Are You a PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine) as DC Dems?
Kumars Salehi writes:
As Americans, we are deeply complicit, and more and more of us are waking up to that reality. The politics of Israel-Palestine in the US are changing, as evidenced by the Gallup poll showing only 25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 support “Operation Defensive Shield”, compared to 55% of those 65 and up.
You can be on the right side of this 21st century struggle against colonialism, or you can sit idly by, congratulating yourself on how reasonable you sound talking about “both sides” and how hatred or religious divisions are the greatest obstacle to “peace”.
The greatest obstacle to peace in Israel-Palestine is apartheid, a racist system of segregation, discrimination, and expulsion. The greatest obstacle to peace is Zionism’s archaic project of an ethnically-exclusive state. The greatest obstacle to peace is the unconditional support of our government, including and especially its “progressive” darlings, for Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.
Empire rots from the inside out, and Congress will be the last domino to fall in the US-Israeli “special relationship”. Sooner or later, material support for Israeli terrorism will become a political dealbreaker. Make it sooner rather than later. Let your Congresspeople know: Enablers of mass murder and ethnic cleansing will lose your vote.
Whether or not you’re PEP – Progressive Except on Palestine – isn’t about ideological purity. It’s about whether you’re willing to stand up to evil when it really matters. Don’t call it evil if you don’t want to. Call it fascism, genocide – just don’t be silent. You’ll regret it.
A “progressive except on Palestine” is the ONLY kind of progressive you’ll find in Congress and among the vast majority of the Democratic Party establishment.
In July 47% of Democrats told Gallup pollsters that Israel’s actions during the Gaza conflict were “unjustified”, only 31% said they felt the opposite.
Tim Mack in “Even Left-Wing Politicians Can’t Quit Israel:
But these opinions are nearly impossible to find in Congress. Democrats, when asked a question about Israeli operations in Gaza, had two standard responses: irritation, or else a statement of their broad support of Israel, without going into specifics. It was as if the very mention of Israel turned the question into a hostile interview.
For the left, congressional support for Israel is such a given that many have turned to other methods to influence the debate.
“[Activists] look at Congress as hopeless. Moving Congress or moving the administration is hopeless,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, an anti-war group. “That’s why there’s a shift to [the BDS movement] rather than…trying to influence congressional or administrative policy on Israel.”
Ashley Smith in “Israeli apartheid's Democratic champions” agrees about the pro-Israel intrangience of Congress:
The savagery of the slaughter was met by growing international opposition to Israel and solidarity with Palestine. Even in the U.S., recent opinion polls showed a growing minority of Americans, including Jews, rejecting Israel's war on Gaza. That minority includes a strong majority of people aged 18 to 29.
But one political institution in the U.S. has stood completely unswayed by this evolving consciousness of the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel, with the support of its main international sponsor, the U.S. government.
That institution is the Democratic Party--including its liberal wing. Like their counterparts in the two-party U.S. political system, the Republicans, the Democrats never hesitated during the massacres in Gaza to reaffirm their unwavering support for Israel's colonial project.
... they are surely second to none in their commitment to U.S. imperialism. During the 20th century, the Democrats started every U.S. war until 1991, when George H.W. Bush presided over the first Iraq war.
This explains the Democrats' unwavering commitment to the state of Israel. U.S. imperialism has, especially since 1967, used Israel as the main enforcer of its domination over the Middle East, the site of the world's most valuable energy resource.
The self-proclaimed progressives or liberals of the party have almost universally either joined in the cheerleading of Israel, or kept their heads down, agreeing not to raise questions about Palestine solidarity. Thus, liberal Democrats at best betray Palestine when it matters--or advocated for Israel outright at worst. Their party's commitment to U.S. imperialism requires such behavior.
The behavior of liberal Democrats during Operation Protective Edge has proved the rule. The darlings of progressive activists, from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (a nominal independent who campaigns for Democrats and caucuses with them in the Senate), have made their commitment to Zionism clear.
In the Senate vote on the pro-Israel resolution, none of the liberal stalwarts like Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, made a peep in opposition. The same was true in the House.
Warren's position shocked her progressive supporters, who either had ignored or didn't know about her support of Israel. Despite her Native American roots, she sides not with Palestine's indigenous population, but with Israeli colonization. ...
The Democrats' other new liberal lion, Bill de Blasio, outdoes Warren in Zionist proclamations. During his election campaign, De Blasio promised, "City Hall will always be open to AIPAC." In a radio interview, he boasted that he opposed the "very, very wrongheaded movement to boycott, and disinvest from Israel. I've led the charge against that, whether you're talking about the Park Slope Food Co-op or at Brooklyn College, I've stood against that divestment movement." During the current war on Gaza, he announced, "I consider it my responsibility to stand up for Israel."
