News & Politics

Why Did Congress Shamelessly Pander to Israel?

Our readers respond to Stephen Zunes' article on the recent Senate and House resolutions praising Israeli conduct of the war in Gaza.

Last week, soon after the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups condemned Israel for blocking deliveries of vital aid for wounded civilians in Gaza, and with the Palestinian death toll at 700, the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions that not only blamed Palestinians for the bloodbath, but praised Israel for its conduct of the assault.

The House resolution, co-sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., commends Israel for bringing "humanitarian aid to Gaza with hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance and numerous ambulances entering the Gaza Strip since the current round of fighting began."

Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who co-sponsored the Senate resolution with Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., statedbefore the vote, "The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would." Reid added: "When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel … "

In a recent article on AlterNet titled, "Virtually the Entire Dem-Controlled Congress Supports Israel's War Crimes in Gaza," Stephen Zunes, chairman of the Middle Eastern studies department at the University of San Francisco, argued that the resolutions not only fly in the face of international law, but undermine core humanitarian principles established as far back as the Magna Carta.

Zunes writes that nothing Hamas has or has not done would "absolve Israel of its responsibility under international humanitarian law for the far greater civilian deaths its armed forces have inflicted upon the Palestinians in Gaza. Indeed, it has long been a principle of Western jurisprudence that someone who is the proximate cause of a crime cannot claim innocence simply because of the influence of another party."

Zunes also calls out progressives for demonizing American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Republicans, while letting Democrats off the hook -- after all, the resolutions were co-sponsored by Reid and Pelosi -- and points out that until otherwise-liberal politicians are held accountable for supporting Israeli militarism, the United States will continue to pursue policies at odds with international law and commonly accepted principles of human rights.

In response to the article, AlterNet readers voiced some strong opinions about our government's unqualified support for the Israeli war on Gaza.

Dr. Brian marvels at unprincipled stances taken by U.S. politicians:

I've treated the injured under fire and been arrested and nearly executed for it. So when I see my colleagues in Palestine, both expats and Palestinian, working around the clock and in danger to save lives, while Israel uses U.S. weaponry to extinguish lives, I marvel at the diametric opposition of ethical principles.

  …

Our government tells us its objective is to eliminate terrorism, but who can doubt that the carnage in Gaza juxtaposed with its gleeful endorsement by our government will swell the ranks of angry young men seeking revenge?

Alex Lawyer agrees, pointing out that the unequivocal and vocal support American politicians give Israel is not only unethical, but plays to the advantage of so-called terrorist groups:

Our Congress has endorsed the rule of law: the law of the jungle, red in tooth and claw. As the Athenians told the Melians, "The strong do what they will, and the weak endure what they must."
This isn't new. Both the U.S. and Israel have long been scofflaws and hypocrites. A look at human rights treaties reveals that they are usually in the company of regimes they otherwise deplore.
Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Jaamat Islamia and Hamas must be absolutely giddy at the public relations and recruiting coup we have handed them.

But James Allen argues that in condemning the atrocities in Gaza, many liberals go too far in the other direction and wrongly exonerate Hamas.

I continue to be astounded by "liberals" who treat bomb and rocket attacks against Israelis as justice, while condemning Israeli retaliation. There were 2,117 deaths at Pearl Harbor; to accept the peculiar calculus of anti-Israelites, U.S. was morally bound to terminate its war against Japan after the first 2,117 deaths.
Poles lost land to Russia in the aftermath of WW II, yet we don't hear of Polish suicide bombers. Germans lost land. Etc., etc. etc. Only the Palestinians have adopted bloodlust as their guiding philosophy; why is this so attractive to "liberals"?  

Zunes piece responds:

What liberals do you know of who believe bomb and rocket attacks against Israelis are "justice?" This is a red herring. I, and everyone else I know who has written articles on this Web site, condemn both sides for attacking civilians.

DCostello2 agrees with Zunes:

Why is it that when one speaks out against Israel, it is immediately thought that one supports Hamas? Did you speak out against the illegal and immoral U.S. war on Iraq? If so, does that mean you support al-Qaida? Why does Israel get to benefit from this kind of twisted logic?

Some commenters wonder if most U.S. politicians even know very much about the conflict:

Freelyb writes:

How many of them really know what has gone on over time between these two factions? How much research do they do on all these things that they influence so strongly? I'd really like to know ...

Particle paints our politicians as not only ignorant, but foolish and cowardly:

No doubt a few are ignorant clods. More just pander to ignorant clods. Probably more than a few have been following this for years, but are either biased or simply too cowardly to speak up.
I would guess that there is probably a sense in Congress that Israel will have its desperate way one way or the other. But in the long run that it (Israel) will be doomed by issues that boil down to geography. It's all a sort of mad, hopeless bravura. Mad to the point of being a sick and archaic opera played out by played-out thugs and fools.

So how can Americans keep politicians accountable? tony_opmoc has one idea:

Virtually the entire Dem-controlled Congress should be tried for war crimes against humanity.

Erin suggests a more realistic route:

I second that proposal. But since that won't happen, lets vote all of them, except the five who voted against it, out at the next election.

jreinhart1 points out that our politicians’ unethical positions hardly end with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

America has opened up two illegal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has blatantly forced regime change of other countries, covert or overt, for the last 110 years, since the Spanish-American War. Until the chambers of Congress and the executive office are cleaned out, America's underbelly is a filth-ridden hidden government working for the special interests on K Street, and the Department of Defense is anything but.
Obama must flush out criminals from the last executive office, or he becomes nothing better than what was there previously. We must take the log out of our own eyes before we pick out the twigs from other nations. Otherwise, America is nothing but a nation led by hypocrites.

 

Tana Ganeva is an editorial assistant at AlterNet.