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Democrats’ Unapologetic Support for Israel Enables Daily War Crimes Against Palestinians

Politicians from the Democratic Party in the United States have expressed fervent support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, even going so far as to sponsor multiple resolutions which demonstrate unwavering solidarity and appropriate more funds for weapons and the US-funded missile defense system known as Iron Dome. This support has worked to ensure that the political climate discourages condemnation for war crimes, which Israel now seems to be committing on a daily basis.

Many of the comments in this story could easily have come from the mouths of Republicans. There simply is no political opposition in Congress to the ongoing war in Gaza. In fact, many Democrats are cheering Israel to “finish the job” and “restore the quiet” by doing whatever it takes.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined numerous Democrats (and Republicans) and condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 29 for passing a resolution “accusing Israel of human rights violations.”

“The resolution was so incredibly one-sided in its anti-Israel bias, that it makes zero mention of Hamas and the atrocities Hamas has committed by indiscriminately barraging Israel with rockets and using Palestinian civilians as human shields,” Reid complained. “Hamas perpetrated this conflict. They wantonly fire rockets into Israel, and they don’t care who they hit.”

Reid described the rockets used, the tunnels Hamas relies upon, and how it was a “sham” that only the US voted against the resolution. Then, he shared, “I was watching the News Hour, and they had [a] commentary section from [New York Times’] David Brooks and [syndicated columnist] Mark Shields. David Brooks aptly noted that what Hamas is doing represents ‘a rare moment in military history where a party rejects a cease-fire in order to get more of their own people killed.’ And that is what is happening; Hamas is saying ‘kill some more of our people.’”

On July 11, when the House unanimously passed a resolution in support of the “state of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization,” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared, “With Israel’s citizens once again under assault, our bipartisan resolve to stand by Israel is firm and unwavering,” and, “No family should be forced to endure constant threats to their lives or the persistent fear of rocket attacks. We call on Hamas to cease their attacks on Israel and stop endangering Palestinian civilians by using them as human shields.”

During a July 28 rally for Israel at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the United Nations, New York Senator Chuck Schumer cried out, “No ceasefire as long as Hamas’ weaponry is not gone! It’s plain and simple.” He received roaring applause from the nearly fifteen thousand people in attendance.

California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, along with Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt, introduced the “Updated US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act” on July 28. The legislation, backed by 70 senators, would authorize an “increase of $200 million in the value of US weapons held in Israel, to a total of $1.8 billion.” The “emergency” stockpile “intended for US forces in the event of a crisis,” and can also be used by Israel, would be expanded.

Reuters reported that the US military, which runs this “emergency” stockpile program called War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel, had offered to grant Israel access to the stockpile. This happened despite the fact that Israel had not come to the military citing an emergency need for more munitions. As such, Israel was able to “resupply itself with 40mm grenades and 120mm mortar rounds to deplete older stocks that would eventually need to be refreshed.”

The introduced legislation also would require the Obama administration to move to allow Israel to “be included in the top-tier category for license-free exports of certain US technologies and products.” It requires Obama to study expanded cooperation between the US and Israel on “cyber security” and to provide “more frequent and more detailed assessments on the status of Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors.” And it would encourage the administration to add Israel to the Visa Waiver Program so Israeli citizens could “travel to the United States without first having to obtain a visa.”

Boxer, on July 18, stated, “It is particularly shocking that Hamas is using Palestinian men, women, and children as human shields to deter Israeli attacks. In recent days, Hamas has urged residents of Gaza to ignore Israeli warnings of impending air strikes and remain in their homes. The Israeli government has also compiled extensive evidence that Hamas has intentionally placed rocket launchers and other military objects in densely populated civilian areas.”

On July 28, New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand submitted a resolution along with Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, which condemned the “use of civilians as human shields by the terrorist group Hamas” and, again, showed support for “Israel’s right to self-defense.” A similar resolution was introduced in the House by Democratic Representative Ted Deutch and Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who are both from Florida.

“The use of human shields by Hamas is deplorable,” said Gillibrand. “The international community must stand up against this terrorist organization that is putting the people it claims to defend in harm’s way and support Israel’s right to defend its citizens.”

This fierce support for Israel has come as journalists and humanitarian workers in Gaza continue to witness and report attacks on innocent Palestinian civilians.

On July 30, Israeli military forces shelled the Jabalia Elementary Girls School, which was being used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to house “thousands of internally displaced people.” Children, according to UNRWA, were “killed in their sleep.” The shelling killed at least 19 people and injured dozens.

The Nation’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who has been in Gaza, reported on July 28 that Israeli had struck the Al Shati refugee camp and killed ten people, including eight children, who had been playing between a “swing set on the sidewalk and a small grocery shop selling sweets and chips. He also reported on the shelling of another UN-run school in Beit Hanoun, which killed at least 16 Palestinian refugees and wounded over 200 people.

