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Gaza massacre ends American political oath: Israel support is bipartisan

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To be in Israel during a historic massacre, as I was on Monday, is a special experience, and one whose meaning will sink in for a while. I wonder what I will remember in five years’ time, or ten.

This is what I can tell you two days later. All that afternoon in the gathering and protests in the hot sun near the new embassy in South Jerusalem, the latest casualty figures were coming over the phones. “Did you hear, there’s a sea of blood at the border,” a friend had called to inform me at 4, and subsequent texts brought the numbers. 25. “37 dead so far. This country is irredeemable,” wrote my friend. It seemed impossible that the number would grow and yet it did. It was over 50 by the time the protests wound down.

That night he and I went to the big West Jerusalem hotels. The King David and the David Citadel. The ones where important people stay. We saw Norm Coleman the former Minnesota senator eating with a group. We saw Josh Block of the Israel Project chatting with a tall man vaguely familiar from Zionist events. We saw the Israeli insider David Weinberg talking with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach; and I had a discussion with Boteach calling on him to criticize anything in Israel’s conduct that day (a conversation that he requested be off the record).

As my voice rose challenging him, I was struck how empty the lobby was. The cast of characters was paltry at best. That day had been one of Israel’s great victories, diplomatically, and you couldn’t see a Democratic politician anywhere. We said a week ago when Trump tore up the Iran deal that he had made Israel a political issue at last in the United States, and the lesson was clear in the King David and David Citadel lobbies. The Republicans love Israel and Israel loves Trump, and good for them. Two toxic brands are having a merger. As this gentleman who came to celebrate the embassy move said so eloquently:

Man celebrating move of embassy to Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. Tshirt says, “Make America a Shithole. Vote Democrat.”

But the Israel lobby’s oath, that Israel must remain a bipartisan issue, echoed from AIPAC to J Street, is broken. Bernie Sanders’s brave criticism of Israel in his debate with Hillary Clinton during the New York primary two years ago – “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time” — already seems timid. The Republicans own Israel but it’s going to be a hot potato among Democrats. The massacre has done that.

The view I had of the lobby was pathetic. Not even a paper tiger, but a bunch of old right wingers. Boteach once was Samantha Power’s ambassador to the lobby; she had to reach out to him just five years ago to get her job at the U.N. Now he’s co-writing books with Pamela Anderson. Did these people ever imagine that the opening of a US Embassy in Jerusalem would be such a bust? With a massacre going first in all the headlines? Today’s news that Andrew Cuomo has postponed his trip to Israel is evidence that Democrats are afraid of the volatile political potential of the massacre. Even CNN is saying that the issue is going to be debated in the Democratic primaries.

Most of all that night I thought of the incredible courage of the young people of Gaza who died on the day that we were protesting and visiting lobbies. You can say they had nothing to live for, but don’t tell me they were controlled. They made decisions that day to place their lives at risk to demand their freedom. I felt their power lapping among the stale suits in the lobby.

Thanks to Adam Horowitz and Scott Roth. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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39 Responses

  1. on May 16, 2018, 5:25 pm

    You may be right about the problem the Palestinian cause may be for the democrats.

  2. JLewisDickerson on May 16, 2018, 5:42 pm

    RE: Man celebrating move of embassy to Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. Tshirt says, “Make America a Shithole. Vote Democrat.” ~ photo caption

    MY COMMENT: I certainly wouldn’t want to be caught walking of that guy’s grass lawn. He’s almost as scary looking as I am. And that’s very, very scary!

    John Caldwell Calhoun –

    ■ John C. Calhoun photographed by Mathew Brady in 1849

    • Misterioso on May 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

      @JLewisDickerson, et al

      For the record:

      “‘Appalled’ Trudeau calls for investigation of Canadian doctor shot in Gaza”
      By Mike Blanchfield in News, Politics, The National Observer, May 17/18

      “Justin Trudeau added his voice Wednesday to the calls for an independent investigation into the shootings by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border that killed 59 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more during Monday’s mass protests.

      “The prime minister said he was appalled by the shooting of a Canadian doctor who was trying to help wounded protesters in Gaza on Monday.

