CA-46 Debate: Progressives Except on Palestine





Demonstrators show their support for justice in Palestine during a rally in Anaheim on October 18  []

Demonstrators rally for justice in Palestine in Anaheim on October 18  []

“The state of Israel maintains its illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and continues to expand its illegal Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land. As a Member of Congress, will you demand that our government cuts the annual US taxpayer-funded aid of more than $3,000,000,000, or will you support subsidizing the longest occupation in recent history?”

That was the question I submitted to the organizers of the LULAC/NAACP 46th Congressional District candidates debate. The moderators chose to ask a different question Palestine: What is your position on bringing justice and freedom to Palestine?

In their typical PEP stances, the candidates leaned far to the left most issues, except on Palestine. Click here to get tested whether you’re a PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine.)

All four candidates provided vague and predictable answers that lacked much substance. In a district heavily populated by Arab Americans and includes Little Arabia, none of the four candidates was able to directly outline how they’d want to support justice for Palestinians.

Bao Nguyen: “Israel, as I said earlier, is one of our greatest allies in the region and I support a two-state solution. Diplomacy is what America stands for and that’s the direction we need to go with.”

It seems as though Bao Nguyen wanted to avoid addressing this issue since he didn’t even use a quarter of the minute allocated to answer the question. He simply reiterated that Israel is America’s greatest ally. I am not aware of a large pro-Israel community in the 46th district, but perhaps this was his attempt to appease AIPAC and powerful pro-Israel individuals who don’t live in the district. Three out of the four candidates felt the need to mention that they support a (dead) two-state solution to answer a question about bringing justice and freedom to Palestine.

Here’s why even Jimmy Carter thinks the two-state solution is dead.

Jordan Brandman: “we actually need a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. We have not been able to even get close to that since Isaac Rabin was assassinated… The president is working hard, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is committed to it and once we have an implementation of a two-state solution we will hopefully have peace in this region.”

Mentioning Palestine, without referring to it as “Palestinian Territories” or simply “Palestinians” passes as – and I use the term loosely – progressive nowadays. While Brandman’s answer wasn’t particularly progressive, acknowledging Palestine without feeling the need to blindly repeat an AIPAC talking point makes him the least PEP out of the candidates.

Lou Correa: “We must create the incentives for all sides, all interested parties, to come to the table and come up with a solution. I support the president’s role in mediating a solution that works for all sides. We can push as much as we can push to get people to the table but folks in that region have to want to have peace.”

As if a peace agreement brokered by the US would be an extracurricular activity out of the goodness of our hearts, both Lou Correa and Joe Dunn said that the Palestinians and the Israelis must want peace themselves. The reality on the ground is that Israel, with the support of our government, continues its expansionist policies and land theft through its illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel implanted 400,000 Jewish settlers on Palestinian land covering approximately 42% of the West Bank. All while the US taxpayer continues to subsidize the Israeli occupation without accountability. Without US pressure on Israel, no peace agreement will come to fruition.  We must hold Israel accountable or simply cut our annual American taxpayer-funded $3 billion military aid to Israel.

Joe Dunn: “…I do support the two-state solution… We have a significant role in bringing peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis… but it is tragic every time we see on TV whether it be Israeli children who are killed in a rocket attack or Palestinian children in a response attack, but they do have to want it themselves.”

Joe Dunn’s answer was the most condescending for parroting a pro-Israel talking point that gets repeated over and over every time Israel launches a war on Palestinians, including during last year’s war on Gaza. According to the UN, between July 7 and August 26, 2014, the duration of last year’s Operation Protective Edge, 2,251 Palestinians were killed (1,462 of the civilians) including 551 children. During the same time 5 Israeli civilians, 1 Thai national, and 67 Israeli combatants were killed. Such large scale offensive cannot be simply a response to rocket attacks which should be treated as a symptom of the military occupation rather than the cause of each Israeli assault on Gaza.

What all four candidates failed to mention was the root cause of the conflict; it’s the occupation, stupid! 

About Rashad Al-Dabbagh

Arab American community activist based in Anaheim's Little Arabia. Founder/Director of the Arab American Civic Council. Follow him on Twitter at @Happy_Arab.