It’s a typically unfortunate election cycle in the United States for those who value the lives and dignity of the 4.5 million human beings living under the oppressive, deadly, and internationally illegal Israeli occupation in Palestine. As has been the case in American politics since imperial powers formed the Jewish state in 1948, both parties (in opposition to virtually every other political organization on the planet) refuse to acknowledge Palestine’s statehood (declared in 1988) or any wrongdoing by Israel since the country, with US backing, forced 700,000 people to flee their homes and settle in tightly controlled areas without the means for economic or political independence. But after Israel’s brutal attack on Palestine’s Gaza Strip in 2014 killed thousands of innocents, and after Israel’s far-right Prime Minister (who stole an election using money from American capitalists), Benjamin Netanyahu, began spewing his terrifying vitriol on American television, public approval of Israeli policy has finally begun to plummet in the US, regardless of party positions. Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders has gained media attention as a “revolutionary” defender of the Palestinians by having the audacity to claim the 243-to-1 ratio of Palestinian to Israeli civilian casualties is “disproportionate” and even suggesting that the Palestinian people deserve “respect.” This is somewhat ironic, coming from a man who voted multiple times to supply billions of dollars of aid and military equipment to Israel as recently as the 2014 Gaza War, who fired his Jewish Outreach Coordinator for a year-old facebook post critical of Netanyahu, and who vows to stay “neutral” on the ongoing struggle for Palestinian independence and dignity (the same promise was made by Donald Trump).
But Bernie is running against a behemoth of pro-Israel militant neoliberalism whose desperate pandering has somehow kept the majority of American Jews from supporting the first Jewish presidential candidate in American history. Hillary Clinton, during her tenure as Secretary of State, regularly defended Israeli war crimes to the UN, and as a Senator she not only consistently supported the American government’s funding of the Israeli regime, she vocally praised Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006. Clinton promises to mend the Democratic Party’s relationship with the Netanyahu government, placing her significantly closer to Israel’s government than even President Obama, their military bankroller. This week, in celebration of Passover, she took her pandering to a strange new level in a letter to the editor she published in the Times of Israel. I was fascinated by her writing, so I thought I would write her a point-by-point response.
I didn’t grow up celebrating Pesach…
That sounds accurate! But here’s a tiny hint from someone who did: if you are going to write your whole letter in English, you might as well call the holiday Passover. Love the italics though.
The Book of Exodus recalls how the Pharaoh denied the Israelites the right to worship as they chose. Today, there are new threats to religious liberty and an alarming rise in anti-Semitism…International efforts to malign and isolate the Jewish people – like the alarming “BDS” movement – are gaining steam.
So the push for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (molded after the grassroots movement that, in opposition to the status quo of Reagan and Thatcher, brought the atrocities of apartheid South Africa under international scrutiny) is following in the footsteps of Moses’s Pharaoh? Maybe, you didn’t quite understand the politics of the haggadah. The Pharaoh barred the Jews from full citizenship because of their religion, forced them and their children into exploitative labor to survive, refused to negotiate with their leaders, and even found himself overeager to use military force in the Sinai Peninsula. Sounds like Israel to me. Before you criticize the Palestinians and their desperate struggle for freedom, Madam Secretary, you might want to look up where the word Passover comes from. This metaphor won’t work as well for you as you would like.
As Secretary of State, I stood up for oppressed religious minorities in China, Iran and around the world.
What about when you and the Obama administration gave Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchs money and weapons to massacre Shi’ite civilians in Yemen, and even aided them directly with your drone strikes? What about when you personally backed the military coup in Honduras that led to the most violent dictatorship in this hemisphere, using death squads to murder Native American activists and take tribal land? What about when you called Syrian fascist Bashar Al-Assad, whose army has killed almost half a million people, specifically targeting Sunni Muslims, a “reformer?”
After a hasty departure from Egypt, as the Israelites wandered for forty long years in the Sinai, they developed a covenant with G-d and each other, so that no one in future generations would be left out or left behind. I believe that same sort of social contract exists in America.
First, nice work referring correctly to our Lord and his unpronounceable name. Looks like somebody is trying to out-Jew Bernie. Of course, there is nothing wrong with not being Jewish, but (as nobody has seemed to point out to you) it does make people very uncomfortable when you try on these different characters and origins. For somebody so blatantly dishonest, you really are surprisingly unconvincing. Polls show Americans are having trouble believing you are even a Methodist, nobody in Israel will think you are a Jew.
