(May 17, 2018 / JNS) It turns out that Hamas got the message, though some Senate Democrats did not.
In the aftermath of Monday’s bloodiest day of violence along the border between Gaza and Israel—orchestrated by Hamas—the terror movement understood that it had overplayed its hand. Using Egypt as a go-between, the Islamist group that governs the strip signaled to Israel that it would cease the mayhem in which dozens of Palestinians, though most were Hamas operates, were killed as they threw firebombs and launched incendiary devices over the Israel border while seeking to breach the security fence.
That meant that instead of the riots reaching a crescendo on May 15—the day Palestinians call the nakba (“disaster” or “catastrophe”)—as everyone expected, the terror group shut down the operation.
That decision—and the casualty list of 62 dead and as many as 2,000 wounded—made it clear that Hamas fighters were leading the assault on the Israeli border, debunking a key point about the “March of Return” that has been circulating for several weeks in international reporting about Gaza. Instead of a peaceful demonstration of ordinary Gazans seeking redress of their grievances, what we’ve been watching unfold on the border was a Hamas gambit. The attempt to portray it as a the moral equivalent of a U.S. civil-rights demonstration like the 1965 march on Selma was a nod to the Palestinians’ intersectional allies on the Western left, who were happy to try to link the violence to the heritage of American nonviolent protest.
But once Hamas realized the high casualty toll that involving dozens of their personnel during the May 14 assault on the border crossing was too high a price to pay, they realized that the cost exceeded the payoff in terms of bad optics for the Israelis. In the blink of an eye, the supposedly spontaneous gathering evaporated. That abrupt decision stripped away any doubt about what was dubbed the “March of Return” being anything other than a shift in tactics on the part of Hamas after Israeli countermeasures foiled their rocket barrages and terror tunnels.
Thus, by the middle of the week, the notion that Israel was trying to prevent peaceful demonstrations going on along the border had been exploded.
But 13 Senate Democrats interpreted events very differently.
No one could view the spectacle in which Hamas sacrificed dozens of Palestinian lives on the altar of the never-ending war on Israel with anything but horror. But rather than understand that what they were watching was a made-for-television production specifically designed to produce Palestinian corpses for the sake of damaging Israel’s image, 13 of the most liberal members of the Senate fell for the Hamas public-relations offensive, hook, line and sinker.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo organized by former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the group demanded that the Trump administration address the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. They described the “return” march as a response to the blockade of the strip being conducted by Israel and Egypt. It specifically and repeatedly mentioned the actions of “Israeli snipers” and cited inflated casualty figures produced by Hamas. But at no point did it reference the terrorist group or acknowledge its responsibility for what happens in Gaza, in addition to noting the ongoing international sanctions on an area that even the Europeans know is a terrorist haven with which normal commerce is impossible.
Just as outrageous, the 13 Democratic senators—a list that included Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Thomas Carper (Del.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.)—also demanded that the United States restore funding to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, a body that has not only existed solely to perpetuate rather than solve the Palestinian refugee problem, but which has been infiltrated by and exploited by Hamas as part of its ongoing military campaign.
Why did so many Senate Democrats deliberately ignore Hamas’s role in an effort that, as its name indicated, had as its purpose an attempt to wipe out 70 years of history and destroy the Jewish state? Why did they seek to blame only Israel and call to end Gaza’s isolation? Opening the border to Gaza wouldn’t really help Palestinians, who can have no hope for a better life while they are still being ruled by terrorist theocrats who “govern” the strip like tyrants. The only possible outcome of their appeal would be an influx of Iranian weapons and material that would allow Hamas to strengthen its fortifications and its ability to carry on its fight against Israel.
The unfortunate answer is that within the Democratic Party, there is now a faction that not only fails to think clearly about terrorism and the reality of Hamas-run Gaza. This group also seeks to appeal to the intersectional left leading the “resistance” to U.S. President Donald Trump, and which falsely claims a connection between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Palestinian war on Israel.
Fortunately, not all Democrats agree, and this struggle will play out as America heads towards the 2020 presidential race, in which the party’s left wing will seek to assert its control of the party. If the Democrats are to remain a pro-Israel party, those who care about Israel’s survival must speak out against these senators and others on the left who serve as Hamas’s dupes.
As much as Democrats are currently focused on “resisting” Trump, giving Sanders and his friends a pass for a stand that undermines any hope for progress towards peace, as well as undermines U.S. security, will compromise the integrity of their party. Contrary to the assertions of Israel’s left-wing critics, the Sanders’ letter and the left-wing hypocrites who support it show that the coming battle will be not so much for the soul of the Jewish state as it is for that of the Democratic Party. Those who care about Israel can only hope that sane moderates will step up and ensure that Sanders, Warren and their allies don’t prevail.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.