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AIPAC, US elections, and the future of Palestine Open in fullscreen

Usaid Siddiqui

AIPAC, US elections, and the future of Palestine

Date of publication: 31 March, 2016

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Comment: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reaffirmed their unconditional support for Israel and, in turn, reassured to the Palestinians that they will see more of the same, if not worse.

Last month, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee held their annual policy conference in Washington D.C, touted to be the largest gathering of the pro-Israel organisation. With this year’s elections hype, public scrutiny surrounding the event was higher than usual as all current presidential candidates were in attendance with the exception of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders.

As expected, nothing concrete or surprising came out of the conference. Decades long pro-Israel policy of the US establishment was on full display as the likes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reaffirmed their unconditional support for Israel and, in turn, reassured to the Palestinians that the next US president will mean more of the same, if not worse.

Trivialising Palestinian lives

“We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent”, Clinton said. Often presented as champion of liberal values by her supporters, Clinton made her disdain for the suffering of the Palestinians quite clear.

“Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families”, Clinton said to the AIPAC audience. She also took a swipe at Donald Trump who had previously said he would be neutral on the conflict.

“Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable”, Clinton asserted to the crowd’s approval.

Trump, for all his talk of remaining neutral on the conflict, unsurprisingly pandered to the crowd just like Clinton: “When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state”, he said. “It will be vetoed 100 percent”, he added.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reaffirmed their unconditional support for Israel and, in turn, reassured to the Palestinians that the next US president will mean more of the same, if not worse.



According to Trump, any resolution passed by the UN “would reward Palestinian terrorism because every day they’re stabbing Israelis and even Americans”. Furthermore, he chastised the current president Barack Obama for his “disastrous” handling of relations with Israel that now only he can repair.

Although it’s true that some Israelis have been victims of attacks, there was no mention by either candidate on the gross and systematic atrocities committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians. As Clinton railed against Hamas rockets, there was no mention of over 2000 Palestinians that were killed by Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014. Nearly two thirds were civilians with 550 children declared dead.

Obama, who Trump derided as “disastrous”, and criticised for ruining relations with the Jewish state, fully supported Israel’s siege in 2014 as he supplied the Israeli forces with much-needed ammunition during the conflict which saw Israel commit war crimes.

As the candidates harped on the about Palestinian terrorism, neither candidate acknowledged the illegal occupation that Israel has been conducting of what is legally recognised to be Palestinian land in the West Bank for 50 years.

In the process, Israel has for decades annexed Palestinian land and built permanent Jewish settlements worth over 3 billion dollars. Such policies have diminished any chance of a two-state solution: an official position of every US government since 1967.

Earlier this year, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in uncharacteristically strong language condemned the settlements calling them “an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community”.

“Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half-century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” Moon was quoted saying at a UN Security Council meeting in January.

The only candidate who did not attend the conference was Bernie Sanders. In his written statement addressing the Middle East, the Vermont senator’s speech, while not completely accurate, significantly deviated from the pandering of both Clinton and Trump.

Sanders acknowledged the suffering of the Palestinians condemning both settlement building and the blockade of Gaza. He also singled out Netanyahu for deciding to “withhold hundreds of millions of Shekels in tax revenue from the Palestinians”, an obligation of the Israeli government to collect.

Support for Israel dwindling

As politicians and potential US presidents rally their support for Israel, attachment to Israel amongst regular Americans is no longer consistent with what it used to be.  

Last year, a survey showed that support for Israel amongst democrats is shifting more in favour of the Palestinians. According to the results, 76% of democrats said that Israel had “too much influence” on US foreign policy compared to 20% of republicans who were polled. When asked if Israel was a racist country, an astonishing 47% of democrats agreed that it was and only 13% said it wasn’t.

As the candidates harped on the about Palestinian terrorism, neither candidate acknowledged the illegal occupation that Israel has been conducting of what is legally recognised to be Palestinian land in the West Bank for 50 years.



In light of these findings, it is surprising that Clinton, for whom there is extensive support from the American Jewish community which overwhelmingly votes democrat, chooses a hawkish stance. As writer Michelle Goldberg noted in her column for Slate; “Jews will vote Democratic no matter what. Sixty-nine percent of them voted for Obama in 2012, despite the well-known tension between him and Netanyahu”.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

In recent years, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has come full circle and expanded to great lengths. Major companies have pulled out of Israel citing the pressure from BDS.

Across US college campuses, student bodies are voting to boycott Israeli products and divest from companies doing business in occupied territory. As a result, US political elites have sought to attack BDS unequivocally as evident by the criticisms of Clinton and others during the conference.  

“I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. 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” said Clinton at AIPAC. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people”

Experts have decisively argued that an anti-BDS legislations are a breach of basic rights of free speech. Clearly this does not resonate with Clinton or other BDS detractors, which only goes to prove that the only change possible in the US establishment’s relations with Israel is an organic bottom-up change.

Usaid Siddiqui is a Canadian-based freelance writer. He has written for PolicyMic, Aslan Media, Al Jazeera America, and Mondoweiss on current affairs. Twitter handle:@UsaidMuneeb16

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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