Second, how prudent to try to tap into the great Jewish tradition of socialism. It’s true, from Jesus to Marx to Chomsky, so many of the great socialists have been Jewish, and even Netanyahu is far further left, economically, than most American politicians. But let’s make one thing completely clear. Even though the shallow Keynesian talking points Bernie Sanders calls socialism are far too embroiled in capitalist market mindsets to ever bring anything close to economic justice, you, Hillary Rodham Clinton, hate poor people. Your policies have demonstrated stunning contempt for worker’s rights, for food-insecure American children, for communities devastated by mass incarceration, and for the millions of immigrants whose existence you call illegal. The only social contract you believe in is the one that binds people beneath your feet.
[The] most important lesson of the Book of Exodus comes at the end…the Jewish people arrive in their own homeland. I’ve proudly stood with the State of Israel my entire career.
Really? The most important lesson from the story where an enslaved people fights tirelessly for their freedom and finally triumphs against the forces of tyranny with the help of the enlessly loving but fiercely just force of the universe is that detail at the very end where God promises the Jewish people the land between the Euphrates and a now-dry branch of the Nile? I wonder who invited you to their seder. Oh wait, it was AIPAC, wasn’t it?
Others in this race suggest we must remain “neutral” in order to negotiate. But Israel’s safety is simply non-negotiable. And it would be a grave mistake for the United States to cede the mantle of leadership in the peace process to anyone else.
Wow, where to begin. Smooth way to remind the Israeli people that even though Bernie Sanders is a Jew who worked on an Israeli Kibbutz, he must hold the safety of the Israeli people in very low regard. At least you didn’t go as far as Israeli-American historian Michael Oren, who accused Sanders of “blood libel” (referring to the Middle Ages, when the Catholic establishment spread myths that Jews ate baby Christians on Passover) for his comments on Israel, which, I will say again, are woefully inadequate critiques.
Israel’s safety is not in jeopardy. Fewer Israeli civilians died in 2015 from terrorist attacks than in any other Arab nation except Bahrain, and the Israeli military has demonstrated only too well its ability to eliminate any threat (or even any peaceful voice of opposition). And even if the US cut off its unmatched military aid packages to Israel (which we must, immediately and unconditionally, if we actually want to facilitate peace), actually being forced to sit at a fair negotiating table could keep Israel safe for the long-term future. Even Hamas, painted by Israeli and American propaganda as a pathological fundamentalist terrorist organization, has very explicitly stated reasonable conditions for a ten-year truce with Israel. And after seventy years of Israeli occupation, the Palestinians are well within their right to dominate a negotiation process. The idea that Israel can compromise but Palestine must submit completely to foreign conditions is absurd and betrays the racism and cultural prejudice that Americans bring to the peace process. And the idea that the US, from across the ocean, is the only possible moderator, or even a remotely rational negotiator, is absurd. Clearly the US-brokered negotiations have failed to bring peace, at this point it would be a grave mistake to leave the peace process in our hands.
At a trafficking center in Kolkata, I met remarkable women and girls [former slaves] who suffered horrible abuses and were getting their lives back on track…It would never be easy, but with the help of others, they were finally out of harm’s way and able to live up to their G-d given potential.
G-d given potential. Nice. Here you make it sound like you did something to help the victims of slavery you visited in the State Department, an impressive wording trick, but don’t forget your own documents claim they were living in state shelters in Kolkata. These shelters have less funding every year, as the government has slashed corporate taxes and labor regulation (meanwhile causing an increase in slave labor) in direct compliance with pressure Western capitalists. What kind of people would pressure a government to deregulate labor laws in the country where more people are forced into unpaid labor than anywhere else on Earth? Maybe the same people whose livelihoods depend on global deregulation, who would pay millions of dollars in “speaking fees” to a presidential candidate to keep the pressure on.
Slaves of the world should fear you, your neoliberalism, and your shady back-room capitalism. They should also fear Israel. There is a long record of Palestinian child laborers working in Israeli-owned farms and factories in the occupied territories, which the Israeli government refuse to police, claiming that is the responsibility of the Palestinian government they don’t even recognize.
Let’s take a page from Moses and Aaron, and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Yes. Like the people fighting every day for their basic human rights under siege in Palestine.