Michael F. Brown
The Electronic Intifada / July 3, 2021
Israeli military violence is temporarily more out of sight – as is, for Washington, the far more concerning retaliatory Palestinian rocket fire – and so for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the absence of Palestinian freedom is out of mind. He’s not going to stand up for Palestinian rights, nor will his boss in the White House.
Ethnic cleansing in the Silwan area of occupied East Jerusalem isn’t going to create a stir in Washington unless it leads to disproportionate military exchanges between Israel and Gaza as was the case during May, when tensions in Sheikh Jarrah rose. Indeed, Democrats in the US Congress are scarcely paying any heed to the fate of Silwan’s Palestinian residents as day to day apartheid is simply business as usual.
Just a few members of Congress have mentioned Silwan by name, including specific tweets from Jesús “Chuy” García, André Carson, Ayanna Pressley and Mark Pocan.
Blinken met Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, last Sunday in Rome. The secretary of state apparently made no reference to Silwan or to Palestinians’ apartheid reality, though he did cite US support for Israeli security.
Blinken tweeted: “We discussed the strong partnership between Israel and the United States, our commitment to Israel’s security, and our support for regional normalization efforts.”
Lapid, who is supposed to fix Israel’s relationship with those Democrats who disliked the insults directed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at President Barack Obama over Iran policy and mild protestations regarding Palestinian rights, again admitted to Israel’s suffering relationship with the Democratic Party.
The deterioration, it should be noted, is largely with more recent additions to the US Congress and not with Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, and foreign policy leaders such as Bob Menendez and Gregory Meeks.
Lapid recognized in Rome that “In the past few years, mistakes were made.”
He added, “Israel’s bipartisan standing was hurt. We will fix those mistakes together.”
(Michael Crowley of The New York Times in covering the meeting noted: “Mr. Blinken met Mr. Lapid last month in Israel following the cease-fire that ended a 10-day conflict between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas set off by violence within Israel between Arabs and Jews.” The newspaper did not respond to my query asking if it now regards Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem as part of Israel and no correction was issued.)
President Joe Biden surely could not be happier to have an Israeli foreign minister pursuing colonial policies more diplomatically than the more abrasive Netanyahu and his representatives. Quiet, not justice, is what Biden is pursuing.
The president, rightly, entered office thinking little of the prospects for peace negotiations. But he’s also unwilling to stand up to Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory and is perfectly content to run over Congress to re-arm Israel with precisely the same weaponry used in May to kill Palestinian families in their homes.
The Biden administration is also failing to reverse course on President Donald Trump’s efforts to normalize illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Additionally, the Biden administration has indicated it is sticking with the Trump administration’s signing off on Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights.
A previous State Department comment to The Washington Free Beacon was less clear. The new statement suggests the Biden administration has caved before the stridently anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab Free Beacon.
In Monday’s White House readout of Biden’s meeting with Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s outgoing president, the two leaders reportedly “discussed recent developments in Gaza and the West Bank” with Biden emphasizing “the importance of Israel taking steps to ensure calm, stability, and to support greater economic opportunities for the Palestinian people.”
In recent years, we have repeatedly seen Israeli and American leaders stress “economic opportunities” over political freedom for Palestinians.
Biden, as usual, made a nod toward the two-state solution with no specific mention of illegal settlement activity or Israel’s discriminatory policies.
Democrats ignore occupier’s violence
On 23 June, 73 members of Congress did write Biden urging him to change direction by withdrawing the Trump administration’s highly biased “peace plan” – which even they put in quotation marks.
They also suggested making clear that “the United States considers settlements to be inconsistent with international law by reissuing relevant State Department and US customs guidance to that effect.” And they rightly urged Biden to “strongly oppose the forced expulsion via eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem and throughout Palestinian territory,” though far fewer have spoken out this week specifically regarding Silwan.
To establish their bona fides as rock-solid supporters of Israel they called on Biden to “insist through all channels that Hamas stop further rocket attacks against Israel.” They said nothing, however, against the much greater violence of the occupying power, Israel, which wields direct and indirect violence on a daily basis against Palestinians.
Yes, mistakes were made, as Lapid said, though these “mistakes” were in fact Israeli policy often enabled by Democrats and only occasionally contested. American politicians, many Democrats among them, are compounding the “mistakes” and Israeli policy decisions by continuing to arm and politically favor the occupying power.
As usual, the typical caveats about the Republicans being even worse pertain. But Democrats, with a bit more expected of them, remain a reliable source of disappointment with their cowardice in failing to speak out for Palestinian rights and freedom.
Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist