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Little difference between Trump’s ‘toxic’ policies and Biden’s ‘indecision’, say pro-Palestinian activists

CHICAGO: A dozen pro-Palestinian speakers, from Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi to Pink Floyd singer and songwriter Roger Waters, told a rally of activists in Washington DC on Friday that Israel is manipulating media coverage and hiding behind accusations of anti-Semitism to justify his hypocritical action. policies on Palestine.

The annual conference titled “Transcending the Israel Lobby at Home and Abroad,” attended virtually by Arab News, scaled the enormous scope of anti-Palestinian policies not only in Israel but also in America and the challenges that exist with the current administration of President Joe Biden.

Ashrawi said there is a thin line between Donald Trump’s “toxic policies” and Biden’s “indecision”.

“Settlers are rampaging all over Palestine. Annexation and settlement expansion and home demolitions continue at twice the rate of the Trump era. During Biden, the escalation of violations is incredible and enormous. The extrajudicial executions, the daily killings of our people continue with impunity,” Ashrawi said from his home in Ramallah in occupied Palestine.

“And Israel, as they say, is taking advantage of US weakness and indecisiveness. They’re very happy to think the Biden administration is indecisive, and they’re happy enough to live with half-hearted verbal rebukes without consequences. The speed at which the destruction takes place and the killings is so accelerated.

Ashrawi said Biden opposes “settlement expansion” but is not speaking out to confront existing “illegal settlements,” a major change from previous administrations. She said the Biden administration allows the Israeli government to “set the policies” for America, including having to “ask” Israel for permission to do things it has the power to do, like reopen the consulate in East Jerusalem or join organizations such as UNESCO.

US policy has changed dramatically, Ashrawi said, under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said US policies needed to “move away from the Middle East” because achieving peace was difficult.

Sut Jhally, professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and executive director of the Media Education Foundation, said many of the challenges Palestinians face are the result of a deliberate propaganda campaign by Israel to define Palestinians as terrorists and Israelis as defenders.

Jhally said that until the late 1980s, mainstream news media were fair and often criticized and challenged Israeli actions.

“Such coverage is unthinkable today…Journalism in the United States does not exist today,” Jhally said. One strategy was to counter justice for Palestinians with threats of terrorism against Israelis. Flip the reality, he said, the Israelis have been advised, and always begin their propaganda with repetitive phrases such as “Hamas rockets” and “Palestinian terrorism,” not Israeli violence.

Jhally said that in the 1990s, the Israelis brought together marketing and media experts to redefine the way the conflict was presented to the public, dubbed “Hasbara,” and develop strategies for managing media coverage. “Propaganda is not a dirty word,” Jhally, media pundits told Israel, said. Hasbara strategists also recommended “avoiding the story and avoiding the facts” when addressing Americans, Western audiences and the media.

Waters, who has organized boycotts of Israel by some of the world’s most famous artists, said he is often attacked as “anti-Semitic” for supporting Palestinian human rights.

“I support the struggle for human rights of all people around the world,” Waters said defiantly.

Waters, who called Israel an “apartheid terrorist regime”, said the artists’ boycott of Israel had a positive impact on Palestinians, educating fans about Israel’s apartheid policy and violence.

He said he defends human rights around the world, but said his voice in favor of the Palestinians “draws the most anger by far”.

“We know what anti-Semitism means and that doesn’t mean criticizing the State of Israel, you un——,” Waters said to cheers. “No conversation about Israel is possible without using the word apartheid. Because Israel is an apartheid nation.

Speakers at the conference included Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy, who said Israelis were simply turning a blind eye to reality, decrying the occupation and violence in Ukraine without saying anything about the occupation and violence in the occupied West Bank. .

The Reverend Donald Wagner, former national director of Friends of Sabeel-North America and professor of Middle Eastern studies, has spent years studying “Christian Zionism” and explained the powerful impact that American Christians d extreme right have on US policy against the Palestinians. Ironically, the Christian Palestinian population has dropped from 13% at the start of the 1967 occupation to less than 1% today.

Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and running as a Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 10th district, said her activism for Palestinian human rights prepared her to fight for the rights of families in his district.

“Around me, my neighbours, human rights violations are committed every day. It’s not the same as what I saw in Palestine, that’s for sure,” Arraf said.

“When you have to choose between putting food on the table and heating your house, you are not free… when you have to ration your medicine, when you are afraid to go to the hospital because you don’t can’t afford to pay the hospital bill, you’re denied, you’re not free.

She said her goal was to “put people at the center of our policies, whether foreign or here”.

Arraf said she expects her critics to avoid the real issues and falsely attack her in the campaign as “anti-Semitic”.

The conference was organized by the Washington DC-based magazine Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and the Institute for Research and Middle East Policy.

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