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Democrats Are Cowards in the Face of Israel's Brutality

Democrats have silenced dissent and offered unflinching support for Israeli actions, including gross violations of international law.

The Democratic leadership's strident support for the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip underscores how the Democrats suffer from the same illusions as the outgoing Republican administration: that placing an Arab territory under debilitating sanctions that punish the population as a whole, bombarding heavily populated civilian areas -- resulting in widespread casualties among innocent people -- and invading and occupying territories with a long history of resistance to outsiders will somehow lead to greater moderation from those afflicted. 

The reality is that Israel's war against Hamas and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip is no more likely to result in more rational and compromising positions from the Palestinian side than the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel will lead to more rational and compromising positions from the Israelis. 

As a result, the hard-line militaristic position of the Democratic Party does not bode well for a more enlightened Middle East policy after eight disastrous years under President George W. Bush. 

On Capitol Hill, resolutions are being prepared in the House and Senate to defend the Bush administration's policy of unconditional support for the Israeli assaults, which as of this writing have led to the deaths of 500 people, at least one-quarter of whom were civilians. Unless there is widespread public opposition, it appears that the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats will vote along with their Republican colleagues in favor of these resolutions, thereby giving Israel a blank check to continue the carnage and, as a result, give Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups the excuse to continue their attacks against Israeli civilians as well. 

Democrats Goad Israel Into War 

In June, 38 of 49 Democratic senators -- including Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton of New York -- wrote a letter (PDF) to President Bush that Americans for Peace Now, a moderate Zionist group, warned would build "a defense, in advance, for a large Israeli military offensive in Gaza." The letter also urged the Bush administration to block any U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel, claiming that United Nations opposition to Israeli attacks against crowded urban areas constituted a refusal to "acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense." An almost identical letter in the House, drafted by House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., received the signatures of 150 of the body's 230 Democrats. 

Americans for Peace Now noted that such an Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip would likely result in large-scale civilian casualties. In apparent anticipation of the large numbers of Palestinian deaths that would result from such military operations in the Gaza Strip, the House passed a resolution (PDF) in March, during an outbreak of fighting, that claimed, "Those responsible for launching rocket attacks against Israel routinely embed their production facilities and launch sites amongst the Palestinian civilian population, utilizing them as human shields." The resolution goes on to specifically condemn "the use of innocent Palestinian civilians as human shields by those who carry out rocket and other attacks" and yet again makes note of Palestinians who "continue to be utilized as human shields by terrorist organizations." 

But according to Joe Stork of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, while Hamas failed to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians in the densely populated Gaza Strip, the watchdog group had found no instances of Hamas actually using human shields in the legally defined sense of deliberately using civilians as a means of deterring counterattacks. Despite my contacting the offices of more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress who supported the resolution -- all of whom are members of the so-called Progressive Caucus -- none of them could provide any examples of Hamas actually using human shields. It appears that the Democrats' goal in pushing through this resolution was to convince their constituents that it was the Palestinians, not the Israelis who were attacking them, who were responsible for civilian casualties and who would likewise be responsible for the far greater number of civilian casualties that would inevitably result from the Israeli bombardment and invasion which was to commence later that year. 

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