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 would be interesting to know the reasoning behind the results in this survey. Why do Americans want ‘out’ of Israel/Palestine? Do they think they need their President focusing on domestic issues or is Israel/Palestine just all too hard?
The even more significant question is ‘what would it take for the American politicians to lose interest in Israel/Palestine? One suspects that even a vast and vocal majority called for disengagement, Congress would be unlikely to listen.
Israel can often be a third-rail in American politics. In 2002, George W. Bush became the first president in U.S. history to support a so-called “two-state solution.” When Barack Obama followed that up in 2011 by supporting Israel’s pre-1967 borders as a starting point for that solution, it wasn’t anything new, even though the reactions might have been. What does this have to do with the United States? Americans are increasingly asking that question.
From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
A new poll shows that most Americans support Israel, but do not want the U.S. to take the lead in an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Fifty-five percent of Americans, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday, sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinian Authority. Nine percent sympathize more with the P.A., 14 percent sympathize with neither side and 18 percent had no opinion on the question.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents, though, said the U.S. should leave peace talks to the Israelis and Palestinians, while 26 percent said the U.S. should lead the negotiations.
Leaving the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the Israelis and Palestinians, though it might sound like common sense (and apparently more than two-thirds of Americans agree) is not something any mainstream presidential candidate has ever suggested.
Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press, Thu, Jun 14, 2012
Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP) – Fifty international aid groups and U.N. agencies on Thursday urged Israel to open Gaza’s borders, saying its border blockade violates international law and indiscriminately harms Gaza’s 1.6 million people.
The appeal was issued on the fifth anniversary of the imposition of the blockade, triggered by the violent takeover of Gaza by the Islamic militant Hamas in June 2007. Two years ago, Israel started allowing imports of most consumer goods, but continues to ban virtually all Gaza exports and travel through Israeli crossings.
Israel has said the blockade is meant to prevent Hamas from building up its military arsenal and Gaza militants from carrying out attacks on Israel. The Hamas founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and over its 25-year history, the group has killed hundreds of Israelis in shootings and bombings.
However, international aid agencies say the blockade mainly punishes ordinary Gazans by crippling the territory’s economy, forcing foreign donors to spend money on humanitarian relief instead of investing in the economy.
“What Gaza needs is real development, but because of the blockade we are obliged to concentrate on humanitarian work,” Filippo Grandi, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, told reporters in Gaza on Thursday. UNRWA is Gaza’s biggest foreign agency, supporting some 1.2 million refugees and their descendants in the territory.
Spending on emergency needs, such as food and medicine, does not address fundamental problems, Grandi said. “In fact, it’s a waste of money, but a waste we are obliged to make because of the blockade,” he added. He said his agency is running low on funds and, among other things, had to cancel its popular summer camps for tens of thousands of Gaza children.
In its six-decade history in Gaza, UNRWA’s main roles have been supplying refugees with basic food products and operating schools.
One-third of Gaza’s labor force is unemployed, and exports are at only 5 percent of what they were in 2007, he said.
The easing of import restrictions spurred some growth, but mainly because Gaza started from a very low baseline, Grandi said, noting that the per capita GDP in 2011 remained at 10 percent below the 2005 level.
About 60 percent of Gazans are under 18 and youth unemployment stands at 51 percent, according to U.N. figures.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said restrictions remain in place because Hamas has not dropped its violent agenda. Over the years, Gaza-based militants have fired thousands of rockets at southern Israel, though since a major round of fighting more than three years ago, Hamas has largely held its fire. Smaller groups, however, continue to fire rockets sporadically into Israel.
Israel’s government holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza.
“The fundamental reason for the lack of economic development in Gaza is that the extremist Hamas regime puts its jihadist radical agenda above and beyond the interests of the people of Gaza,” Regev said.
Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but maintained control over access to the territory by sea and air and through Gaza-Israel land crossings. In June 2006, after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, Israel began tightening restrictions before the full blockade was imposed a year later.
Egypt went along with Israel until the fall of President Hosni Mubarak last year. Since then, Egypt has allowed more Gazans to enter through its border crossing, but continues to impose some restrictions.
Among the signatories of Thursday’s appeal were 43 aid groups and seven U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization.
Original link: news.yahoo.com…