There have been few surprises coming out of the violence that has erupted in Palestine and Israel. Israel, firmly in control of much of the media in the U.S. and Western Europe has chosen to depict it in simple terms: the Palestinian “terrorist” group Hamas has attacked the Jewish state which has taken proportionate steps to defend itself. This simplistic rendition of a much more complicated series of interactions has been picked up by many of the talking heads that pass for political commentary in the United States as well as by the completely corrupted Washington politicians.
Comments expressing any sympathy for the decades long plight of the Palestinians have been as scarce as the proverbial hens’ teeth, though such sentiment is growing even in Congress as Israeli killing of civilians increases. In fact, initially I could only find five statements coming from Democrats that in any serious way regretted the suffering being inflicted on Arab civilians in Gaza, in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. One consisted of remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren regarding the series of thefts of Palestinian homes that sparked the recent violence. She tweeted “The forced removal of long-time Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah is abhorrent and unacceptable. The Administration should make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately.” Senator Bernie Sanders also made the case for Palestinian suffering in a hard-hitting New York Times op-ed entitled “The U.S. Must Stop Being an Apologist for Netanyahu.” He describes the Israeli Prime Minister as having “cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism.”
There also was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s brief rebuke to New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, who had tweeted “I’m standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists. The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.” AOC responded “Utterly shameful for Yang to try to show up to an Eid [Ramadan] event after sending out a chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children.”
A much stronger comment came from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is of Somalian descent, who decried her own party’s unwillingness to confront the reality of the issue. She tweeted “No mention of Sheikh Jarra. No mention of the al-Aqsa raid. No mention of the 13 innocent children killed in air strikes. No mention of the ongoing occupation of millions in an open-air prison. You aren’t prioritizing human rights. You’re siding with an oppressive occupation.” Omar was subsequently accused by no less than ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of being “anti-Semitic.”
And Palestinian descendant Rashida Tlaib, in a speech delivered before Congress, included “To read the statements from President Biden and Secretary Blinken, General Austin and leaders of both parties, you’d hardly know Palestinians existed at all. There has been no recognition of the attack on Palestinian families being ripped from their homes in East Jerusalem right now or home demolitions; no mention of children being detained or murdered; no recognition of a sustained campaign of harassment and terror by Israeli police against worshipers kneeling down and praying and celebrating their holiest days in one of their holiest places — no mention of Al-Aqsa, being surrounded by violence, tear gas, smoke, while people pray.”
None of the comments had any real impact on the White House and AOC’s was particularly maladroit as Yang is running for mayor in a city with a sizable Jewish population that he was pandering to, but he has nothing whatsoever to do with U.S. foreign policy. AOC should have aimed her criticism at her own party’s leadership, which she, of course, chose not to do.
Most commentary from America’s so-called leaders was more predictably bellicose. Jen Psaki, the White House press spokesman cited the view of President “I am a Zionist” Joe Biden, reporting that “The president’s support for Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waiver. We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups against Jerusalem.” This produced an absurd response from even more passionately Zionist ex-President Donald Trump, who characteristically was both aggressive and overflowing with ignorance. He tweeted “When I was in office we were known as the Peace Presidency, because Israel’s adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked. Under Biden, the world is getting more violent and more unstable because Biden’s weakness and lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks on our allies. America must always stand with Israel and make clear that the Palestinians must end the violence, terror, and rocket attacks, and make clear that the U.S. will always strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself.”
But it was hard to beat the one liner by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has claimed the titled of “Israel’s governor” while also having his state issue license plates bearing the slogan “Florida Stands By Israel.” How about “Florida Stands By Americans” Ron? De Santis said “Hamas is a terrorist organization and Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorist attacks.” Indeed, the pithy line that “Israel has a right to defend itself” has been picked up far and wide in the U.S. Whether an unarmed Palestine has the same right apparently is not a matter of concern for many Americans.
Also coming out of Florida is a similar message from Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch who is promoting the argument “Please don’t be fooled by false choices: Israel or Hamas. If I am asked to choose between a terrorist organization and our democratic ally, I will stand with Israel.” Ted is himself Jewish and represents a largely Jewish constituency.
And Ted is of course interpreting the situation to suit his own preferences. Also, like many Democratic politicians, he is listening to the top political donors, a clear majority of whom for the Democrats are reportedly Jewish. Haim Saban, an Israeli-American Hollywood producer and major donor, says “I’m a Democrat, and unfortunately there is an extreme left wing of the Democratic Party that could use some education on what’s in our American interest. On Israel there should be no argument. It’s the only democracy in the region and our staunchest ally in the region.”
Saban is, of course, reiterating a comfortable argument about supporting Israel. It is also false as Israel is neither an ally nor a democracy and its actions are completely contrary to actual U.S. interests. Objectively speaking, Palestine has been the victim of the Jewish state and not vice versa and Israel could be charged with genocide, mass murder or ethnic cleansing, whatever or however one chooses to describe it. One could go on for pages describing the human rights abuses and war crimes that the indigenous Muslim and Christian Arab inhabitants have had to endure at the hands of the Jewish Israelis over the past seventy plus years.
Israel has even declared itself legally a Jewish state with inferior rights for the 20% of the population that technically are Israeli citizens but consisting nearly all of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. Those Palestinians who are not citizens are under Israeli imposed martial law on the West Bank and have no rights whatsoever, including the right to life. Israeli soldiers who shoot to kill unarmed Arab civilians, including children, are almost never punished and some of them are actually celebrated as heroes.
Noam Chomsky describes the situation from the Arab point of view: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” It is now generally conceded that Israel is an apartheid state, with the Arabs remaining in historic Palestine living in what is virtually an open-air prison. In return the unarmed Palestinians have occasionally struck back in so far as they could, leading to an Israeli response consisting of overwhelming military force using “industrial” state of the art weapons versus home-made rockets to produce the disproportionate slaughter such as is occurring right now.
What is particularly disturbing about the U.S. government response to what is taking place in Gaza is the lack of any actual American interest that is served by allowing Israelis to kill Palestinians. Quite the contrary, as Washington will be rightly blamed by nearly everyone for enabling Israeli behavior. Equally disturbing is the tissue of lies and deliberate misstatements used to obscure the reality and justify the positions that are being taken. Is there any wonder why so many Americans no longer feel that they can either trust or believe what is coming out of the mouths of Washington politicians and its associated mainstream media?
Philip Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.