Posted by on December 07, 2011 in Blog

By Jamila Benkato

Michele Bachmann wasted no time addressing the issue of the day during her prepared remarks at RJC 2012. Her prepared statement was the most extreme of the day, combining standard Republican talking points about Israel with almost unfiltered Israeli propaganda – including referring to Palestinians as “Palestinians” (in quotes).  It was also completely devoid of any domestic policy at all.

Questioning Obama’s commitment to Israel, she suggested that the current administration “is more concerned about Israel building homes on its own land [meaning the occupied West Bank] than the threats that Israel and America face in the region.” This was the first mention of Israeli settlements today, and one that certainly takes a broad view of the definition of “their” and “own.” Later in the speech, Bachmann referred to the illegally-occupied areas of the Palestinian territories as “land necessary to protect [Israel’s] existence.”

Bachmann then claimed that “Obama has delegitimized Israel,” something Israel would be surprised to hear about. He has done this “by wrongly describing Israel as a 60-years long occupation, which displaced and caused Palestinian suffering, and by wrongly blaming Israel and settlements for the lack of peace in the Middle East.” The audience reaction to this claim certainly explains why Ron Paul was not invited to the forum.

Bachmann accused Obama of giving too much aid to Palestine, of backtracking on Bush-era policies (both official and informal), and of going against U.N. policy towards Israel. Citing familiar fear-based imagery of Israel as a surrounded and vulnerable state, she railed against “the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return,’ [which]  would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs who never lived in Israel, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state.”

In addressing the possibility of a nuclear Iran, Bachmann not only suggested “crushing economic sanctions,” but also called for the bombing Iran – from air, land, and sea. This is, once again, the most extreme stance taken so far today at the RJC.

But perhaps of greater concern is Bachmann’s final point: “My administration will fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, and will be the first administration to finally implement the laws passed by Congress requiring the State Department to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. My administration will also recognize Israel’s 1980 annexation of the Golan Heights and any settlements, which Israel, as a sovereign state, chooses to annex.” Despite complaining that Obama supposedly refuted the U.N., Bachmann here suggests that the U.S. would be (even more) blatantly complicit in Israel’s flouting of international law. She lambasts Obama for his approach to the “peace process,” but in fact her claims in the statement above encompass almost all of the major demands of the Palestinian people – certainly issues that need to at least be up for discussion in any negotiation for peace.

Followers of the Republican race so far will not be surprised by Bachmann’s rhetoric, and indeed she managed to fit two explicit Hitler references into a speech directed at, and sponsored by, a Jewish organization. To her credit, Bachmann did list actual policy that her administration would pursue, but this is a cold comfort to anyone seeking a realistic and historically-conscious approach to the Middle East.

Video from C-SPAN available here, transcript available here

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