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Israel-Palestine conflict ‘drives turmoil in the Middle East’ — Seth Moulton

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Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton is one of the most interesting candidates in the Democratic presidential field because as a former Marine officer who did several tours in the Middle East he claims foreign policy as a strength and he has taken some progressive stances on the Israel question. But he seems to be backing off on that criticism as he pursues the presidency.

Last year, Moulton was one of 30 or so co-sponsors of Rep. Betty McCollum’s historic bill to protect Palestinian human rights by stripping U.S. military aid from Israeli practices of child detention and interrogation. This year McCollum’s bill has 18 cosponsors, all progressives, including many politicians of color– and Moulton’s name is gone.

And Moulton had opposed anti-BDS legislation as an unconstitutional infringement of freedom of speech. Lately he was one of only 12 Democrats to sign on to a harsh Republican measure that failed that would have required some supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions aimed at Israel) to report that position to the IRS.

These stances suggest that Moulton is trying to get right with “the blob,” the foreign policy establishment, as he struggles to gain recognition (not to mention backers/donors) in the crowded Democratic field.

Moulton ought to know better. In this video apparently from a stop at the University of Iowa Law School in March, Moulton showed some sophistication about the conflict.

The conflict with the Palestinians drives so much of the turmoil in the Middle East. It was amazing going to a place like Iraq and hearing how much that influenced what Iraqis were thinking. So we should be doing every thing we can to resolve that peacefully. That means standing up for a two-state solution. That means standing up to Netanyahu who very clearly does not believe in a two state solution despite what he might say.

That kind of “linkage” between the conflict and “turmoil,” is today a heresy in mainstream foreign policy circles. You are not supposed to blame anything on the special relationship or on Israel’s human rights record. The Arab world has problems because of its own political culture, and because it’s a tough neighborhood, etc.

In the same video, Moulton calls for “recognizing the rule of law” and opposes the move of the embassy to Jerusalem — “not a wise move… very provocative.” He also opposes BDS but would not limit people’s rights to embrace that position, because that’s unconstitutional.

I don’t think we should be pursuing that [BDS] as a country. But there was an anti-BDS bill that came before Congress, and a lot of Democrats very quickly signed on to it, and it violated the constitution, it violated free speech. I didn’t sign on to it. I got a whole lot of heat for it at first, but a whole lot of Democrats began taking their names off it.

Again, Moulton seems to have flipflopped. His office did not respond to my request for comment.

Three weeks ago, Moulton sent a long and somewhat defensive email to Jewish Insider to lay out his support for Israel and to justify his support last year for Rep. Betty McCollum’s important bill regarding the abuse of Palestinian children.

A 2013 UNICEF report showed that Israeli forces arrest, interrogate, and detain approximately 700 Palestinian children a year. While experiences vary, the Israeli military has been documented subjecting children to harsh and sometimes abusive interrogation methods, without an attorney present, that often include forced confessions signed in Hebrew. America should not support these undemocratic practices. That is why I support H.R. 4391, and I believe it will contribute towards a peaceful resolution to this complex conflict and a lasting two-state solution.

A good argument. But her latest bill doesn’t have his sponsorship.

Moulton has also been very strong in support of the Iran deal and in seeking to prevent a war with Iran. He has a fluency in foreign policy discussions, though his ideas about the many threats to the U.S. are conventional: “Russia [is] a great and present threat to our national security.” Don’t expect him to take on the military industrial complex.

Thanks to Donald Johnson and Michael Arria. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. Keith on June 13, 2019, 1:37 pm

    PHIL- “… as a former Marine officer….”

    With 4 tours in Iraq and a Harvard MBA/MPP under his belt, this guy practically screams “progressive.”

    • genesto on June 14, 2019, 3:33 pm

      I’ll never understand why a candidate like this, who has taken principled stands in the past and stands no chance of winning the presidency ever, would severely tarnish his legacy by pandering to the Israel lobby and its acolytes who are not likely to support him anyway.

      Just goes to show you how dangerous a thing the ego can be, I guess.

      • Keith on June 14, 2019, 5:27 pm

        GENESTO- “… who has taken principled stands in the past ….”

        Four tours in Iraq as a Marine volunteer is indicative of progressivism? A Harvard man of the people? I was being sarcastic. This jerk was recruited by the Deep State to be a professional politician. What he says is for effect only. Unless you believe in “progressive” imperialists.

      • Mooser on June 15, 2019, 12:56 pm

        “Four tours in Iraq as a Marine volunteer is indicative of progressivism”

        Sure, you bet. Wasn’t everybody talking about Bob Mueller and his three tours in Vietnam and what he learned from it.

