I’m not sure when there will be a museum commemorating the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe–the displacement and ethnic cleansing of roughly three quarters of the inhabitants of Palestine during the months Israel was created. My guess is that space for it won’t be made on the Mall. But when such a museum is formed, surely there ought to be a small mention of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and the Israel-centric aides who run his office now that he is incapacitated from a stroke.
In the last weeks, Kirk’s has spearheaded legislation to redefine Palestinian refugee so that the term includes only the original inhabitants of Palestine circa 1946 and not their descendants. It’s essentially an effort to redefine the Palestinian refugee issue out of existence-for if there are few remaining “original” refugees, there are therefore no Palestinans who might seek the right of return to their native land or (more likely) fair compensation for their displacement. Some right-wing members of Israel’s government began pushing for this a few months ago, and lo and behold they found Kirk willing to carry the water on Capitol Hill. And of course since whatever Israel wants from Congress, Israel gets, there is now legislation that begins the process of stripping Palestinian refugees of their refugee status. But Kirk, as I mentioned, is disabled, having suffered a severe stroke. How did his office manage the legislation?
This is a tale, a window into how Capitol Hill works
under the occupation under current circumstances. Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss provides some details. There seem to be two key figures in the maneuver, Igor Khrestin, a contributor to various neocon publications, and deputy chief of staff Richard Goldberg. What animates Richard Goldberg? Robbins digs up a recent speech of Goldberg’s given to graduates of a Jewish Day school. His closing salutation:
Al tikra banaich ela bonaich. Do not call them your children, call them your builders. Take with you what you learned at the Academy – and together, build a life filled with Torah, chesed, yiddishkeit and an undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel. You are the builders now – and, together, you will succeed.
Of course, we know that labeling Americans who are loyal to Israel “Israel-Firsters” is a vicious anti-Semitic slur.
A further word on the refugee legislation. So far as I can see the AP has done the most comprehensive story. Whether or not it succeeds in stripping funding from refugee children and makes their lives more difficult, it is sure to have one consequence. As Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine explains: the bill just sends a mean-spirited message of America’s undying hostility to the peoples of the region. It says, “Dear Palestinians, including innocent refugee children, we don’t like you and we don’t want to continue to help you.”
But of course, if anyone wonders why there is hostility to the United States in the Muslim world, remember: “They hate us for our freedom.” Repeat, “They hate us for our freedom.”