The future that the US has planned for Palestine is already determined, no matter whether President Donald Trump is re-elected or Joe Biden replaces him in the White House after next month’s election. Nevertheless, it is Biden, with a sizable lead over Trump in the national polls, who Palestinian leaders are championing in the hope that he will tone down Washington’s pro-Israel policies. The Palestinians are overly-optimistic.
This is a familiar scenario for America’s Democrats. Four years ago they saw their presidential candidate Hillary Clinton embracing the pro-Israel lobby in the election campaign. Clinton, in fact, has never hidden her support for the occupation state, and Biden is unlikely to reverse his own decades of staunch backing for Israel.
In 2010, as US Secretary of State, Clinton spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference despite being well briefed about the indignities and abuses heaped on the Palestinians by Israel year after year. As part of its mission statement, AIPAC “urges all members of Congress to support Israel through foreign aid, government partnerships, joint anti-terrorism efforts and the promotion of a negotiated two-state solution — a Jewish state of Israel and a demilitarised Palestinian state”.
Sidney Blumenthal, whose emails filled Clinton’s private inbox, sent her articles about politics in the Middle East, many penned by his son Max, who has not only accused Israel of committing war crimes, but also described it as an apartheid state, with valid reasons for doing so. Referring to Israel’s deadly 2010 attack on the Mavi Marmara-led Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Blumenthal wrote of his son’s work, “Max Blumenthal, who is now reporting from Israel, writing a book on the crisis of democracy there, details from the Israeli press how the raid was long planned and who approved it, how the Netanyahu government is stirring up support, and the internal consequences.”
The day before she was scheduled to deliver her speech at AIPAC, Blumenthal sent Clinton a blog post penned by Uri Avnery titled “The Doomsday Weapon”, in which the author accused the “ultra-right government in Jerusalem” of treating President Barack Obama — her boss at the time — with “thinly veiled contempt”. Clinton instructed a staffer to print out five copies of the article, “without the heading from Sid”. She still went ahead to deliver her speech to AIPAC, though, hailing the lobby group as well as its favourite state.
“Our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever,” insisted Clinton, earning herself one of several standing ovations from the audience of 7,500 pro-Israel activists. Blumenthal’s advice that she should hold “hold [Netanyahu’s] feet to the fire” over the planned expansion of a settlement in East Jerusalem was ignored. This, she said, was not about “wounded pride… [It’s] about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it and staying there until the job is done.”
AIPAC is a platform that Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, refused to address earlier this year because the organisation provides the opportunity for speakers to “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” AIPAC, said Sanders, does a disservice to the Palestinians, the Israelis and the American people.
Clinton returned to the AIPAC stage in 2016 as the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and duly condemned the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) civil society movement. In her address to the group she described BDS as “alarming” and characterised activists as anti-Semites who “bully” Jewish students on college campuses.
“I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now,” Clinton continued. “As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organisations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS. That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighbourhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable – and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”
In the past couple of years, AIPAC has promoted anti-BDS legislation aggressively, including state laws to block funding for universities that adopt resolutions to divest from companies which benefit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. All of this ignores the fact that BDS is an entirely peaceful campaign strategy which does not advocate violence in any way.
Although support for Israel has been strong across both of America’s main political parties for decades, AIPAC is increasingly becoming a platform for the Republicans. Nevertheless, just as Clinton did before him, former Vice President Biden still chose to address the main pro-Israel lobby group in America at its annual conference in March to say that he will not attach conditions on aid to Israel. Instead, he turned his guns on the victims of Israel’s violations of international laws and conventions.
“Palestinians need to eradicate incitement on the West Bank — eradicate it. They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza — stop it,” said Biden. “They need to accept once and for all the reality and the right of a secure democratic and Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East.”
Now, of course, Biden has picked former rival Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris has been described as a “staunch supporter” of Israel, and delivered a speech at AIPAC in 2017, not long after being sworn into the Senate. When asked by the New York Times last year whether she thinks Israel meets international human rights standards, she replied, “Overall, yes.”
With warnings and images of Israel’s abuses in mind and aware of AIPAC’s ability to move US policy in dangerous directions, Democrats remain cheerleaders for the occupation state. Votes and campaign support mean more to US presidential candidates than human rights. That is why the future of Palestine and its people is threatened no matter who wins on 3 November. Even with a President Biden in the White House, the Palestinians will be abandoned and the theft of their land for Israeli colonial settlements will continue apace. In this sense, Biden will simply be Trump Mk II, because he too has embraced the pro-Israel lobby.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.