Bloomberg defended Gaza attacks that killed children in 2014
Since former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg bought his way into the Democratic race, it’s been a little difficult to keep up with all the stories from his past that are filtering out. One issue that hasn’t got much coverage (beyond Twitter) is his reaction to Israel shelling schools in 2014.
To refresh your memory, Israel shelled a number of UNRWA shelters during the 2014 war in Gaza. UNRWA said that the attacks had hit their refugee schools on three separate occasions; a clear violation of international law. The attacks killed 45 people, including 17 children. The incidents were investigated and documented by Human Rights Watch.
“The Israeli military carried out attacks on or near three well-marked schools where it knew hundreds of people were taking shelter, killing and wounding scores of civilians,” said Human Rights Watch special adviser Fred Abrahams at the time, “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage.”
Bloomberg has always been a staunch supporter of Israel (he even defied a flight ban to show solidarity to the country during the 2014 conflict) and was asked about the school attacks during an appearance on Face the Nation by host Norah O’Donnell. He made it clear he doesn’t believe Israel went too far:
NORAH O’DONNELL: It’s difficult to watch the images that we air on our network and other networks. This week a school attack that had thousands in there. It was described as bloody mattresses. Children killed who were sleeping next to their parents. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.” Did Israel go too far?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Israel cannot have a proportional response if people are firing rockets at their citizens. Can you imagine if one of the contiguous countries to America were firing rockets at America, the same people who are criticizing the Israelis would be going crazy demanding the President does more. Unfortunately, if Hamas hides among the innocent, the innocent are going to get killed because Israel just does not have any choice but to stop people firing– Hamas firing rockets at their citizens. They have a right to defend themselves and America would do exactly the same thing.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Doesn’t the Geneva Conventions lay out that you cannot attack schools or hospitals?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Nobody is attacking schools or hospitals. We are attacking Hamas. But Hamas is standing in the middle of a hospital. If they had– standing in the middle of a hospital and firing rockets at your kids, what would you expect us to do? Would you really want us to not try to stop them?
NORAH O’DONNELL: Mm-Hm.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: And, unfortunately, if there are innocents getting killed at the same time it’s not Israel’s fault.
AIPAC’s Bad Winter…Continued…
The last issue of The Shift was entirely about AIPAC and I thought about avoiding them altogether this week, but that’s proved to be impossible. Just a few days ago, Democratic front runner Bernie Sanders officially announced that he would be skipping the lobbying group’s annual policy conference. “The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security,” tweeted the Vermont Senator, “So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region.”
Earlier this month, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren said she wasn’t going to the event. After the South Carolina debate, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg also said they wouldn’t be attending, although it remains unclear whether they will participate via video. This week over 100 activists shut down Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters demanding that the former vice president also skip the conference. Biden has previously indicated that he’ll go, but he hasn’t officially announced a decision.
IfNotNow protestor’s outside Joe Biden’s campaign headquarters.
Only one Democratic candidate has announced that they’re definitely going: Michael Bloomberg. In addition to Bloomberg, this guy will be there:
And so will this guy:
Back in 2010, Washington’s Olympia Co-Op became the first grocery store in this country to join the BDS campaign and boycott Israeli goods. “My hope is that by being the first in the US to adopt the boycott we act as a catalyst for other co-ops to join in,” explained Co-op board member Rob Richards at the time, “Each additional organizational entity that joins may have a very small effect on the big picture, but drop by drop fills the tub.”
A group of the store’s former board members teamed up with the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs to sue over the decision. The lawsuit aimed to block the boycott and secure monetary damages from board members who supported it. The case has bounced around various courts since then. Most recently, a Washington state court dismissed the lawsuit in 2018.
Last week an appeals court upheld that dismissal.
Odds and Ends
📜 Lara Friedman has a great piece at Jewish Currents on two state bills which aim to conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel. “Criminal charges are becoming a go-to weapon of state and local authorities across the nation when it comes to suppressing political protests and other forms of constitutionally protected free speech.”
🎤 Singer John Legend was asked about his support for Palestinian rights during an interview with The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan. “There should not be a whole group of people, just because of their nationality or religion, being held in open-air prisons, denied freedom of movement and having their land annexed by settlers,” said Legend.
🇺🇸 The South Carolina debate was a debacle, but the subject of Israel finally came up. “You cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians,” said Bernie Sanders. He also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.” Bloomberg referred to illegal settlements as “new communities.”
🇮🇱 In an interview with an IDF radio station, Netanyahu claimed he had the power to turn public opinion against Bernie Sanders in the United States if the Vermont Senator ends up becoming president.