      “In a statement, Trudeau described the reported use of excessive force and live ammunition as ‘inexcusable.’

      “‘We are appalled that Dr. Tarek Loubani, a Canadian citizen, is among the wounded — along with so many unarmed people, including civilians, members of the media, first responders, and children,’ he said.

      “‘We are engaging with Israeli officials to get to the bottom of these events.’

      “Loubani, an emergency physician at Ontario’s London Health Sciences Centre and at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, says he was shot in both legs Monday even though his team wore high-visibility jackets that identified them as medical staff.

      “In a statement Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Ottawa said Israel’s ‘position regarding Hamas and recent events in Gaza is clear.’

      “‘We have asked Jerusalem for instructions, as this is a prime ministerial issue,’ Itay Tavor wrote.

      “Trudeau called for a thorough examination of the possible use of both excessive force and the incitement to violence.

      “‘It is imperative we establish the facts of what is happening in Gaza,’ he said.

      “Germany, Belgium and Ireland and several UN Security Council members have also called
      for an investigation into Monday’s carnage. But the council has taken no action because the United States, a permanent member, says Israel acted with ‘restraint.’

      “Monday’s violence erupted as the Trump administration followed through on its campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

      “Canada and its other major allies do not support the embassy move. The government says the future of the Jerusalem needs to be part of a broader negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians — a process going nowhere at the moment.”

  3. amigo on May 16, 2018, 6:14 pm

    “Most of all that night I thought of the incredible courage of the young people of Gaza who died on the day that we were protesting and visiting lobbies. ” PW

    Indeed , one can only be humbled by their courage.

    Young Men and Women , running forward and risking being shot and then retreating , only to race back again and face the same risk to their lives.

    Truly an spectacular display of bravery.

    Must have been humbling for the IDF cowards, hiding behind sand hills with their faces covered .

    Most moral army , my donkey.

  4. Keith on May 16, 2018, 6:47 pm

    PHIL- “I felt their power lapping among the stale suits in the lobby.”

    This is your idea of power? I could say more but not now. Maybe later. Maybe not. Maybe it will pass moderation. Maybe not.

  5. Donald on May 16, 2018, 7:20 pm

    You are way too optimistic. If the violence stops or goes back to the usual level where Israel shoots a farmer or fisherman now and then, the issue drops off the front pages very fast and everyone goes back to how evil Russians conspire to control everything. Nobody in mainstream liberal circles wants to talk about this.

    And if you read comments at the NYT, a great many support shooting Palestinians and blaming Hamas. There is another batch who seem blissfully unaware that the US bears any guilt for what is happening— they actually think that we Americans stand above the situation as impartial judges who try to be fair to both sides. It is understandable that they would think this, since virtually ever mainstream press outlet fills their heads with this nonsense.

  6. pabelmont on May 16, 2018, 7:23 pm

    I called Schumer’s office on 5/15 asking him to speak against the massacre and after my long impassioned “as an elderly Jew” speech, the pol’s assistant’s response was, s always, what’s your ZIP.

    • Kay24 on May 17, 2018, 6:13 am

      It was disheartening, although not surprising, to see Schumer, at the height of the massacre of Palestinians, say he applauds Trump for moving that embassy. I am appalled that we have politicians put their religion/loyalties/politics above human lives, justice, and democracy. We condemn nations we dislike about human rights violations, but do not utter a single word criticizing, or warning, Israel, when it slaughtered unarmed civilians, who are only asking for what is a basic human right – freedom from oppression, and for the land grabs to be stopped.

      That US Embassy is already covered in blood.

    • Kathleen on May 17, 2018, 8:14 am

      “what’s your ZIP” Always gets me too. Although periodically I can squeeze out more of a response just to satisfy my own needs to feel like it matters that I contact my Reps about issues.

      However so great that you called. Of course when you go stand in front of their offices, write a letter to local papers etc making Schumer’s complicity etc even more obvious it can have a cumulative effect. Although nothing is going to shake Schumer’s shameful resolve on this one. Still important to always make it endlessly public

      What do you think keeps him from getting that he is ultimately hurting his beloved Israel based on internationally recognized borders? What keeps him so willfully blind?

