, right?”
Slotkin makes demands of Tlaib she doesn’t make of herself regarding Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians, apartheid and war crimes. In Washington, to be sure, the conflict only started this month and is the Palestinians’ fault.
There is never a need for self-examination and to ask whether ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is still a real concern 75 years later. That doesn’t mean these Democrats should forget 7 October, but it does mean they need to realize much of the world sees Israeli apartheid and the dispossession of the Nakba as real problems to be addressed.
Free pass for warmongers
Tapper is surely aware that Muslims and Arabs historically are targets in the US during war time.
It apparently hasn’t given him pause. Nor has it led him to challenge Republican warmongers and ethnic cleansers.
Instead, he’s given them a free pass.
That a CNN journalist would be piling on against Tlaib while letting powerful white politicians skate by with their threats of war crimes is instructive regarding how CNN operates.
Making the situation worse, the US is balanced on a razor’s edge as Biden pushes the Middle East toward quite possibly a larger war. Meanwhile, he mouths empty words about a “two-state solution” and Palestinians equally deserving to live in “safety, dignity and peace.” His words are notably devoid of any reference to rights and freedom.Black women and other people of color are doing vital work for a ceasefire. They are trying to prevent Biden from becoming even more complicit in the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Most of the Progressive Caucus, however, is nowhere in sight, though other members of Congress – both in and out of the caucus – have begun to call separately for a ceasefire as well.
Tlaib, at the end of her comment on the deaths at al-Ahli hospital, noted, “This debate should not distract us from the urgent need for a ceasefire to save innocent civilian lives.”
Yet, as she knows better than most, too many politicians are still progressive except on Palestine. Their anti-Palestinian indifference, seeping into outright anti-Palestinian racism, has been on display for years – but never more than over the past two weeks as they stand aside for a brutal Israeli onslaught against a refugee population.
- Jake Tapper
- Rashida Tlaib
- Tom Cotton
- Lindsey Graham
- Ron DeSantis
- Chris Christie
- Qana massacre
- Biden administration
- Shireen Abu Akleh
- Democratic Party
- Jessica Dean
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Itamar Ben-Gvir
- Bezalel Smotrich
- Meir Kahane
- Elissa Slotkin
- Gaza ceasefire
- Wadea al-Fayoume
- Samantha Woll
- al-Ahli Hospital
- Jonathan Greenblatt