Prior to the ceasefire that ended the eleven-day cross-border war between Israel and Hamas, the fourth in 13 years, the Democratic Party in the United States was torn asunder by the fierce fighting.
Mainstream Democrats in the House of Representatives, like Ted Deutch and Elaine Luria, denounced Hamas’ brazen aggression and spoke up in defence of Israeli air strikes targeting its military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
Progressive Democrats, comprising about 10 percent of the party’s caucus in Congress, were critical of Israel. In a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 25 members of the House of Representatives blasted plans by Israel to evict several Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. (This order has since been put on hold by the Israeli government and is now being reviewed by Israel’s Supreme Court). They also called for an immediate truce and supported a resolution, sponsored by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, to block a $735 million sale of precision-guided missiles to Israel.
Bernie Sanders submitted the same resolution in the Senate. “At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate,” he said.
In addition, Ilhan Omar, a vocal progressive and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, sent out a tweet strenuously denying that Hamas had used Palestinian civilians as “human shields” in its conflict with Israel. She dismissed this well-documented truth as a “myth.”
One can only expect pro forma pro-Palestinian pronouncements from Omar, one of the first Muslims to be elected to Congress. But when she willfully distorts the facts, she cannot be taken seriously.
As widely reported, Hamas embedded itself deeply in Gaza’s civilian population. Rockets aimed at Israel were fired from densely populated residential areas, as photographs attested. Weapons were stored in the homes of Hamas operatives. Attack tunnels were dug under buildings inhabited by ordinary Palestinians. Forty five Palestinians were killed when an apartment building collapsed after Israeli missiles struck a tunnel underneath it.
Presumably, Omar was aware of these realities. Yet she cynically perpetuated the outrageous lie that Hamas respects human life and refrained from exposing Palestinian civilians to danger.
Mark Pocan, another Democrat progressive who criticized Israel during the latest Gaza war, delivered a speech in Congress that can only be described as bizarre, if not unhinged
Asserting that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system had been effective in destroying incoming enemy rockets, Pocan argued that Israel had no real reason to launch retaliatory air strikes against Hamas.
Thankfully, the Iron Dome intercepted about 90 percent of the 4,000-plus unguided projectiles fired by Hamas indiscriminately, thereby saving lives and protecting property. But hundreds of them crashed into apartment buildings and killed a number of Israelis running toward nearby bomb shelters.
By Pocan’s twisted logic, Israel should have exercised restraint in the face of these crimes against humanity. In other words,Israel should not have responded to this aggression.
Only a fool would listen to such misguided advice.
When Pocan was informed by one of his colleagues that the Iron Dome does not interdict rocket launches per se, he dodged the issue and advised Israel to deescalate its military operations and agree to an immediate ceasefire with Hamas.
So much for his keen analytical skills.
This war played out on social media as well. When Congressman Ritchie Torres defended Israel’s position, the backlash was vituperative.
“The moment I sent out a statement denouncing the rocket fire from Hamas, I was swiftly denounced by BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) extremists as a white supremacist, as a supporter of apartheid and ethnic cleansing and genocide, terms that have been stripped of the original and proper meaning,” Torres said.
“What is under siege is not only Israel. What is under siege is the truth itself. Circulating on social media, in particular, is a vicious lie, a lie that deceptively reframes the terrorism of Hamas as self-defence and deceptively reframes the self-defence of Israel as terrorism. Increasingly, we seem to live in an Orwellian universe where the truth no longer matters.”
Need more be said?