The unbelievable has happened! The Prime Minister of Israel is on his way to the US to deliver a speech to Congress, and scores of Congressmen and Congresswomen are announcing that they have better things to do than attend the speech!
The vice-President led the boycott, followed by Earl Blumenauer of Oregan, and after that the flood-gates started to open! Admittedly, all the boycotters are Democrats, and their public statements suggest that it’s their loyalty to the President and opposition to the political manoeuvrings of the House Speaker that are motivating them to join the boycott. Even so, such a move would have been unthinkable a few years ago!
Who can forget Netanyahu’s address to Congress where he received 29 standing ovations – more than any US President has ever received. That was in 2011 – only four years ago! Have things really changed that much in four years? In truth, things have changed drastically in the last few years, and it’s not that Congress has wised up. It’s the American people who have wised up, and Congress can’t remain oblivious to the voice of the people forever!
In 2012 Norman Finkelstein published “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End”. In it he pointed to enormous shifts in public opinion amongst American Jews who were showing ever-increasing disinterest in the foreign state that claimed their allegiance. Surely the best example of this was the influence the Israeli Prime Minister had on the voting patterns of American Jews in 2012 when he voiced unequivocal support for Obama’s Republican rival. Netanyahu’s interventions apparently made no difference whatsoever!
And what’s true for American Jews is a reflection of the changing tide across the rest of the country. There are exceptions, of course. The Christian right seems to be clinging on as the last bastion of American Zionism. Conversely though, according to the survey referred to in the article below, only 16% of African Americans think their representative should attend the Israeli Prime Minister’s address!
Of course there’s a massive gap between boycotting a talk and seeing the end of the Palestinian Occupation. Even so, it’s a step in the right direction, and we all know that Israel can only ignore world opinion about its treatment of the Palestinian people so long as it has the world’s great super-power unequivocally behind it. But that unequivocal support is equivocating!
The 24 Democrats Who Have Refused to Attend Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress
Their constituents agree.
By Zaid Jilani
When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress on Iran in early March, he probably thought it’d go a lot like it did in 2011. That year, Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations – more than President Obama got during his State of the Union that year.
But Obama turned the tables on Netanyahu, refusing to meet with him just two weeks before the Israeli elections. He also announced that his vice president, Joe Biden, would not attend the address.
Shortly after Obama’s objection, Democratic Members of Congress started to announce that they wouldn’t attend the speech, either. The first was Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who wrote in a January 29th Huffington Post column that he will “not participate in a calculated slight from the speaker and the House leadership to attack necessary diplomacy.”
Following Blumenauer’s dissent, a steady string of Democratic Caucus members, mostly in the House but in the Senate as well began to announce that they would not attend the speech. Buoyed by poll numbers showing that many of their constituents agree – a plurality of Americans believe Netanyahu’s speech to be “inappropriate” and only 16 percent of African Americans in particular want to see their Member of Congress attend – more and more members are announcing their refusals to attend nearly every day.
To see the list of 21 House Democrats and three Senate Democratic Caucus members who are so far refusing to attend the speech, see Alternet
It must surely be considered the ultimate badge of shame – a word of thanks from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It was given this week in response to Australia’s complicity in defeating the Palestinian UN resolution, calling on the world to recognise their homeland by 2017.
It makes no difference that the goal of the Palestinians resolution is entirely in accord with official Australian policy, and it makes no difference that the Australian people are unequivocal in their support for a Palestinian state. The Australian government continues to do what its US overlords tell it to do, thus betraying not only the Palestinian people but her own people as well.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that here, as in other foreign policy arenas, Australia is intent on fanning the flames of violence and division. We happily send troops to help bomb Iraq again while refusing to allow aid workers to fight Ebola in Africa. We thwart every attempt by the Palestinians to reach a political solution to their crisis while remaining mute about the murderous Israeli attacks on Gaza. Meanwhile, back at home, we dream up new ways to inflict pain on refugees. Indeed it is a shameful time to be an Australian.
Netanyahu lauds US, Australia for efforts to reject Palestinian UN bid
Israel responds to draft Palestinian statehood resolution that failed to pass UN Security Council vote on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lauded the US and Australia for voting against the Palestinian UN Security Council draft resolution on Tuesday, and praised Rwanda and Nigeria for abstaining.
