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Questions regarding the moral underpinnings of US foreign policy

Jul 17,2023 - Last updated at Jul 17,2023

The US response to attacks by Israeli settlers on the Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya and other acts of violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers raises serious questions about the moral failures of US foreign policy.

Following the armed settler invasion of Turmus Ayya, burning of homes and cars, killing of one resident, and injuring of 12 others, many of the Palestinian victims were identified as US citizens or permanent residents. The State Department quickly condemned the assault, calling on the Israeli government to immediately investigate the crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. More condemnations of escalating settler violence and calls for the Netanyahu government to rein in out-of-control settlers followed.

The presence of US victims elicited such a clear response, but several questions were left unaddressed.

First, settler violence isn’t new, spiking each year at harvest-time in an effort to deny Palestinians the fruits of their land. In recent years, these incidents have become so frequent they are almost routine, receiving only occasional passing mention in US reports. Raising the first question: Is the US only concerned when Palestinian victims are Americans?

This violence also has insidious intent, one with roots in the Zionist movement’s very founding, to remove Palestinians from their land. Ahigh-ranking minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet recently stated that the goal was to make the lives of Palestinians so difficult that they’d have three choices: Submit, leave, or die. Why has not this racist and genocidal intent been directly addressed by the US government?

Even if we accept that the US should make a special point of speaking out in defence of its own citizens, is calling on the Israeli government to investigate itself the best we can do? After all, we’re still waiting for accountability and justice in the murders of Omar Assad and Shireen Abu Aqla.

Despite clear evidence demonstrated by major media outlets (including CNN, AP, and The New York Times) that Ms. Abu Aqla’s death was not accidental and was at the hands of Israeli personnel, the Israelis continue to deny, lie, and obfuscate regarding the facts. With respect to Mr. Assad, it is clear that at the very least his death was due to criminal negligence of the soldiers who bound and gagged this 80-year-old man and left him lying on the cold ground where he died. After an Israeli review of the case, they dropped charges against the officers involved. Is calling on the fox to investigate the maiming or killings in the chicken coop a satisfactory response?

Finally, we know that many of the Turmus Ayya victims were US citizens, but were some of the rampaging Israeli settlers also US citizens? What about the Israeli soldiers who shot at Ms Abu Aqla or whose cruelty resulted in Mr Assad’s death? 

This information is important. As US citizens, the Palestinian victims and their families ought to be able to pursue legal action in the US against those who attacked them and torched their homes and cars. To seriously defend their rights to life and property, the US should assist them in finding out. Whether or not the victims are US citizens, shouldn’t the US government take action against its citizens engaged in unlawful violence on behalf of a foreign government or cause?

Our intelligence services work with the Israelis to identify Palestinians who are deemed a security threat, placing them on a watch list, even when violence is not involved. Visas to visit the US are routinely denied to prominent Palestinian officials and leaders in civil society who are viewed as anti-Israel. Yet there’s no cataloguing of Israelis who have engaged in violent acts or incitement.

How can we even consider admitting Israel into the Visa Waiver Program, giving violent extremists or Israeli soldiers or police with blood on their hands-free access to the US? As a victim of Meir Kahane’s violence four decades ago, I demand an answer to that question.

The moral inconsistencies involved in our refusal to hold Israelis accountable for Palestinian civilian casualties, both US and non-US citizens, and our failure to hold accountable Israelis guilty of rights abuses call into question the moral underpinnings of our foreign policies.


The writer is president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute

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