Will the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Derail Biden’s Progressive Cred?
“The Associated Press office is the only place in Gaza City I feel somewhat safe,” Fares Akram, the outlet’s Gaza bureau chief, wrote Friday, mere hours before Israeli airstrikes toppled the high-rise—also home to other media networks, such as Al Jazeera—that Israel alleged contained Hamas military assets. AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt pushed back against that claim and “called on the Israeli government to put forward the evidence” given “we have had no indication” of Hamas’ presence throughout the bureau’s 15 years in the building. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” he said in a statement, noting all AP journalists and freelancers were “narrowly” evacuated in time.
“This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists,” Al Jazeera journalist Heba Akila told the New York Times of the bombing, one of several attacks on Gaza City over the weekend that marked an escalation in the fight between Israel and Hamas militants. The violence is entering its seventh consecutive day and has left at least 188 people in Gaza and eight in Israel dead, according to the AP. The current conflict, triggered in part by Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and inflamed by the potential eviction of Palestinian families from an area of East Jerusalem, is the worst since 2014.
Over the weekend, the United States upped its ostensible efforts to diffuse tensions, with President Joe Biden on Saturday speaking for the second time in a week to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for the first to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, in separate phone calls. To Netanyahu, Biden expressed concern for the safety of journalists following the airstrike but reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself, part of the cautious foreign-policy approach drawing ire from others in his party. Several progressives have called on the White House to reassess the large amounts of military aid provided to Israel without restriction and have argued that Biden is not doing enough to a help broker a ceasefire, the Wall Street Journal reports. Among them is Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who on the House floor last week said the administration was failing to make good on its pledge to protect human rights. “Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government,” Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in Congress, said, a message she and other progressives repeated on Twitter in response to ongoing violence this weekend.
The public commentary from the progressive side creates a tricky situation for the Biden camp. “Subtle shifts in language in readouts of the calls underscored the White House’s new worries,” CNN reports of the mounting rift between Democrats, “an awkward public fight for a party that has made its commitment to social and racial justice a main part of its platform.” Despite vocal criticism from prominent lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden has yet to pivot in his public statements about the matter. “The old talking points don’t work anymore,” Ben Rhodes, who served as a top foreign-policy adviser to former President Barack Obama, told the Journal. “Just talking about Israel’s right to defend itself, when you’re not really talking about how we got here or the danger of Israel’s actions in Gaza going far beyond self-defense, it just feels mismatched to the moment.” Earlier this month, Sen. Chris Van Hollen leveled a similar criticism regarding the White House’s public response to the potential evictions in Israel, tweeting, “If the Biden Administration puts the rule of law and human rights at the heart of its foreign policy, this is not a moment for tepid statements.”
The intraparty tension comes as moderates and progressives have been getting on surprisingly well under the new administration. As my colleague Abigail Tracy reported last week, members of the left flank have praised Biden’s leadership and embrace of progressive ideas. Contrary to predictions of what the post-election landscape would look like, the war between progressives and moderates has yet to emerge, which apparently has come as a surprise to liberals themselves: Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez remarked last month that the White House has “definitely exceeded expectations” among the cohort, a plot twist given that “a lot of us expected a lot more conservative administration.” Yet the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be a tipping point. Cortez suggested as much in a tweet on Saturday: “If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?”
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Published at Sun, 16 May 2021 18:06:57 +0000
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