By Juan Cole  -  Informed Comment

See the video of Schumer below

“Gaza” is an abstraction to most Israelis, including [partisans of Israel like] Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. A majority of the 1.5 million Gazans is not even from Gaza, but rather is from what is now Israel.

Americans do not know, and perhaps do not care, that 68% of Gazans are refugees living in 8 refugee camps, who were ethnically cleansed and violently expelled from their homes in 1947-48, in what is now Israel. And no, they were not combatants, just civilians caught up in a civil war of sorts. They lost massive amounts of property and their homes, which would now be worth billions, but have never received a dime from the Israelis in reparations or compensation. Then in winter of 2008-2009, the Israeli military destroyed one in every eight Palestinian homes, rendering even more people homeless.

Schumer accuses the Gazans of not ‘recognizing’ Israel, which is sort of like accusing the pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico of not ‘recognizing’ BP. If Schumer wants the recognition and good will of the Gazans, he should arrange for them to be paid for the homes and farms out of which they were chased by the Israelis, who made them homeless refugees in a kind of vast concentration camp in Gaza, and are now half-starving them.

Think Progress reveals that Schumer told an Orthodox audience:

‘ SCHUMER: The Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution. More do than before, but a majority still do not. Their fundamental view is, the Europeans treated the Jews badly and gave them our land — this is Palestinian thinking [...] They don’t believe in the Torah, in David [...] You have to force them to say Israel is here to stay. The boycott of Gaza to me has another purpose — obviously the first purpose is to prevent Hamas from getting weapons by which they will use to hurt Israel — but the second is actually to show the Palestinians that when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement. When there’s total war against Israel, which Hamas wages, they’re going to get nowhere. And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.

So anything short of ‘starving to death’, i.e. mass extermination in the camps, is all right as long as it convinces the enemy?

How about something short of starving to death, such as 10% of children being stunted from malnutrition? Would that be worth it? Or a majority of Gazans being ‘food insecure’ according to the United Nations? [pdf]. Both are the current situation, which is supported by Schumer.

How about Gaza children Looking for food in garbage?

Some 56% of Gazans are children, who hardly voted for Hamas but whom Schumer wishes to punish economically.

Meanwhile, Schumer doesn’t recognize a Palestinian state, but he nevertheless gets three solid meals a day.

Sen. Charles Schumer at crumpets and tea

As Think Progress explained, nothing Schumer said is true. A majority of Palestinians favors a two-state solution. Moreover, Palestinians are Christians and Muslims, who do in fact acknowledge the Torah (the Hebrew Bible, which the Qur’an praises as full of guidance and light) and David (whom the Qur’an calls “Da’ud.”) Schumer is shamelessly ignorant about Palestinian culture, but it is true that they do not draw from David’s existence or from the Qur’an’s praise of the Torah or Bible the same conclusion as contemporary political Zionists or Jewish nationalists, that Jews have a right to expel local people from Palestine and usurp their property without compensation. But then virtually no Jews drew such a conclusion in the United States until after World War II, and most diaspora Jews rejected such an idea until that era.

As for the idea that all Gazans, including children, should be economically punished until they agree with Schumer’s Zionism, there is only one way that makes sense. Since the children of Gaza did not vote for Hamas, if they are being punished for Hamas’s crimes, then it must be because they are related to Hamas members.

Punishing people because they are related to enemies of the state is called in German Sippenhaft or Sippenhaftung. Look it up. I don’t usually like such analogies from the 1930s and 1940s in Europe to contemporary Zionist thinking because they inevitably offend even a sympathetic Jewish audience. But it should be noted that Sippenhaftung was implemented against gentile German family members of dissidents such as those involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, and that Stalin also deployed the tactic of punishing relatives of perceived dissidents. And there is no other way to read Schumer’s prescription for putting Gazan children on a diet than as a contemporary form of Sippenhaftung.

And it is shameful, and he deserves the comparison for these inhumane sentiments.

See the video of Schumer

*”Sippenhaft, Terror and fear in Nazi Germany: Examining one facet pf terror in the aftermath pf the plot of 20 July 1944? by Robert Loeffel  Letters from Palestine Flyer

Also read:

The Unmaking of the Palestinian Nation

Juan Cole Middle East scholar,  is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Iranian domestic struggles and foreign affairs. His website: www.juancole.com


  1. eileen fleming on the 17. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    The Israeli blockade on Gaza was begun as a direct response to the election of Hamas in January 2006 and also as an evil sick ‘joke’ and not in response to Hamas seizing power back from Fatah!

