Democrats and Israel

Falling In Line on Israel
by Stephen Zunes

The election of a Democratic majority in the House and Senate is unlikely to result in any serious challenge to the Bush administration’s support for Israeli attacks against the civilian populations of its Arab neighbors and the Israeli government’s ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.

The principal Democratic Party spokesmen on foreign policy will likely be Tom Lantos in the House of Representatives and Joe Biden in the Senate, both of whom have been longstanding and outspoken supporters of a series of right-wing Israeli governments and opponents of the Israeli peace movement. And, despite claims—even within the progressive press—that future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a “consistent supporter of human rights,” such humanitarian concerns have never applied to Arabs, since she is a staunch defender of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon.

For example, when President George W. Bush defended Israel’s assaults on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure this summer and defied the international community by initially blocking United Nations efforts to impose a cease-fire, the Democrats rushed to pass a resolution commending him for “fully supporting Israel .” The resolution, co-authored by Rep. Lantos, claimed that Israel’s actions were legitimate self-defense under the UN Charter and challenged the credibility of reputable human rights groups. Although groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented widespread attacks by Israeli forces against civilians in areas far from any Hezbollah military activity, the resolution praised “Israel’s longstanding commitment to minimizing civilian loss and welcom[ed] Israel’s continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties.” All but 15 of the House’s 201 Democrats voted in support.

Similarly, the Democrats echoed President Bush’s support for Israel’s 2002 offensive in the West Bank in another resolution co-authored by Lantos. In response to Amnesty International’s observation that the massive assault appeared to be aimed at the Palestinian population as a whole, all but two dozen Democrats went on record supporting the devastating Israeli offensive and claiming that it was “aimed solely at the terrorist infrastructure.”

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