Donald Trump is set to speak at AIPAC later today — an event that Jewish leaders are expected to protest due to Trump’s promise to enter into Israeli/Palestinian relations as a “neutral” mediator (the casual anti-Semitism and general Trumpiness hasn’t helped, either).
Hillary Clinton, speaking to the group earlier today, planted a flag far to Trump’s right, affirming her previous commitments to remain decidedly non-neutral in the conflict as president.
As she explained, neutrality doesn’t work when one side is objectively bad.
Without naming him, Clinton told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: “We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows on Wednesday … Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”
She continued, “We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street. Some things aren’t negotiable, and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”
She has a point, there: Launching rockets into residential areas is certainly very bad. Killing civilians in the street is pretty awful, as well. But if you make not doing those things a condition of your neutrality, you’re going to have to step away from the conflict altogether, because Israel’s done its fair share of both of those things in the recent past.
The Israel/Palestine conflict is ongoing. It is violent. Both sides have targeted civilians. Both sides have bombed residential areas. Israel’s military edge — provided in large part by the United States — means that it has been able to do these things on a larger scale. To insist otherwise and claim that it is only Palestinians who are committing unconscionable acts of violence is to be willfully ignorant of both the facts on the ground and the facts of war.
The United States isn’t going to be able to broker a peace agreement in the Middle East if our president flatly denies that Israel has ever done anything wrong — which Clinton has effectively done by erasing Israel’s targeting of hospitals and civilians during the last flare-up of violence. And hey, it’s entirely possible that such an agreement isn’t an attainable goal during the next decade, so one could argue that we might as well drop our pretense of neutrality. But we should at least be clear that “neutral” is, relatively speaking, the liberal position on Israel/Palestine. Rejecting neutrality in favor of Israel is, relatively speaking, the conservative position.
We’re used to hearing unequivocal praise of Israel, coupled with the erasure of all wrongdoing on its part, from Christian Zionists in the GOP like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee. To the extent that this rhetoric sounds less grating coming from Hillary Clinton, it’s because it doesn’t come with the implication that it’s borne out of a desire to bring about the apocalypse.
Clinton’s dig at Trump’s position wasn’t the only way in which she positioned herself a non-neutral to his right. Elsewhere in her remarks, she repeated her promise to undermine the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — particularly on college campuses.
Here are Hillary Clinton's full comments about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. pic.twitter.com/KHWdTYG6xF
— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) March 21, 2016
To be clear, Clinton’s logic here is that the best way to prevent pro-Israel students from being silenced on college campuses is to silence students critical of Israel on college campuses. And she seems to be willing to use the tools of government (perhaps modeled after the UK’s efforts) in order to do so.
You can call that a lot of things. Progressive isn’t one of them.