    On February 19, 2006, Gideon Levy wrote for HA’ARETZ:

    “The team, headed by the prime minister’s advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory.

    “Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line:

    “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die,” the advisor joked, and the participants reportedly rolled with laughter.”

    On January 25, 2006, Hamas had already honored a 1-½ yearlong ceasefire and they won an open, transparent democratic election.

    But, the world’s leading democracies failed the test of democracy!

    Rather than recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as the freely elected representative of the Palestinian people and seize the opportunity to support the development of good governance in Gaza Palestine and seek an end to the bloodshed; Israel, the US and EU collectively punished the Palestinian people for exercising their right to choose their own parliamentary representatives.

    On 12 January 2006, Hamas had already dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto.

    The Islamist faction, responsible for a long campaign of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis, still called for the maintenance of the armed struggle against The Occupation, but stepped back from Hamas’s 1988 charter demanding Israel’s eradication.

    In 2006, Gazi Hamad, a Hamas candidate in the Gaza Strip, said:

    “We cannot give up the right of the armed struggle because our territory is occupied in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That is the territory we are fighting to liberate.

    “The policy is to maintain the armed struggle but it is not our first priority. We know that first of all we have to put more effort into resolving the internal problems, dealing with corruption, blackmail, and chaos. This is our priority because if we change the situation for the Palestinians it will make our cause stronger.

    “Hamas is looking to establish a new political strategy in which all Palestinian groups will participate, not just dominated by Fatah. We will discuss the negotiation strategy, how can we run the conflict with Israel but by different means.”

    Both Israel and Hamas should be investigated for war crimes perpetuated during the 22 days of assault on Gaza which began two days after Christmas Day 2008, when the Israeli military launched Operation Cast Lead, that killed 1,400 Palestinian and 13 Israelis.

    Over 5,000 Palestinians were injured, 400,000 were left without running water, 4,000 homes were destroyed, rendering tens of thousands who are still homeless because of Israel’s targeted attacks upon them, their schools, hospitals, streets, water wells, sewage system, farms, police stations and UN buildings.

    During the 22 days of Israeli assault on Gaza, “Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorus and DIME. The weapons required for the Israeli assault was decided upon in June 2008, and the transfer of 1,000 bunker-buster GPS-guided Small Diameter Guided Bomb Units 39 (GBU-39) were approved by Congress in September. The GBU 39 bombs were delivered to Israel in November (prior to any claims of Hamas cease fire violation!) for use in the initial air raids on Gaza.”

    In a 71-page report released March 25, 2009, by Human Rights Watch, Israel’s repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.

    “Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza,” provides eye witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza.

    “Human Rights Watch researchers found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended in January.

    “Militaries officially use white phosphorus to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It has also been used as an incendiary weapon, though such use constitutes a war crime.

    “In Gaza, the Israeli military didn’t just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops,” said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren’t in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died.”

    During the 22 days of attack on Gaza, the UN Security Council, Amnesty International, International Red Cross, and global voices of protest rose up and demanded a ceasefire, but both houses of Congress overwhelmingly endorsed resolutions to support a continuation of Israel’s so called “self defense.”

    The rest with footnotes published first June 14, 2010 @

    “Why Vice President Joe Biden and Congress are Wrong about Hamas”

  2. eileen fleming on the 17. Jun, 2010 remarked #

    RE: The Torah which Schumer refers to:

    “From Moses to Jeremiah and Isaiah, the Prophets taught…that the Jewish claim on the land of Israel was totally contingent on the moral and spiritual life of the Jews who lived there, and that the land would, as the Torah tells us, ‘vomit you out’ if people did not live according to the highest moral vision of Torah. Over and over again, the Torah repeated its most frequently stated mitzvah [command]:

    “When you enter your land, do not oppress the stranger; the other, the one who is an outsider of your society, the powerless one and then not only ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ but also ‘you shall love the other.’” -Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine, page 35, Sept./Oct. 2007

    God raised up Hebrew prophets to remind the people that:

    “His thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”- Isaiah 55:8

    God raised up prophets to admonish the “stiff necked people” [Exodus 34:9, Proverbs 29:1]

    Because: “My people are fools, they do not know me! They are skilled in doing evil, they know not how to do good.”-Jeremiah 4:22

    “What does God require? He has told you o’man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord.” -Micah 6:8

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