Just as disappointing has been the traditionally progressive Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report reported on how CBC members in the House and Senate betrayed Palestine in AIPAC-backed resolutions. As Dixon wrote:
Not a single member of the CBC, despite their much heralded brand of standing for civil rights and against apartheid here and around the world, bothered to publicly question the racist ethnocracy that is the Israeli state. After signing the blank check with the rest of their colleagues, CBC members Conyers (MI), Lee (CA), Johnson (GA) and Ellison (MN) tried to cover their shame with a letter to Secretary of State Kerry urging a cease-fire, something which Kerry claims to have been doing anyway.
Tim Mac, aforementioned, spotlights more Dems:
Dem. Rep. Keith Ellison [the first Muslim-American elected to Congress when asked about Gaza and Israel]: ...“Look, man, I’m a politician, with multiple constituencies. Why should I alienate one just so that you can write a story?”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist, became curt when asked about Israel’s operation in Gaza: “That’s not where my mind is right now,” he told the Beast.
Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin said he was on his way to a meeting and didn’t have time to discuss the issue. (He did, however, stop for another reporter, who asked about transportation funding.)
When Rep. Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, was approached, she simply repeated that she supports the right of Israel to defend itself.
House Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Coming to the defense of Israel is not a partisan issue—it is an American principle,” [making the case for lawmakers to approve hundreds of millions in spending for Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system].
... a recently leaked memo from Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s campaign was explicit in tying a pro-Israel message to support from Jewish voters and fundraisers.
Glenn Greenwald focuses on Senator Elizabeth Warren:
The last time Elizabeth Warren was asked about her views on the Israeli attack on Gaza – on July 17 – she, as Rania Khalek put it, “literally ran away” without answering. But last week, the liberal Senator appeared for one of her regularly scheduled “office hours” with her Massachusetts constituents, this one in Hyannis, and, as a local paper reported, she had nowhere to run.
Echoing Benjamin Nentayahu (and Hillary Clinton), Elizabeth Warren’s clear position is that Israel bears none of the blame for any of this. Or, to use her words, “when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.” Such carnage is the ”last thing Israel wants.” The last thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party.
Warren even rejected a different voter’s suggestion that the U.S. force Israel to at least cease building illegal settlements by withholding further aid: ... Warren said, ‘I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.’”
Kumars Salehi in “Every Senate Democrat just voted to fund Israel’s genocide in Gaza”:
Yet Sanders and Warren – along with every other member of Congress – voted not once but twice for symbolic resolutions endorsing Israel’s assault as “self-defense” and blaming the civilian death toll on Palestinians themselves. Both resolutions passed by unanimous consent: They were backed not just by mean old Republicans, not just by hawkish Democrats like neoliberal poster boy Cory Booker and Chuck “Bomb Iran” Schumer, but also by the party’s so-called left wing.
And now, leading House “progressives” like Barbara Lee and John Conyers joined their Senate counterparts (Ron Wyden and Al Franken, to name a couple others) to reaffirm yet again that, as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz once put it, there “will never be daylight between the two parties” when it comes to unconditional support for Israeli militarism and apartheid.
The 8 members of Congress – 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans – who voted against the additional funds are, on the Democratic side, Representatives Keith Ellison, Zoe Lofgren, Jim Moran, and Beto O’Rourke, and on the Republican side, Justin Amash, Walter Jones, Thomas Massie, and Mark Sanford.
They took a serious political risk going against the pro-Israel lobby and their respective party leaderships. .... [time to write them a serious fan letter all us non-PEPs!!!]
Here’s the thing, though: That this many members of Congress voted “no” in such a rabidly pro-Israel political climate as Washington is a testament to how undeniably horrific the reports and images from Gaza have been. People on the ground say this attack is beyond anything they’ve seen in their lifetimes.
Alex Kane in "U.S. casts lonely vote against establishing war crimes inquiry in Gaza":
The U.S. has cast the sole vote against establishing an investigation by the United Nations into war crimes committed in Gaza.
Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 29-1, with 17 abstentions, to establish an inquiry. The United States was the only no vote. The European nations on the council all abstained.
In a statement, the UN Human Rights Council said it voted to “urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations” of international law “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014.”
A key U.S. priority at the UN has been shielding Israel from criticism of its human rights record. In 2009, then U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the U.S. rejoined the Human Rights Council so she could, in part, “fight against the anti-Israel crap.” And in 2013, Rice told Reform Jews that a “huge part”‘ of her job was defending Israel.
Israeli assaults on Gaza inevitably draw the council to establish inquiries.
