Don't be fooled, Tulsi Gabbard is no friend to the left

Don't be fooled, Tulsi Gabbard is no friend to the left
Comment: Gabbard's stance on Syria and her support for right-wing autocrats make her far from a progressive candidate, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
18 Jan, 2019
Gabbard speaks at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 [Getty]
Last week on CNN, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced her intention to run for the Democratic Party ticket in the 2020 US presidential election, declaring the "issue of war and peace" to be the "one main issue that is central to the rest".

These words, alongside her strident opposition to the US' "pinprick strikes" against the Assad regime - strikes that hit only a discarded military runway in retaliation to the Syrian dictator again gassing his own people - has made her a strange darling among many of the "anti-US imperialist" and pro-Palestine left.

Strange, that is, because there is a litany of reasons why any card-carrying, committed lefty should shun Gabbard.

Her rabid homophobic stances, aggressive Islamophobia and praise for far-right and authoritarian rulers is just the beginning.

These include her support for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who is banned from the US for his role in the Gujarat massacres which killed 790 Indian Muslims, and Egyptian dictator General Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi, who is responsible for the murder of thousands of political opponents.

Her most vociferous supporters on the American left, however, willingly overlook these offences, which have won her support from Steve Bannon, the standard-bearer for white nationalism in the US, and David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, while boasting of her "anti-war" credentials and opposition to military interventionism.

Chanting "anti-war" and "anti-militarism" in support of Gabbard is a strange proclamation to make, given her vocal support for Russia's bombing campaign in Syria, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians, and her advocating for the use of torture in the self-defeating "War on Terror".
There is a litany of reasons why any card-carrying, committed lefty should shun Gabbard

Strangely, however, none of these objectively far-right and illiberal positions have pushed her from the heart and soul of the progressive movement, with the Twitter feeds of the most prominent American-based pro-Palestinian activists and pundits providing Gabbard with staunch support since the moment she declared her intention to run for the White House.

So, leftist pro-Palestinian activists for Gabbard, huh?

Gabbard's positions on Israel-Palestine are declared forthrightly and unambiguously on her official website, where she states the following:

"I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is. My vote upholds my commitment to maintaining and strengthening this alliance, as well as my long-held position that the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution.

"While I remain concerned about aspects of the UN Resolution, I share the Obama administration's reservation about the harmful impact Israeli settlement activity has on the prospects for peace.

"Ultimately, a negotiated solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and can only happen when both parties are committed to peace, where they alone determine the terms of the settlement.

"I co-sponsored H.Res.23  which reaffirms the US commitment to Israel, and a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution that re-affirms Israel's right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarised democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security.

"I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine in order to bring an end to this enduring conflict."

What Gabbard doesn't mention here, is the fact that the bill she proudly co-sponsored, H.Res.23, was designed to reaffirm the United States' commitment to reflexively use its veto power in protecting Israel from resolutions that either condemn or pressure it into complying with international law within the UN Security Council.

Moreover, her co-sponsored bill also condemns the boycott Israel movement, otherwise known as BDS, which puts her in line with the most hawkish Israel lobby-backed members of the US Congress, who are committed to criminalising any form of criticism in regards to Israel's harmful policies.

Even more concerning is the manner in which Gabbard parrots pro-Israel talking points

Even more concerning is the manner in which Gabbard parrots pro-Israel talking points, including describing the apartheid state as a "democratic Jewish state", a claim which is objectively a contradiction in terms.

How can a state that has established a set of laws that favour one group of its citizens (Jews) over another (non-Jews) be "democratic" in nature? It can't, and thus her statement here only furthers the discrimination and humiliation experienced by Israel's 2.5 million non-Jewish residents.

Gabbard also states that she seeks to "establish a demilitarised democratic Palestinian state", which is yet another contradiction in terms that defies even a basic understanding of what the word "democratic" means.

It also echoes Israel's objectives, insofar as allowing it to dictate how an independent Palestinian state must manage its own affairs and security.

Essentially, Gabbard is happy establishing a defenceless and vulnerable Palestinian state, one that may continue to be terrorised by the same forces that have terrorised it for the past century, with the world's most lethal arsenal and backed by the globe's only military superpower.

Even right-wing Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post describes Gabbard as someone who "loves Israel, just not the Gaza border" after closely analyzing her foreign policy positions.

Then, of course, there is the money trail. In the two-year period spanning November 2014 to November 2016,
Gabbard received $21,975 from pro-Israel groups, and in 2015 spoke at a conference for Christians United for Israel - a far-right organisation that strongly opposes Palestinian statehood and supports the existence and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

None of this, however, seems to matter to the legion of prominent pro-Palestinian leftists who've made it their mission to defend her from all angles of reasonable criticism, because somehow they view her as "anti-war", which is as curious as the strangest of all political alliances in these even stranger times.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.