10 Most Shameless Ways American Politicians Are Pandering to Israel
As Israeli bombs have rained down on the Gaza Strip, the streets of major American cities have witnessed thousands of people coming out to protest the attack. But one place where there is virtually no dissent is the halls of power in the nation’s capitol.
Almost every single elected official in Washington has come out in full support of Israel over the past three weeks as the Israeli military pressed a bloody offensive across Gaza that has killed well over 1,500 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
With each passing day, Israeli military operations perpetrate new horrors in Gaza. One day it is the bombing of Gaza’s main power plant. The next day it is the shelling of a United Nations school that kills 16 civilians who thought they were in a safe place. But the U.S. political class--save for the exceptions of Reps. Keith Ellison and Jim Moran, who have issued calls for cease-fires--doesn’t say a word of protest. In mid-July, the Senate, by a vote of 100-0, passed a resolution supporting the Israeli assault. The bill did not mention Palestinian deaths at all.
Eager for campaign donations from the Israel lobby and wary of provoking controversy, Senators and Congressional representatives have fallen over themselves to support Israel’s attack.
Here are 10 of the most shameless statements from politicians, both liberals and conservatives, supporting Israel.
1. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on “human shields.” The Florida chairwoman of the House’s Middle East subcommittee introduced fact-free legislation denouncing Hamas’ use of “human shields” during the conflict in Gaza. It passed by unanimous consent.
After the bill passed the House, Ros-Lehtinen said that Hamas “uses Palestinian men, women and children as human shields in violation of international humanitarian law by placing its missile batteries in densely populated areas and near schools, near hospitals, near mosques.” The trouble is that, as Amnesty International said, there is no “evidence at this point that Palestinian civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current hostilities to ‘shield’ specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks.” Amnesty’s assertion was echoed by BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who wrote, “I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.”
It’s true that Hamas and other militant groups fire from within Gaza’s civilian areas. But that is how many guerilla armies fight--and doing so does not meet the international legal definition of what a “human shield” is.
2. Ted Deutch on “human shields.” The co-author of the House resolution on Hamas and its alleged use of “human shields” was this Florida Congressman. He also repeated the Israeli government’s incessant claims that Hamas used “human shields.”
“It is Hamas who uses its own people as human shields to protect those rocket launchers. The use of civilians to protect military objectives is a direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields is deplorable and should be condemned by any nation that values human rights,” the Florida Democrat claimed.
What both Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen aren’t saying is that, while there is no proof of Hamas using “human shields,” there is incontrovertible proof that Israel has. In June 2013, a UN report accused Israel of using Palestinian children as human shields. And other human rights groups have also documented how Israel uses human shields. A B’Tselem report from 2002 denounced Israel’s use of the “neighbor procedure” in which Palestinians who are neighbors of suspected militants are forced to go into their neighbors’ home to find out whether it is bobby-trapped with explosives.
3. Cory Booker blames Hamas for Palestinian civilian casualties. The famous New Jersey Democrat has always been a staunch pro-Israel voice and is good friends with the right-wing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
Speaking on the Senate floor on July 29, Booker said that Hamas is “willing to put innocents in harms way, causing death and destruction within their own communities, to their own children, to their hospitals and to their schools. They are in the interest of racking up casualties.” This is, quite simply, blaming the victim. It is Israeli bombs that are killing the majority of Palestinian civilians--not Hamas.
In the same speech, Booker also claimed that Hamas is not a “democratically elected organization.” But in 2006, Hamas did win democratic elections to represent Palestinians.
4. Chuck Schumer urges “no ceasefire.” The U.S. government has been feverishly working for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. But Democratic pro-Israel hawk Chuck Schumer wants none of that.
Speaking at a rally supporting Israel in New York on July 28th, Senator Schumer said: “We cannot have any ceasefire until Israel destroys Hamas’ weapons, tunnels and weapons.” That’s a recipe for more bloodshed.