At this point, well over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported [PDF] on July 29 that around 74% of those killed have been civilians. Only 16% of those killed have been members of armed groups. Ten percent are “unknown.” This means by a conservative estimate Israel is killing three civilians for every single militant that it manages to kill.

Democrats are choosing to be moved by Israeli propaganda and uninfluenced by the horrific images of warfare coming out of Gaza. They thoroughly believe that Hamas is, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it, that Hamas wants to pile up as many civilian dead as they can, because somebody said they use — it’s gruesome — they use ‘telegenically dead Palestinians’ for their cause.” They will repeat this talking point with just as much enthusiasm as a right-wing Christian Zionist like Pastor John Hagee.

Yet, as Georgetown Law University professor Noura Erakat wrote for The Nation, this “insidious” talking point “blames Palestinians for their own death and deprives them” of their victimhood. There is no proof, as international human rights organizations have found, that what they are saying is even true. In fact, it is Israeli soldiers, which have used Palestinians as human shields while waging war and defending their military occupation.

Additionally, it was Israel, which chose to launch the latest offensive. Netanyahu provoked the war when he blamed Hamas for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens without any proof that Hamas was behind their deaths.
The army, according to Larry Defner of, then proceeded to raid, destroy, confiscate and arrest “anybody and anything having to do with Hamas.” Palestinian protesters were killed and 60 members of Hamas freed in the Gilad Shalit deal were put back in prison.

Democrats conveniently ignore the Dahiya Doctrine,” which has a lot to do with why Israel is targeting civilians. As Erakat pointed out, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said [PDF] while Israel was engaged in “indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon in 2006”:

What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. […] We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission’s Goldstone Report [PDF] concluded that this doctrine had been employed in Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400 people. The report expressed this concern:

…In the framing of Israeli military objectives with regard to the Gaza operations, the concept of Hamas’ “supporting infrastructure” is particularly worrying as it appears to transform civilians and civilian objects into legitimate targets. Statements by Israeli political and military leaders prior to and during the military operations in Gaza indicate that the Israeli military conception of what was necessary in a war with Hamas viewed disproportionate destruction and creating maximum disruption in the lives of many people as a legitimate means to achieve not only military but also political goals…

Nevertheless, with the exception of Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, who has called for an end to the blockade on Gaza, it would seem there is no limit to the support for Israeli war crimes among Democrats in Congress. They will gladly join Republicans in issuing reactionary statements blaming the death and destruction on Hamas and permit Israel to prolong its campaign of terror in Gaza without facing condemnation from American politicians for acts, which target and kill civilians. Some will even go so far as to blame Palestinians for humanitarian crises created by the blockade, which Israel has been perpetuating for over six years.


To further highlight the relentless support for Israel and the unwillingness to acknowledge that Israel is responsible for the overwhelming majority of bloodshed in this war, here are some more comments from Democrats.

—New Jersey Senator Cory Booker: “I want to stand resolute and clear about the true cause of the crisis, and that lies squarely with Hamas, a terrorist organization whose ends do not start and finish with the well-being of the Palestinian people…

…They are willing to put innocent Palestinians in harm’s way causing death and destruction within their own communities, their own children, their own hospitals and their own schools. They are in the interest of racking up casualties to add what they consider in a warped way moral force for their terroristic aims…

…They are willing to deny the people food. They are willing to deny their people construction materials that could be building schools and building infrastructure. They’re willing to deny medical supplies. They’re willing to deny a higher standard of living in order to support clearly terrorist activities…” [Link]

—New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez: “This is tragic, but what other army in the world sends a flier and says, if you are innocent, please leave, we are coming? What other army in the world calls up and says, if you are innocent, we are coming, please leave? What other army in the world gives a knock and says we are coming? No other army that I know of other than the state of Israel does that…

“…There is no denying the Jewish people a homeland for which they have thousands of years of history going back to Abraham and Sarah. And, if together we continue to stand with Israel, Israel will have centuries ahead of that reality.” [Link]

—California Democratic Representative Brad Sherman: “There are those that engage in international jurisprudence by counting body bags. They say that Israel must be wrong because Hamas and Palestinians have suffered more casualties. By their claim, you look at World War II and you decide that Eisenhower must be a war criminal because there were so many more German casualties than American casualties in that war. That is preposterous. Every single rocket fired into Israel is a war crime. It’s aimed at civilians and the fact that the war crime is unsuccessful isn’t our fault.”