  2. amigo on June 13, 2019, 3:42 pm

    It.s dem there Benjamin’s again baby.

    • Citizen on June 14, 2019, 3:05 pm

      Yep. Nothing more important than campaign finance reform & getting SCOTUS to reverse its decision corporations are people in this context.

  3. brent on June 13, 2019, 3:44 pm

    This article throws light on the realities with American politicians. Knowledge of injustice, by itself, does not determine political positions. First and foremost they want to stand on sound political ground, and be safe in their position. Especially important, be supported by public opinion.

    Most politicians and most Americans already know very bad things happen to Palestinians…. oppression, disenfranchisement. Why is that not enough to influence their position?

    The great majority of Americans believe Israel “has the right to exist” and overlook the hard-hearted arrogance. Too many buy into the well-cultivated narrative that Palestinians don’t accept that right to exist and want to replace, destroy or delegitimize Israel. Those bad things that happen, they bring upon themselves. Bottom line, Israel is defending itself. So long as it is plausible to claim Israel is “defending”, public opinion will determine positions taken by politicians. For evidence of this check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0fsnzQQ6bc

    Tolerated air born arson and random political murder negatively affect public opinion and distances Jews who would like to see, and could facilitate, a measure of justice unfold.

    If an article is written on how to shift public opinion, Mondoweiss would likely publish it.

    • Citizen on June 14, 2019, 3:22 pm

      I have no evidence from my personal experience and none from other sources that the average American knows any details at all about the US-Israel “special relationship” and also none about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including what goes on daily in land controlled by Israel, nor about how consistently lavish is the US taxpayer funding of Israel, no strings attached.

      • JWalters on June 14, 2019, 8:19 pm

        If they watch the “liberal” media they get no information about Israel. If they watch the “conservative” media they’re told Israel is great.

  4. JWalters on June 13, 2019, 8:40 pm

    When the crunch comes …

  5. Misterioso on June 14, 2019, 9:44 am

    For the record:

    https://forward.com/opinion/425801/buttigieg-is-moving-more-to-the-left-on-israel-surely-other-democrats-will/

    “Netanyahu Has Changed the Democratic Party – One Candidate A Time,” The Forward, June 12/19, by Peter Beinart

    “If you don’t think Benjamin Netanyahu has changed the debate about Israel inside the Democratic Party, just listen to Pete Buttigieg’s foreign policy speech yesterday at Indiana University. Buttigieg is no radical; he’s a darling of the post-Obama Democratic establishment. And yet he said things on Tuesday that would have been unthinkable during Obama’s campaigns.

    “First, Buttigieg implicitly compared Israel to Saudi Arabia. After initially talking about China and Russia, he then called for ‘upholding our values not just with our adversaries but with our allies.’ His first example was Riyadh’s treatment of dissidents; his second was Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

    “This linkage is an unintended by product of the de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance, and the parallel behavior of the two Middle Eastern powers. Both are growing more arrogant and more brutal. Both undermined Obama and boost Donald Trump. And both are pushing America towards a confrontation with Iran that could lead to war. It’s not surprising that Democrats increasingly lump them together.

    “Second, Buttigieg made it clear that while Israel may share some of America’s democratic principles, Benjamin Netanyahu—whose government the South Bend mayor called ‘right-wing’ and ‘turning away from peace’ —does not. This too is the result of Netanyahu’s affinity with Trump.

    “Just as Democrats see Trump as threatening America’s democratic principles, they see Netanyahu as doing the same to Israel’s. Why does Beto O’Rourke feel comfortable calling Netanyahu a ‘racist’? Because Democrats now routinely apply that epithet to Trump. Obama may have thought such things but he couldn’t say them publicly. Now Democrats can.

    “Most importantly, Buttigieg warned that, ‘if Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, a President Buttigieg will take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t foot the bill.’ Obama never said anything like this. To the contrary, in his final year in office he gave Israel the largest aid package in its history without requiring any changes in its policies toward the Palestinians. No president has used American military aid as a vehicle to change Israeli policy since George H.W. Bush more than a quarter-century ago. As policy, Buttigieg’s statement isn’t that significant. Israel doesn’t need American money to annex parts of the West Bank. But it opens a broader conversation. (One I discussed at greater length in an essay a few weeks ago).

    “If America shouldn’t subsidize policies that, in Buttigieg’s words, increase the ‘suffering of the Palestinian people’ and turn Israel ‘away from peace,’ why stop at the annexation of settlements? Why not refuse to subsidize settlement building at all?