5. Eliot Engel lauds Israeli “warnings” before bombings. Another hawkish pro-Israel Democrat has been busy praising Israel’s battle tactics. On the floor of the House on July 30th, Engel said: “When Israel acts to defend itself, it does everything it can to warn citizens—civilians—and minimize loss of life. Israel warns Palestinians ahead of time, going so far as to say specifically where an airstrike is going to occur.”
While Israel has dropped leaflets urging Palestinians to flee their homes, the places civilians flee too are often unsafe. For instance, Israel has hit United Nations-run schools--which was thought to be a safe haven--multiple times, and in one confirmed case they killed 16 civilians. Over 40 percent of Gaza is off-limits for civilians trying to protect themselves from Israeli fire.
Another Israeli “warning” tactic is what the army calls a “knock on the roof” tactic, which is a less-lethal missile hitting the roof of a home, which warns the inhabitants to flee. But Palestinians have been killed by these “warning” missiles. Four Palestinian children playing on the roof of a home in Gaza were slain by a “knock on the roof.”
6. Lindsey Graham compares Hamas to al Qaeda. On Fox News, the South Carolina senator said that he wants “the world to know who Hamas is.” But in the same appearance, Graham took viewers a step back from understanding who Hamas is by saying that the group is “a terrorist organization who wants for Israel what Al Qaeda wants for us.”
Hamas and Al Qaeda are two wholly different groups with wholly different goals. While Hamas has praised Al Qaeda’s actions in the past, Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist group that wants an end to Israeli repression. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, advocates for a caliphate, or an Islamic state spanning large amounts of territory. And Hamas, unlike Al Qaeda, has never attacked a nation outside of Israel.
7. President Obama says “no nation” would live under constant missiles. President Barack Obama, like most presidents before him, has come out for Israel during the current crisis. On July 17th, Obama said: “There's no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.”
He was referring to Israel. But that statement should hold true for all peoples--including the Palestinians, who have been living under deadly barrages of Israeli rockets and missiles for many years.
8. Bernie Sanders says Gaza is not on his mind. The Vermont Senator is a self-described socialist. And he is indeed a man of the left--except when it comes to Israel.
When The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak asked Sanders about the assault on Gaza, he only said, “that’s not where my mind is right now.”
9. Jerry Nadler calls a reporter an “ass” when asked about Gaza. Congressman Nadler is progressive on most issues--but like Sanders, not on Israel. He’s a staunch pro-Israel voice.
In a statement on July 14th, the Democratic Congressman suggested opposition to Israel was motivated by anti-Semitism. “Our enemies have sought the destruction of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Much of the opposition we are seeing to Israel and its policies, much of what you hear out there, is no more than a new face of a very, very old hatred of a very old evil,” he said.
But that’s not even the worst of it. Earlier this month, Nadler attended a New York City rally in support of Israel. He was asked by journalist Michael Tracey about whether the U.S. government, which arms Israel, bears any responsibility for civilian deaths in Gaza. Nadler called Tracey an “ass” and “stormed away,” according to Tracey.
10. Ted Cruz on an “economic boycott.” The Texas Senator wants to run for president. So he’s made a beeline towards making the most absurd comments in support of Israel in recent weeks. He knows supporting Israel, no matter what it does, is a sure path towards cultivating support in a Republican Party rife with right-wing pro-Israel donors and supporters of Israeli policy.
There has been the usual statement of support for Israel’s right to “defend” itself. But there was also the insinuation that President Obama was launching an economic boycott of Israel.
The context to the charge was a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision on July 22 to ban all U.S. flights to Israel after a Palestinian militant-fired rocket hit a mile from Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. It was lifted 36 hours later--but not before Cruz raised hell about it.
“Aiding Hamas while simultaneously isolating Israel does two things. One, it helps our enemy. Two, it hurts our ally,” said Cruz, indicating the U.S. government that arms and protects Israel is also helping a U.S.-designated terrorist group. “The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.”