still progressive except Palestine – Mondoweiss

Last month forty-four members of the Senate sent a letter to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee expressing their support for an additional $500 million in military aid to Israel, which would be used to replenish the country’s missile defense system. The letter, which was led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), was signed by 34 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Democratic signatories included Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ed Markey (D- MA).

Markey has previously faced backlash from his progressive base over his support for Israel and refusal to promote Palestinian human rights. While Israel bombed Gaza, in May 2021, Markey made a series of tweets suggesting that both sides were to be blamed and asserting that Israel had the right to defend itself.

Markey’s comments on the attacks inspired a number of former Markey staffers, volunteers, supporters, and endorsing organizations to draft a statement criticizing his position. “As the young people, organizers, and advocates who are responsible for Senator Markey’s victory, we are upset and disappointed by his recent statement on Israel’s illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” it read. “He followed in the footsteps of Mitt Romney and Donald Trump by saying it’s a ‘both sides’ issue, which ignores the current and historical power imbalance between Israel and Palestine — and couldn’t be farther from the truth. Senator Markey’s refusal to support justice in Palestine is antithetical to the Green New Deal and the progressive movement that won him re-election.”

The document called on Markey to initiate an investigation into how US arms sales are used by Israel, develop legislation aimed at halting forced displacement in East Jerusalem, demand the enforcement of arms export laws, and introduce a Senate companion to Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D -MN) HR 2590 or the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under the Israeli Military Occupation Act.

A year later Markey has not done any of these things.

“Markey has no material or political incentives to support Palestinian liberation, even after our massive public pressure campaign last year,” former Markey campaign fellow Calla Walsh told mondo white. “Our demands in the May 2021 letter to Markey were quite minimal, yet he still wouldn’t budget. The experience taught me that, instead of watering down our demands, we should make them bolder and louder, because Zionist politicians will oppose them no matter what. Instead of trying to reform the occupation, we should be fighting an end to the occupation and fully embracing our support for the Palestinian resistance. And instead of supporting liberal Zionists like Markey, I hope others join me in organizing with the BDS Movement.”

In October 2021 activists tried to pressure Markey on the issue again by holding a rally and dropping off a petition with representatives from his office. The petition, which was signed by over 1,200 people and also delivered to members of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) office, echoed many of the same demands from the May letter. “We, Palestinian American constituents and allies, urge you as concerned residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to end our complicity in Israel’s apartheid system of military occupation, settler colonization, and disregard for the humanity of the Palestinian people,” it read.

Palestinian community organizer and BDS Boston member Lea Kayali was one of the activists who delivered the petition and signatures to Markey. She told mondo white that his support for further Iron Dome funding was disappointing, but not surprising. “Instead of putting his energies towards ending the colonial onslaught of violence, Senator Markey is dousing the fire with gasoline,” she told mondo white. “The Senator’s failings are particularly stark in contrast to the actions of his colleague in the House, Representative Pressley, who joined a congressional letter demanding an end to the imminent dispossession of the residents of Masafer Yatta. That Senator Markey would choose to broadcast his unwavering support for apartheid and colonialism in Palestine in the midst of ongoing ethnic cleansing of Masafer Yatta is repugnant.”

“None of our demands have been met,” she continued. “We wrote the letter so that the delegation would not have the excuse of ignorance. Their actions, or silence, between then and now solidify their position on the wrong side of history.”

Another organizer, who helped draft the petition and asked to remain anonymous, said the reaction of Markey’s staff to the demands seemed “very performative” as if “he was trying to see what he was up against and not interested in actually building coalitions.”

Markey’s support for Israel certainly predates recent events. During a 2013 interview with the Boston Globe, when Markey was still a Massachusetts congressman, he refused to place any blame on Israel for the “peace process” falling apart. During the 2014 Gaza War, Markey condemned Hamas rocket attacks but refrained from criticizing Israel’s bombing campaign.

In 2016 he cosponsored the Combating BDS Act and signed a letter calling for increased military aid to Israel. The Massachusetts Peace Action group sent the Senator a letter expressing their disappointment. “What is the justification for increasing the already large $3.1 billion in annual aid to Israel when we have budget constraints and so many unmet needs at home?,” it asks. In 2018 he cosponsored the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, a bill calling for the full funding of security assistance to Israel.

“Liberation politics are not a buffet, but an ethos,” said Kayali. “Senator Markey has made it clear that the ‘progressivism’ he claims to support – rights to healthcare, ending racial violence, and economic freedom – shouldn’t extend to Palestinians under occupation. That is racist, and progressives in Massachusetts should see it for what it is.”

So where are the Palestinian voices in mainstream media?

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