So back to primary season (because we are some smart cookies too)…
Yesterday both presidential candidates for the democratic nomination gave speeches that basically outlined what a relationship between the United States and Israel would look like under each of their presidencies.
And not to sound cliché, the difference between the two policies are night and day.
Here is some of what Hillary Clinton had to say about U.S and Israel relations (as transcribed by Time Magazine):
“We have to combat all these trends with even more intense security and diplomatic cooperation. The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values.
This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear. Just a few weeks ago, a young American veteran and West Point graduate named Taylor Force was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist near the Jaffa Port. These attacks must end immediately…
And Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families.
Because we understand the threat Israel faces we know we can never take for granted the strength of our alliance or the success of our efforts. Today, Americans and Israelis face momentous choices that will shape the future of our relationship and of both our nations. The first choice is this: are we prepared to take the U.S./Israel alliance to the next level?”
It should be mentioned that Clinton made this speech in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which is a very powerful pro-Israel lobbying group up on the Hill. Therefore, pandering is to be expected.
Anyway, so how does Clinton envision this next level. As she tells AIPAC:
“ I hope a new 10-year defense memorandum of understanding is concluded as soon as possible to meet Israel’s security needs far into the future.That will also send a clear message to Israel’s enemies that the United States and Israel stand together united.
It’s also why, as president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.
The United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so it can deter and stop any threats. That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like the Arrow Three and David’s Sling. And we should work together to develop better tunnel detection, technology to prevent armed smuggling, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.”
In addition to promising new technology to Israel and an invite to the White House, Clinton also took the opportunity to blast the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the Israeli occupation in Palestine, which she called “alarming” and akin to anti-Semitism.
More specifically, she said:
“To all the college students who may have encountered this on campus, I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities.
Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society, not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere.”
That is some firm support indeed. However, what was missing from Clinton speech was any condemnation of Israel for its part of escalating tensions in the region. Clinton’s omission is even more noticeable when compared to Bernie Sanders speech, which he also delivered yesterday – but in Utah.
According to published reports Sanders, who is trailing in the polls, declined an invite before the AIPAC audience and instead opted to delivered his words at a high school in Salt Lake City.
Like Clinton, Sanders pledged to be a friend to the Israel. However he also vowed to be a friend to Palestine too. And how does being a friend to both sides look?
Well according to parts of his speech (which you can read in its entirety here):
“The first step in that road ahead is to set the stage for resuming the peace process through direct negotiations.
Progress is never made unless people are prepared to sit down and talk to each other. This is no small thing. It means building confidence on both sides, offering some signs of good faith, and then proceeding to talks when conditions permit them to be constructive. Again, this is not easy, but that is the direction we’ve got to go.
This will require compromises on both sides, but I believe it can be done. I believe that Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community can, must, and will rise to the ocassion and do what needs to be done to achieve a lasting peace in a region of the world that has seen so much war, so much conflict and so much suffering.”
And while Sanders “strongly objects to Hamas’ long held position that Israel does not have the right to exist” he also added:
“However, let me also be very clear: I – along with many supporters of Israel – spoke out strongly against the Israeli counter attacks that killed nearly 1,500 civilians and wounded thousands more. I condemned the bombing of hospitals, schools and refugee camps.
Today, Gaza is still largely in ruins. The international community must come together to help Gaza recover. That doesn’t mean rebuilding factories that produce bombs and missiles – but it does mean rebuilding schools, homes and hospitals that are vital to the future of the Palestinian people.
These are difficult subjects. They are hard to talk about both for many Americans and for Israelis. I recognize that, but it is clear to me that the path toward peace will require tapping into our shared humanity to make hard but just decisions.”
What a very insightful solution. Too bad he declined to make it in front of AIPAC – you know, right in the faces of Israeli policy holders, where it would have counted for something?
Anyway, this is foreign stuff; why should we care?
Well, a lot of activists associated with the Black Lives Matters movement have drawn parallels between the plight of the Palestinians and what Blacks are facing here in the U.S. It should also be noted that there is also a movement of Black folks who support stronger Israel-Black ties. For a good primer on both, read the statements from Black Solidarity with Palestine as well as the Institute for Black Solidarity With Israel.