Democratic Opposition to Israel Grows, Putting Biden in a Bind

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Democrats in the U.S. Congress are split between traditional, knee-jerk support for Israel, and a rising chorus of Democratic members who are daring to speak out.

Apartheid states aren’t democracies.

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 15, 2021

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams

On the heels of some progressives taking to the U.S. House floor to denounce decades of the Israeli government and military’s human rights abuses enabled by U.S. leaders and lawmakers, Rana Abdelhamid—a primary challenger to Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney—highlighted the contrast between her and the New York congresswoman’s recent statements about this week’s escalation in violence.

As the death toll from Israel’s assault of the Gaza Strip continued to rise—since Monday, at least 128 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed—Abdelhamid said that the violence in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli forces and settler colonists are driving Palestinians from their homes, and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, “has been heartbreaking and unacceptable.”

Blanket statements like these w/ little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence – namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa – dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong. https://t.co/afCgoGdiMG

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 12, 2021

“We’ve seen the Israeli military force hundreds of Palestinians out of their homes through the expansion of illegal settlements,” said Abdelhamid. “Palestinians are afraid to go to schools or houses of worship. Likewise, Hamas rockets targeting Israeli civilians are unacceptable. At the end of the day, without the United States playing an even-handed role and using our leverage in the region to end the occupation of the Palestinian people and secure a two-state solution, the long-term security of both Israelis and Palestinians will be threatened.”

Abdelhamid—who is running to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District, which includes portions of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens—continued:

“Congress and the Biden administration must act immediately to end the violence, secure a cease-fire, and protect human rights. We must use all the tools at our disposal to do so, including ensuring that no foreign and military aid is going toward home demolitions, occupation, expulsion, and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, including children.

We cannot claim to stand for human rights while our nation is complicit in funding forced evictions, settlement expansion, and violence against children and families that undermine a two-state solution. Unlike Rep. Maloney, I don’t believe that Israel—or any country—should receive a blank check funded by American taxpayers to use in a way that violates our values and basic human rights. All people, Israelis and Palestinians alike, deserve dignity, justice, and freedom, and the United States cannot back away from its responsibility to ensure peace in the region.”

Abdelhamid’s statement aligned with remarks from House Democrats during a Thursday night event about Palestinian human rights, the $3.8 billion in unconditional military aid the U.S. gives Israel each year, and this week’s bloodshed. Israeli authorities have confirmed eight deaths, including a soldier near Gaza and two children.

The hourlong event—which featured a powerful and personal speech from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, whose grandmother lives nears Jerusalem—was organized by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.).

Your Friday reminder to listen to our only Palestinian member of Congress, @RashidaTlaib, and remember that even if some folks don’t want to acknowledge Palestinians—they do exist and their human rights do matter.pic.twitter.com/fxWmRX0FGp

— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) May 14, 2021

After detailing the human rights abuses that Palestinians have faced for much of the past century, from being forced out of their homes and attacked at places of worship to the jailing of children and living conditions reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa, Pocan noted the significance of several lawmakers speaking out.

“Today we want to talk about the very long-term problems that have been for too long ignored by U.S. policies in the region,” Pocan said Thursday. “Fortunately, now, more and more members of Congress are wanting to address peace in this region in a more forthright way.”

Powerful words from @AyannaPressley: “We cannot remain silent when our government sends $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children, and displace Palestinian families. A budget is a reflection of our values.” pic.twitter.com/R8twLfyIpS

— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) May 13, 2021

The previous day, Pocan and Newman had led 23 other House Democrats in a letter that called on the Biden administration to pressure the Israeli government to “desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.”

So are the extensively researched, painstaking conclusions from the UN, Human Rights Watch, and B’Tselem (among the largest human rights orgs in the world and in Israel) considered “outbursts” too?

Or is that just a descriptor MSN reserves for the women legislators quoting them? https://t.co/i0c0M3OjGe

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 16, 2021

This is happening with the support of the United States.

I don’t care how any spokesperson tries to spin this. The US vetoed the UN call for ceasefire.

If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to?

How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights? https://t.co/bXY99O3Wqp

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 15, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and congressional leaders are under mounting pressure to condemn Israeli violence in East Jerusalem and Gaza.

In a Friday opinion piece for the New York Times declaring “Palestinian lives matter,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued that the United States must stop being an apologist for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and “its undemocratic and racist behavior.”

“We must change course and adopt an even-handed approach, one that upholds and strengthens international law regarding the protection of civilians, as well as existing U.S. law holding that the provision of U.S. military aid must not enable human rights abuses,” wrote Sanders, a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

While some progressives in Congress—and Abdelhamid, who hopes to oust Maloney for the 2022 midterm elections—have spent the week calling for shifts in U.S. policy and denouncing abuses of Palestinians, others, including Biden, have repeatedly said that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

That sentiment was shared in a lengthy statement from Maloney on Thursday, which Abdelhamid posted on Twitter with her own statement.

“No one should be subject to an onslaught of rocket fire, and Israel has a right to defend herself and her people,” Maloney said in part.

Unlike Representative Maloney, I don’t believe that Israel — or any country — should receive a blank check funded by American taxpayers to use in a way that violates our values and basic human rights. https://t.co/JQQx12uaJv pic.twitter.com/ikKKSXubs4

— Rana Abdelhamid (@RanaForCongress) May 14, 2021

Maloney also said that “the current situation in Israel and Gaza is untenable and unacceptable and every life is valuable. Too many lives have been lost—including Israeli and Palestinian children—and we need to restore calm.”

The longtime congresswoman added that she remains “a strong supporter of security aid for Israel” as well as “unreservedly supportive of and committed to a two-state solution and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.”

Justice Democrats, which has endorsed Abdelhamid, tweeted Maloney’s statement Friday afternoon along with a link to a fundraising page for her challenger, writing: “Donate to @RanaForCongress for progressive change.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar just called Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu an “ethno-nationalist” on the floor of the House.

— Colin Kalmbacher (@colinkalmbacher) May 13, 2021

“This is our businesses. The United States must acknowledge its role in the injustice and human rights violations of Palestinians. This is not about both sides. This is about an imbalance of power.” @AOC tonight on the House floor pic.twitter.com/EruMXgNLvK

— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) May 13, 2021

The child of working-class Egyptian immigrants, Abdelhamid navigated post-9/11 New York City as a young Muslim. When she was 16 years old, a man on the street tried to tear off her hijab in broad daylight. Abdelhamid later founded a nonprofit that, in her words, “has helped train thousands of women around the world in self-defense, anti-hate crime advocacy, and emotional healing work.”

Abdelhamid is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and supports the Green New Deal; Medicare for All; Covid-19 relief and recovery for her disproportionately impacted community; investments in public education; safeguarding immigrant and voting rights; U.S. foreign policy rooted in human rights; and increased efforts to ensure gender, housing, economic, and racial justice.

“No one who has challenged Maloney in the past has run a truly progressive campaign and offered a clear contrast to her,” the 28-year-old, who was born after Maloney entered Congress, told The Nation earlier this year. “And I think I’ll be able to do that.”

This article is from Common Dreams.

Consortium News

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