Twenty-four U.S. Democratic Party congress members visited Israel this week and gave unconditional support to the ultra-reactionary Netanyahu government, whose genocidal policies towards Palestinians have reached new heights.
The delegation was led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a longtime supporter of the Zionist project. The trip reaffirmed the Biden administration’s ongoing support of the apartheid regime, now helmed by the most right-wing and racist forces in Israel’s history. The trip was organized and funded by the Israeli lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
In a press statement, Jeffries “reaffirmed [the Democrats’] commitment to the special relationship between the United States and Israel, one anchored in … shared democratic values and mutual interests … We reiterate our ironclad commitment to … the existence of Israel.”
Jeffries, despite posing as a progressive, has been an ardent supporter of the apartheid state. His appointment was warmly welcomed by hardline pro-Israel groups. Former Democratic congressman Robert Wexler said that “the pro-Israel camp needs someone just like Hakeem to lead us into the future.”
During the visit, Jeffries and the other 23 House Democrats displayed public support of extremist right-wing politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs.
This blatant tone-deafness from the Democrats is hardly surprising as they continue to ignore the widespread repression and violation of Palestinians human rights. Just this year alone, multiple Palestinian communities have faced repeated assault by the Israeli Defense Forces despite international condemnation. On Aug. 6, Zionist settlers who murdered three Palestinian children were hailed as heroes by Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Such crimes and incitements of genocide by high Israeli officials was ignored, with the Democrats’ blanket endorsement and legitimizing the racist state.
Israel continues to expand into Palestinian territory in clear violation of international law, but faces no consequences or negative sanctions from the United States, Instead, the United States provides some $4 billion in annual military aid to Israel to carry on this inhumane onslaught, while at the same time shedding crocodile tears for human rights abuses elsewhere in the world. Even last month, the U.S. Congress passed an absurd resolution with 412-9 votes denying that Israel is “a racist or apartheid state.”
Jeffries’ office stated that the Democratic Party delegation will “discuss” the Knesset’s recent passing of a controversial “reasonableness” bill, which weakens the judiciary by stripping its ability to overturn any legislative decisions. But there was no public statement. This controbersial bill is seen as the single greatest shake-up to Israel’s Supreme Court since that government began its illegal settler-colonial project in 1948.
Secular Israelis have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers, protesting for the last six months against this weakening of the court, as thus far, the Supreme Court made previous progressive and secular rulings amidst a right-wing conservative political landscape, like expanding women’s and LGBTQ rights. It is ironic that these groups while fighting for their democratic rights now, have historically turned away from supporting the Palestinian fight for self-determination and for Palestinian democratic rights. For example, Shikma Bresler, a leader of the protests against weakening the Supreme Court, concluded that “occupation is not the reason for [their] situation” [implying] that Israel could be a perfectly fine democracy even with occupation. These protests are really not about democracy for all, but only for those accepted within the confines of a racist, Jewish-only apartheid.
Meanwhile some of the first legislation passed by the Knesset after voting in the “reasonableness” bill was aimed at Palestinians. The Knesset voted to expand the size and number of “sundown towns,” towns which may legally prohibits Palestinians from living in them. The law applies to towns within Israel and also in the Occupied Territories, clearly strengthening apartheid and advancing ethnic cleansing.
The Biden administration has thus far only offered mild admonishment with no teeth to force Israel to uphold any semblance of democracy for Palestinians as it spirals further into a fascistic state. The Democrats delegation’s uncritical visit is a green light for Israel’s racist crimes to continue with impunity, and puts the Democratic Party fully in league with the likes of Netanyahu, Beh-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-described “fascist homophobe” and promoter of genocide. This is just another example of the fact that the U.S. government is very much complicit in the violence of the Israeli apartheid state and the human rights violations of Palestinians.