ISSN 2330-717X

Israeli Violence Against Palestinians Largely Ignored In US – OpEd

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Over the years, the US Congress has introduced and approved dozens of resolutions that condemn violence by Palestinians against Israelis. In sharp contrast, it has never approved a resolution that condemns violence by Israel’s government or its trigger-happy military, even though several have been introduced, including recently by Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum.

McCollum in May introduced a bill prohibiting the allocation of US funds for any country that detains children, in the wake of a high-profile public debate in America about the detention of migrant children along the Mexican border. H.R. 2407 received very little media coverage even though it pointed out that far more children — more than 10,000 since 2000 — have been held in detention centers in Israel than have been detained along the US border with Mexico.

The imbalance in Congress and sections of the news media reflects a bias that is driven as much by racism against Arabs as by religious stereotyping against Muslims. With the powerful and heavy-handed influence of the pro-Israel lobby pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of hundreds of congressmen, criticism of Israel’s violence is easily muted, marginalized and swept under the carpet.

When Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota tried to shine a public spotlight on the pro-Israel lobby’s PAC donations with the snappy phrase, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she was roundly denounced as being “anti-Semitic.” The word “Benjamins” refers to Benjamin Franklin, whose face is printed on US $100 bills, while the full phrase was taken from the title of a popular song by rapper Puff Daddy. Benjamin is also a common Jewish name.

The mainstream news media has pretty much ignored McCollum’s efforts to shine a spotlight on Israeli violence against Palestinians, instead pillorying Omar for her criticism of Israel.

Last week would have been a great opportunity for the mainstream news outlets and US Congress to speak out against Israeli violence. Instead, Congress has chosen to focus on pushing through a resolution that would punish any American who dares to engage their constitutionally protected right to free speech and condemn Israel by urging a boycott. The anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) legislation has been introduced several times and in several measures in an attempt to punish any person or business in the US that supports a boycott of Israel’s illegal and racist settlements.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the sponsor of an anti-BDS Senate bill, asserts that preventing Americans from boycotting Israel is not a violation of their right to free speech. Rubio’s opinions were published in February in the New York Times. But what the New York Times and other major American media outlets refuse to report on are many of the egregious acts of violence by Israel’s government. That “boycott” of publishing articles that would fuel harsh but justified criticism of Israel has allowed Tel Aviv to increase its violence against Palestinians.

Last week, an Israeli soldier focused the crosshairs of his high-powered sniper rifle on the head of a nine-year-old Palestinian child, Abd El-Rahman Shatawi, and fired. The bullet exploded in the young boy’s brain and he is now in a hospital-induced coma. Why did the Israeli soldier shoot the child? We will never know because Israel’s government and its military are not held accountable for their actions. Israel is refusing to identify or prosecute the soldier.

The unidentified Israeli soldier was not being physically threatened either by the young child or any other Palestinians. He was positioned on a slope overlooking the Palestinian West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, where unarmed residents had gathered to peacefully protest against Israel’s ongoing brutality.

Worse is that Democrats and Republicans in the US have brushed past the shooting and are instead arguing about whether or not four members of Congress — who are all women of color — have the right to criticize President Donald Trump’s policies and whether or not Trump’s criticism of the quartet is “racist.”

Even worse is that the American Jewish community, which condemns racist rhetoric against Jewish Americans, has issued no statement on the Israeli soldier’s crime.

An incident like this would have raised cries of international sanctions had the child been Israeli and the killer a Palestinian. Democrats and Republicans would have held press conferences to outline stringent demands on the Palestinian leadership, excoriating them for the violence they would argue is symptomatic of their society.

But, even though the victim in this case is only nine years old, he is a Palestinian Muslim. There will be no justice, no outcry and no indignation that would expose Israel’s campaign of ongoing violence against civilians.

Israel killed 290 Palestinians in 2018 and another 100 this year, but murder is not the only form of suppression that Israel’s government is using against Palestinians. This week, Israel has destroyed homes owned by Palestinian civilians in East Jerusalem, while doing the opposite for Israeli Jews, building them new homes inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories in settlements on stolen lands.

If the US Congress or mainstream American news media had a conscience, they might decry violence not on the basis of politics, campaign contributions or racism, but on the basis of morality, decency and integrity. But, of course, these qualities don’t attract massive campaign contributions from lobbying groups with a partisan agenda.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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