In 2009, the Human Rights Council’s decision to do so lead to what became known as the Goldstone Report. Respected South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone authored the comprehensive report which condemned Israel’s attack, saying it was designed to “humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” [Goldstone later recanted from tremendous political pressure but the other three jurors stayed firm.]
Ashley Smith expands on what the unbreachable, no-daylight-between symbiosis of the US government with the Israeli government means to us in America. We know the obvious suffering it has created for the Palestinians:
First let's deal with the "Progressives Except for Palestine," or PEP, syndrome--and how it undermines other progressive positions.
PEP politicians deprive desperately needed domestic social programs of massive amounts of potential with their support for sending military and economic aid to Israel--now running at $3.1 billion annually. That vast sum of money could bankroll at least huge strides toward single-payer health care, massively improved education, decent welfare provisions or Head Start, and a green job program. Instead, it's diverted to fund Israel's occupation and the slow-motion genocide of Palestinians.
The PEPs can't be consistent opponents of U.S. imperialism, since they support Israel, a key bulwark of the empire. They compromise their anti-racism since they back Israel as Jewish homeland--where Palestinians are deprived of most or all basic human rights. Unsurprisingly, PEPs are frequently prone to promulgating anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia--the ideological means for the Israel and the U.S. to justify the continuing oppression of Palestinians and Arabs.
It is high time for the U.S. left to draw a line in the sand. No longer should we accept the idea that it's possible to be a "Progressive Except for Palestine." Being a PEP is as nonsensical as being anti-racist, except for slavery or anti-Semitism.
To be on the left--to be considered a "progressive"--means upholding the principles of equality, democracy and liberation across the board, including a commitment to solidarity with Palestinians and their struggle for emancipation from colonial occupation.
Supporting the Democrats, even as a lesser evil to the Republicans--though it is hard to see how the Democrats can be considered a lesser evil on Israel and Palestine--will hamstring any movement.
It's high time that the U.S. left support an alternative that actually stands for what we believe in--the liberation of Palestine. As the great American Socialist Eugene Debs said, "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don't want, and get it."
This year, there will be some independent candidates on the ballot who stand in support of Palestine. In New York, socialists Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones are running on the Green Party ticket for governor and lieutenant governor against Andrew Cuomo and his sidekick, former Rochester cop Bob Duffy.
In a statement released in the midst of the worst bombing, the Hawkins-Jones campaign declared, "We denounce Israel's ongoing slaughter of the people of Gaza...As governor and lieutenant governor of New York State, we can--and will--support the efforts to Boycott, Sanction and Divest from Israeli firms. New York State must divest from its financial relationships with the State of Israel until it ceases the systematic and ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights."
The Democrats have shown which side they're on when it comes to Palestine. We need to concentrate on using every means to mobilize the other side to stand up for justice for Palestine.
RT summed up the Israeli carnage and devastation of Gaza on August 29th:
Israel and Palestinian authorities reached a long-term ceasefire agreement this week after Israel started its campaign in Gaza on July 8. The death toll from the Gaza conflict has reached at least 2,120 people, of which 577 are children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
During the conflict, Israel targeted schools and hospitals in Gaza, claiming that rockets and militant fighters were nearby. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency criticized both Hamas for storing rockets in two schools and Israel for attacks on separate schools.
Attacks on hospitals are prohibited by the Geneva Convention’s Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War "unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy." Even then, civilian hospitals can only be targeted "after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded."
Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza. Navi Pillay said house demolitions and the killing of children raise the “strong possibility” that Israel is violating international law.
More than 17,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, making around 100,000 Palestinians homeless, since the war began, according to UN estimates.
According to a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official, 373,000 Palestinian children are in need of “immediate psychosocial first aid” due to the onslaught of Israeli strikes.
“The impact has truly been vast, both at a very physical level, in terms of casualties, injuries, the infrastructure that's been damaged, but also importantly, emotionally and psychologically in terms of the destabilizing impact that not knowing, not truly feeling like there is anywhere safe place to go in Gaza,” Pernilla Ironside said last week.
UNICEF estimated that at least 219 schools have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes, while 22 were completely destroyed.
To demonstrate the extent of the damage in Gaza, Ironside estimated that it could take up to 18 years to rebuild the 17,000 housing units that were damaged in the conflict and in light of the ongoing blockade of the region limiting the movement of goods and people.
Israel has also barred major human rights organizations from entering Gaza territory.
The US Congress, White House, Dem Party stand alongside the heartless, slaughtering Israeli government so closely that, as they so often declare, there is no daylight showing through!
It is our moral mandate to challenge such codependent sociopathy of the entire Democratic Party establishment!
[cross-posted on open salon]