The unexamined hero isn’t worth loving. It is easy to criticize your enemies but not so easy to criticize your heroes. Over the years I’ve lost all capacity to truly call somebody my hero, since everybody I’ve ever supported has been morally poor in one way or another. Christopher Hitchens supported the Iraq War. Mahatama Ghandi stopped his wife from being treated by modern medicine which led to her death. Every single time I’ve found somebody who embodies some or most of my philosophical and political views, they’ve let me down. Sometimes I can get over the controversial statements or the disastrous interviews, sometimes not. But my relationship with them is never the same regardless.
So you can imagine my surprise when I began to follow Elizabeth Warren, the progressive Senator from Massachusetts. Defender of the poor. Champion of students. A strong woman who is slowly dragging the Democratic Party away from the centre. I won’t pretend that my support of the Democratic Party didn’t wane after the shortcomings of Barack Obama’s presidency (not the shortcomings Republican obstructionism is responsible for, I might add), so finding someone like Elizabeth Warren was exactly what I needed to restore some of my faith.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t pinning all my hopes on Elizabeth Warren. By now I’d come to realize that there is no political figure on Earth who could truly and fully represent all of the views that I can’t compromise on. But I was at least hoping Warren could help reverse the austerity movements sweeping the U.S. and provide a left-wing perspective on the super-rich. That much she has accomplished. I believe her economic policies and her unshakeable passion for fairness in the system were brave and right.
But I can’t honestly call myself a liberal or a rational agent if I don’t examine my idols and my heroes, at least to make sure I’m not jumping into bed with an unsavoury character because they have a few good qualities. This has happened before – whenever I’ve been feeling critical of U.S. foreign policy, I always looked to South American leaders who are reversing the tide and staking a claim for economic independence. But I couldn’t forget that these leaders were so often completely anti-gay and foul where other human freedoms are concerned. To this day, only José Mujica of Uruguay remains out of my shit list.
Hence my disillusionment when Elizabeth Warren recently aligned herself with the terror campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government at a town hall meeting.
Warren said that Israel has a “right to defend itself”, that oft-used insult of an argument which is somehow meant to justify the murder of innocent children which constitute war crimes. In foreign policy, the concept of self-defense has been completely bastardized by Israel and the United States. At this point it really is a misnomer in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every time an action by the Israeli government is called self-defense, it almost always involves a massacre, a war crime, the destruction of civilian property or the displacement of civilian populations. Sometimes it’s all of the above at once. To murder civilians with absolutely no power is not self-defense. It never has been so under international law. Israel’s right to defend itself does not extend to terror campaigns.
Warren also said that Israel has a right to bomb hospitals and schools in Gaza if Hamas are storing weapons near or in them, despite the fact that this directly violates the Geneva Convention. Warren has inadvertently put herself at odds with the most important international human rights conventions in modern history. Israel has consistently violated the basic rights afforded to civilians in war time, and has even violated international property such as U.N schools in the Gaza Strip. When Warren makes this argument, she aligns herself with a disrespect for international law and a disrespect for basic human rights.
Warren also said that the U.S. and Israel have a special relationship and that the U.S needs an ally in the Middle East. This part is most laughable because it’s an obvious expression of the “cops on the beat” U.S. foreign policy that Noam Chomsky has talked about. It’s imperialistic, it allows the U.S. to keep its fingers in all pies, and it disrupts the international peace process anywhere it goes. Warren is the only politician so far to pretty much word-for-word regurgitate Chomsky’s analysis without any irony. Chomsky is totally critical of the “cops on the beat” policy goals because they have led to the systematic suppression and oppression of Palestinian civilians for decades. For Warren to adopt it as a serious part of her foreign policy is almost too frightening to laugh at.
Perhaps it’s just me, and perhaps other liberals can forgive Warren for these abhorrent comments due to the outstandingly progressive work she’s done elsewhere. I cannot. I cannot support a woman who claims to want to defend human rights and human freedoms if those rights and freedoms do not extend to the Palestinian people. You do not need to be a friend of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, and indeed I am not, to understand that the genocidal campaigns of Israel against the Palestinian people are wrong.
Sadly, Warren has shown herself to be engrossed in the status quo of United States foreign policy, that is to say engrossed in imperialism and the machinations of the ruling political elite. This elite wish to keep the United States as a superpower by suppressing and liberating foreign nations at will, as has been done in countless parts of the globe in the last 100 years. I don’t think Warren should want to be a part of that status quo if she wants to be the progressive populist the left thinks she is.
Senator Warren’s domestic policy is nothing short of brilliance. She is in the minority when it comes to standing up for the rights and freedoms of the powerless in the United States, but if that passion doesn’t extend to Palestinian civilians living in an apartheid state, I won’t support her. For me, the freedom of the Palestinian people is not open to negotiation.