DeLay: A call to violence
Al-Ahram , issue 650
August 7-13, 2003
A right-wing US lawmaker urges Israel to ignore
the truce and go on killing Palestinians.
As President Bush met with Palestinian premier Mahmoud Abbas and
his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon in Washington last week, one
of Bush's closest allies in Congress was in Israel. Tom DeLay, the
influential leader of the Republican majority in the US House of
Representatives was accorded the privilege of addressing members
of the Knesset on 30 July. His speech was so extreme it prompted
Labour Party lawmaker Danny Yatom to comment, "Geez, Likud
is nothing compared to him."
|In his speech, DeLay, a representative from a suburban district
near Houston, Texas, dismissed the unilateral cease-fire by
Palestinian factions, which has resulted in a virtual cessation
of violence against Israeli civilians and occupation forces,
as nothing more than a "90-day vacation" for "terrorists"
and "murderers". He urged Israel to ignore the truce
and go on killing Palestinian activists. DeLay informed the
Israeli lawmakers that he was an "Israeli at heart",
and acknowledged that Palestinians "have been oppressed
and abused", though only by their own leaders, never by
Israel. DeLay's central point was that the entire burden of
ending the decades-old conflict lay on the shoulders of the
Palestinians. Knesset members gave DeLay a standing ovation.
I'm an Israeli at heart.
...go on killing Palestinians.
DeLay has spoken recently of a US-funded "Marshall plan"
to aid Palestinians, but this is merely an effort to distract from
the core of his message which is anti-Palestinian.
Michael Brown, executive director of the Washington-based Partners
for Peace said that DeLay used his speech "solely to demagogue,
burnish his credentials with the extreme right in Israel and the
US, and savage the Palestinians".
Indeed, on the eve of his trip, DeLay flatly contradicted Bush's
rhetorical -- though so far not tangible -- commitment to the creation
of a Palestinian state, saying, "I can't imagine in the very
near future that a Palestinian state could ever happen." Revealing
his low, some might say racist opinion of Palestinians, DeLay stated,
"I can't imagine this president supporting a state of terrorists,
a sovereign state of terrorists," and added, "You'd have
to change almost an entire generation's culture."
DeLay is an avowed Christian Zionist and fundamentalist -- an influential
constituency for the Bush administration. A key tenet of Christian
Zionists is absolute support for Israel, whose establishment and
existence, they believe, heralds Armageddon and the return of Jesus
Christ. In the final conflagration, this belief system holds, Jews
gathered back into Israel would either convert to Christianity or
perish and go to Hell.
Don Wagner, professor of religion at North Park University in Chicago,
explains that, "the Christian Zionist theology is really an
aberration of Christian belief and it takes Biblical passages out
of context and strings together a literal and futuristic interpretation
that does violence not only to the historic message of Jesus but
to mainstream Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christianity."
Christian Zionism "represents an extreme wing of Protestantism",
says Wagner, who has written five books on Palestinian Christianity
and the responsibility of western Christians to work for justice
in Palestine, "but they are organised and in alliance with
the pro-Israel lobby and the right-wing of the Republican Party,
hence they can put significant pressure on the president and members
of Congress and undercut any hope for a just solution in the Israeli-Palestinian
According to Wagner, DeLay and his allies, "have no interest
in a just solution to the conflict, let alone the fact that Christian
Palestinians continue to suffer severely as does the rest of the
Palestinian population from the Israeli policies he supports".
Because of the anti-Semitism that undergirds Christian Zionism,
Israeli and Jewish American leaders have until recently kept a distance
from the movement. But the logic of power politics in Washington
and a sharp shift to the right among American Jewish organisations
since Israel began its crackdown on Palestinians in September 2000
has driven them together.
Last October, Sharon's minister of tourism and leader of Israel's
pro-ethnic cleansing Moledet Party, Benny Elon, appeared with DeLay
at the Washington convention of the influential Christian Coalition.
The crowd of thousands cheered and waved Israeli flags as Elon called
openly for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel and the
occupied territories, and cited Biblical authority for this ultimate
"solution". DeLay also received an enthusiastic welcome
when he called for activists to back pro- Israel candidates who
"stand unashamedly for Jesus Christ". Such comments, which
reveal the absolute contradiction between avowed support for Israel
and a theology that views Jews as damned, has gotten DeLay into
trouble before. Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory suggested
that DeLay's sponsorship of a May 2002 congressional resolution
that gave unconditional support to Israel's campaign of assassinations
and violence against Palestinians might have been prompted by a
need to appease ill feelings caused by a speech he gave in Pearland,
Texas. According to McGrory, the speech "sounded like a warning
to non-Christians that they might not be saved". The resolution
passed by 352-21.
DeLay papers over such problems with glib statements that "Jesus
Christ was a Jew," and "The Jewish people were God's chosen
DeLay insists that his devotion to Israel comes from his "faith",
leading him to a clear understanding of "good and evil".
But neither is staunch support for Israel politically costly. On
the contrary, it has been lucrative in the endless race for campaign
funds. Part of DeLay's growing influence within the Republican Party
stems from the fact that his campaign committees raised an impressive
$12 million in 2001-2002. The Washington Post reporter Jim Vandehei
writes that, "In recent years, DeLay has become one of the
most outspoken defenders of Israel and has been rewarded with a
surge of donations from the Jewish community."
This is new territory for Republicans; historically the vast majority
of American Jewish votes and campaign contributions have gone to
the Democratic Party. But DeLay's activism, coupled with Bush's
own alignment with Sharon, the "man of peace", seems to
have the Democrats worried that Republicans could make serious gains
in this stronghold. In August a delegation of 29 Democratic congressmen,
is heading to Israel, many for the first time.(full
As the US heads into presidential and congressional elections in
2004, the result of this "arms race" to prove who is more
pro-Israel can only mean that the congress as a whole will be even
more of an obstacle to peace than ever.
Yet DeLay's brand of Israel worship earned him some stiff criticism.
A Chicago Tribune editorial said his visit "undermined the
peace process", and accused him of trying to "warp"
US foreign policy. The Los Angeles Times condemned DeLay for using
the "considerable power of his office" to "promote
his personal apocalyptic views".
And even in the Texas heartland, the San Antonio Express- News
declared that DeLay's antics "will not aid in the cause of
peace one iota". The paper recently called on him to "stay
home and leave the Middle East to the State Department and the White
House". Alas, there is little chance of that.
The writer is co-founder of electronicIntifada.net and electronicIraq.net.
He is based in Chicago.
The list of the 29 Congressmen headed to Israel as guests of
AIPAC's "American Israel Education Foundation" (August
l) Alexander + spouse (LA)
2) Berkeley + spouse (NV)
3) Cardoza (CA)
4) Case + spouse (HI)
5) Hill (IN)
6) Israel + spouse (NY)
7) Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
8) John + spouse (LA)
9) Langevin + two (RI)
10) Larsen (WA)
11) Lucas + spouse (KY)
12) Brad Miller (NC)
13) Nadler + spouse (NY)
14) Hoyer (MD)
15) David Scott + spouse (GA)
16) Gene Green + spouse (TX)
17) Baldwin (WI)
18) Bordallo (Guam)
19) Crowley (NY)
20) Linda Sanchez (CA)
21) Maloney + one (NY)
22) Pallone (NJ)
23) Chris Bell (TX)
24) Kendrick Meek + wife (FL)
25) Jim Marshall + wife (GA)
26) Bud Cramer (AL)
27) Denise Majette + spouse (GA)
28) Artur Davis (AL)
29) Susan Davis + spouse (CA)