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There was not one question about Israel or Palestine during the Democratic debates

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There were two Democratic debates this week with the 20 candidates split between back-to-back nights. The debates lasted two and a half hours each and featured a variety of questions on important subjects like health care, climate change, and criminal justice. However, none of the candidates were asked about Israel or Palestine.

In 2016, the United States government signed an agreement to give $38 billion in military assistance to Israel over the next decade. This fact should presumably generate at least one debate question on the subject (especially since both featured discussions about how to pay for social programs) but the omission feels especially egregious occurring at this specific time.

That’s because last week the House of Representatives passed three pro-Israel bills. H.R. 1850, the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019,was passed via voice vote without any debate or discussion. It slaps sanctions on foreign states that support Hamas. H.R.1837, the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act also passed by voice vote. This AIPAC-backed bill enhances U.S. assistance to Israel and includes a provision that authorizes the president to send Israel weapons without congressional approval in emergency situations.

H.Res.246 was a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Despite the fact it passed easily with just 17 NO votes, it attracted a large amount of media attention because it allegedly pointed toward a greater rift developing in the Democratic Party over the subject of Israel. The resolution’s critics contended that its passage would merely pave the way for more severe anti-BDS legislation and their concerns were validated right away. Republicans immediately began citing the resolution while calling for a House vote on a bill that would allow states to penalize BDS supporters more readily. The resolution was also seemingly the inspiration behind a new resolution introduced by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar that affirms the right of Americans to boycott foreign countries.

CNN’s Jake Tapper questioned Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib (the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress) about her opposition to H.Res.246 shortly after the vote, but as a host during the debates he didn’t ask about the movement or the many pieces of legislation that have been introduced to combat it. However, CNN did have him essentially ask Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren why she wouldn’t preemptively nuke another country.

There’s a good chance that the lack of such questions was welcomed by Israel’s government. “I’m sure the Israeli government was happy to be left out, given that any questions in this kind of format would likely focus on BDS or Israel’s misdeeds,” Israel Policy Forum’s Michael Koplow told Jewish Insider. “I’m certain that as the field narrows and foreign policy becomes more of a focus, Israel will be a topic of discussion, and I anticipate nearly every candidate will support two states, oppose BDS, and call for a recalibration of U.S. policy away from the turn it has taken under President Trump.”

The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller told the publication, “When [foreign policy] did come up, it revealed among front-running [Democrats] an approach to [the] left of Obama. Lucky for Netanyahu, Israel didn’t come up. Two candidates on stage — Beto and Bernie — both described his policies as racist and Warren isn’t far behind.”

It’s not as if Israel and Palestine were the only foreign policy issues not discussed. The entire subject was barely mentioned save a handful of questions about the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea, the occupation of Afghanistan, and the aforementioned nuke inquiry. Joe Biden’s Iraq War vote also came up during the second debate, but there wasn’t a real attempt to connect that war with the wider “War on Terror” issues that still plague this country and, by extension, the world.

During the Iraq War discussion New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to bring up the Trump administration’s current Iran policy. “Let’s talk about Iran. We didn’t talk about Iran!” he said, There’s a march to war in Iran right now and…”

“Please the rules, please follow the rules,” said Don Lemon as he cut him off and moved to the next question.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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5 Responses

  1. Donald on August 1, 2019, 3:18 pm

    There was very little about foreign policy of any sort. If there had been 30 or 40 minutes given to the topic then it would mean something if Israel was left out. I think there was about 5 or 6 minutes on foreign policy last night, if I timed it correctly.

    Tulsi did mention we support Al Qaeda, but that was at the end of her time and everyone ignored it. Russia was mentioned, but only as a way to attack Trump or McConnell.

    The majority of Americans don’t seem to care about foreign policy unless Americans are being killed or unless it can be used as a tool to attack the other party. So partisan Democrats now hate Putin because they think Trump is his puppet. They pretended to care about Bush’s war crimes, but then forgot about the whole issue of American war crimes once Obama came in and they supported Clinton as a foreign policy genius even though she supported the Iraq War and just about every other war that came along.

