Hoyer and others remind AIPAC they don’t value Palestinian’s rights or even their lives

AIPAC is hosting its annual conference in DC, and it has attracted several powerful speakers, many of whom seem eager to flaunt their ability to suppress criticism of Israel’s enormous human rights violations. AIPAC’s deep ties to both Netanyahu and Trump increasingly reveal it to be a right-wing organization antithetical to equal rights.

For over a year, Israeli soldiers have been shooting protesters in Gaza. Just in time for the Israeli election, Netanyahu has begun a large bombing campaign as well. 

None of this stopped Steny Hoyer from ascending the stage at AIPAC’s conference, and declaring “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically”.

Hoyer declared at AIPAC that he was part of a “bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel”. This is a declaration that he and this “bipartisan coalition” will continue to provide arms and political cover to the Israeli government, no matter what horrors it visits upon Palestinians.

This is meant to tell Palestinians that nothing but absolute surrender to Israel will do.

When Palestinians protest at militarized barriers patrolled by drones and automated machine guns, when thousands of them are wounded by Israeli soldiers, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

When hundreds of Palestinian protesters are killed in the West Bank and Gaza, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

When the dreams, ambitions and well-being of three generations of Palestinians are stunted by a militarized occupation that has lasted 50 years, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

But, when Palestinian unions and activists ask us to show solidarity with their plight. To join them in a peaceful, non-violent call for boycott and sanctions, then Steny Hoyer suddenly discovers his voice and rises against these activists. He rises to bring all his power to bear on silencing them.

A new resolution sponsored by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.) rejects the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS, which tries to apply economic pressure to compel Israel to change its policy toward the Palestinians. Israel’s allies in Congress say the changes BDS supporters want would effectively end Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. AIPAC backs the resolution, and Hoyer on Sunday threw his full support behind it with a promise to “defeat BDS.” — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Hoyer practices a studious silence when Palestinian are killed, and performative outrage when a fellow Democrat has the temerity to challenge unquestioned support for the Israeli government. Let us recognize this for what it is. It is a mechanism to silence dissent and manufacture consent.

It tells ordinary Americans that their government will punish them if they choose to signal disapproval of Israel’s military occupation by advocating for a boycott or sanctions.

Let us also recognize exactly what the politicians who rush to support AIPAC/Netanyahu are doing here. They are supporting an extreme right-wing party (Likud), that has built an alliance, over several decades with the GOP and fundamentalist evangelicals

Since the very beginning, Israel supporters have appealed to very understandable sympathy for survivors of the holocaust and Jewish people fleeing persecution.

At the same time, a more unsavory strain of Israel apologia has tapped into anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism. You can hear echoes of it in each and every statement that seeks to paint Israel as civilized/peaceful and its neighbors/Arabs as barbaric/warlike. This is exactly how European settler-colonists sought to portray their interaction with indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa and Australia.  

This hate-driven support was born within the right-wing. Here’s Ayn Rand back in the 1970s:

The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don’t want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don’t wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency. — Ford Hall Forum Lecture, 1974 (www.dailykos.com/…)

AIPAC has embraced this thinking from the very beginning, seeking to exploit latent racism and anti-Muslim sentiment to build support for Israel. It still does. Adam Milstein, who sits on AIPAC’s national council has called Rep. Omar a “terrorist”, and claimed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular slur among right-wing Islamophobes (they also used it against Obama). This hate finds full expression in the likes of Pamela Geller.

Rand of course was an unabashed proponent of settler-colonialism. Here she is talking about the US campaigns against Native Americans:

Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. — Q & A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 (www.dailykos.com/…)

You can hear clear echoes of these civilized/barbaric tropes in Hoyer’s speech:

“In a region of dictatorships and dynasties, Israel remains a beachhead of freedom and representative government. In Israel’s democracy, where rule of law is upheld and freedom of expression is assured, Americans see a mirror image of our own.” — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Ayn Rand’s “least developed, primitive nomads” have been updated in Hoyer’s speech to “dictatorships and dynasties”.

Israel, which Rand calls a “beachhead of modern science and civilization” becomes “a beachhead of freedom and representative government” in Hoyer’s phrasing. 

Ayn Rand’s claim that the literal cradle of civilization where humans first practiced agriculture was a “wasted desert” is patently ridiculous. So is Hoyer’s branding of Israel as a representative government.