    “Make Israel prove that none of the weaponry it buys with American money is used to entrench a system of bigotry and land theft in which Israeli Jews enjoy citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote for the government that controls their lives while their Palestinian neighbors are denied these rights. The core of the problem, after all, isn’t that Israel might formalize its oppression of Palestinians by annexing parts of the West Bank. It’s that Israel is oppressing Palestinians in the West Bank in the first place.

    “Buttigieg hasn’t gone that far. But his speech this week makes it more likely that other Democrats eventually will. Most Democratic politicians have never had to justify their support for unconditional military aid because it’s never been a subject of debate in Washington.

    “But, once forced to justify that position on a stage with two candidates, Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, who are questioning it, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden will find it almost impossible to defend. Once you’ve acknowledged that Netanyahu is a racist, and that Palestinians have human rights, how do you justify giving Netanyahu’s government almost $4 billion per year to pursue the very policies you’ve decried?

    “The divide in the 2020 Democratic presidential race isn’t between the candidates who question unconditional military aid to Israel and those who publicly defend it. It’s between the
    candidates who question it and those who say nothing at all.

    “This week, Pete Buttigieg put himself in the first category. But the time Democrats choose a nominee a year from now, most of his competitors will be there too.”

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

  6. DaBakr on June 14, 2019, 12:01 pm

    Yeah, that whole Arab Spring thing and the Syrian civil war. They were definitely thinking about the I/P conflict there. And those Libyan rebels who nabbed Qaddafi? i/P. Houthis? I/P. Kashmir? I/P. It’s a vast conspiracy you know. Turkey occupying Cyprus. Darfur. The list is endless

    • bcg on June 14, 2019, 6:17 pm

      @DeBakr: The stuff you mentioned is straw man stuff, no one claims the Syrian civil war was caused by the IP-conflict.

      https://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-us-general-we-pay-a-price-for-backing-israel/

      “I [James Mattis] paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians,”…He called the current situation in Israel “unsustainable” and blamed the settlements for harming prospects for peace. …Petraeus reportedly dispatched a team of senior officers under his command to brief Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 45-minute powerpoint presentation shown to Mullen argued that Israeli intransigence was harming US interests in the region and harming American credibility among Arab leaders…In a prepared statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2010, Petraeus said that the “conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR [area of responsibility] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.

      • DaBakr on June 14, 2019, 11:00 pm

        @bcg

        I don’t disagree. The US has had bias’s in the past before Israel and other bias since. Naturally the Muslim coalition partners that are hostile to Israel want the US to be less partial. That it causes problems for military leaders that don’t necessarily agree with political policy is also a given. And, like in Israel, the US has its share of highly vocal generals.

        I would just say that there is an old accusation the the i/P conflict is the source of all conflict in the ME which most people of some sophistication have known for decades that totalitarian dictators and monarchs have been using this excuse to placate their restless civilians. I don’t believe most arab nations give a shit about Palestinian Arabs any more then they care about anybody else. They do care that jews have sovereignty over Israel, judea and jerusalem.

      • Mooser on June 16, 2019, 2:24 pm

        ” which most people of some sophistication have known for decades”

        How much sophistication? Just “some”?

  7. LiberatePalestine on June 14, 2019, 12:44 pm

    → Make Israel prove that none of the weaponry it buys with American money is used to entrench a system of bigotry and land theft

    Please don’t be so naïve. What exactly do you think the Zionist entity does with all that weaponry?

  8. bcg on June 15, 2019, 8:59 am

    @DeBakr: “I don’t believe most arab nations give a shit about Palestinian Arabs any more then they care about anybody else. ”

    I don’t believe most Americans give a shit about the “Jewish State”, it’s all about being manipulated by Holocaust guilt, the shared colonial mindset of the U.S. and Israel, and the interests of the military industrial complex (to use Eisenhower’s words).

    But I DO believe that American citizens are waking up to the apartheid nature of the situation.

    • LiberatePalestine on June 15, 2019, 11:56 pm

      → I don’t believe most arab nations give a shit about Palestinian Arabs

      A nation cannot give a shit about anything. Individuals can, but in a nation of more than a handful of people one cannot expect uniformity of opinion on much of anything.

  9. lenabloch on June 18, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Zionism is a form of aggression and racist replacement of one population with another through means of ethnic cleansing, incremental genocide, conquest and land grab. I think that to say “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is like saying “cancer-liver conflict”.

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