Finally, a good Democrat taking on Hillary Clinton for aping Aipac’s political agenda. Clinton’s views are shamelessly pro-Israel. I don’t mind a politician being pro-Israel as long as their political worldview also comprehends the justness of the cause of Palestinian nationhood and acknowledges the horrific suffering Israel has meted out to its enemies. This is something the Senator from Aipac has never done.
Jonathan Tasini says some brave things about the Israeli-Arab conflict; things that more established Democrats should be saying but aren’t. This may be one of the reasons Tasini won’t win the primary. But I give him tremendous credit for speaking truth to power.
The Dems are AWOL on Lebanon. Even the otherwise anti-war Ned Lamont supports Israel’s war. But Jonathan Tasini isn’t AWOL on Lebanon and he doesn’t support the war. But his position is a principled, nuanced one in support of Israel’s longer-term interests. Clinton spokespeople who call Tasini’s comments “beyond the pale” are again mimicking what Aipac would say on the subject (indeed one can imagine Aipac faxing precisely these talking points to Clinton’s spokesperson before the comment was released):
While people view talking about Israel-Palestine as the “third rail” of politics in New York, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there are a growing number of people in the Jewish community who are willing to speak up, out of love for Israel, about the dreadful occupation and the never-ending violence that is spinning out of control, in large part because the United States—and politicians like Hillary Clinton—continue to blindly pursue a one-sided policy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a policy that is causing more death and sorrow for civilians on all sides of the conflict.
This is Tasini’s vision for resolving the conflict:
I believe passionately in a two-state solution, which includes a strong, independent, economically viable Palestinian state existing alongside a strong, independent, economically vibrant Israel. It is the only solution that will bring peace to the civilians who now live in fear of death raining down from above—either because of the missiles of Hezbollah or the bombs of Israeli aircraft.
The Clinton-Aipac attack machine has been trying to make mincemeat out of Tasini’s critical, but supportive views of Israel; even accusing him of saying Israel was a terrorist state. That almost sounds like a Murdochian New York Post headline (which might be fitting considering the Clinton-Murdoch rapprochement):
I did not say that Israel is a terrorist state. I did say—and have said for a long time—that Israel has committed acts that violate international standards and the Geneva conventions. In Israel, my statement that the military has committed acts that violate the Geneva convention and international standards and has also engaged in torture (or, as it is called, “moderate pressure”) would be a subject of debate but hardly considered novel or particularly radical…
The problem is not the debate in Israel. The problem is the debate—or lack thereof—in the United States. We should not allow the power brokers in Washington, DC to silence the voices of people who love Israel but are willing to stand up and be critical of its policies.
Tasini continues the attack on Clinton’s Mideast policy:
At a time when the violence against people on both sides of the border has killed hundreds of innocent people (mostly Lebanese), Hillary Clinton has fanned the flames of the conflict by recognizing and condemning the violence only against Israelis and effectively encouraging military action. I, too, have stated clearly, from the outset, that Hezbollah’s actions violate international law. But, to ignore Israel’s actions is abhorrent, weak, and cowardly.
I don’t believe Senator Clinton is a true friend of Israel. A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would understand that employing collective punishment against people in Lebanon only embitters a population, possibly for generations, and that even a short-term military victory will be empty if it leaves behind a shattered country…
A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would never have stood before the “security wall” in the West Bank, as Senator Clinton did, and praised it—even though it has been found to be illegal under international law and by the Israeli Supreme Court (which said that, if a wall needed to be built, it should not stray outside the “green line” into the occupied territories). A friend of Israel would argue strenuously that Israel’s moral fiber and its security is weakened every moment that that wall stands in its place, in violation of the law of Israel, severing families from their land, separating people and filling more people with rage and despair.
A friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would deplore the collective punishment employed by the Israeli army in Gaza.
Tasini closes with a reference to the concept from which I took the name for this blog, Tikun Olam:
I have always been proud of the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam” or “repairing the world.” I like to think that that is what brought so many Jews into the civil rights and labor movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and into the current anti-war movement—and, personally, guided me into the world of social justice work. I feel great sorrow that Israel is an occupier of another people and I believe that Israel can never be whole and can never be at peace until that occupation is ended in a just way. And I also believe that the concept of Tikkun Olam means that we must never be silent.
Finally, a Democratic candidate a progressive Jew can be proud of when it comes to his views of the Israeli-Arab conflict. If you’re a New York Democrat, please consider voting for Tasini. Hillary Clinton has betrayed New York Democrats with her unswerving (until this week) support for the war in Iraq and her slavish support for Israel, right or wrong. I hope Tasini at least gives her a scare come primary election day.