As she wooed the New York vote, Hillary Clinton chose to pen a Passover address to Jewish communities globally, published in Haaretz. In her piece, Clinton claims to impart wisdom drawn from parallels she sees between the lessons from the Book of Exodus with current challenges being faced by Israel, and apparently thus, by default, all Jews across the world.
The title to the piece – “Fighting Oppression, Inequality and Injustice on Passover”– should be a dead giveaway to the preachy nature of the message. And yet for all her worldly wisdom, it is the Former Secretary of State’s willful ignorance of the realities of life for Palestinians and the direct implications of Israeli policies fostering this reality, that shines through strongest.
One can only wonder, for example, at her attempt to draw a parallel between the persecution of the Israelites by Pharoah, and the efforts of the Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) Movement. She states that restrictions on the Israelites’ “right to worship as they chose” are being reincarnated in the form of “efforts to malign and isolate the Jewish people” through the BDS movement, which she calls “alarming.” Like a number of her counterparts in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, Clinton appears to be uneducated on the mandate of the BDS campaign, which targets not the religious practices or cultural identity of Jews, but takes issue with the complacency of global corporations with policies, laws and structural and systemic actions sanctioned by the state of Israel that actualize and reinforce the occupation, rape, and ruin of Palestine. She fails to call out the injustice in business activity taking place on illegally occupied Palestinian land, or the countless environmental violations strategically impacting yet more Palestinian territory (such as in the case of the village of Tulkarm and the Israeli agrochemical firm Geshuri), or even to question the ethics of contravening international law in labeling practices for goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements, and by exploiting Palestinian labourers at that. Instead she paints a dangerously inaccurate image of BDS as a movement, proffering racial and religious persecution of any and all Jews alike, reducing its push for conscientious consumerism to anti-Semitism.
Clinton goes on to rightly tie anti-Semitic incidents witnessed in Europe to intolerance and anti-religious sentiment. Where her discussion of intolerance fails however is in her direct avoidance of criticizing Israel’s own poor record on religious freedom. Can she be given the benefit of doubt on this one? Perhaps, seeing that the American state body dedicated to analyzing global religious persecution and defending freedom of religion, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has not once, in its 20 year existence, issued a report on the state of religious freedom in Israel. But one does not need to be Secretary of State to see that the Israeli state policy and legislative framework are rife with discriminatory approaches towards the Muslim, Christian and Druze minorities that collectively constitute nearly a quarter of its population – not to mention the violations towards Muslim and Christian holy sites and infringements on religious practice that are routine and arguably encouraged in Jerusalem and all other occupied areas of the Holy Land. If her mission is to stand up for oppressed minorities, Clinton is certainly doing the Israeli ones a disservice.
Clinton concludes with a reminder that slavery and oppression are still very much alive. She urges, “this Pesach, let’s continue fighting all forms of oppression, inequality and injustice. Let’s take a page from Moses and Aaron, and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” She discusses sexual slavery in India. She connects Jewish and American values in the need to deliver help and hope to the oppressed. Yet in her discussion of the need to “never forget to keep drawing attention to the plight of millions of people still in need of their own deliverance,” not once does Clinton mention the millions of Palestinians forcibly displaced over the course of the better part of a century to make way for the Jewish state. In fact, the word Palestine fails to surface altogether in her writing. She proselytizes about the prophets who stood up in the face of oppression, yet doesn’t speak of the dehumanizing checkpoints, the encroaching settlements, the walls and fences, the segregated roads and hospital wards, or even the structural, political discrimination faced by Palestinian Israelis.
Brazenly, she signs off with “They are out there, waiting for us.”
Pray tell, Mrs.Clinton, just who might they be? Do tell, where is it that they wait?