Posted by on June 14, 2010 in Blog

An AAI Report on the
“Special Order in Support of Israel”

Organized by Representative Anthony Weiner

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
U.S. House of Representatives

On June 9, 2010, President Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss improving the situation in the Palestinian territories, as well as moving the peace process forward. The President put forth a number of proposals designed to ease the crisis in Gaza, including $400 million in aid to Gaza and the West Bank, and reiterated his administration’s support for a credible and independent investigation into the lethal flotilla raid.

A few hours later, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) hosted a session for several Democratic members of Congress entitled “Special Order in Support of Israel,” in which they engaged in simplistic, one-sided, and counterproductive rhetoric on the Middle East. The statements during the Democratically controlled hour grossly misrepresented the situation surrounding the Gaza blockade and the flotilla raid, undermined the Obama Administration’s efforts to foster a positive political climate for a peace agreement, and disregarded American and global public opinion on the crisis.

1) Divorced From Reality

 • The Occupation

In an extraordinary departure from reality, Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) declared that “Israel does not any longer occupy the West Bank or Gaza. They left! They left it to the Palestinian people.” This is extraordinary because not even the Israeli government itself claims to have ended the occupation of the West Bank. A few minutes later, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) acknowledged the existence of the occupation, though he blamed it on the Palestinians, saying that “until the Palestinians are willing to live in peace… the occupation will continue, and it will be the fault of the Palestinians.” The remarkable twist, however, is that Congressman Weiner immediately described Nadler’s point as “excellent,” despite having denied the existence of the occupation only a few minutes before.

• The Flotilla Raid

The growing evidence disputing Israel’s account of what took place during the raid on the flotilla demonstrates why an independent investigation is necessary to learning the facts about what happened. Yet, despite such evidence, and despite Israel’s declared refusal to cooperate with an international investigation, every participating member of Congress agreed that Israel not only behaved appropriately, but indeed had even shown restraint “by just about any definition of restraint” in the face of provocation.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MA) then said “let me remind you that in 5 of the 6 in this flotilla, there was no violence.” This was to suggest that the IDF’s conduct on the remaining ships was perfectly peaceful. However, as the testimony of numerous humanitarian activists suggests, violence took place on nearly every ship.

• The Purpose of the Blockade

One Congressman after another repeated the mantra that the only reason for the blockade is to prevent rockets from coming into Gaza. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) stated that the flotilla was confronted by Israeli forces for “one reason & one reason only: that’s because they could’ve been carrying missiles and rockets.” Except the banned items included “soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy,” revealing that the goal of the blockade was “economic strangulation” as Senator Schumer (D-NY) approvingly acknowledged in a recent speech.

• The legality of the Blockade

Towards the end of the hour, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) also weighed in on Israel’s blockade on Gaza, saying “this is a legal blockade, there isn’t any disputing that.” In reality, however, those disputing the legality of the blockade include the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UN Secretary General, the UN Human Rights Chief, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, among others.

2) Undermining the Obama Administration:

At a time when the Obama administration is trying to ease the tensions with our allies in the region, Congressman Weiner declared that Turkey was among “the worst enemies” of the United States, and suggested that their membership in NATO should be called into question. And while the President is trying to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with some aid (an important step for the life of Gazans, for the peace process, and for international public opinion), Congressman Weiner described it as “outrageous that we provide any aid” to the Palestinians altogether. And rather than strengthening the President’s hand in the efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by standing behind him on the need to change the policy towards Gaza, these Democratic members of Congress insisted on unreservedly defending Israel’s blockade policy instead.

 3) Disregarding US and Global Public Opinion:

It was not just world public opinion that these Democratic members of Congress were disregarding (as they acknowledged), but that of their own constituents as well, who hold more sensible views on Gaza and the flotilla incident, and who stand in support of the Administration’s position and approach.

According to a recent poll released by Zogby International, an overwhelming majority of Democrats (70%) agree that Israel “used excessive force” in its raid on the flotilla, compared to 14.5% who saw Israel’s actions as “appropriate.” Only 15% of Democrats agreed with the sentiment of the Special Order that Israel’s investigation of its own actions would be sufficient, while a clear majority of 61% support an independent international investigation into the incident.

On the Administration’s policy towards the crisis, only 9% of Democrats thought the Administration was being too hard on Israel, as opposed to over 42% who thought the Administration was “too soft on Israel.” As for the Israel’s blockade on Gaza, 61% think the Administration should pressure Israel to lift it, compared to 17% who thought Israel’s enforcement of the blockade should be supported.

This poll, like others before it, demonstrates that Americans are increasingly supportive of measures to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Numerous U.S. officials – from President Obama to senior members of Congress – have called the status quo unsustainable and not in our national security interest.  Congressional pandering by less than a dozen members does not alternate this reality.  It simply demonstrates how far removed from it they are. 

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