Few speak out for Palestinians in U.S. Congress
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) -http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed2/idUSN09303848?sp=true
Many voices around the world speak up for the Palestinians, but few in the U.S. Congress.
Lawmakers in Washington routinely pass nonbinding resolutions supporting Israel during Middle East crises. The Senate on Thursday backed Israel's battle against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and the House of Representatives followed on Friday….
The Senate measure offered 'unwavering commitment' to Israel. It recognized 'its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism' and urged a ceasefire that would keep Hamas from firing rockets at Israel….
That closely tracked Republican President George W. Bush's comments on the crisis, said Ric Stoll, professor of political science at Rice University, who questioned whether it helped U.S. diplomats trying to broker a ceasefire.
'You don't have to say Hamas are nice folks,' Stoll said. '(But) how do you convince supporters of the Palestinians to pressure Hamas to go for a ceasefire, if your statements look like you are tilting heavily towards Israel?'
The House on Friday passed a resolution 'recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza' by 390-5. The measure noted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza 'is becoming more acute' but did not rebuke Israel…
The few opponents of… [Congress' pro-Israel resolutions] often include lawmakers of Arab-American descent or from Arab-American communities, and mavericks such as Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Republican Ron Paul of Texas.
Kucinich, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year, charged that the United States was ignoring the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza while facilitating Israel's actions with arms deals worth billions.
Washington 'sniffs at the slaughter of innocents in Gaza,' he said. 'U.S. tax dollars, U.S. jets and U.S. helicopters provided to Israel are enabling the slaughter in Gaza.'
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the Israeli lobby is often seen as the force behind pro-Israel votes, but he thinks it is not that simple.
Some Americans 'don't have a clue' about the Palestinians' history, he said.
It would more accurate to say that what most Americans know about the Palestinian's and Israel's history is largely not true, while those in other nations are much more knowledgeable.
Wallace Shawn's thoughtful commentary in The Nation, "Israel in Gaza: Irrationality," points out that Congress' "pro-Israel" statements are harmful to Israel.
He writes, " As poor and oppressed people around the world are very well aware of the events in the occupied territories, and as they strongly identify with the Palestinian struggle and point of view, the future of the Jews looks increasingly dim.
Consequently it is disgraceful and vile and no favor to the Jews for American politicians–for narrow, short-term political advantage, for narrow, short-term global-strategic reasons and, yes, also in expiation of the residual guilt they feel over what happened to the Jews in the past–to pander to the irrationality of the most irrational Jews."
In his essay he offers insight into the nature of the conflict in Palestine:
"It is not rational to believe that the Palestinians in the occupied territories will be terrorized by force and violence, by cruelty, by starvation or by slaughter into a docile acceptance of the Israeli occupation. There is no evidence that that could possibly happen and mountains of evidence to the contrary.
Many right-wing Israelis and American Jews clearly believe that Jews have always had enemies and always will have enemies–and who can be shocked that certain Jews might think that? To these individuals, a Palestinian throwing stones at an Israeli soldier, even if his life has perhaps been destroyed by the Israeli occupation, is simply part of an eternal mob of anti-Semites, a mob made up principally of people to whom the Jews have done no harm at all, as they did no harm to Hitler. The logical consequence of this view of the world is that in the face of such massive and eternal opposition, Jews are morally justified in taking any measures they can think of to protect themselves. They are involved in one long eternal war, and a few hundred Palestinians killed today must be measured against many millions of Jews who were killed in the past. The agony the Israelis might inflict on a Palestinian family today must be seen in the perspective of Jewish families in agony all over the world in the past.
It is irrational for the Israeli leaders to imagine that the Palestinians will understand this particular point of view–will understand why Jews might find it appropriate, let us say, to retaliate for the death of one Jew by killing a hundred Palestinians. If a Palestinian killed a hundred Jews to retaliate for the killing of one Palestinian–for that matter, if a Thai killed a hundred Cambodians to retaliate for the killing of one Thai–which, from the point of view of the Israeli leaders, would of course be unjust, that would be racist, as if one Palestinian or one Thai were worth a hundred Israelis or a hundred Cambodians. But if a Jew does it, it's not unjust and it's not racist, because it's part of an eternal struggle in which the Jews have lost and lost and lost–they've already lost more people than there are Palestinians. Well, it's not surprising that certain Jews would feel this way, but no Palestinian will ever share that feeling or be willing to accept it. What the Palestinians see is an implacable and heartless enemy, one that considers itself un-bound by any rules or principles, an enemy that can't be reasoned with but can only be feared, hated and, if possible, killed."