Hillary Clinton Attacks Sanders and American Progressives With Message on Why Palestinians Don't Deserve Human Rights
Hillary Clinton has made her “unbreakable bond” with Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a centerpiece of her presidential campaign, repeatedly echoing his calls for an escalated crackdown on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
So it was no surprise when she recently took to the debate stage, and to CNN, to criticize rival Bernie Sanders for his insistence that Israel’s 51-day military assault on Gaza, which killed 1,462 civilians during the summer of 2014, was disproportionate, instead blaming these killings solely on Hamas and even on dead innocents.
In an article published Sunday night in the Times of Israel titled, “Fighting oppression, inequality and injustice on Passover,” Clinton appears to have taken pandering and distortion to new levels by invoking the Jewish holiday to call for escalated attacks on BDS and the further denial of Palestinian human rights. “I wanted to offer a few of my own thoughts on ancient lessons that still hold wisdom for today’s world,” writes Clinton, invoking the story told in the haggadah, which she describes as “a tale of a people who, sustained by fortitude and faith, escaped slavery and reached their freedom.”
In the third paragraph, she writes that the "Pharaoh," who “denied the Israelites the right to worship as they chose,” can be compared to the BDS movement. “International efforts to malign and isolate the Jewish people—like the alarming ‘BDS’ movement—are gaining steam,” she writes, offering a sweeping explanation of contested religious interpretations and histories in an apparent bid to bolster her campaign ahead of the New York primary.
BDS is a human rights movement modeled after grassroots tactics employed to topple apartheid in South Africa. Initiated by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005, the campaign has supporters around the world, including numerous Jews.
"It feels more that a little galling to be given such a politically cynical Torah lesson by a candidate running for the highest office of the world’s largest superpower,” Brant Rosen, co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council and rabbi of the congregation Tzedek Chicago, told AlterNet. “I’d say she’s got her Pharaoh all wrong: America and Israel are the overwhelmingly more powerful and oppressive parties in this equation.”
Lynn Gottlieb, who serves on the JVP rabbinical council and was the first woman rabbi in the Jewish Renewal movement, told AlterNet she agrees. “BDS is a series of nonviolent tactics that target state policies and corporations that are profiting from harming other human beings through massive land theft, denial of freedom of movement, and many other violations of human rights that Clinton knows very well,” she said.
“While Hillary Clinton has the right to interpret a story,” Gottlieb added, “she’s very motivated by something she’s going to profit from.”
Clinton went on to invoke the Torah in a bid to support Netanyahu, the most right-wing administration Israel has ever seen.
“The third and most important lesson of the Book of Exodus comes at the end,” she writes. “So that they would never again be subjugated, the Jewish people arrive to their own homeland. I’ve proudly stood with the State of Israel for my entire career, making sure it always has the resources it needs to maintain its qualitative military edge. I also worked to ensure funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system and saw its effectiveness first-hand when I worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu to negotiate a cease-fire in Gaza.”
Samantha Brotman, a Jewish-American who organizes in solidarity with Palestinians, told AlterNet, “This kind of appropriation of the Passover story for political ends is crass and heavy-handed. What is actually alarming is how tightly presidential candidates are clinging to this kind of blind support for Israel.”
Clinton’s statements are particularly notable giving mounting attacks against Bernie Sanders’ Jewish identity by Israel supporters, including Israeli Knesset member Michael Oren’s recent accusation that Sanders is guilty of “blood libel.”
In her article, Clinton takes a direct swipe at Sanders’ call for the U.S. to be a neutral broker between Israel and Palestine, writing, “Israel’s safety is simply non-negotiable.”
Growing numbers of Jews are speaking out against dangerous efforts to conflate all Jewish people with the state of Israel.
Meanwhile, there are mounting signs that communities of color across the United States are increasingly identifying with the plight of Palestinians. A Pew Research Poll conducted during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza found that blacks and Latinos were far more likely to hold Israel responsible for the violence than their white counterparts.
“The political landscape is changing, Jewish Americans are increasingly distancing themselves from Israel, and the candidates ought to change with us,” said Brotman. “Clinton's crude pandering not only shows how out of touch she is, but also reveals her complete indifference towards Palestinian lives.”