Last Wednesday, Democratic Senator from New York Charles Schumer delivered a speech to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. In it, he referenced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israel’s current blockade of the Gaza Strip. Now, remember how upset people were last Monday when Helen Thomas made allegedly anti-Semitic comments about European Jews living in Israel and how they should leave Palestine and return to “Germany and Poland”? You would think, hot off the heels of that debacle, public officials would be sensitive to this nuanced topic. Not Chuck Schumer.
The Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution. More do than before, but a majority still do not. Their fundamental view is, the Europeans treated the Jews badly and gave them our land — this is Palestinian thinking […] They don’t believe in the Torah, in David […] You have to force them to say Israel is here to stay. The boycott of Gaza to me has another purpose — obviously the first purpose is to prevent Hamas from getting weapons by which they will use to hurt Israel — but the second is actually to show the Palestinians that when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement. When there’s total war against Israel, which Hamas wages, they’re going to get nowhere. And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.
(transcript via Think Progress)
Think Progress points out the factual inaccuracies in Schumer’s statements, which include the fact that an April poll showed that 74% of Palestinians actually favor a two-state solution. Besides being completely wrong on all counts, Schumer is basically engaging in the kind of behavior, while less directly and publicly, that Helen Thomas did when she made her career-ending comments. The fact that this speech has seen no air time, that there has been no outcry over its insensitivity and offensiveness, just serves to illustrate the media’s double standard when it comes to the coverage of Israel and the Palestinians.
Why is “believing in the Torah” a prerequisite for treating a group of people fairly? Why should the Palestinian people be punished for simply exercising their right to vote – a vote which the Bush administration insisted was necessary to move the peace process forward – when they vote for someone the U.S. and Israel don’t like? Schumer is not just talking about Hamas, he’s talking about the actual Palestinian people. He’s advocating for the people to be strangled economically — until what? They overthrow Hamas? It’s not clear how Schumer expects this economic strangulation to work. If Hamas is so dedicated to the destruction of Israel, surely they care more about weapons than the plight of their people. How is the suffering of the Palestinian people going to force Hamas to hand over the reins to the PA again? That’s pretty much the only other option, so as of late the Obama administration has been doing press conferences with Mahmoud Abbas, “President” of the Palestinian Authority (whose term actually expired over a year ago). Unfortunately for the U.S., Mr. Abbas has little if any control over the Palestinian people since they voted the PA out during Bush’s last term.
By ignoring Schumer’s comments, the media is telling us it’s fine to talk about the Palestinian people basically being heathens who need to be taught a lesson, whereas it is not okay to criticize Israeli policies. It’s shameful that this is allowed to happen, that Palestinian lives are viewed as disposable examples of what happens when the interests of the U.S. and Israel are ignored. Using a blockade to force the Palestinians to understand that their “democracy” is only a democracy when the voters agree with what the U.S. wants can only serve to economically disenfranchise millions of Palestinians and in turn, perpetuate the system of oppression that drives them to desperate measures such as terrorism.