      • Xpat on May 17, 2018, 12:50 pm

        That’s easy. No Israelis have suffered even a scratch. It’s “only” dead Palestinians. Why should Schumer care about that?

  7. Citizen on May 16, 2018, 7:38 pm

    “Most of all that night I thought of the incredible courage of the young people of Gaza who died on the day”

    I for one, won’t forget them, as feeble as I am.

  8. Maghlawatan on May 16, 2018, 9:23 pm

    There is a lot of bronze age wisdom in Judaism. Stories from Persia about power and treachery became a Jewish Holiday. To remind the people. But the people lose their way and stray from the path of righteousness. they always do. They worship false gods like nukes. And they make bad calls. Boteach is playing a bit part in a Greek tragedy. He doesn’t realise . A huge sweep of history and he can’t change the ending.

    I know i shouldnt’ve did that
    I know its gon’ come right back
    I know its gon’ destroy everything I made
    Its probably gon’ get ya boy sent away
    But this game I play, ain’t no way to fix it
    Its inevitable –

    Now you’re
    When you should’ve scaled back,
    Now you’re
    Right into they lap
    Falling, they applaud and they screamin’ at the screen
    “Damn, you fucked up!” like your favorite Bible scene

  9. Marnie on May 17, 2018, 12:07 am

    So good to know that a slaughter going on less than an hour from the zionist festival of fools didn’t diminish Norm Coleman’s appetite for food.

    The grumpy man with the shirt about making amerikkka a shithole – already done fool.

    • on May 17, 2018, 9:24 am

      “Zionist festival of fools” say that ten times real fast

      Love the phrase !!!

  10. petersz on May 17, 2018, 6:23 am

    Come on tell us what Boteach said!

  11. Kathleen on May 17, 2018, 8:23 am

    Phil hope you keep it coming.

    Those “stale suits” can still throw a deadly punch to life, limb and justice.

    The determination, fury and grit of those who are protesting, hurling rocks (ok it is not totally non violent) but who can blame those who throw rocks at Israeli soldiers wielding high powered weapons protecting land that they stole from you. What would you do?

    My favorite public take down of Norm Coleman.

    ” You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported”

  12. Citizen on May 17, 2018, 9:10 am

    Why Bibi Netanyahu embraces anti-Semites and ignores the Palestinians: via @slate (He likes the status quo as it secures #Israel, not necessarily world jewry)

  13. Maghlawatan on May 17, 2018, 9:32 am

    It shouldn’t be about the massacre. What is truly evil is the system that Israel runs
    WikiLeaks: Israel aimed to keep Gaza economy on brink of collapse
    Cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says Israeli officials wanted Gaza’s economy ‘functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.’
    By Reuters Tags: Gaza
    Israel told U.S. officials in 2008 it would keep Gaza’s economy “on the brink of collapse” while avoiding a humanitarian crisis, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by a Norwegian daily on Wednesday.

    Three cables cited by the Aftenposten newspaper, which has said it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks, showed that Israel kept the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv briefed on its internationally criticized blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    The territory, home to 1.3 million Palestinians, is run by the Islamist Hamas group, which is shunned by the West over its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence or accept existing interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.

    “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” one of the cables read.

    Israel wanted the coastal territory’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”, according to the Nov. 3, 2008 cable.

    In a speech in January 2008, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to spell out that policy, which has since been eased in the wake of an international outcry over a deadly Israeli raid last May on a Turkish aid ship trying to break the blockade.

    “We will not harm the supply of food for children, medicine for those who need it and fuel for institutions that save lives,” Olmert said at the time.

    “But there is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards (at southern Israel),” he added.

    Israel says it has significantly relaxed the blockade since May, with dozens of truckloads of goods entering the territory daily. Aid organizations have said shipments should be increased further.

    Palestinians say impoverished Gaza remains effectively a “prison” sealed off by Israel, and have called for an opening to allow normal trade and other links with the world.