“…As Bibi Netanyahu says, we use rockets to protect our civilians and they use civilians to protect their rockets…”

(to combat Iran) “…We need to transfer to Israel the 30,000-pound super bunker buster bombs and the B-52s that are capable of carrying it.” [Link]

—New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries: ““Israel is here to stay and it will remain forever.”

“We know that Israel lives in a very tough neighborhood… There are certain realities to that. We mourn the loss of civilian life on both sides of the conflict… Israel should not be made to apologize for its strength. You know why, because the only thing that neighbors respect in a tough neighborhood is strength.”

“Israel faced aggression in 1948 and Israel prevailed. And then you faced aggression in 1967 and Israel prevailed…. Then you had to deal with the first intifada and Israel prevailed… The missiles were flying in Dec. of 2008 and Israel prevailed.”

“Israel today, Israel tomorrow, Israel forever.” [Link]

—Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin: “I am deeply troubled by Hamas’ continued rocket fire against Israeli civilians and its refusal to accept an Egyptian cease fire proposal. I am further shocked by Hamas’ barbaric use of its own civilians as human shields to protect its violent actions. Recently, after Israel warned residents of several neighborhoods in northern Gaza to leave the area due to likely impending military action, Hamas urged them to stay. In doing so, Hamas deliberately—and criminally—put civilian lives at risk for its own propaganda needs. Similarly, Hamas continues to launch rockets from narrow openings between crowded civilian homes, with the perpetrators then fleeing via tunnels and leaving the vulnerable civilians exposed to counterstrikes aimed at halting the rocket attacks

Quite simply, Hamas, having failed to deliver a functioning state that builds on the talents and aspirations of the Palestinian people, has perpetuated this violent confrontation with Israel while recklessly endangering the lives of its own people to advance its narrow propaganda objectives.” [Link]

—Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine: “The escalating conflict between Hamas and Israel is deeply tragic and inflicts serious damage on the people in Israel and Gaza. Based on a cynical political calculation, Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, appears to be intentionally disrupting any chance for progress on peace discussions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Hamas’s decision to escalate rocket attacks on Israel was designed to provoke an Israeli defensive response that would necessarily endanger Gaza residents. I fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against these indiscriminate rocket attacks, but they also should do everything necessary to minimize harm to civilians and facilitate humanitarian access.” [Link]

—Maryland Senator Ben Cardin: (in a letter co-signed with New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon) “While we share your desire to see an end to hostilities as soon as possible, your statement was not helpful. We respectfully request that your future comments recognize the fact that the ‘atrocious action’ is the deliberate terrorist attack on civilians—not the measured response of a nation-state trying to defend its citizens.” [Link]

—New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer: “Israel has now accepted two cease-fires offered by Egypt, which everybody regards as a sort of down-the-middle, neutral arbiter, and Hamas has rejected them. More to the point, what other country would stop in the middle of a military operation if rockets were coming from that country to their country and say, oh, let`s have a — let`s sort of ignore it and let them fire at us again in a few weeks?

“What the Israeli public is demanding, what any public under these conditions would want is that the Israeli armed forces finish the job. Get rid of the rockets. Finish the tunnels.”

“And then see what can happen in Gaza. But the — any government`s obligation, first obligation is to protect its own citizens. And that`s all Israel is doing. I think all they ask is that the world not have a double standard. The way Germany would respond if Berlin were attacked, the way France would respond if Paris were attacked, the way the US would respond if Washington or any other city were attacked is all Israel wants, which is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” [On “Hardball” with Chris Matthews on July 22]

—New York Democratic Representative Steve Israel: “I’m a big believer in what would we do when crisis occurs. What would we do if we had terrorists on our border sending rockets into our communities? If we had Hamas—If Delaware was the Gaza Strip, Mr. Speaker, this Capitol, where I am speaking, would be hit by rockets. Baltimore would be hit by rockets. Philadelphia, where tourists gather for July 4th to celebrate our independence, would be hit by rockets. New York would be hit by rockets. Long Island would be hit by rockets. And what would we do? Exactly what Israel is doing.”

“We would protect our citizens. We would seek to spare civilian casualties. We would try and negotiate as best we could a peace but do it through strength. Every nation in America has the right and obligation to protect its citizens. So does Israel.” [Link]

—New York Democratic Representative Nita Lowey: “The government of Israel is responding as any responsible country would: protecting its citizens to the best of their ability while going after the terrorists who are responsible for such ruthless aggression. Hamas’ actions only further demonstrate their complete disregard for their own people and their intent to wreak havoc on innocent Israeli citizens.” [Link]

—Texas Democratic Representative Marc Veasey: “Until peace does come, it is vital that we continue to strengthen our military partnership with Israel as well as strengthen our support and solidarity in these trying times and continue to push for a path of a two-state solution so Israel and its citizens and Palestinian citizens may live in peace.” [Link]

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."