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Kshama Sawant’s anti-Israel campaign

Kshama Sawant wants colleagues to take a public stand on Gaza. Credit: Credit: Allyce Andrew

One has to wonder what City Council Member Kshama Sawant hopes to gain by asking her City Council colleagues to sign a letter addressed to President Obama and Congress, condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza and calling for an “immediate end to all U.S. government military aid for Israel.”

A majority of the council will not support the request. Mayor Ed Murray has already counseled against such foreign policy adventures. Even a Stranger poll reveals that a strong majority of respondents believe Seattle should stay clear of the entanglement in the conflict in the Middle East. 

Sawant's letter has enraged the Jewish community in our region and has been trumpeted as a call to action against the “Israeli war machine” in the Socialist press. Not surprisingly, Sawant tries to play both sides of the fence by citing her solidarity with the “ordinary” people of Israel and its anti-war movement. The draft letter also condemns the rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel’s civilian population and acknowledges that this barrage has been “indiscriminate.”

Playing the anti-Israel card probably makes for good local politics, capitalizing on the general peacenik sentiment of our tranquil West Coast city and throwing red meat to the segment of our population that views Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as both illegal and immoral.

Moral clarity, of course, is far from apparent when one studies the Gaza conflict. For a generation, the Palestinians demanded that Israel vacate this “occupied” territory. When Israel pulled out its troops and forcibly removed 8,000 Jewish settlers in 21 settlements against their will in 2005, the resident population voted for Hamas over the more moderate Abbas Palestinian faction.

Hamas, as Sawant willfully ignores in her call for a two state solution, favors only a one-state solution and the destruction of Israel.  Rather than use billions of dollars in foreign aid, mostly from the European Union, to build infrastructure and educate its citizens for the modern economy, Hamas prefers an aggrieved and impoverished Gaza that is always poised for war. 

For eight years, the world community condemned Israel for its blockade of Gaza and its ban on importation of construction materials, only to learn that Hamas has doggedly diverted millions of dollars worth of building materials to construct 32 sophisticated tunnels designed to act as launching points for terrorist attacks. Rather than investing in civil projects, Hamas has bought thousands of rockets to deploy against their sworn foe.

The use of force in Operation Protective Edge resulted in an horrific and disproportionate body count, partly due to Israel’s advantage in anti-missile technology. Viewed in isolation, the tragic death of civilians and front page images of carnage in any conflict will cause outrage. Israel’s attempts to warn civilians prior to attacks in Gaza by text messages and dummy artillery rounds gets lost in the images of destruction and death. Few commentators pause and ask why Hamas co-locates its military operations with civilians.

Israel has already lost the public relations war in its fight with Hamas, but behind the scenes, Hamas is increasingly isolated in the Arab world. Egypt and Saudi Arabia refuse to support Hamas, as do many progressive Palestinians who actually believe in a viable two-state solution and are not afraid to negotiate with the Jewish state. Only Qatar and Turkey remain in Hamas’s corner, yet even those states remain wary of religious extremists holding the reigns of power in anything but a failed state.

Ms. Sawant, of course, has little interest in sorting out the complexity of behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the Arab universe and the historical events that brought Israel to the point of having a radicalized and armed terrorist state on its south-western border. The short term political gain of winning sympathy in Palestinian-chic Seattle is far too tempting for a council member who sees herself as a national, perhaps international, political figure.

Why, however, should Sawant stop with the Gaza crisis? 

The situations in the Ukraine, Syria and Central Africa call out for her passionate voice and clear moral compass. With gridlock in Washington D.C., perhaps she should take up residence there for the next 900 days and make the apparently easy policy choices that our national elected leaders routinely decline to make.

In that scenario, our focused City Council members might actually spend their time tackling the stalled Viaduct replacement project, transportation gridlock, turmoil and failed leadership in public school administration and troubling downtown crime incidents, which impact the lives of the citizens who live here and who presumably elect their leaders to address local needs.

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