The Democrats’ Israel Problem

It is well known that Clinton supports the Israeli occupation and its policies against Palestinians. (Via Aljazeera)

By Mike Kuhlenbeck

Palestine has been granted membership into the International Criminal Court. After the first of April, this monumental step will allow Palestinian officials to bring charges against Israel for its numerous crimes, including the “Operation Protective Edge” bombing campaign launched on July 7, 2014 against the Gaza strip, slaughtering more than 2,300 Palestinians and destroying the lives of thousands more.

United Nations officials Navi Pillay and Richard Falk have labeled Israel’s actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity. By the standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948), Israel is in violation of Amendments 1, 5 and 25, which state:

  • “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”
  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
  • “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”

Describing the horrific conditions of Gaza, largely hidden from outsiders, journalist Chris Hedges writes, “[Gaza] has disturbing echoes of the Nazi ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw.” The 1.8 million residents of “the world’s largest open-air prison” live in crowded conditions and are often denied adequate water, food and medical supplies.

The director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis, dispels the false notions put forth by Israel’s guardians in media that it only uses military force for self-defense purposes:

“Violence is central to maintaining Israel’s military occupation. It is carried out primarily by Israeli military forces and Israeli settlers in the occupied territories who are themselves armed by the Israeli military, and its victims include some Palestinian militants and a large majority of Palestinian civilians, including many children.” (Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, 2002)

Last year, Secretary of State John Kerry experienced a political Freudian slip by saying Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” if US-sponsored efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement failed, a statement for which he quickly apologized. Kerry knows very well that Israel is already an apartheid state.

The Republican Party treats Israel as if it was the 51st state of the Union. Given the more than $3 billion in aid the US gives to Israel annually, one can see why they make this assumption. The party’s current presidential hopefuls are all ardent supporters of the regime, including Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Chris Christie. Paul has gone so far to say that the US should cut off all aid to the Palestinians. While the GOP’s rhetoric is more thuggish and righteous, voters must keep in mind that maintaining the US’s relationship with Israel is a bipartisan effort.

The US Senate unanimously passed resolution S.498 on July 17, 2014 in order to support “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.”

The Democratic Party’s 2012 platform reads, in part, “President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values…The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.”

Democratic Party insiders have said that it is a foregone conclusion that Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce her presidential candidacy for the 2016 election. It is well known that Clinton supports the occupation of the Gaza strip and its genocidal policies against Palestinians. Clinton, like the rightwing critics who profess their hatred of her, has repeatedly claimed that Israel is a “democracy.” This Israeli “democracy” she speaks of is sheer fantasy on the same level as Narnia and the Land of Oz.

This myth provides the US the necessary cannon fodder to arm its ally in the Middle East against its neighboring (aka Muslim) enemies. Clinton uses the same clichéd and tiresome arguments that one has to be an anti-Semite if they are anti-Zionist, which is a typical ad hominem attack against critics of Israel’s conduct. In an interview with The Atlantic, she employed the typical fear-mongering typical to the Imperialist foreign policy she would champion as president:

“You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.”

However, Clinton’s outrage over such protests does not extend to the anti-Muslim rallies that have drawn tens of thousands of supporters in Germany and France. Responding to the tragic shootings at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the French government continued to crack down on Pro-Palestinian demonstrations, rendering the term “freedom of speech” into a hollow political phrase to revamp the public’s fear of Islam. She did not condemn this flagrant violation of civil liberties, an act that is attempting to silence the call for human rights in Gaza at a time when it is most needed.

One of Clinton’s more controversial comments was made on the TV program Good Morning America in 2008. Her apocalyptic words on the subject of Iran are parallel to the kind of blood-thirsty rhetoric that would have been used against the former Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran (If it attacks Israel).”

There are progressive and moderate elements that do not want Clinton to be the so-called “liberal” alternative to the GOP. Last year, The Hill obtained numerous emails from liberal and progressive activists that show Clinton does not have the support she thought she once had. This publication summarized the main findings of these exchanges with the following: “Clinton’s too much of a hawk, too cozy with Wall Street, hasn’t spoken out enough on climate change, and will be subject to personal questions and criticisms.”

The only serious competition Clinton has (so far) is US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (D). To supporters, Warren is seen as a populist candidate for her anti-Wall Street rhetoric. Progressive and Center-Left publications such as In These Times and The Atlantic have encouraged Warren to run against Clinton for these reasons. But the editorial writers of these journals might be disappointed with Warren as they would with Clinton on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

On her US Senate website, the following seems to have been lifted nearly verbatim from her party’s platform: “The U.S.-Israel relationship is rooted in shared values and common interests, based on a commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.”

As the 2014 bombings commenced in Gaza, journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept noticed that Warren’s position on the issue mirrored that of Benjamin Netanyahu, even using some of the same justifications. Warren voted to authorize an additional $225 million to Israel for its “Iron Dome” system. Quoting Cape Cod Times reporter C. Ryan Barber, Warren said:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right. America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

A little further to the left of the spectrum is US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (I), a self-described “democratic-socialist.” He has long been lauded by social democrats who have urged him run for president, preferably within the Democratic Party to avoid being a so-called “spoiler” à la Ralph Nader. Like Warren, Sanders supported objectives of the Israeli government as strongly as his conservative counterparts. He was, after all, one of the 100 Senators who voted for Senate resolution S.498.

Sanders had to confront his critics when attendants of a town hall meeting heckled him in August 2014. Usually he wins the crowd over in situations like this, but in this case he was met with a hostile audience. Members of this congregation started yelling expletives and denunciations of Israel’s actions. He tried to regain control, going as far as resorting to the possibility of calling the police to restore order.

Those who vote according to the notion of “the lesser of two evils” will not have any luck finding a presidential candidate within the Democratic or Republican parties that will challenge the neo-colonialism of the Benjamin Netanyahu regime or his Likud party. Even a war of words condemning Israel’s conduct would not be enough to make an impact. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan once quipped, “Our American friends offer us money, weapons, and advice. We take the money, we take the weapons, and we decline the advice.”

The Israeli government’s crimes have been ignored for decades. Only in recent years the citizens of the free world, including nations allied with Israel, have taken notice and expressed outrage at these offenses. As observed by journalist Uri Averny:

“The persecuted has become the persecutor; David has turned into Goliath.”

– Mike Kuhlenbeck is a journalist and researcher whose work has appeared in The Humanist, Z Magazine and The Des Moines Register. He is a member of the National Writers Union and Investigative Reporters and Editors He contributed this article to

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  1. A common error that leads many analysts astray… America does not GIVE to Israel, Israel TAKES!

  2. You wrote: “Responding to the tragic shootings at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the French government has outlawed Pro-Palestinian demonstrations, rendering the term “freedom of speech” into a hollow political phrase to revamp the public’s fear of Islam.”

    Actually France banned pro-Palestinian marches last year…in July 2014: France’s Socialist government provoked outrage today by becoming the first in the world to ban protests against Israeli action in Palestine.
    In what is viewed as an outrageous attack on democracy, Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said mass demonstrations planned for the weekend should be halted.
    Mr Cazeneuve said there was a ‘threat to public order’, while opponents said he was ‘criminalising’ popular support of the Palestinian people.

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