Palestinian children act deserves support


To the editor:

(re: “Bowman defends Israeli aid bill,” April 22)

My grandmother, who lost close relatives in the Holocaust, used to refer incessantly to the concepts of fairness, kindness and justice. These formed what she felt should be the foundation of all human endeavor.

Although no political activist, her response to the brutal actions of Alabama police against civil rights marchers in the ‘60s was angry disbelief: “How can they do such a thing?” she’d exclaim. And this was her reaction to all such manifestations of injustice and cruelty.

Over the years — and especially recently — these pages have hosted a number of pieces on the subject of Israel and Palestine. Some have expressed concern for the plight of Palestinians — both those who are in the position of second-class Israeli citizenship, and those who live in the Israeli-occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

Such concern has pointed to several issues: The severe restrictions on the right of Palestinians to live where they wish, even on long-held ancestral land. The brutal military assaults on Gaza and elsewhere. The daily restrictions on freedom of movement by virtually ubiquitous checkpoints. And the demolition of Palestinian homes, which is on the increase.

On the other hand, we have seen those who oppose or dismiss such concern and support Israeli policy as part of its “right to defend itself,” as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” and as “our country’s best ally.”

Sadly, many who maintain this position find themselves needing to accompany their arguments by hurling at their opponents accusations of anti-Semitism, or of “singling out Israel” for criticism.

Of course, resorting to such ad hominem attacks only betrays the weakness of their position, because no progressive activists with whom I have ever been associated have exempted any country — whether South Africa prior to 1994; Chile during the Pinochet regime; Zaire during Mobutu’s rule; or Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar today — from criticism and activist opposition.

Put simply, if it is not un-American to criticize the United States, if it is not Islamophobic to criticize Egypt or Iran, then equally it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel.

If anything, to refrain from calling out Israel for its human rights abuses would itself smack of anti-Semitism by holding the Jewish-dominated nation to a lower standard of behavior.

Thus it is crucially important to support H.R. 2590, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, among others. First and foremost, know that at $3.8 billion every year, the United States sends more military aid to Israel than any other country in the world. It is the use of that aid that the McCollum bill seeks to monitor or restrict.

I quote, in full, the description of the bill: “to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, and to ensure that U.S. taxpayer funds are not used by the government of Israel to support the military detention of Palestinian children; the unlawful seizure, appropriation and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank; or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.”

Yet, somehow, there are people who find that they must oppose or even attack proponents of such legislative propriety. Surely it behooves the United States to ensure that its largess is not used to brutalize and dehumanize an already disadvantaged people. Surely it is within our rights to dictate to what use our aid is put.

Therefore, we should applaud those lawmakers — among them, U.S. Reps. McCollum, Rashida Tlaib, Mark Pocan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marie Newman, and “our own” Bowman, who with H.R. 2590, seek to promote a more humane policy toward Palestinians, and a more responsible foreign policy for our country.

I am certain that my grandmother would have approved.

Steve Siegelbaum

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Steve Siegelbaum,