One of Elizabeth Warren’s great strengths over the past several years has been the consistency with which she assailed the sources of economic inequality in the United States, and the deceptively simple messages with which she did so.
The economic game was rigged to favour powerful interests, meaning that no matter how hard they worked, those without access to power and influence were going to see their share of the national wealth stagnate or decline, their opportunities dry up, and their ability to influence the political process diminish.
Rather than asking people to wait, bereft of their dignity, hands outstretched for the crumbs to topple from the plutocrats’ table, Warren insisted that it was possible to build a better, more just, and more equal world.
Her appeal stemmed from her consistency, and her oft-made pledge that she would always stand up for those without power against those who had it, and wielded it with impunity and without regard for the collective good.
But a week ago, Warren joined so many of her political colleagues in explaining that her most cherished ideals end at the water’s edge. In this case she was articulating her support for Israeli colonialism, more specifically, “her vote to send $225 million to Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hamas”.
You would think that this would be a clear-cut case for Warren. Palestinians live as colonial subjects, ruled by a colonial power that uses deliberately disproportionate force to subdue those people in the colony who fight against colonial rule. People in that colony are subject to indignities including a debilitating blockade, attacks by the colonial military, and calls for ethnic cleansing by Israeli politicians.
Warren’s explanation for her vote and her support for arming Israel was typically vapid, but all the more pitifully so because it came from someone who at her best is more than capable of issuing a moral call to action
“I think the vote was right”, she explained, “America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world”.
We do indeed have a special relationship with Israel. It’s akin to that of a dealer and an addict. We supply the moral and material support which permit the colonial government to behave in a violent, illegal, and irresponsible fashion, doing no end of harm to the long-term safety of its own citizens, no less the Palestinians. We encourage a culture of impunity that allows the Israeli regime to know that it can engage in mass murder, bomb United Nations facilities, and flout international law without repercussions. That is a very special relationship indeed. But it is one which is poisonous and immoral and destabilizing.
Israel does indeed live in a dangerous part of the world. But its colonial rule is calculated to ensure that it remains a target and that the region remains destabilized. And that part of the world is far less dangerous for Israelis than it is for the Palestinians who live as subjects rather than citizens. One might think that Warren would be moved by the fact that Israel’s latest assault on its colony displaced over 25% of Gaza’s population, killing over 2,100 people, 70% of them civilians, as against seven Israeli civilians and 64 Israeli soldiers.
One reason why there are so few liberal democracies in the Middle East is that the United States executive, with the support of Congress, props up so many dictatorships. That aside, I’m not sure if you can really call a nation that possesses colonies a “liberal democracy”. Can a “liberal democracy” exist alongside such unconscionable imbalances in power? Can a country that denies people over whom it holds such power their self-determination really be called a “liberal democracy”?
Warren can talk all she wants about the threat posed by Hamas—never mind that like Hamas, Israel launches its weapons from amidst densely-populated civilian areas—but she can’t address the fact that if Hamas stopped launching its rockets tomorrow, forever, Palestinians would be no closer to securing their citizenship.
The Israeli regime simply isn’t interested in relinquishing control over its colonies without prodding. Too many illegal settlements have been constructed, too much of the national security apparatus has been committed, and too many shots in Israel are called by dangerous fundamentalists.
I hope that Warren continues to fight for the rights and welfare of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised majority in the United States. I hope that she continues to call for regulating the economy in a way that distributes wealth and access more equitably. And I hope that as she does so she thinks a little bit harder about her dangerously simplistic view of the international stage, so far adrift from the moral vision she promotes at home.
But whatever Warren does in the Senate or on a wider stage, her insistence that to do right by people you have to get them on their feet and give them a chance will always ring a little bit more hollow, knowing as we do that she is an apologist for a colonial government which denies its subjects their rights to govern themselves and instead pulverizes them with the money and weapons Warren sent their way.
Her cynical support for colonialism denies others the opportunity to make that better, fairer, more just and equal world about which she speaks so compellingly at home.