I haven’t written since July 14 for two reasons: I can’t write about Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza when others (see: Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss) are doing it so well, but I can’t write about anything else while Palestinians are being slaughtered by a government that receives upwards of $3 billion a year in military aid from our own.
Yesterday President Obama made people mad with comments downplaying CIA torture and blaming Hamas for the astronomical civilian death toll in Gaza. I won’t link to them because I don’t really care what he said. I can’t believe we still have to convince people the Democrats are the worst of the worst.
More important than Obama’s speechifying are the actions of Congress, who (also yesterday) voted overwhelmingly to approve $225 million in additional funding to replenish Israel’s arsenal, depleted by a three-week-long offensive that has killed over 1600 Palestinians, at least 75% of whom are, according to the UN, civilians.
Let me repeat that: After the Obama administration single-handedly torpedoed a UN inquiry into Israeli war crimes, the Senate passed by unanimous consent (and the House voted 395-8) to rearm the Israeli military during an operation that its most tactlessly honest defenders admit is a genocide. This is a massacre that has prompted the governments of Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, and El Salvador to recall their ambassadors to Israel and the government of Bolivia to declare Israel a “terrorist state”.
What do those countries have in common? They all, to varying extents, have progressive governments willing to stand up to the US – a state sponsor and financier of terror if ever there was one. In taking a stand (however belated) against Israeli aggression, they stand in stark contrast to so-called progressives in the US government.
I recently argued that, should they run, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (an “independent” whose independence from the Democrats is pretty tenuous) could pose a serious primary threat to Hillary Clinton, whose deeply conservative record is out of step with the Democratic Party’s “populist” base. On the issue of Israel-Palestine, a recent Gallup poll found that only 31% of self-identified Democrats think Israel’s actions in Gaza are “justified”.
Yet Sanders and Warren – along with every other member of Congress – voted not once but twice for symbolic resolutions endorsing Israel’s assault as “self-defense” and blaming the civilian death toll on Palestinians themselves. Both resolutions passed by unanimous consent: They were backed not just by mean old Republicans, not just by hawkish Democrats like neoliberal poster boy Cory Booker and Chuck “Bomb Iran” Schumer, but also by the party’s so-called left wing.
And now, leading House “progressives” like Barbara Lee and John Conyers joined their Senate counterparts (Ron Wyden and Al Franken, to name a couple others) to reaffirm yet again that, as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz once put it, there “will never be daylight between the two parties” when it comes to unconditional support for Israeli militarism and apartheid.
The 8 members of Congress – 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans – who voted against the additional funds are, on the Democratic side, Representatives Keith Ellison, Zoe Lofgren, Jim Moran, and Beto O’Rourke, and on the Republican side, Justin Amash, Walter Jones, Thomas Massie, and Mark Sanford.
They took a serious political risk going against the pro-Israel lobby and their respective party leaderships. I’ve linked to the Twitter accounts of each above – if you’re on Twitter, tweet them a “thank you!”, and if you aren’t, their Twitter bios include links to their websites where you can do so.
Here’s the thing, though: That this many members of Congress voted “no” in such a rabidly pro-Israel political climate as Washington is a testament to how undeniably horrific the reports and images from Gaza have been. People on the ground say this attack is beyond anything they’ve seen in their lifetimes.
But Israel’s draconian blockade of Gaza, also a point of bipartisan consensus, had already made it an open-air prison that the UN projected would be “unlivable” by 2020. Israel counts calories to determine how much food can reach its prisoners, blocking everything but the bare minimum needed for survival: Items banned since the siege began in 2007 include shoes, paper, coffee, tea, wood, cement, and iron.
Despite the withdrawal of its Jewish settler population in 2005, Israel continues to control Gaza’s water, electricity, borders, airspace, coastline, and population registry. It has to approve (and often doesn’t) every person, every molecule of food or raw material, that goes in or out. Even during “ceasefires”, the so-called Israeli Defense Forces conduct deadly raids and airstrikes with no accountability.
Gaza is surely unlivable today, after Israel has bombed 4 hospitals, 2 UN shelters, and its only power plant. More than a tenth of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are now housed in the same UN shelters that have become targets for Israeli bombardment, and 1.2 million Gazans lack access to clean water.
As Americans, we are deeply complicit, and more and more of us are waking up to that reality. The politics of Israel-Palestine in the US are changing, as evidenced by the Gallup poll showing only 25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 support “Operation Protective Edge”, compared to 55% of those 65 and up.
You can be on the right side of this 21st century struggle against colonialism, or you can sit idly by, congratulating yourself on how reasonable you sound talking about “both sides” and how hatred or religious divisions are the greatest obstacle to “peace”.
The greatest obstacle to peace in Israel-Palestine is apartheid, a racist system of segregation, discrimination, and expulsion. The greatest obstacle to peace is Zionism’s archaic project of an ethnically-exclusive state. The greatest obstacle to peace is the unconditional support of our government, including and especially its “progressive” darlings, for Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.
Empire rots from the inside out, and Congress will be the last domino to fall in the US-Israeli “special relationship”. Sooner or later, material support for Israeli terrorism will become a political dealbreaker. Make it sooner rather than later. Let your Congresspeople know: Enablers of mass murder and ethnic cleansing will lose your vote.
Whether or not you’re PEP – Progressive Except on Palestine – isn’t about ideological purity. It’s about whether you’re willing to stand up to evil when it really matters. Don’t call it evil if you don’t want to. Call it fascism, genocide – just don’t be silent. You’ll regret it.