“I want to express appreciation and gratitude to the United States and Australia, as well as special appreciation to the President of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and to the President of Nigeria, my friend Goodluck Jonathan,” Netanyahu said when he arrived Wednesday morning to vote in the Likud primary.
“I spoke with both of them, they promised me personally that they would not support this decision, and they stood by their words. That is what tipped the scales,” he added.
The Palestinian resolution calling for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by 2017, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, did not muster the necessary nine votes Tuesday in the Security Council.
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Palestinian failure to get their statehood resolution passed Wednesday in the UN Security Council should teach them that provocations and attempts to unilaterally impose conditions on Israel will lead them nowhere.
“The Palestinian disregard for important countries in the international arena, first and foremost the US, stems from the backing they get form some of the states in Europe,” he said, in an obvious reference to the “for” votes cast by France and Luxembourg.
“Every state that truly wants to move an arrangement forward needs to act responsibly and make clear to the Palestinians that decisions are only made around the negotiating table,” Liberman said.
While France and Luxembourg voted for the Palestinian resolution, two other EU countries – Britain and Lithuania – abstained, illustrating the wide differences on the Mideast that exist inside the 28-state EU.
Liberman praised his ministry for the work it did to thwart the resolution, the second time in three years that Israel dodged a bullet on this issue in the Security Council, and cited Israel’s concentrated diplomatic efforts in Africa, the far East and central Europe. In 2011 the Palestinians failed in their attempt to win full UN statehood recognition in the UN.
In addition to the United States, Australia voted against the resolution on Tuesday. Britain, Lithuania, South Korea, and two of the three African states on the Security Council – Rwanda and Nigeria – all abstained, depriving the Palestinians of their nine votes needed to pass the resolution and force a US veto.
read the rest of this article here
The American people, it seems, no longer give unquestioning support to the state of Israel, even though the US government still does
This shift in U.S. public has been laid bare in recent surveys taken in the US. Amongst the most remarkable of the results is the finding that 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should impose sanctions on Israel if they continue to build settlements on Palestinian land!
The following review from ‘The American Conservative’ downplays the significance of the overall results, suggesting that Americans have always preferred their government not to take sides. What the reviewer finds more startling is the fact that Republicans are now far more keen to support to Israel than Democrats.
What I find even more remarkable is a statistic not mentioned in this review – namely, that Evangelical Christians are the only group in the U.S. who still think that Israel’s Jewish character is more important than its democracy (see here)! Even American Jews valued democracy ahead of ethnicity!
U.S. Public Opinion and Israel/Palestine
Shibley Telhami reviews the contents of a recent survey of American views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He finds that most Americans still don’t want the U.S. to take sides:
Consistent with prior years most Americans (64 percent) want the United States to lean toward neither side in the conflict, while 31 percent want it to lean toward Israel. But there is a huge difference between Democrats and Independents, on the one hand, and Republicans on the other. Among Democrats, 77 percent want the United States to lean toward neither side, 17 percent toward Israel, and 6 percent toward the Palestinians; among Republicans, those who want the U.S. to lean toward Israel outnumber those who want it to lean toward neither side, 51 percent-46 percent.
The partisan gap on this question is not all that surprising, but the size of the gap is nonetheless remarkable. Three quarters of Democrats say they don’t want the U.S. to take sides in the conflict, while just over half of Republicans want the U.S. to favor Israel. One would scarcely know that from the way their representatives vote and how their party leaders talk about the U.S. role in the conflict. Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans have consistently wanted the U.S. to be neutral or even-handed in the conflict for as long as the question has been asked, the U.S. has been overwhelmingly supportive of one side in practice.
Telhami points to another result about Palestinian statehood at the U.N.:
What do Americans recommend if the Palestinians take the issue of statehood to the United Nations? A plurality, 45 percent, advocate abstaining; 27 percent support voting against the resolution; and 25 percent support voting for it. Party differences are large with more Republicans supporting opposing the resolution, but still less than half (46 percent).
