In recent months, Muslim communities around the country have heard and engaged in a major debate of choosing between the two major Democratic contenders for the primary nomination. While the debate between Sanders and Clinton rages on, the Muslim community has generally tended to sway towards the former Secretary of State than the Vermont senator. In a recent Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) poll, Clinton was found to enjoy greatest support with Muslims, compared to any other religious group, polling at 40%. Muslim support for Sanders hovers around 27%. Many arguments have been bandied about from both sides—while younger people prefer Sanders’ honest idealism, Clinton enjoys the impression of being the “pragmatic choice”—most voters see her as more likely to defeat Trump during the general election.
Ultimately though, as Muslims, we have always embraced a certain amount of idealism: when it comes to standing with our brothers and sisters under oppression, we have always understood the need to support, campaign, donate and fight for their cause. We’ve built enormous institutions dedicated to these goals: Islamic Relief, Helping Hand, and assisted with others like the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement, amongst many others. So when Clinton came onto the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) stage several nights ago in D.C., the whole argument over Sanders versus Clinton changed when Clinton was quoted as having said:
“Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families.”
We’ve seen this narrative before. We’ve had it rammed down our throats countless times over the past five decades. We saw it during the attacks on Gaza in the summer of 2014, when the lives of well over 2000 Palestinian children were brushed off the table to feed Israel’s narrative of being the oppressed state. All the while, Israeli aggression has been perpetuated by their unwillingness to stop building illegal settlements and to stop destroying and confiscating Palestinian land. Clinton continues with:
“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 . . .”
So Clinton’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more weapons? She goes on:
“Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people,” finishing with another common Zionist trope: that somehow, disagreements with the state policies of Israel amounts to anti-Semitism.
The fact of the matter is that Clinton isn’t readily committed to creating peace between Palestine and Israel. In 2009, she denied a freeze on settlement building as a precondition for peace talks between Israel and Palestine, stating: “has never been a precondition, it has always been an in issue within the negotiations.” The idea that allowing Israel to stand above international law is somehow “negotiable” is completely absurd. While even the White House has realized that “our ally [Israel] in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution,” Clinton continues with her empty rhetoric stating that “Israelis and Palestinians cannot give up on the hope of peace.”
Throughout the entire speech, Clinton never made mention of the innocent lives taken, or the homes, hospitals and schools that were bombed on behalf of Israel. There wasn’t a breath for Abdullah Dawabshe or the infamous incident where four Bakr children were killed while playing on the beach.
The truth that Clinton doesn’t realize (or actively rejects) is that Israel has no incentive to make peace with the Palestinians and her failure to condemn their lack of initiative amounts to a support of their oppressive policies—in her own words:
“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Clinton’s silence in recognizing Palestinian pain and suffering has marked her as another pillar of the political establishment that continues to turn to a blind eye to Israel’s sins. What we, as Muslims, have to realize is that now the choice between Clinton and Sanders is no longer a political choice. It is a moral choice.