First, a contextual reminder from a Palestinian voice.
Israeli bombs landed on Gaza again this week, after Israeli snipers had shot dozens of Palestinians at protests of the Gaza fence and blockade. The Israeli army’s shooting and killing of protesters has been going on in Gaza for months. Even liberal outlets among the US news media tend to forget about that, and rarely report on the killing on Palestinians. Coverage begins when there are Israeli casualties, or a perceived threat to Israel. This is the only thing considered newsworthy.
For example, the NY Times coverage over the weekend.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is a Palestinian-American commented on the story.
Gaza’s entire population of 1.8 million people has been locked into the tiny territory for over a decade. This is as a result of Israeli policy. People protesting this at the militarized fence are shot at by Israeli snipers every day. All this has been normalized and is accepted as just the way things will be.
Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke up on behalf of beleaguered Palestinians. That was the cue for George W. Bush’s former press-secretary took the opportunity to call her a “terrorist supporter” for speaking up, while spreading a right-wing talking point claiming “Gaza is not occupied”.
Many have tried to pass off the Trump administration’s attacks on Rep. Tlaib and Omar as aberrations. They aren’t. Much of the Republican apparatus is in on it, including major players in prior Republican administrations. Of course, the Trump administration spices it up with falsehoods, but they’re substantively no different from the Bush wing.
Sadly, some Democrats are more than willing to aid and abet these Republican talking-points. They’re following a script where they maintain disciplined silence when Israeli forces attack and kill Palestinians. The moment there’s a Palestinian attack on Israelis, they jump into action, shouting in outrage.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is a classic example of this dynamic.
Notice how Steny Hoyer “stands strongly” for Israel’s right to defend itself? Not a word about the rights of Palestinians, to either live freely, or defend themselves. Hoyer never concerns himself with Palestinian’s rights, simply erasing them from consideration.
The Democratic caucus would do well to dump Steny Hoyer as Majority Leader and promote Barbara Lee into his position.
Even apart from Steny Hoyer, there are several other Democrats who spread misinformation and pro-Israel talking points.
Dan Shapiro surely knows that the Israeli army targets residential buildings. He was US ambassador to Israel during the Gaza conflict in 2014. The Israeli army targeted scores of homes, killing hundreds of civilians. This was a deliberate policy, has been loudly touted by Israel’s military and political leadership. Human rights groups have documented the fact that these Israeli bombings killed hundreds of Palestinian children.
Former ambassador Dan Shapiro surely knows all this. Why is he spreading misinformation?
Not only does the Israeli government have such a policy, they very publicly revel in it. Here’s the IDF’s official account boasting about destroying a residential building in Gaza. They claim it was the origin of a Hamas “cyber offensive”. Someone tried to hack into some Israeli computer, they believe it was someone in this building, so they bombed and destroyed the entire six story residential building.
Imagine you or your family lived in such a building and they were killed because a next-door neighbor was trying to hack something. Or, imagine how outraged the Israeli government would be if Palestinian forces bombed an Israeli university. Many of them have Israeli cyber-warfare units, including ones that engage in pervasive surveillance of Palestinians. You’d be barely able to hear yourself over the sound of American politicians rushing to condemn it as a terrorist strike. But when the IDF proudly touts its bombing of an apartment building with this pretext, all you hear are crickets.
Worst of all the right-wing propaganda is the dehumanizing, victim-blaming cartoons that surface.
Would that this were purely a matter of cartoons.
It is no laughing matter. The death toll from this weekend’s fighting alone is 26 people, 23 of them were Palestinian (including a Bedouin worker at an Israeli factory).
Among those killed was 14 month old Seba Abu Arar. This is reportedly a video of her from earlier this year:
One-year-old Seba was killed along with her aunt in an Israeli air attack at their house in Gaza on Saturday.
With her wounded hand, Seba’s mother, 27-year-old Rasha Abu Arar, wiped her tears, ruing the incident that took place following the escalation of violation that has killed at least 24 Palestinians and four Israelis.
“Me, my cousins and their children were sitting in the house when suddenly a rocket fell on us,” a pregnant Rasha told Al Jazeera.
“I wrapped my arms around my daughter to protect her but the shrapnel injured my hand and penetrated her body,” she said as she continued sobbing.
“My three-year-old daughter, Rafeef, was also wounded and is currently in the ICU,” added the mother of six.
Steny Hoyer, Dan Shapiro and every other Democrat who wants to say something at this time should keep Seba and her family in mind when they do. If they cannot see these children and every Palestinian as fully human, they should keep their mouths shut.