    Most Republicans are happy killing foreigners so long as Americans aren’t killed. Bipartisanship!

  2. Kay24 on August 1, 2019, 4:36 pm

    Apart from the obvious reluctance from the candidates to refer to that conflict, I doubt Jake Tapper will want to bring attention to it either. Any reference to it will be vague and no one will ever mention the word occupation or land grabs. They will of course speak as if the Palestinians are all terrorists, and poor Israel must be protected from unarmed civilians. We know that story by now.

  3. JWalters on August 1, 2019, 6:58 pm

    Excellent run-down on the foreign policy part of the debates. Here’s a great analysis of Israel’s multi-billion dollar aid scam by former financial investigator Jake Morphonios. (The first few minutes are a funny story about AIPAC spies in America.)
    “This is the Perfect Explanation of How the War Industry Works”
    https://www.bitchute.com/video/tYJpzNrSsQY/

    The utter lack of questions about Israel is more clear evidence that Israel’s hidden hand is controlling these corporations. In the 2008 debates Hillary said she would “obliterate” Iran for Israel. That may be considered too incendiary, stupid, and risky today. Better to just keep the topic of Israel out of sight altogether.

    Then during the commercial breaks we’re bombarded with ads telling us how CNN is sooo dedicated to the truth. Of course it’s impossible to have a speck of respect for Jake Tapper.

  4. Misterioso on August 2, 2019, 8:53 am

    Not on topic, but important:

    https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/israel-will-pay-countries-for-relocating-embassies-to-jerusalem–20190728-0005.html

    telesur, July 28/19

    “Israel Will Pay $14 Million to Countries in Exchange for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem”

    “Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz will propose to give an aid package worth US$14.2 million to countries in exchange for their embassies’ relocation to Jerusalem.”

    “The Israeli government will pay foreign countries to relocate their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem according to a new initiative to be presented by Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz to the cabinet soon according to a report by Israel Hayom published Sunday.

    “The initiative is considered a ‘national, diplomatic and strategic objective of the highest order.’ Under it, Katz formed incentive packages to encourage the countries to move embassies.

    “Katz, according to the report, came upon the knowledge that when foreign countries relocate their embassies, they seek something in return from Israel. For example, Honduras and El Salvador wanted Israel to open full diplomatic missions in their own countries in exchange for the embassy move.

    “Some countries demanded economic aid from Israel, some hoped an embassy move would help with closer ties to the United States, and some countries even asked Israel to pay the relocation costs.

    “Katz proposal will include an aid package worth US$14.2 million for countries willing to relocate their embassies. The foreign minister said he would facilitate embassy moves by diverting resources from the current budget.

    “‘There is nothing more expressive of our return to Zion and the success of Zionism than strengthening the sovereignty of Israel and the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Bolstering Jerusalem’s status in the world is the most important objective I’ve set for myself as foreign minister. Jerusalem was and always will be the beating heart of the Jewish nation,’ Katz told Israel Hayom.

    “His proposals are meant to be part of the 2020 national budget as the country is facing its second snap election this year, in September, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government.

    “A steering committee headed by Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem would be in charge of deciding how the aid packages would be allocated among the countries.

    “The funds would be used to help countries in relocating or launching a new embassy, or transfer the ambassador’s house to Jerusalem, or provide aid to countries according to the circumstances.

    “The U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018 and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv. Since then only Guatemala took the same step.

    “Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 War and later annexed the city in a move not recognized by the international community. Israel considers Jerusalem as their undivided capital, while Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.”

  5. Ossinev on August 2, 2019, 1:39 pm

    @Misterioso
    “Israel Will Pay $14 Million to Countries in Exchange for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem”

    Home produced Benjamins? Who would have thought?

    Surpised they haven`t asked Deranged Donald to increase the $3.8 billion per annum bung to $4 billion just to cover these new “defence” costs. The US taxpayer won`t mind. And if the proposal is objected to by any US politician the objection will of course result in the usual torrent of “Anti- Semitic” accusations.

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