Helen Thomas’ misinterpreted remarks about Jews in Palestine led to the end of her accomplished career. Meanwhile, Senator Schumer of New York is allowed to say he supports the continued “economic strangulation” of Gaza, without anyone even blinking twice.
Schumer is a powerful politician; he is the vice-chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the third highest ranking Democrat in the Senate. His position in the government makes the fact that he can make such comments without press coverage or any sort of accountability is especially perturbing.
Schumer, speaking at the Orthodox Union, went on to blame the identity of Palestinians for their situation: “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution… They don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” Both of these statements are blatantly false, as most Palestinians support a two-state solution, and Muslims consider the Torah a holy book and David a prophet. He also blames Gazans for the actions of Hamas, and states that they can only have economic advancement “when there’s some moderation and cooperation.”
So one of the most powerful senators in the U.S. believes collective punishment of Palestinians, and denying them a right to livelihood, is justified since they are not Jewish and since Hamas is in power. Such insensitivity is appalling. By advocating Palestinian compliance through strangulation, Schumer is effectively denying Palestinians any sort of right to self-determination. This man is also in a position that enables him to influence policy in the region.
The vast silence after Schumer’s comments either mean that many agree with his views, or there are not many oppositional voices. Indeed, Jimmy Carter stated that the reluctance “to criticize any policies of the Israeli government is because of the extraordinary lobbying efforts of AIPAC and the absence of any significant contrary voices.” What is needed is more engagement from pro-peace lobbies to counter the power of AIPAC and bigoted voices in Congress.
In addition to CNI, J Street, a pro-Israel and pro-peace lobby, is becoming a formidable challenge to AIPAC. J Street’s goals are to: “advocate for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution and a broader regional, comprehensive peace and, second, to ensure a broad debate on Israel and the Middle East in national politics and the American Jewish community.” Such new voices are crucial in order to bring different views to Congress and change the political order of Washington.