As attention turns to the NY primary, the Democratic candidates are beginning to separate on the Israel issue. Let’s hope that their very real differences on the Palestinian question become politicized over the next three weeks, and voters are urged to choose between reflexive Israel support (Clinton) and criticism of the occupation (Sanders). Let’s hope the media points out that Clinton is to the right of even Donald Trump on this issue.
Some news on the New York race. The Times of Israel reports on a private gathering of rabbis with Bill Clinton earlier this week:
Former President Bill Clinton met with over 20 leading rabbis in the New York area to discuss his wife Hillary’s presidential campaign.
The meeting Tuesday in Midtown Manhattan was off the record and lasted for two hours, twice the amount of scheduled time. Participants would not discuss the content.
Bernie Sanders told a New York TV station that “we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.” (Thanks to Jewish Insider).
“I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, I have lived in Israel, I’m a strong defender of Israel,” he told NBC 4. “But let me also say this, I think we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the Palestinian people and I would hope very much that I could move us forward in what has been so intractable over the years, bringing Palestinians, bringing Israelis together, bringing peace finally to the Middle East.”
Two days ago Clinton sat down with Rachel Maddow and threw in a gratuitous Israel reference, and an Iran one too, in repudiating Donald Trump’s bigoted idea of barring all Muslims from coming to the United States:
We know if we’re going to defeat ISIS, which is a very high priority for us, for our partners in Europe and the Middle East, especially Israel and others. We have to form coalitions with predominantly Muslim nations.
I know how hard it is to form a coalition, I formed the coalition that imposed the sanctions on Iran. Got Russia, and China, and others to be part of it.
PS Israel is not all that concerned about ISIS; ISIS just confirms its contention that it lives in the most dangerous neighborhood in the world, and it compares Hamas to ISIS frequently.
Clinton has a high-profile downtown surrogate: playwright Tony Kushner is supporting her and defends her appearance at AIPAC. He appeared on Chris Hayes’s MSNBC show, and Hayes prompted Kushner, saying he has been “quite outspoken on Palestinian self-determination” and that Clinton’s AIPAC speech was “hawkish.” Kushner:
It was pretty much the speech that I would expect a Democratic serious nominee for the presidency to give to AIPAC. I suppose she might have not shown up as Sanders did… It’s enormously important I believe for the Jewish American vote to stay 75 percent Democrat, as it has for many many many decades, and I think that this is an enormously fraught issue and she is avoiding getting caught up in a debate that might do damage to her candidacy. I think she believes in diplomacy and she’ll pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the Middle East.
(Kushner expresses an interesting idea of Jewish political solidarity. I would guess that Kushner thinks that the liberal Jewish political presence on countless domestic issues, which has helped change the country in the last 50 years, outweighs its reactionary effect on Middle East policy. Many in the Palestinian solidarity camp would disagree, and would welcome a new left coalition of great diversity.)
Now here are two great attacks on Clinton’s pandering. Sandy Tolan in Truthdig says Clinton has gone “radical right” on Israel, to Donald Trump’s right. Some of his items, familiar to folks on our site but worth repeating:
An attack on Donald Trump from the right by denouncing Trump’s once-expressed wish to remain “neutral” over Israel/Palestine. “We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable,” Clinton told the AIPAC gathering
Unilateral condemnation of recent Palestinian aggression that has killed 28 Israelis. “Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home,” she said at AIPAC. “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence.” Yet she had not one word for the 188 Palestinians killed during the same period, some of them in extrajudicial executions by the Israeli military, including here, here and here.
Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, largely through condemnation of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a nonviolent movement to confront Israel’s human rights abuses through direct economic and political pressure. (Would she prefer suicide bombers and rockets?)…
Clinton’s big bankroller Haim Saban is teamed up with Sheldon Adelson to oppose BDS, and Clinton does his bidding:
with Saban’s $6.4 million destined for Clinton’s campaign war chest, the candidate wrote to her benefactor to express her “alarm” over BDS, “seeking your thoughts and recommendations” to “work together to counter BDS.”
She is attracting neoconservative donors:
it is not only Saban and fellow Hollywood titans Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg who are pouring their millions into Clinton’s campaign. Now neoconservative money is increasing for Clinton as well. Her hardline stance on Israel, combined with her history of advocating military intervention in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, has brought early endorsements from prominent neocons Robert Kagan, one of the architects of the Iraq war, and Max Boot, the superhawk who called Clinton “a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues.” This from a man who believes the U.S. should “unambiguously embrace its imperial role” around the world.
Henry Siegman echoes many of these criticisms in the National Interest. Then he explains that the stabbings are a consequence of the occupation that Hillary Clinton defends. No one has done more than Siegman to change the culture of the establishment when it comes to Palestinian human rights:
[Clinton] spoke at great length about Israeli fears and needs, and assured her audience that a White House meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be one of her first acts as president of the United States, should she win the coming presidential election.
Among the dangers from which Clinton promised to protect Israel is the “threat” of a Security Council resolution demanding an end to the half-century occupation of the West Bank….
In Clinton’s speech, in which she touched all the necessary pro-Israel buttons, she managed to avoid even a single sentence that acknowledges the subjugation, disenfranchisement and humiliation Palestinians have been subjected to in the half-century of Israel’s occupation…
Of course, Israel’s government must protect its citizens from such attacks. But if these “lone wolf” stabbings, mostly by young teenagers, are the consequence of the Palestinians’ endless imprisonment and Israel’s unrelenting theft of Palestinian territory, then Israel’s “obligation to protect” can be met only by ending the occupation.