I have elsewhere contended that North State Congressman Doug LaMalfa is not, as they say, the brightest bulb. But he exhibited some genuine confusion when yesterday on his facebook page he posted a picture of fireworks framing the words, “Happy Independence Day, America”.
Nice sentiments, no denying them. But taken alongside a recent letter he co-authored attacking President Obama for hisexasperation at the behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they are sentiments which suggest that LaMalfa is deeply confused.
As I am sure Congressman LaMalfa is aware, the United States war for independence was fought against a colonial power which refused to cede liberties to its subjects (who themselves, with the colonial government, held enslaved African slaves and extirpated many Native American communities). For our purposes, the point is that those who fought for the independence of this country objected to the colonial relationship that they had with the British Empire.
In taking to task President Obama for suggesting that Benjamin Netanyahu—a warmongering, fundamentalist, members of whose government have described U.S. officials as “terrorists” for their criticism of his policies—is intransigent, LaMalfa ignored the fact that Palestinians should receive the natural sympathy of the United States.
They live in what amount to Israeli colonies, their territory steadily eroded by a state that defines itself in increasingly violent and exclusive terms. LaMalfa and his Congressional colleagues argued that it is right that Israel should be defined as a “Jewish state”, but such recognition and definition would strip of citizenship non-Jews living within the state’s boundaries.
Palestinian populations have been subjected to blockade and deprivation, air and ground bombardment, the destruction of homes, schools, and hospitals on an unimaginable scale. Israel’s disproportionate response to Hamas’ rockets (in the 2014 invasion of Gaza, 6 Israeli civilians and nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed) not only causes extraordinary hardship and loss of life for Palestinians, but also hardens attitudes and ensures the endurance and escalation of the conflict.
The Israeli colonial regime arrives at each bargaining table with a tough set of preconditions for Palestinian negotiators, but the problem with the colonial relationship is that Palestinian authorities—who are not, after all, able to govern autonomous territories—often lack the means to control the variables that Israel demands, precisely because of colonial interference and rule. Governing as they do with at least some acquiescence of the colonial regime, Palestinian negotiators might also not possess the full trust of colonial subjects who might regard them in some cases as collaborators.
Moreover, thanks to the unconditional backing given the Israeli colonial regime by neo-conservative and fundamentalist politicians from both parties, there is no incentive for the Israeli government to approach the negotiating table with an open mind, prepared to make concessions or recognize the illegitimacy and un-just nature of its rule.
This explains the rabid reaction of Israeli officials to the mild criticism the Obama administration has leveled at them is a demonstration of the extent to which they and their U.S.-based lobby are accustomed to unwavering support for their colonialism. All small-‘d’ democrats—that is, proponents of democracy, and self-determination—should deplore Israel’s colonialism, which imperils not only the livelihood of Palestinians, but in the long-term the security of Israel and the integrity of the United States.
It is a shame that Congressman LaMalfa and his colleagues instead applaud the existence of a political relationship that he rightly celebrates our own country having ended over 200 years ago.