In other words, almost half of Americans don’t want the U.S. to take a position, and there are almost as many supporters of such a resolution as there are opponents, but it is virtually guaranteed that the U.S. will vote no. On both of these questions, a large majority doesn’t support backing Israel to the hilt, and yet that is what the U.S. will continue to do. This isn’t news. Polls have been finding the same things for decades. Even so, it is useful to be reminded every so often that U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is wildly at odds with what most Americans claim to want. When Congress and the administration endorse conventionally “pro-Israel” positions, they are doing the opposite of what most Americans prefer.
Sara Roy is a well-credentialed advocate of the Palestinian cause. Not only is she an academic of high standing but she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. This makes it difficult for her opponents to dismiss her as an anti-Semite.
What follows is Roy’s response to a statement that appeared in the New York Times, authored by Eli Wiesel, in which the Israeli apologist accuses Hamas of using children as human shields.
A Response to Elie Wiesel
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children included. As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?
Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to inflict. I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.
There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother.
Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them as human shields? Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument? In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s savage destruction.
Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation? How are these Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being hunted and destroyed?
You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.
Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.
The following speech was given by Father Dave at the Al Quds Day rally in the Sydney CBD – July 26th, 2014
In the name of God, merciful and compassionate (bismi-llahi r-ra.mani r-ra.im), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people), let me thank you (my Muslim sisters and brothers) for the privilege of standing with you today in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.
The tears of Jesus mingle with the blood of the innocent of Gaza. The brutality of this latest assault seems to surpass even the violence of the Israeli government’s previous attacks on this beleaguered civilian population. Whole families are killed, children die in their beds, mosques and schools and hospitals are targeted for destruction. Jesus weeps. How can we but weep with him?
When I was asked to speak at this gathering, more than a month ago, our primary concern was with the Australian government’s refusal to acknowledge the Israeli Occupation. Since that time the gates of hell have opened up again in Gaza, and now the terrible refusal of the Australian government to acknowledge the Palestinian Occupation has been eclipsed by their even more appalling silence in the face of the horrendous holocaust of human suffering our sisters and brothers in Gaza are enduring.
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and we weep with him, and yet we must do more than weep. We must move our government to act in support of our suffering brothers and sisters! How we accomplish that, I am not sure, but what I am sure about is that if we are going to be effective we must work on this together!
Sisters and brothers, in this great tragedy I also see a great opportunity – an opportunity that people of faith everywhere (and most especially Christians, Muslims and Jews) might be drawn together from across the globe to stand together in solidarity with the Palestinian people! Jesus weeps and there is no way that any person of faith can be blind to the injustice that is being visited upon Gaza. We weep, and as we weep my hope and prayer is that God will draw us together in love!
A Muslim brother of mine once said to me “do you know that before I was a Muslim I was a Christian”. I was surprised until he added “and before I was a Christian I was a Jew!” I don’t know if all of you all of my Muslim sisters and brothers here share this perspective – that before you were Muslims you were Christians – but if you do then we must also acknowledge that before we were Christians we were Jews!
We have all sprouted from the same seed, and that seed was planted in Palestine! Since that original seed was planted we have branched out in very distinct ways and we have grown apart and indeed there has indeed been a tragic history of violence between us, the vast bulk of which has been the responsibility of the Christian branch of that tree! Even so, would it not be wonderful if our love for our common birthplace and our love for the people of that land where our seed was first sown – would it not be wonderful if that love for Palestine could draw us back together?
We are of different faiths (and I do not intend to minimise any of those differences). Even so, while we are different in many ways, our love for Palestine is one! We may be divided by culture and race and creed, but we are united in our love for Palestine, we are united in our thirst for justice, and we are united in our commitment to ending the Occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people!
Brothers and sisters, let us stand together for Palestine. The forces of injustice and oppression are strong. The propaganda ministry of the State of Israel functions like a well-oiled machine. Their narrative is well rehearsed, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
This is my prayer and my hope – that, enshallah, this tragedy might draw us together in solidarity with the people of Palestine, for if we stand together – Muslims, Christians and Jews – against the Palestinian Occupation and against the genocide being enacted in Gaza, I believe we will see change. Justice will come, and our tears of sorrow will be replaced by tears of joy as we celebrate a free, free Palestine. Enshallah!