Palestinian and human rights advocates were aghast over remarks made by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention on Monday, saying that her speech represented “everything that is bad” with U.S. imperialism and policy in the Middle East.
During the address, Clinton vowed to take the U.S.-Israel relationship to “the next level”—a level which seemingly includes more war and imperialism, few, if any, rights for Palestinians, and definitely no economic boycotts of Israel.
Striking a hawkish tone, Clinton warned the powerful lobby group against rival candidates who want to “outsource Middle East security to dictators” and “cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security,” and instead vowed even more “security and intelligence cooperation.”
“As president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge,” she said. “The United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so it can deter and stop any threats. That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like the Arrow Three and David’s Sling. And we should work together to develop better tunnel detection, technology to prevent armed smuggling, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.”
As observers noted, as she ran down the list of “evolving threats,” the former U.S. secretary of state resorted to common neoconservative talking points, declaring:
As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever.
We have to combat all these trends with even more intense security and diplomatic cooperation. The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values.
Touting her “deep, personal commitment” to the “Jewish state,” Clinton then said that “one of the first things I’ll do in office is invite Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] to visit the White House.”
The speech proved that, on matters of Israel, Clinton is “running to the right” of GOP front-runner Donald Trump, as noted by Mondoweiss‘ Philip Weiss, who wrote that the remarks were “filled with red meat for Israel supporters” and “contained scant reference to the peace process.”
Later, Clinton doubled down on her previous pledge to dismantle the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, linking the campaign against Palestinian apartheid to anti-Semitism, saying “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”
“I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now,” Clinton continued. “As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS.”
Clinton then specifically called on young people “on the front lines” to resist efforts to boycott Israel, saying: “I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate” —to which Naomi Dann, media correspondent for Jewish Voice for Peace, responded:
.@HillaryClinton please STOP enlisting young people as soldiers on the ‘frontlines’ to silence the mvmt for Palestinian rights #AIPAC2016
Though unsurprised by the candidate’s vigorous support for the policies and tactics of the Israeli state, observers pointed to the remarks as a frightening indicator of what a Clinton presidency could mean for the Middle East.
In a statement to Common Dreams, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that the dialogue at the convention “is a reminder of the current limits of the mainstream discourse on Israel, which rely on racist and Islamophobic tropes to justify unquestioning support for Israel.”
“From Democrats to Republicans, the message is the same,” Vilkomerson continued. “More arms for Israel, a stronger relationship between Israel and the U.S., no mention of Palestinian rights, and no recognition of the impossible contradiction of being both democratic and Jewish when the state is predicated on maintaining systems of unequal rights and rule by military occupation.”
Watch the entire speech below:
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