Why American Politicians Can’t Say the Words ‘Israeli Apartheid’ | Jerusalem


In recent weeks, as Israeli colonial forces stepped up their brutal violence against Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, many expected a sharp reaction from the new Biden administration.

But that did not come. Instead, we have heard once again about the “deep concern” the U.S. State Department has about “unilateral measures that exacerbate tensions” and that both Israeli and Palestinian officials need to “act with decision to reduce tensions “.

Some Palestinians also expected more from “progressive” members of the U.S. legislature. But they also wore their words of euphemisms. Representative André Carson tweeted that he is “extremely dismayed by Israel’s efforts to forcibly expel Palestinians from its home.” Representative Marie Newman called on the State Department to “immediately condemn these violations of international law.” Representative Mark Pocan co-authored a letter with others, expressing “deep concern over Israel’s imminent plan to forcibly displace nearly 2,000 Palestinians.”

And for her part, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the Israeli army’s actions “inhumane” and said “the United States must show more leadership in safeguarding Palestinian rights.” Just a month ago, in an interview with Rabbi Michael Miller, head of New York’s Jewish Community Relations Council, the “progressive” congresswoman also spoke of “valuing a process where all parties are respected” and building “a path to peace.”

There are words that objectively assess the situation in Palestine, such as “occupation,” “apartheid,” “colonizer-colonialism,” and “ethnic cleansing,” absent from all of these claims.

It is disappointing, though not at all surprising, that American politicians choose a language that drowns out the reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Still, the problem here is not just what they say, but also why they feel compelled to say it.

This is the language that the powerful Israeli lobby has long been rooted in and designed to whitewash Palestinian reality by presenting Israeli apartheid and colonialism as a matter of “conflict resolution and mediation.” By focusing on “peace” as a matter of negotiation between two parties involved in a “conflict,” this rhetoric darkens the imbalance of power between the occupier and the occupied and dampens Palestinians seeking justice for colonization. and Israeli crimes.

The fact that American politicians across the spectrum feel compelled to use this language reflects not only the significant influence that the Israeli lobby has on the United States, but also the structural racism of U.S. society and government. In other words, the hesitation to show support for the Palestinian cause is also rooted in the inability of American politics to sincerely recognize white supremacy, racialized hierarchies, and the socioeconomic discrimination that strengthens and protects American land.

American politics cannot really embrace the values ​​of justice, accountability, and equality — which are part of the Palestinian and other progressive struggles — because it is designed to nurture white privileges. And in this, the United States is very similar to Israel: in both countries, your rights and opportunities are inevitably decided by your racial or ethnic origin.

Challenging this hegemonic language means frontally challenging the entire political system and its power structures. And for a member of Congress, this is a dangerous proposal.

We must recognize that while some members of Congress have progressive views, they present themselves and are elected to serve above all their communities, where they focus their energies on American national issues. A statement on Israel deemed “problematic” by the establishment of his party could close many doors to them and prevent them from fulfilling their obligations to their communities. It can also mean the loss of the elected office.

Just look at the reaction experienced by New York-based Human Rights Watch to publish a report last month calling on Israeli oppression of Palestinians what apartheid is. The American Jewish Committee said its arguments were “limited to anti-Semitism,” while the International Legal Forum called it “blood defamation” as “anti-Semitic.” They are such attacks that American politicians fear.

His complacency is disappointing, but it is a reflection of the political reality of the United States.

But while we condemn this obfuscating rhetoric on the part of American politicians, we should also reflect on our own perceptions and expectations as Palestinians. Why do we still cling to the hope of hearing something different from American politicians after all these years of firm pro-Israel foreign policy? Why does the US still matter to us?

The fact that Palestinian politicians still care so much about what American politicians and other public figures say about Palestine shows that they still see the US as the legitimate intermediary of peace, which has repeatedly shown that it is not. They still keep the old promises that the US has broken many times.

The Oslo Accords – the much-vaunted “success” of American diplomacy – were unworkable from the outset because the treaties were drafted in the American political language, that is, in the language of racial hierarchies. and not of justice. However, Palestinian politicians remain faithfully committed to these tragic agreements, which have only consolidated Palestinian dispossession and strengthened Israeli military occupation. Beyond that, the agreements also mutilated our own political language, which – similarly to that of the US – is used to obscure the reality of Palestinian oppression. It is used to cover up the despotism of Fatah and Hamas, which place the maintenance of their regimes above the interest of the Palestinian people.

The change in the political language of both the United States and Palestine can only occur through a sustained challenge to the status quo. And this will inevitably be accompanied by disorders. Perhaps this is the time we live in today, where Palestinians in East Jerusalem, but also in the West Bank and Gaza, are taking to the streets to confront the Israeli occupation, which will lead to change.

For those who have sympathy for the Palestinian cause in the United States and elsewhere, watching the events in Jerusalem, it is important to understand that this is not a “petition” for “human rights” and “peace”; it is a determined struggle for justice and dignity. It is also important that they understand that Palestine does not adapt to the disempowering language of American or Western politics. The only genuine way to talk about what is happening now to Sheikh Jarrah, the Al-Aqsa enclosure, the Damascus Gate and other places in occupied Palestine is through the language of the dispossessed themselves and their struggle against apartheid. , colonization, occupation, and ethnic cleansing.

Focusing on the Palestinians and choosing justice as a frame of reference is the only way to talk about what is happening. And we need more than talk, we need action. We need people to prepare for and join the convulsion, to challenge the status quo and help bring about change in their own communities and elsewhere.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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