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Same Song, New Singer

Elizabeth Warren and Israel

by BEN ROSENFELD

During her “Office Hours” town hall on August 22, 2014, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren responded to a constituent’s criticism of her support for Congress’ $225 million aid bill to Israel amid the hellfire it was raining down on Gaza, saying:

“[W]hen Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”

This is pure Washington sophistry. “Defending itself,” in this case, included massively bombing Palestinian civilian infrastructure with the certain knowledge that thousands of innocents would suffer. Amid such ghastly certainty, Israeli officials’ insistence that they don’t target civilians (or blaming the victims for failing to heed warnings to flee) are the rationalizations of sociopathic killers, and Israel’s so-called moral intentions are simply rubble in its collateral damage.

Senator Warren ought to stand next to one of those hospitals, schools, homes, water, power, or sewage treatment plants under an Israeli bombardment and proclaim Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Israel doesn’t have to explain its actions to its war financier and supplier, the United States, because no one, including darling of the left Elizabeth Warren, dares to ask even the screamingly obvious questions, like: What legitimate strategic reason could Israel have for obliterating thousands of buildings when most of them did not contain hidden missile launchers, and Israel gives any combatants holed up there a chance to flee first anyway?

If Senator Warren really believes the Israeli military has the right to murder and maim thousands of innocents caught between warring parties, she lacks basic compassion. And if she is just reciting the party line to assuage AIPAC and preempt her critics, she lacks basic integrity. In either case, she becomes just another calloused presidential hopeful unworthy of progressive support. If instead she wants to rally disillusioned voters on the left and set the table for transformative discussion, she should distinguish herself from Washington’s blind sycophancy toward Israel.

Senator Warren need not side with the far left to condemn Israel’s atrocities; she need only side with fundamental international and human rights law. If she can’t do that much, even circumspectly, there’s nothing new or refreshing about her.

Ben Rosenfield is a San Francisco civil rights attorney.