Visiting US politicians heap praise on Israel as Palestinians protest ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah

House member Ritchie Torres - Democrat, New York (Twitter)

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  February 24, 2022

This week dozens of House members have met with Israeli leaders and tweeted praise for the country as police continued to clash with Palestinian protestors in occupied East Jerusalem, where multiple families face displacement.

Dozens of House members are in Israel this week as part of a trip organized by an AIPAC-affiliated group. While the lawmakers met with Israeli leaders, and tweeted praise for the country, police continued to clash with Palestinian protestors in occupied East Jerusalem, where multiple families face displacement.

The American Israel Education Foundation arranged to send 27 Republicans and 14 Democrats. The Republican delegation is headed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy. (R-CA). “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it always will be,” tweeted the House Minority Leader. “I’m here this week, leading dozens of House Republicans on a trip to reaffirm America’s unwavering support for Israel.”

Other members of McCarthy’s group also championed the U.S.-Israel relationship. “In a fallen and dangerous world, alliances matter,” tweeted Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL). “I’m proud to join [Kevin] McCarthy and my House GOP colleagues in #Israel this week to reaffirm our commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) called the trip “an incredibly informative few days.” Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) said that, “The US relationship with Israel isn’t about politics, it is rooted in our shared values and security interests and we reaffirmed our unwavering support for Israel during our discussions.” Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) tweeted a picture of herself next to an IDF soldier. “It was amazing to meet some of the courageous men and women of the IDF today,” read her caption. “Their service on the front lines ensures that Israel remains a safe, free, and democratic nation. My colleagues and I are incredibly proud to stand with them.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by members of the Democratic delegation. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) posted a video from Jerusalem. “Look, there’s no country that is the target of more disinformation than Israel,” he told his followers. “And so it’s more urgent than ever for people to come to the state of Israel, see the reality on the ground with your own eyes, and come to your own conclusions.”

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) also shared a video from Jerusalem, praising the Israeli government’s diversity. “Israel has an extraordinary broad coalition government unlike any it’s ever had before,” said Manning. “It’s important for us to be here to understand… the complexity of this incredible new government and also to demonstrate the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Last week House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi led her own Democratic delegation to Israel, where they were greeted at an official ceremony in the Knesset. Her group of eight congress members included conservative Democrats like Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and progressives, like Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna. At the Knesset event Pelosi told reporters that Israel is “the greatest political achievement of the 20th century.”

Despite being in Jerusalem, none of the lawmakers mentioned the escalating tension occurring nearby. In the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians have been protesting against yet another round of forced evictions and displacement. The Salem family was set to be evicted on March 1st, so that right-wing Zionist politician Yonatan Yosef could move into their house, but the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court recently ruled that the order could be suspended while an appeal is considered.

On Monday Muhammad al-Ajlouni, a 25-year-old Palestinian with Down syndrome, was violently assaulted by Israeli police. A video clip of the incident generated outrage across social media. “Israeli state violence is cruel and does not care about a Palestinian’s age, gender, or ability. All Palestinians are seen as a threat,” tweeted the Jewish progressive group IfNotNow.

On Tuesday Israeli forces killed Mohammed Shehadeh, a 14-year-old boy, in the West Bank. According to local activist Ahmad Salah, police prevented ambulances from reaching the boy after he was shot. Shehadeh’s death came just a week after Israeli forces killed Nihad Barghouti, a 19-year-old Palestinian, in the West Bank.

On Twitter many condemned the Israel trips using the hashtag #ApartheidDelegation.

“As Democrats and Republicans gallivant around Israel this week on an all-expenses-paid #ApartheidDelegation, here’s your reminder that these AIPAC-affiliated trips violate congressional ethics rules,” tweeted Josh Ruebner.

“Palestinians in #SheikhJarrah are giving literally everything to defend their land from the Israeli state and state-backed settlers who are trying to destroy their homes,” said JVP Action’s Beth Miller. “Amid this Speaker Pelosi is leading an #ApartheidDelegation to deepen US support for Israel. It’s despicable.”

Earlier this month Amnesty International released a detailed report on Israeli apartheid. “Decades of deliberately unequal treatment of Palestinians in all areas under the control of Israel has left Palestinians marginalized and subject to widespread and systematic socio-economic disadvantage as they are barred from equitable access to natural and financial resources, livelihood opportunities, healthcare and education,” it reads. 

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss