Israel-Palestine conflict ‘drives turmoil in the Middle East’ — Seth Moulton

Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton is one of the most interesting candidates in the Democratic presidential field because as a former Marine officer who did several tours in the Middle East he claims foreign policy as a strength and he has taken some progressive stances on the Israel question. But he seems to be backing off on that criticism as he pursues the presidency.

Last year, Moulton was one of 30 or so co-sponsors of Rep. Betty McCollum’s historic bill to protect Palestinian human rights by stripping U.S. military aid from Israeli practices of child detention and interrogation. This year McCollum’s bill has 18 cosponsors, all progressives, including many politicians of color– and Moulton’s name is gone.

And Moulton had opposed anti-BDS legislation as an unconstitutional infringement of freedom of speech. Lately he was one of only 12 Democrats to sign on to a harsh Republican measure that failed that would have required some supporters of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions aimed at Israel) to report that position to the IRS.

These stances suggest that Moulton is trying to get right with “the blob,” the foreign policy establishment, as he struggles to gain recognition (not to mention backers/donors) in the crowded Democratic field.

Moulton ought to know better. In this video apparently from a stop at the University of Iowa Law School in March, Moulton showed some sophistication about the conflict.

The conflict with the Palestinians drives so much of the turmoil in the Middle East. It was amazing going to a place like Iraq and hearing how much that influenced what Iraqis were thinking. So we should be doing every thing we can to resolve that peacefully. That means standing up for a two-state solution. That means standing up to Netanyahu who very clearly does not believe in a two state solution despite what he might say.

That kind of “linkage” between the conflict and “turmoil,” is today a heresy in mainstream foreign policy circles. You are not supposed to blame anything on the special relationship or on Israel’s human rights record. The Arab world has problems because of its own political culture, and because it’s a tough neighborhood, etc.

In the same video, Moulton calls for “recognizing the rule of law” and opposes the move of the embassy to Jerusalem — “not a wise move… very provocative.” He also opposes BDS but would not limit people’s rights to embrace that position, because that’s unconstitutional.

I don’t think we should be pursuing that [BDS] as a country. But there was an anti-BDS bill that came before Congress, and a lot of Democrats very quickly signed on to it, and it violated the constitution, it violated free speech. I didn’t sign on to it. I got a whole lot of heat for it at first, but a whole lot of Democrats began taking their names off it.

Again, Moulton seems to have flipflopped. His office did not respond to my request for comment.

Three weeks ago, Moulton sent a long and somewhat defensive email to Jewish Insider to lay out his support for Israel and to justify his support last year for Rep. Betty McCollum’s important bill regarding the abuse of Palestinian children.

A 2013 UNICEF report showed that Israeli forces arrest, interrogate, and detain approximately 700 Palestinian children a year. While experiences vary, the Israeli military has been documented subjecting children to harsh and sometimes abusive interrogation methods, without an attorney present, that often include forced confessions signed in Hebrew. America should not support these undemocratic practices. That is why I support H.R. 4391, and I believe it will contribute towards a peaceful resolution to this complex conflict and a lasting two-state solution.

A good argument. But her latest bill doesn’t have his sponsorship.

Moulton has also been very strong in support of the Iran deal and in seeking to prevent a war with Iran. He has a fluency in foreign policy discussions, though his ideas about the many threats to the U.S. are conventional: “Russia [is] a great and present threat to our national security.” Don’t expect him to take on the military industrial complex.

Thanks to Donald Johnson and Michael Arria. 

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