Democratic Opposition to Israel Grows, Putting Biden in a Bind

Democrats in the U.S. Congress are split between traditional, knee-jerk support for Israel, and a rising chorus of Democratic members who are daring to speak out.

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams

On the heels of some progressives taking to the U.S. House floor to denounce decades of the Israeli government and military’s human rights abuses enabled by U.S. leaders and lawmakers, Rana Abdelhamid—a primary challenger to Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney—highlighted the contrast between her and the New York congresswoman’s recent statements about this week’s escalation in violence.

As the death toll from Israel’s assault of the Gaza Strip continued to rise—since Monday, at least 128 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed—Abdelhamid said that the violence in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where Israeli forces and settler colonists are driving Palestinians from their homes, and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, “has been heartbreaking and unacceptable.”

“We’ve seen the Israeli military force hundreds of Palestinians out of their homes through the expansion of illegal settlements,” said Abdelhamid. “Palestinians are afraid to go to schools or houses of worship. Likewise, Hamas rockets targeting Israeli civilians are unacceptable. At the end of the day, without the United States playing an even-handed role and using our leverage in the region to end the occupation of the Palestinian people and secure a two-state solution, the long-term security of both Israelis and Palestinians will be threatened.”

Abdelhamid—who is running to represent New York’s 12th Congressional District, which includes portions of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens—continued:

“Congress and the Biden administration must act immediately to end the violence, secure a cease-fire, and protect human rights. We must use all the tools at our disposal to do so, including ensuring that no foreign and military aid is going toward home demolitions, occupation, expulsion, and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, including children.

We cannot claim to stand for human rights while our nation is complicit in funding forced evictions, settlement expansion, and violence against children and families that undermine a two-state solution. Unlike Rep. Maloney, I don’t believe that Israel—or any country—should receive a blank check funded by American taxpayers to use in a way that violates our values and basic human rights. All people, Israelis and Palestinians alike, deserve dignity, justice, and freedom, and the United States cannot back away from its responsibility to ensure peace in the region.”

Abdelhamid’s statement aligned with remarks from House Democrats during a Thursday night event about Palestinian human rights, the $3.8 billion in unconditional military aid the U.S. gives Israel each year, and this week’s bloodshed. Israeli authorities have confirmed eight deaths, including a soldier near Gaza and two children.

The hourlong event—which featured a powerful and personal speech from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, whose grandmother lives nears Jerusalem—was organized by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.).

“Today we want to talk about the very long-term problems that have been for too long ignored by U.S. policies in the region,” Pocan said Thursday. “Fortunately, now, more and more members of Congress are wanting to address peace in this region in a more forthright way.”

The previous day, Pocan and Newman had led 23 other House Democrats in a letter that called on the Biden administration to pressure the Israeli government to “desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.”

U.S. President Joe Biden and congressional leaders are under mounting pressure to condemn Israeli violence in East Jerusalem and Gaza.

In a Friday opinion piece for the New York Times declaring “Palestinian lives matter,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued that the United States must stop being an apologist for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and “its undemocratic and racist behavior.”

“We must change course and adopt an even-handed approach, one that upholds and strengthens international law regarding the protection of civilians, as well as existing U.S. law holding that the provision of U.S. military aid must not enable human rights abuses,” wrote Sanders, a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

While some progressives in Congress—and Abdelhamid, who hopes to oust Maloney for the 2022 midterm elections—have spent the week calling for shifts in U.S. policy and denouncing abuses of Palestinians, others, including Biden, have repeatedly said that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

That sentiment was shared in a lengthy statement from Maloney on Thursday, which Abdelhamid posted on Twitter with her own statement.

“No one should be subject to an onslaught of rocket fire, and Israel has a right to defend herself and her people,” Maloney said in part.

Maloney also said that “the current situation in Israel and Gaza is untenable and unacceptable and every life is valuable. Too many lives have been lost—including Israeli and Palestinian children—and we need to restore calm.”

The longtime congresswoman added that she remains “a strong supporter of security aid for Israel” as well as “unreservedly supportive of and committed to a two-state solution and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.”

Justice Democrats, which has endorsed Abdelhamid, tweeted Maloney’s statement Friday afternoon along with a link to a fundraising page for her challenger, writing: “Donate to @RanaForCongress for progressive change.”

The child of working-class Egyptian immigrants, Abdelhamid navigated post-9/11 New York City as a young Muslim. When she was 16 years old, a man on the street tried to tear off her hijab in broad daylight. Abdelhamid later founded a nonprofit that, in her words, “has helped train thousands of women around the world in self-defense, anti-hate crime advocacy, and emotional healing work.”

Abdelhamid is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and supports the Green New Deal; Medicare for All; Covid-19 relief and recovery for her disproportionately impacted community; investments in public education; safeguarding immigrant and voting rights; U.S. foreign policy rooted in human rights; and increased efforts to ensure gender, housing, economic, and racial justice.

“No one who has challenged Maloney in the past has run a truly progressive campaign and offered a clear contrast to her,” the 28-year-old, who was born after Maloney entered Congress, told The Nation earlier this year. “And I think I’ll be able to do that.”

