The pogroms in Germany beginning in 1938 with the Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, caught many off guard. No one had seen this level of violence perpetrated so brazenly against the Jews. Given the current pogrom against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, I wanted to refresh my memory of the earlier pogrom. This brief history was a good place to start.
American newspapers across the country covered the Nazi assault on Jews in front-page, banner headlines, and articles about the events continued to appear for several weeks.
At his press conference on November 15, 1938, one week after Kristallnacht, President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced Nazi Germany’s terror attack on Jews, saying, “I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth-century civilization.” FDR made an exception to his practice of off-the-record press conferences by allowing newspapers to quote this statement from his meeting with reporters that day.
The president also announced that he had recalled the US ambassador to Germany, Hugh Wilson. The United States was the only nation to recall its ambassador and would not replace him until after the end of the war in 1945.
In response to the news of Nazi terror against Jews, Americans protested in cities including New York and Los Angeles. Other Americans called for an increase in the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country.
My social media has been filled this week with images of burning buildings, destroyed vehicles and mayhem perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in a village in the occupied West Bank called Huwara. Given how the algorithms work, I suspected that many of my friends and family were oblivious.
Major General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, called it a ‘pogrom’. I wondered what the Biden Administration called it, and whether the U.S. President would do anything . . . finally . . . to end our country’s complicity in Israel’s 55-year long occupation of Palestine. Or is our “special relationship” with Israel sacrosanct?
The Biden Administration said:
We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for the loss of homes and property,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing, calling the Sunday night attack by hundreds of settlers in the northern West Bank town of Huwara “completely unacceptable.”
The comments were the most forceful yet from the US following the mass riot in which a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed, some three hundred were wounded — four seriously — and dozens of buildings and vehicles were torched.
Coincidently, Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and American officials were meeting in Aqaba, Jordan about the same time to discuss what steps they might take to “deescalate tensions” that have been building over months of increased violence. The Nablus slaughter on February 22, when Israeli sharpshooters killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 102 before withdrawing, was just the latest example. (BBC news coverage). But the duplicitous Israeli delegation can’t be trusted; hasn’t the Biden Administration learned anything?
Lora’s demands of President Biden:
Just to make it clear, the time for a “light touch” with Israel is over. It’s time for President Biden (not a spokesman) to denounce Israel’s attack on Palestinians perpetrated by both its military in Nablus and by its Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank against the Village of Huwara.
Biden should recall the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas R. Nides, just as FDR did in 1938. This would send a strong signal to anyone still listening in the Knesset that the U.S. abhors Israel’s current trajectory.
Biden should articulate his view of the ‘special relationship’ so frequently mentioned, specifying the substance and policy dimensions of the two countries’ ‘shared values’. Only by clearly defining those values can the Administration make clear what would represent a departure from them by Israel, specifically as related to democracy, pluralism, respect for the rule of law, democratic institutions, and division of power, among other elements. After this list is prepared, Biden should inform the Israeli government in advance of the actions it will take if Israel undermines the ‘special relationship’. (Thanks to the proposal prepared by DAWN, February 13, 2023, available online here.)
Biden must comply with the Foreign Assistance Act (P.L. 87–195) which regulates all forms of U.S. assistance to foreign countries. It states that no assistance may be provided to a country “which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Israel’s apartheid laws and practices as well as its demonstrable violations of the basic human rights of Palestinians is well documented.
Biden must comply with the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90–629) which regulates U.S. military assistance and sales to foreign countries. It states that the United States can furnish weapons to foreign countries “solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defense,” and for a few other limited purposes. No credits, guarantees, sales, or deliveries of weapons can be given to a country if it is “in substantial violation” of these purposes. It’s well-documented that the State of Israel continues to use military force against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip in flagrant disregard for the lives and livelihood of Palestinians.
Biden must comply with the Leahy Laws which require the Departments of State and Defense to vet individual military units and individuals before they are eligible to receive U.S. equipment or training. The Department of State version of the law states that no form of assistance can be provided “to any unit of the security forces” committing “a gross violation of human rights.” The Department of Defense version states that no training or equipment can be given to a military unit that “has committed a gross violation of human rights.” Israel is the only country in the world for which the United States does not have tracking mechanisms to determine which weapons go to which military unit. This opacity makes it nearly impossible for the Departments of State and Defense to properly implement Leahy Law vetting requirements. WAKE UP! The State of Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip fit both definitions. (Thanks to Josh Ruebner, Salih Booker and Zaha Hassan for their informative article published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled Bringing Assistance to Israel in Line with Rights and U.S. Laws (May 12, 2021) (available online here).
Mr. President, the settlers’ attack on the Palestinians in Huwara is much more than “completely unacceptable”, it’s a pogrom carried out with U.S. complicity if you don’t speak up now and take explicit actions required by U.S. law.