For the first time since the creation of Israel in 1948, U.S. bipartisan support for the Zionist settler state has come under fire on the floor of Congress.
“To read the statements from President [Joe] Biden, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, General [Lloyd] Austin and leaders of both parties, you would hardly know Palestinians existed at all,” exclaimed a tearful Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, the first and only Palestinian woman in Congress, May 14. “There has been no recognition of the attack on Palestinian families being ripped from their homes right now. No mention of children being detained or murdered. No recognition of a sustained campaign of harassment and terror by Israeli police against worshippers kneeling down and praying and celebrating the holiest days in one of their holiest places; no mention of Al-Aqsa being surrounded by violence, tear gas, smoke, while people pray.”
Rep. Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants whose grandmother still lives in occupied Palestine, was joined by nine other House members. “It is a conflict where one country, funded and supported by the United States government, continues an illegal military occupation over another group of people,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Reps. Omar and Tlaib are the only two Muslim women in Congress. “We are antiwar; we are anti-occupation; and we are anti-apartheid,” added Cori Bush, first-term Representative and Black Lives Matter activist from Ferguson, Mo. (Al-Jazeera, May 14)
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley of Boston, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, André Carson of Indiana, Chuy Garcia of Illinois, Joaquin Castro of Texas and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin also took the floor against the official U.S. government line. They echoed the views of millions of people in the U.S., but their stand put them at odds with old-guard Democrats. “Israel has a right to defend itself,” said President Biden. “Israel has a right to defend herself,” parroted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Like a broken record, Biden and Pelosi repeated the words of former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and their predecessors, who likewise painted Israel as the victim of “aggression.” Neither capitalist party wants to end the subsidy, now at $3.8 billion annually, to the apartheid state. Israel is a tool of U.S. imperialism, aiding it in maintaining hegemony over the oil-rich region of the Middle East.
Context to debate in the Capitol
This historic debate occurs in the context of 73 years of unfaltering Palestinian resistance to occupation. At the same time, there is a mass movement in the U.S. against police here who occupy oppressed communities. There is a growing understanding of and identification with the struggle being waged halfway around the world in Palestine.
The level of sympathy with Palestine is higher than in 2009 when, for the second time, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who lost her seat for opposing the U.S. war in Iraq, was prevented from delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza.
Led by Congresswomen of color, the representatives who spoke against the ongoing massacres are commendable for challenging the official U.S. line and condemning the genocide being visited upon Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza. We must defend these courageous elected officials against political attacks, whether from moderate Democrats or the Republican Party — as it moves even further to the extreme right.
The progressive movement must, however, avoid the trap of condemning “both sides in the conflict” or denouncing Hamas for firing rockets into Israel. Palestine has a right to defend itself.
Nor is it enough to merely employ the power of Congressional purse strings, pressuring the Zionist state to behave differently while maintaining the flow of funds if they are earmarked for “defense.” Rep. McCollum, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, reiterated support for Israel’s Iron Dome “missile defense system.” This is unacceptable.
We demand, unconditionally, not one dollar for occupation, apartheid and genocide — or for its “defense.”
Free, free Palestine!