In his fervent defense of Israeli “democracy”, Rep. Hoyer pointedly ignores the fact that this democracy rules over millions of Palestinians who do not have the right to vote. In Hoyer’s view it seems, you can run a violent military occupation for half a century without compunction and still be called a “democracy”. This ridiculous claim received applause only because the audience has already been primed with the ingrained belief that Palestinians are somehow “unworthy” of basic human rights. An audience that believe that barbarians don’t deserve rights, nor do those with a penchant for dictatorships and dynasties. That they are, somehow, less than human. Therefore it is acceptable to deny them rights for decades on end, they are not ready for these rights, they an immature society/race. If all of this racist logic sounds vaguely familiar, it should be.

Of course, human rights do not have qualifications. You don’t need to be “deserving” to have rights. As Americans our creed is:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

For centuries, we didn’t extend these “unalienable rights” to Native Americans, black people, or women. We had no claim to being a democracy while we suppressed their rights. Similarly, Israel cannot be called a democracy while it violates the principle of equal rights using various legal sleights of hand.

Israel-Palestine is complex, and evokes deep emotion. But at its core lies this deceptively simple question. Are we for equal rights for all people, or not?

The break among left and right on Israel comes down to fundamentally different views on this question. The right has never cared for equal rights. At its core, the conservative project is about protecting the privileges of the ruling class. As Frank Wilhoit said so succinctly several years ago:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. crookedtimber.org/…

This is exactly what we see happening in the West Bank.

Settlers are protected by the law, but not bound by it. That is why they can walk into Palestinian fields and burn century-old olive trees and call themselves “civilized”. That is why they can construct settlements on the ruins of Palestinian villages and say “we build”.

Meanwhile, Palestinians are bound by the law, but not protected by it. That is why Israeli bulldozers tear down their houses when they build an extra room for a growing family. That is why Israeli soldiers stand by as violent settlers attack them or their property.

As Americans, we are very familiar with this dynamic. It is an echo of how our own legal structure was used, and often designed, to oppress native americans, black people, women, and every other out-group. We are still working towards a more perfect union, towards a full expression of this realization:

The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone. — crookedtimber.org/…

The time has come for all Democrats to decide. Are we for equal rights? Or are we for supremacy? I know what my answer is.

— @subirgrewal

By the way, Chuck Schumer also spoke at this right-wing conference.

Not only is Schumer completely misrepresenting what Rep. Omar said here, he’s equating her critique about the influence of money on foreign policy with statements of sympathy towards KKK/Nazis. The GOP’s coddling of KKK/Nazis has spurred murderous attacks on minorities in Charleston, Quebec City, Pittsburgh and Christchurch in just the past few years. Schumer surely knows this. Why is he creating making false comparison between Rep. Omar’s critique and the KKK?

Are we to believe Schumer doesn’t know that he’s playing defense for Trump and Netanyahu? Is Schumer unaware that AIPAC is a Trump/Netanyahu show? Is Schumer blind to the fact that when Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and legitimizes Israel’s takeover of the Golan Heights, that he is undoing decades of US opposition to  territorial acquisition by conquest?

The affinity goes deep. Both leaders [Trump and Netanyahu] share an influential backer — US casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who pushed for, and received, a promise from Mr Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. They share a roughhouse political style and the habit of describing investigations into their conduct as “witch-hunts”. They also both enjoy support from US Christian evangelical leaders for whom biblical prophecy gives the status of Jerusalem elevated importance. — www.ft.com/…

Schumer isn’t the only one making the comparison, other senior Democrats are making other obnoxious comparisons too. Eli Valley explains.

Yes, apparently questioning AIPAC’s influence over US foreign policy is the equivalent of birther-ism and the KKK. Surely Schumer, Hoyer and the others know that Rep. Omar has received numerous death threats. Surely they know that their bad faith criticism of Rep. Omar and kow-towing to right-wing fanatics enables stuff like this:

“This August I will lead what I expect to be the largest delegation ever” to Israel, Hoyer said. “There are 62 freshman Democrats,” he said, and cocked his ear. “You hear me? 62 — not three.” — www.haaretz.com/…

That was a barb aimed at Rep. Tlaib, Rep. Omar and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez who are standing up for equal rights. Hoyer and the people he is leading on this one sided junket are not for equal rights. Worse, Hoyer and others are enabling outrageous attacks by right-wing zealots on these fellow Democrats. By doing that, they are also giving additional aid to the GOP, by shifting the focus away from right-wing extremism.