The Silence of Democratic Primary Candidates on the Atrocities in Gaza

Charlie Neibergall / AP

Only Mike Gravel, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O'Rourke have voiced criticism of Israel's inhumane policies in Gaza

Truthdig! - May 7, 2019

Israel reached a ceasefire with Hamas this week after several days of bombings in the Gaza Strip left four Israelis and 25 Palestinians dead, including two pregnant women and a one-year-old child. Yet as of this writing, just three Democratic candidates for president have elected to weigh in on the violence—two of them in defense of Israel, according to Haaretz. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, who is running an expressly anti-war campaign and whose social media is being managed by a group of teenage students, has offered the lone voice of support for Palestine.

“The bloodshed in Palestine and Israel will not cease until the fundamentally unjust existing structure is jettisoned,” he tweeted. “We cannot support a right-wing racist regime committed to annexation and gradual ethnic cleansing. There must be a binational state with equal rights for all.”

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called on Hamas to cease its “random rocket fire into Israel,” adding that his “heart goes out to the families of the Israelis killed, and those wounded in the grievous attacks. I call on all parties to show restraint and de-escalate this situation immediately.” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., did not issue a formal statement but told CBS News, “You have a terrorist organization that actually suppresses its own people, conducts acts of violence and human rights violations against people who live in Gaza. And so Israel has a right to defend itself and it should do that.”

Democrats in Congress have proved considerably more outspoken. Rep Rashid Tlaib, D-Mich., criticized The New York Times for a headline suggesting the latest skirmish had been initiated by Hamas militants, while Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., issued a sweeping condemnation of Israeli aggression in the region. “How many more protesters must be shot, rockets must be fired, and little kids must be killed until the endless cycle of violence ends?” she tweeted. “The status quo of occupation and humanitarian crisis in Gaza is unsustainable. Only real justice can bring about security and lasting peace.”

But despite their pledge earlier this year not to attend the annual conference of the Israeli lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—one that Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., effectively violated when she hosted representatives from the organization in March—the Democratic Party’s 2020 hopefuls have been loathe to criticize the Israeli government, with a couple of notable exceptions. Both former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have called the Netanyahu administration “racist,” with the latter telling a CNN town hall recently, “I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel. But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who, I think, is treating the Palestinians extremely unfairly.”

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