This article is from Common Dreams.

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11 comments for “Democratic Opposition to Israel Grows, Putting Biden in a Bind

  1. Just Pissed Off
    May 17, 2021 at 17:33

    The article suggests that Carolyn Maloney will be challenged by Rana Abdelhamid .
    Sounds good ……
    …. until you realize that Abdelhamid has been endorsed by “Just Us Democrats”.
    After seeing my financial support for AOC being given to Democrats I despise… guess what?

  2. Richard Spencer
    May 17, 2021 at 15:29

    The U.S. Government is complicit in these war crimes against the Palestinian People .

  3. Pedro
    May 17, 2021 at 14:09

    Palestinians have to defend themselves and they have the right too. They have been brutally abused for decades. I applaud anyone who confronts a bully.
    I havent been this disgusted and ashamed of the US since Vietnam. The US wont even tell Israel’s “leader” to STOP, NOW.
    Israel figured out how to game the US political system and they are doing it.

  4. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    May 17, 2021 at 12:56

    “Joe Biden vient de signer un accord de 735 millions de dollars supplémentaires d’armes à Israël.
    Voilà le “changement” que Biden a promis. Quand il a dit “L’Amérique est de retour”, c’était une menace.”

    17 mai 2021 — Ben NORTON @BenjaminNorton

  5. Heinz Leitner
    May 17, 2021 at 10:19

    I recommend viewing the enclosed video
    Sheikh Jarrah Resident On Evictions and Life Under Israeli Occupation
    Sadly, Austria flies flag of Israel on official buildings ‘in solidarity” (on Austrian chancellery and ministry of foreign affairs). Public solidarity with Palestine is prohibited in Vienna
    Solidarität mit Palästina

  6. Nathan Mulcahy
    May 16, 2021 at 18:02

    The never ending Pavlovian mantra of both parties that “Israel has the right to defend itself” exposes them for who they are and who they carry water for.

    Both proclaim that this apartheid state that has so far violated 70+ UN resolutions, continues to illegally occupy Palestine land, and commits ethnic cleansing has the right to defend itself. But the politicians from both parties are not ALLOWED to say anything in support of the victims of the crimes of this state. Why and promoted by whom? The answers should be pretty obvious. But if you share your opinion publicly, then you’ll be accused of antisemitism.

    Shame on both parties, but of course, they have no shame.

    I strongly urge everyone to find out about the BDS movement and support it in every way you can. Thank you!


  7. bardamu
    May 16, 2021 at 16:30

    It’s nice that a few people in office speak reasonably sometimes.

    Is there any indication that Biden feels bound by any of this, even a little? Is t here any indication that this loosens the Blue-no-matter-what faith that some of these apparent critics have expressed and adhered to?

    Is it at all feasible to imagine that there is nothing more concrete in what binds Biden to war and destruction, and to Israeli policy?

    To approach the fulcrum of power seems to involve a lot of lying, a lot of loss of self, a certain basic weakness in orientation that is called “practical” though it does not work.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    May 16, 2021 at 14:55

    The criminal Zionist regime just committed a major P.R. blunder in obliterating the big media building that headquartered AP and other outlets. Now Netanyahu is in the process of laying the blame on Biden! He’s claiming Biden gave him the greenlight to go ahead with the bombing!

    • Observer
      May 17, 2021 at 15:33

      “Now Netanyahu is in the process of laying the blame on Biden! He’s claiming Biden gave him the greenlight to go ahead with the bombing!”

      — And what makes you think Netanyahoo is not telling the truth? After all, the US government did exactly the same thing itself in Iraq and Yugoslavia (and possibly elsewhere).

  9. May 16, 2021 at 14:29

    I mean I truly appreciate some of the sentiment espoused here. Maybe “Common Dreams” are coming around. But, putting myself in the shoes of the Palestinians for a moment, do you really think it is fair to say no home-made rockets should be sent back?
    Honestly, the one thing a bully loves is when the target behaves meekly and just takes it. Long lessons of history tell us that is not the path to achieving what you want.
    The only way to stop a bully is to hit them where it hurts. Do it smartly and do it swiftly and a good message will be sent and we will all understand and everybody will be happy because have you not ever suffered at the hands of a bully? We all feel good when the bully learns the hard way. Even the bully appreciates the message if they have any inkling of wisdom left in their confused brain.
    Defense is easy and precision is critical with respect to ever sending a message to a bully. Choose your time and moment, get some help from your friends if you have any, and then send the message with conviction.
    I swear to God I’m earnestly waiting for this to happen, but if the bully comes to my doorstep, then I’ll send the message myself.
    I support the People of Palestine and I support kicking bullies in the balls. One at a time.

      May 16, 2021 at 15:51

      It’s not a question of Common Dreams “coming around.” Their reporting is good on some topics and not so good on others. That is unlikely to change. One cannot agree with a publication on every question and their good reporting is valuable and worthy of being republished.

Comments are closed.