Change in Washington, not Israel, the priority for Palestinians
Israel’s war on Gaza, now almost two months old, has polarized the world and created a yawning rift between people and governments in the West, with millions of Europeans and Americans marching for a “free Palestine” and an end to the occupation, while their governments continue to support Israel’s military campaign in Gaza without calling for a permanent ceasefire.
But the initial blind support of Israel in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack has slowly morphed, with the Biden White House and most European capitals now calling on Israel to adhere to international humanitarian law, avoid targeting civilians and allow for an uninterrupted flow of aid to the people of Gaza. The most extreme support of Israel came from US President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Both continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself against “terrorist Hamas,” while complementing this with the almost vacuous statement that the US supports the two-state solution, even when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes out and says that he is the best man to derail it.
But where the White House speaks of the two-state solution, the mood on the Hill is different. The vast majority of US lawmakers have pledged unquestioning support to Israel, providing billions of dollars and openly calling for the total destruction of Hamas at any cost. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a warmonger, responded to a question by CNN on the hefty civilian cost of the Israeli war on Gazans by saying that Americans did not care how many people died when US bombers were raining bombs on Tokyo. He blames Hamas for every civilian death, repeating the Israeli claim that it uses civilians as human shields.
Aside from a handful of lawmakers — namely the so-called Squad, the informal name of a group of eight progressive Democratic representatives — no key US senator or representative has openly called for a ceasefire and an investigation into Israeli war crimes. When it comes to the two-state solution and the possibility of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, both chambers are completely and vocally at odds with the declared US foreign policy position on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The solution to the occupation of Palestine, resolving the refugee problem and establishing a permanent and lasting peace in the region will not come from Israel. That hope dissipated long ago — thanks to Netanyahu and his sponsorship of the far right over the last 20-plus years.
The Israeli left is dead. All polls show that, if elections were to be held in Israel today, Labor, the party that led Israel for decades after its founding, would not get the necessary votes to pass the legal threshold to enter the Knesset. The right and far right now have the upper hand and will continue to do so for some time.
The Palestinian answer to ending the occupation lies in Washington. And there is the problem. There are more than 50 pro-Israel groups active in the US today. The most prominent and influential of these, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has sway over the most influential lawmakers and potential candidates. Last year, pro-Israel pressure groups spent more than $4 million on lobbying alone. Much more goes into the so-called super PACS, which are defined as “independent expenditure-only political action committees.” They are unlike traditional PACs, in that they may raise unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations, unions and other groups to spend on, for example, ads overtly advocating for or against political candidates.
American citizens elect these officials, but AIPAC and other pressure groups own them afterward. These pressure groups appeal to ordinary Americans through the mainstream media, which remains the main source of news and information for millions of adult Americans. One pro-Israel pressure group is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, founded in 1982. It is a nonprofit, pro-Israel media monitoring, research and membership organization. According to its website, this organization is “devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.” Naturally, one can guess how the committee makes sure that only the Zionist point of view of the Palestine-Israel conflict is portrayed in US mainstream media.
In addition, Israel has managed to penetrate the US Christian community by focusing on so-called shared Judeo-Christian values. One such group, Christians United for Israel, which claims to have more than 10 million members, moved to raise more than $2 million in support of Israel soon after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. But more importantly, it was able to issue a joint “Evangelical statement in support of Israel” with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. This denomination has 45,000 churches in the US.
The Palestinians have no way of counterbalancing this huge Israeli/Zionist infiltration of US politics and religious culture. Arab lobbies in the US are more focused on promoting bilateral military and economic ties with the US. The Palestinians have no voice in American politics.
But things are slowly changing. America’s Generation Z is a rebellious one; rejecting the corruption of Washington politics and supporting the Palestinian cause. This is because they have discarded mainstream media and are heading to social media platforms. They could play a pivotal role in the 2024 presidential election. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of people aged 18 to 29 have an unfavorable view of Israel, versus 28 percent of Americans older than 65. An NBC News poll released last week found that Biden’s approval rating among voters aged 18 to 34 fell from 46 percent to 31 percent between September and November. US Muslim voters are also abandoning Biden.
That might not change the final outcome of the November 2024 election. There are many other factors in play. But while a slim majority of Americans still support Israel’s war on Hamas, according to multiple polls released last week, more people are now asking questions about the plight of Palestinians — thanks to social media platforms.
Both chambers are completely at odds with the declared US foreign policy position on the Palestine-Israel conflict.
The sad reality is that the American presidency has been weakened by bipartisan squabbling in Congress, servility toward Israel and unprecedentedly deep polarization over issues such as abortion, immigration, traditional family values, taxing the rich and climate change, among others. But while candidates for the highest office in the land bicker over such issues, they all agree on one thing: blind support for Israel.
The world wants a two-state solution but lacks the political will to enforce it. Israel is in revenge mode but has no answer on what to do about Gaza, the West Bank or its Palestinian citizens. The Israeli far right proposes radical solutions, such as mass displacements and even transfer. How far will the US political establishment go in supporting bigots, racists and potential war criminals?
The Israeli political establishment is seeking revenge at any cost. The world’s political order is about to keel over as a result. The Palestinians will not get their freedom so long as Israel is defended and protected by the US. Something has to give and, unless a major change happens in America first, the Palestinians will have to endure more years of apartheid and oppression.
- Osama Al-Sharif is a veteran journalist and political commentator based in Amman. X: @plato010