On February 15, 2020, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote that “Israeli soldiers were allowed to shoot children. Sometimes they wound them, sometimes they kill them. Sometimes the children wind up brain dead, sometimes disabled. Sometimes the children have thrown rocks at soldiers, sometimes Molotov cocktails. Sometimes, by chance, they wind up in the middle of a confrontation. They almost never put the soldiers’ lives in danger. There is no room to express any regret for shooting children in the head. There is no room for mercy, an apology, an investigation or punishment, let alone compensation.”
Gideon Levey can write a harsh condemnation of the Israeli Defense Forces’ use of force against Palestinian children, but no one else can. When a member of the US Congress, someone who has visited the Palestinian Occupied Territory and eye-witnessed the atrocities, voices her concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons she is accused of antisemitism and promoting hate speech.
As vice-chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota believes defending human rights and freedom are foundational to America’s national security and democracy, but she says, “the struggle to advance Palestinian human rights inevitably results in confronting entrenched forces determined to dehumanize, debase and demonize individuals or entire populations to maintain dominance and an unjust status quo. Hate is used as a weapon to incite and silence dissent. Unfortunately, this was my recent experience with IPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).”
AIPAC used her image in paid Facebook ads to weaponize antisemitism and incite their followers to attack Congresswoman McCollum for her work. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, an AIPAC petition linked to their ads designed to mobilize supporters stated, “It is critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS and—maybe more sinister—right here in the US Congress.”
Congresswoman McCullum had introduced legislation that would amend a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act known as the “Leahy Law” that would prohibit funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.
AIPAC claims to be a bipartisan organization but its use of hate speech makes it a hate group. By weaponizing antisemitism and hate to silence debate, AIPAC mocks core American values. Its language is intended to demonize, not elevate policy debate. Vile attacks such as this may be commonplace in the Trump era, but they should never be normalized.
“I will not back down from my commitment to peace, justice, equality and human rights for Palestinians and Israelis,” said Congressman McCollum. “I want Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all people to be safe, secure and able to find hope and opportunity in the US, in Israel and in Palestine.”
Cathy Sultan has written extensively about the Middle East. Her books, and in particular her Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides can be found here: