It looks like there’s finally daylight between U.S. and Israel– thanks to American progressives

At a time when Israeli violence is shattering Palestinian lives and dreams once again, an important political development is taking place in the United States. Some American leaders are not taking Israel’s side to the hilt for the simple reason that the Democratic Party base is aroused and angry over the persecution of Palestinians, and the mainstream media are reflecting that view.

The progressive base is at last making itself heard in Congress, and the White House hears the echoes. While no one should be celebrating this moment, we need to acknowledge a grassroots victory that appears to be reshaping American politics and, ultimately, policy. The era of Israeli impunity in U.S. politics appears to be coming to an end with Israel’s violent response to Palestinian protests.

Yes it is true that the Biden administration doesn’t want to spend any political capital on Palestine. And yes, the State Department is coming down on Hamas for firing rockets. But Axios reports that behind the scenes, Biden’s team is putting the onus on Israel, and Israeli leaders are bridling at the pressure. “Israel calls on Biden administration to stay out of Jerusalem Crisis” is the Axios headline. Imagine that, the Israelis don’t want to hear from Joe Biden!

Barak Ravid reports that the progressive base is creating all the political pressure here.

But the Jerusalem crisis that erupted over the weekend prompted many members of Congress and progressive organizations to weigh in and demand that the White House intervene.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan had a call with Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, and pressed Israel to curb its extremist actions.

The White House said Sullivan raised concerns about tensions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where 300 Palestinians are under threat of eviction from their homes….

Ravid says the Israelis characterized the conversation as “difficult.” My emphasis:

  • Israeli officials said Ben Shabbat told Sullivan during the phone call that Israel believes the Biden administration and the rest of the international community should stay out of the crisis in Jerusalem and avoid pressing Israel.
  • Ben Shabbat told Sullivan that “international intervention is a reward to the Palestinian rioters and those who back them who were seeking international pressure on Israel,” according to an Israeli official briefed on the call.

Again, we are now living in the era of Israeli impunity. Israeli officials are used to getting away with anything with the American government, notably during the several Gaza massacres right before and during the Obama administration.

But now the “Squad” is driving the discussion on the left. And most of the political pressure on the Democratic side is coming from that direction. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of NJ dares to issue a statement about “accountability” for Israel. She urges Biden and Tony Blinken to “hold responsible those who violate the rights of worshipers and protesters.” P.S. Watson Coleman represents Trenton and Princeton.

Here’s a strong tweet from Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland:

As this [UN statement] makes clear, evictions of families in East Jerusalem would violate international law. If the Biden Administration puts the rule of law and human rights at the heart of its foreign policy, this is not a moment for tepid statements.

American politicians are supposed to trash the U.N.! Van Hollen links a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights statement sharply criticizing Israeli expansion in East Jerusalem and calling on Israel to allow “free expression” by Palestinians — i.e., Israel shouldn’t be shooting Palestinians in their holy places.

Politico says progressive Dems are ending the era of Israeli impunity in U.S. politics.

The U.S. lawmakers’ tweets critical of Israel came primarily from the left, progressive flank of the Democratic Party. But they reflected a broader trend of Democrats being increasingly willing to criticize Israel, a country that once enjoyed widespread and solid bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

Riding this shift, the liberal Zionist group J Street has retweeted Van Hollen’s comments and issued its own statement condemning the evictions of Palestinians.

The media are surprisingly open to the Palestinian narrative. CNN has an amazing interview of the Jerusalem activist Mohammed El Kurd in which he explains the history of ethnic cleansing: “This is what every Palestinian feels like under the crushing fangs of Israel colonialism. My grandmother was thrown out of her home in 1948 in Haifa and again in 1967… It’s settler colonialism and apartheid.”

The apartheid reports are having an effect. Even mainstream Democratic voices are using the term: “Israel… has created an apartheid state that denies fundamental rights and freedoms to the Palestinian people and has sought to carve away from those people year-in and year-out what little land and dignity and freedom that they still have.”

And here is Ben Rhodes, who spent eight years having to grovel to the Israel lobby in the White House, expressing his anger toward Israeli intransigence on twitter:

Just try for a moment to look at the world through the eyes of a Palestinian child.

The rightwing Israel lobby is exhibiting some fear over this new moment. The American Jewish Committee is complaining about the US media coverage for lacking nuance. It says that the media and Palestinians have turned victimized Palestinian families in East Jerusalem into cause celebres!

[R]ather than wait for a court decision, Palestinians have made the families cause celebres, inciting violent clashes with Israeli police and Jewish extremists.

More about that media climate and the left. Here is Vox’s lead by Alex Ward:

Weeks of violence in Jerusalem, sparked by Israel’s attempt to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, have Democrats, activists, and experts calling on President Joe Biden to speak out forcefully against the American ally’s actions.

Amazingly, Ward gave a platform to Hamas to explain why it is doing what it’s doing:

Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing, said the rocket attack was retaliation for what he called Israel’s “crimes and aggression.”

“This is a message the enemy has to understand well,” he continued. Hamas had given Israel until 6 pm local time to move its police forces out of the Aqsa mosque compound.

The Vox story also highlights the fact that the State Department said its foreign policy would be based on “human rights.” Well, the bill is due: “Calling out Israel’s attempted eviction of Palestinians is the perfect time to show the administration means what it says, experts say.”

Some things never change. AIPAC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are back together again, chanting about Palestinian terrorists. Dennis Ross is being Israel’s lawyer. The Israel Policy Forum, funded by the rightwing Schusterman Foundation, is putting all the blame on Palestinians.

“Things are in flux and a new line in the sand is being drawn,” an ally writes. “Last chance for certain folks to take a stand. We’ll see where they end up. At a certain point it will be too little too late to take a stand. The people faced with a choice are lucky they even still have it. And it’s mostly a testament to the Palestinian people’s patience and good faith that this is so. I doubt it would be the same if the power structure was reversed.”

H/t Adam Horowitz, Michael Arria, Yumna Patel, Allison Deger and James North.


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