60 Second Expert: Democratic Party Defends Israeli Attack

In Congress, Democratic leaders find common ground with their Republican counterparts in their effort to defend the Israeli assault on unarmed humanitarian aid flotillas. In a sharp contrast with the broad international consensus, a number of democratic representatives and senators proclaimed that the murder of nine activists, which took place in international waters, were inevitable and justified as Israel’s “right to self-defense.”

Despite the fact that the ships had been thoroughly inspected for weapons by customs officials at their ports of disembarkation and the exclusively humanitarian cargo in the Free Gaza campaign’s eight previous voyages, top Democratic leaders in Congress are supporting dangerous accusations that activists on board and organizers of the flotilla had ties to terrorism and could have been smuggling arms. Recently, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on terrorism, has called upon U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute American participants in the flotilla.

When prominent Democrats — including the head of the House subcommittee on terrorism — imply that leading American and Israeli pacifist, feminist, Jewish and Christian human rights activists are linked to terrorism, it is no longer simply heated rhetoric in defense of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip but a dangerous attack on civil liberties.

The campaign among Democrats to defend the Israeli military’s actions has led many of them to even defend the blockade of the Gaza Strip and deny the humanitarian crisis taking place. Some have gone as far as challenging the credibility of the United Nations and the plethora of aid agencies that have documented the public health crisis and food shortages in the Gaza Strip.

For these Democrats who denied the humanitarian crisis and defended the violence of the Israeli military, the flotilla’s purpose was perceived as “inciting a confrontation” or “creating an incident.” However, in a non-violent struggle for justice against an oppressive state apparatus, there is no contradiction between helping people and creating an incident. The democratic support for the notion that the U.S. and its allies should be held to a lower standard of behavior is unacceptable, both peace and human rights activists should deny these members in support in Congress.

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Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy In Focus analyst, is a professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco.