Voiceless ‘Squad’ – US Progressive Representatives Have Failed Gaza

US Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Robert Inlakesh

Although Sanders appeared to have been sporting a more radical stance, by including the word ceasefire, his position of a more humane style of war in Gaza is now the same rhetoric being officially espoused by the Biden administration.

With the exception of a few vocal opponents of the war on Gaza, mainstream progressive elected representatives in the United States have proven to be voiceless, or at best incapable of uttering critical language, on Israel’s mass murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

US President, Joe Biden, has recently shifted his rhetoric on the Israeli war on Gaza, now using the word ‘ceasefire’ publicly in a bid to align his administration with the position favored by roughly 70 percent of Democratic Party supporters. 

However, the Biden administration is yet to actually call for a lasting ceasefire and its policy of calling for a temporary pause remains. 

The Squad

This prompted the silent protest by congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, along with other members of ‘The Squad’, to hold up signs reading “lasting ceasefire now” during the American President’s recent State of Union speech.

Despite the vocal calls, from the early days of the Israeli attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, by congresswomen Tlaib and Cori Bush, The Squad and other progressive voices from within the Democratic Party have collectively failed to serve as a meaningful voice for Palestinian human rights. The two most striking cases being Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC).

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While the former US Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has been one of the most vocal opponents of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the current Israeli government’s actions in Gaza, he has also stressed his desire for Israel to “eliminate Hamas” and that there should only be a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. 

Although Senator Sanders appeared to have been sporting a more radical stance, by including the word ceasefire, his position of a more humane style of war in Gaza is now the same rhetoric being officially espoused by the Biden administration.

In late October, after thousands of children had already been killed in Gaza, dwarfing the death toll on October 7, which is frequently cited as the reason for Israel’s offensive, Bernie Sanders was confronted with demonstrators who gathered in front of his office to protest his refusal to back public calls for a ceasefire. 

Although, as the protests mounted from many of those who made up his vast support base and slowly began issuing more radical statements against Israel’s assault on Gaza, his initial response of backing Israeli efforts to eliminate Hamas have sustained.

Sharing the stage with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in failing to use the word genocide to describe what is going in Gaza, Senator Sanders stated he is made “a little bit queasy” by labelling it as such. 

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AOC and Bernie Sanders

In the case of AOC, she has stated on the record that “this is not a war, this is a slaughter” in reference to Israel’s assault on Gaza, but has been widely criticized ,after a number of appearances on broadcast media, where she refrained from offering her stance on whether she agrees that Israel’s actions constitute genocide. 

In a video that was widely shared on social media, activists confronted the front woman for The Squad over her refusal to say that Israel was inflicting a genocide in Gaza, which is what the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled is a plausibly occuring. AOC is filmed swearing and unleashing a tirade of anger against the activists.

AOC also has a track record of walking back some of her critical statements toward Israel and attempting to strike a middle-line position when pushed on rhetoric she has used. 

One such example of this was an interview that was published in November of 2020, in which the congresswoman was interviewed by Margaret Hoover for PBS’s ‘Firing Line’. 

During the interview, she states that she believes in “Israel’s right to exist” and when asked why she used the phrase “the occupation of Palestine”, Ocasio-Cortez says: “Oh, um, I think what I meant is, like, the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes”.

The above-mentioned interview is important to understanding the way in which AOC approaches the issue of Palestine-Israel with great caution. It also demonstrated, as she nervously explained, that she isn’t an “expert on geopolitics on this issue”, yet knew enough to fear a backlash. 

In December of 2021, AOC voted ‘Present’ on a bill that was passed in the US House of Representatives, which delivered additional American aid to Israel, primarily through Iron Dome air defense funding. 

Then, following the start of the war in October, she expressed her willingness to supply Israel with Iron Dome funding, which represented a shift from her previously held position that was critical of unconditional US aid to Israel.

Bernie Sanders has a similarly pro-Israel record also, and is a proponent of “Israel’s right to exist”, even shouting down a protester who confronted him at a speaking event during Israel’s 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip. At that time, Senator Sanders yelled “shut up” angrily at the protester.

Although we are hearing some critical voices from within the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, those voices have not been nearly fierce enough for much of their support base’s liking. 

In the case of AOC, her position has appeared weak and lacking of the usual tenacity with which she speaks on other issues, as she opts for often cautiously approached the issue. 

As for Bernie Sanders, his position is that of Joe Biden, with a little bit more of a critical approach to Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The idea of a temporary ceasefire is just a brief pause that is designed to serve Israeli interests and hence places Sanders in the camp of supporting Israel’s war, but criticizing some of the details. 

A comparison could be made to supporters of the Vietnam War, who disagreed with some of the US military’s more egregious crimes, but still believed the war to be beneficial and righteous.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

– Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker. He focuses on the Middle East, specializing in Palestine. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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