Big truths that RFK Jr ignores in his eagerness to support Israel
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is willing to call out the US government on many issues important issues – but our support for human rights abuser Israel is oddly not one of them. (photo)
Longtime journalist Chris Hedges offers a partial inventory of Israel’s documented human rights abuses of Palestinians – massive abuses that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. chooses to ignore: the crimes of apartheid, and the targeting and torturing of civilians, to name a few.
As Hedges reminds us, to support this Israel is to “justify the unjustifiable”; and to protest Israeli policy is “a political death wish.”
by Chris Hedges, reposted from ScheerPost, August 13, 2023
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment of an important article by respected journalist Chris Hedges (bio below), discussing Israel’s egregious human rights abuses toward the people of Palestine. The original article is so rich with information and insight that we have divided it into 3 parts to avoid reader fatigue. Find the first installment here, and the second one, specifically about RFK Jr, is here. RFK, Jr. has been featured in a number of interviews on non-establishment platforms, including Joe Rogan and, most recently, an explosive appearance on Tucker Carlson, speaking out about Ukraine, Covid, and who was behind the assassination of his uncle, JFK. In these, he takes on the U.S. government, big pharma, and the CIA… The fact that he fails to similarly speak out about Israeli abuses may be an indication of the unparalleled influence of the Israel lobby.]
I doubt Kennedy has read or heard of Luntz’s report [the Israeli propaganda playbook put together by the Republican pollster and political strategist, Frank Luntz]. But he has been spoon-fed its talking points and naively spits them back. Israel only wants peace. Israel does not engage in torture. Israel is not an apartheid state. Israel gives Israeli Arabs political and civic rights they do not have in other parts of the Middle East. Palestinians are not deliberately targeted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel respects civil liberties and gender and marriage rights. Israel has “the best judiciary in the world.”
Kennedy makes other claims, such as his bizarre statement that the Palestinian Authority pays Palestinians to kill Jews anywhere in the world along with falsifications of elemental Middle Eastern history, which are so absurd I will ignore them. But I list below examples from the volumes of evidence that implode the Luntz-inspired talking points Kennedy repeats on behalf of the Israel lobby, not that any evidence can probably puncture his self-serving attachment to “Fantasy Israel.”
The 2017 U.N. report: “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” Since 1967, Palestinians as a people have lived in what the report refers to as four “domains,” in which the fragments of the Palestinian population are ostensibly treated differently but share in common the racial oppression that results from the apartheid regime.
Those domains are:
- Civil law, with special restrictions, governing Palestinians who live as citizens of Israel;
- Permanent residency law governing Palestinians living in the city of Jerusalem;
- Military law governing Palestinians, including those in refugee camps, living since 1967 under conditions of belligerent occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip;
- Policy to preclude the return of Palestinians, whether refugees or exiles, living outside territory under Israel’s control.
On 19 July 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted “to approve the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, constitutionally enshrining Jewish supremacy and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the Haifa-based civil liberties group Adalah explained. It is the supreme law in Israel “capable of overriding any ordinary legislation.”
In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians. A key method in pursuing this goal is engineering space differently for each group.
Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space (excluding the Gaza Strip). The Green Line means next to nothing for them: whether they live west of it, within Israel’s sovereign territory, or east of it, in settlements not formally annexed to Israel, is irrelevant to their rights or status.
Where Palestinians live, on the other hand, is crucial. The Israeli regime has divided the area into several units that it defines and governs differently, according Palestinians different rights in each. This division is relevant to Palestinians only…Israel accords Palestinians a different package of rights in every one of these units — all of which are inferior compared to the rights afforded to Jewish citizens.
“Since 1948,” the reports continues, “Israel has taken over 90% of land within its sovereign territory and built hundreds of Jewish communities, yet not one for Palestinians (with the exception of several communities built to concentrate the Bedouin population, after dispossessing them of most of their property rights),” the report reads.
“Since 1967, Israel has also enacted this policy in the Occupied Territories, dispossessing Palestinians of more than 2,000 km2 on various pretexts. In violation of international law, it has built over 280 settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) for more than 600,000 Jewish citizens. It has devised a separate planning system for Palestinians, designated primarily to prevent construction and development, and has not established a single new Palestinian community.”
Contrary to Kennedy’s claims that “the policy of the Israeli military is to always only attack military targets,” the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military, and other branches of the Israeli security apparatus, has been extensively documented by Israeli and international organizations.
The 2010 Goldstone report, which is over 500 pages, investigated Israel’s 22-day air and ground assault on Gaza that took place from Dec. 27, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009. The United Nations Human Rights Council and the European Parliament endorsed the report.
The Israeli attack killed 1,434 people, including 960 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. More than 6,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, leaving behind some $3 billion in destruction in one of the poorest areas on Earth. Three Israeli civilians were killed by rockets fired into Israel during the assault.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: see the casualties for both sides here.]
The report’s key findings include that:
- Numerous instances of Israeli lethal attacks on civilians and civilian objects were intentional, including with the aim of spreading terror, that Israeli forces used Palestinian civilians as human shields and that such tactics had no justifiable military objective.