  14. Maghlawatan on May 17, 2018, 9:52 am

    1. Nir Barkat gave a few numbers at about 2:35 in this 2011 interview, average income for:
    – a jew in Jerusalem: $16,000
    – a jew in central Israel: $24,000
    – a Palestinian living in Jerusalem: $4,000
    – a West Bank Palestinian: $800

    Gaza is around $300

    • eljay on May 17, 2018, 1:51 pm

      || Maghlawatan: This is also worth reading ||

      … When asked about Israel’s deadly attacks on unarmed protesters one colonel responded, “It doesn’t matter if someone is carrying flowers if he’s tearing down the fence. That’s a violent threat.” …

      And that’s how Zionists like jon s – comforted by their hateful and immoral belief that not-innocent people deserve to be massacred – sleep at night.

      • Maghlawatan on May 17, 2018, 2:14 pm

        Eljay, it has to be linked to money. In 2011

        average income for:
        – a jew in Jerusalem: $16,000
        – a jew in central Israel: $24,000
        – a Palestinian living in occupied Jerusalem: $4,000
        – a West Bank Palestinian: $800
        Gaza might have been $300

        The cruelty and murder are ultimately about money. In a free market a mediocrity like our history teacher could get a 40% pay cut. Israelis will do anything to keep Gaza in chains.

        Shir Hever wrote a super book on the political economy of the occupation.

  15. Kathleen on May 17, 2018, 1:45 pm

    Check this out.

    I think Camera’s Cspan watch is no more. Or they somehow have me blocked. Liked to check once in awhile to see if they were continuing to document my phone calls and many others. They had me labeled as “anti Israel” not “anti semitic” It really pisses them off when many people call with comments based on facts which has happened more and more over the last 20 years.

  16. German Lefty on May 17, 2018, 4:25 pm

    Take a look at this article:
    Democrat Scott Wallace Gave $300K To Pro-BDS Groups

  17. jon s on May 17, 2018, 5:32 pm

    A Hamas spokesperson claimed today that 50 of the men killed at the fence on Monday were members of the Ezaddin al Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, disguised as civilians. So much for “unarmed nonviolent civilians.”
    As for not being controlled, look at how Hamas turned it off the next day, just like that.
    I hope that Phil finds the time and energy to visit the area bordering with Gaza and meet some of the people in Sderot and Nahal Oz…

    • Mooser on May 17, 2018, 6:22 pm

      So even without weapons, their Hamas-ness made them violent terrorists?

      You’ve been trying to sell Hamas-is-the-boogeyman for years “Jon s”.

    • Mooser on May 17, 2018, 7:57 pm

      “I hope that Phil finds the time and energy to visit the area bordering with Gaza and meet some of the people in Sderot and Nahal Oz…” “Jon s”

      Give them a day’s notice so they get the costumes and props out of the trunks and rehearse the complicated “L’Chaim” scene. And there’s this little restaurant where they make a hummus which will totally change your thinking on I-P issues! They won’t tell what’s in it, or the secret of its rubicund tint.

    • Donald on May 17, 2018, 8:44 pm

      Why the hell would Phil want to meet people in Sderot? We can get plenty of disgusting callous rationalizations from creeps in blog comment sections.

      You are extremely willing to believe Hamas spokespeople when it suits you. Obviously Hamas wants to take credit. What does it look like if children die or have their legs so badly injured they need amputations if Hamas people hang back? Any oh so clever remarks to make about the women and children and medics shot? Well, they are all Hamas anyway, so you are fine with killing or crippling them.

      • Mooser on May 17, 2018, 9:35 pm

        “Why the hell would Phil want to meet people in Sderot?”

        “Jon s” is certain meshpocha plus mishegos will never fail.

  18. echinococcus on May 17, 2018, 11:43 pm

    Is there a cure for hopeless optimism? If yes, it’s past time to get treatment.
    Now is the end of bipartisan support to Zionism, eh?
    Again. And again.
    Only that the Dim party is the main administrator of US Imperialism and part of the Zionist management.

    If you can imagine that it will ever change policy to conform to some of its starry-eyed peons, kindly provide a minimum of established data to support what on its face is utter nonsense.

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