- Israeli forces engaged in the deliberate killing, torture and other inhuman treatment of civilians and deliberately caused extensive destruction of property, outside any military necessity, carried out wantonly and unlawfully.
- Israel violated its duty to respect the right of Gaza’s population to an adequate standard of living, including access to adequate food, water and housing.
On 14 June of this year, B’Tselem reported that “Top Israeli officials” are “criminally liable for knowingly” ordering airstrikes which were “expected to harm civilians, including children, in the Gaza Strip.”
Contrary to the myth propagated by Kennedy, reports and investigations, both by the U.N. as well as by rights groups, domestic and international, routinely cover suspected or known violations by Palestinian militants when they investigate alleged war crimes. As B’Tselem noted in the same 2019 report, in total, four Israelis were killed and 123 wounded.
Last month, the U.N.’s expert on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Italian international lawyer and academic Francesca Albanese, presented her report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. It makes for very grim reading.
Deprivation of liberty has been a central element of Israel’s occupation since its inception. Between 1967-2006 Israel has incarcerated over 800,000 Palestinians in the occupied territory.
Although spiking during Palestinian uprisings, incarceration has become a quotidian reality. Over 100,000 Palestinians were detained during the First Intifada (1987-1993), 70,000 during the Second Intifada (2000-2006), and over 6,000 during the ‘Unity Intifada’ (2021).
Approximately 7,000 Palestinians, including 882 children, were arrested in 2022. Currently, almost 5,000 Palestinians, including 155 children, are detained by Israel, 1,014 of them without charge or trial.
“Zero indictments have been brought,” the committee reports. “This is yet another illustration of the complete systemic impunity enjoyed by the Shin Bet’s interrogators.”
Coercive methods include sexual harassment and humiliation, beatings, stress positions imposed for hours and interrogations that lasted as long as 19 hours as well as threats of violence against family members.
“They said they would kill my wife and children. They said they would cancel my mother’s and sister’s permits for medical treatments,” one survivor said in 2016. “I couldn’t sleep because even when I was in my cell, they would wake me up every 15 minutes… I couldn’t tell the difference between day and night… I still scream in my sleep,” another said in 2017.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, expressed “his utmost concern” after a December 2017 ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court exempting security agents from criminal investigation despite their undisputed use of coercive “pressure techniques” against a Palestinian detainee, Assad Abu Gosh. He called the ruling a “license to torture.”
Abu Gosh “was reportedly subjected to ill-treatment including beatings, being slammed against walls, having his body and fingers bent and tied into painful stress positions and sleep deprivation, as well as threats, verbal abuse, and humiliation. Medical examinations confirm that Mr. Abu Gosh suffers from various neurologic injuries resulting from the torture he suffered.”
In the November 2022 elections in Israel, a far-right theocratic, nationalist and openly racist coalition took power. Itamar Ben-Gvir, from the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit, “Jewish Power,” party, is the Minister of National Security. Otzma Yehudit is populated with former members of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party, which was banned from running for the Knesset in 1988 for espousing a “Nazi-like ideology” that included advocating the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as all Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.
His appointment, along with that of other far-right ideologues, including Bezalel Smotrich, the Minister of Finance, effectively jettisons the old tropes liberal Zionists used to defend Israel — that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, that it seeks a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians in a two-state solution, that extremism and racism have no place in Israeli society and that Israel must impose draconian forms of control on the Palestinians to prevent terrorism.
The new coalition government is reportedly preparing legislation that would be used to disqualify almost all Palestinian/Arab Knesset members from serving in the Israeli parliament, as well as ban their parties from standing in elections. The recent judicial “reforms” gut the independence and oversight of the Israeli courts. The government has also proposed shutting down Kan, the public broadcasting network, although that has been amended to fixing its “flaws”. Smotrich, who opposes LGBTQ rights and refers to himself as a “fascist homophobe,” said on Tuesday he would freeze all funds to Israel’s Palestinian communities and East Jerusalem.
Israel has promulgated a series of laws to curtail public freedoms, brand all forms of Palestinian resistance as terrorism, and label supporters of Palestinian rights, even if they are Jewish, as anti-Semites. The amendment of one of Israel’s principle apartheid laws, the 2010 “Village Committees Law,” grants neighborhoods with up to 700 households the right to reject people from moving in to “preserve the fabric” of the community. Israel has over 65 laws that are used to discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens of Israel and those in the Occupied Territories.
Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law prevents Palestinian citizens of Israel from marrying Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Interreligious marriage in Israel is also prohibited.
As explained by Jacob N. Simon, who served as the President of the Jewish Legal Society at the Michigan State University College of Law:
The combination of the blood line related requirements to be considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinical Court and the restriction of marriage requiring religious ceremonies shows an intent to maintain race purity. At its core, this is no different than the desire for pure blooded Aryans in Nazi Germany or pure blooded whites in the Jim Crow Southern United States.
Those who support these discriminatory laws and embrace Israeli apartheid are blinded by willful ignorance, racism or cynicism. Their goal is to dehumanize Palestinians, champion an intolerant Jewish chauvinism and entice the naïve and the gullible into justifying the unjustifiable. Kennedy, bereft of a moral compass and a belief system rooted in verifiable fact, has not only failed the Palestinians, he has failed us.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
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