The mention of Israel and Palestine has been crucially pervasive during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The Democratic Party’s candidate has seized plenty occasions to reaffirm her unconditional support for Israel’s far-right government. Her writings, “How I would reaffirm unbreakable bond with Israel – and Benjamin Netanyahu,” (published in The Forward on 4 Nov. 2015) and “Taking the US-Israeli relationship to the next level,” (published in the Jewish Journal on 6 Jan 2016) display radicalized re-imaginations of her notorious fascination with Israeli exceptionalism.
Lacking reflection of political and historical reality, Clinton’s extensive rhetorical investment in Palestine/Israel remains aggressively emotional, as Israel is delineated with linguistic tropes that are heavily loaded with passionate love and admiration for the Zionist settler-colonial project, while native Palestinians are attacked with ignorance or disavowal. Clinton’s conceptualization of Israel/Palestine and its connection to the US projects an imagery of a permanent war that Clinton herself wants to fight transnationally in order to secure Israel’s continuation of violating international law and human rights with impunity.
Narratives of Terrorism and Orientalism
Locating her writing “in this time of terrorism and turmoil,” Clinton urges the US and Israel – expressed in a first person plural “we” – to take their alliance to the “next level” in order “to meet the many challenges [they] face.” The demand for an even stronger and more militarized US-Israeli hegemony is thoroughly justified through the necessity of defense against an alleged permanence of terrorism. The terrorism narrative entails the portrayal of Israel as an epitome of peace that is perpetually threatened by negatively racialized Arabs:
“Israel needs a strong America by its side, and America needs a strong and secure Israel by our side. It・s in our national interest to have an Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region in chaos, and an Israel strong enough to deter its enemies and strong enough to take steps in the pursuit of peace.”
Israel is approached as an outpost of American values in an inherently uncivilized region, while the US is responsible for protecting its core ally from putative enemies. Praising Israel for being a “thriving democracy in a region full of adversaries and autocrats,” Clinton produces the image of Israel as a natural antithesis to the Oriental evil, perpetuating imperialism through linguistics of security and peace, and creating fear in order to promote Israel’s policies.
In her written declaration of loyalty to Zionism, “Unbreakable Bond,” Clinton romantically recalls how she and Bill “fell in love with Jerusalem” as they “walked the ancient streets of the Old City,” juxtaposing her memory with an purportedly catastrophic present:
“Even amid all the history and traditions, it was a city pulsing with life and energy. I am appalled that those same streets are now filled with terrorism and fear. We now hear of daily stabbings and shootings of innocent civilians – teenagers, parents and senior citizens. Israelis have to look over their shoulders during everyday tasks, like carry groceries and waiting for the bus.”
Clinton completely embraces Israel’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem and the consequences it continues to produce for the Palestinian population. Palestinians in Jerusalem are suffering an ethnic cleansing that is manifest particularly in killings, evictions, and house demolitions as part of Israel’s official policies of depriving Jerusalem of its Palestinian demographics, geography, and cultural history. While it is true that 22 people were killed by actions of violence committed by individual Palestinians between October and December 2015, more than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces within the same period, according to Amnesty International. The broader colonial context of injustice, which is silently disregarded by Clinton, has been identified as the cause of violence even by voices from within Israel. Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, blames the instances of Palestinian violence on the illegal occupation, stating that Israel was "perhaps the only country in the world holding another nation under occupation without civil rights."
Similarly, in “Taking the Relationship to the next Level,” Clinton reverses reality into a fictional narrative, as she is “especially concerned about the new wave of violence inside Israel itself,” and the “brutal stabbings, shootings, and vehicle attacks that seek to sow fear among the innocent.” Although these daily shootings do occur, they are usually executed by heavily armed Israeli forces or illegal settlers against the defenseless Palestinian population. As Amnesty International summarizes, Palestinians are targeted in various forms:
“In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.”
Hence, Clinton not only completely ignores the ongoing ethnic cleansing. While portraying Israelis as victims by definition within dramatized apocalyptic scenarios, in a colonial angst Clinton projects her fantasy of an collective evil perpetrator onto the Palestinian people.
Exhibiting her personal record of unconditional support for Israel, Clinton proudly recalls that she has “led negotiations for a cease-fire in Gaza to stop Hamas rockets from raining down on Israeli homes and communities.” Israel is depicted as a community; “homes” imply a civil society, people, families, individuals – who allegedly have to suffer from unexpected and uncontrollable terror. The word “Hamas” is of fundamental importance, as it has been dehumanized long ago and thus always already implies the opposite of everything the West claims to represent. While according to this narrative the destruction of Hamas appears as a existential necessity in order to save Israel, the linguistic myth of Hamas is used synecdochically for “all Palestinians” and thus signifies a rhetorical justification for various sorts of Israeli crimes, as witnessed for instance in 2014.
Clinton’s ideology is informed by a fundamental confusion of cause and consequence and an emotional distortion of power relations. Clinton’s aggressive threat-production is a mere recycling of Orientalist myths, which move between propagations of a supposed historically backward essence of the Middle East and a contemporary unpredictability of terrorism.
Embracing the colonial status quo, Clinton urges Palestinian leaders to “condemn and combat incitement in all of its forms,” attributing not only the responsibility for the creation of peace to the Palestinian people, but even more singling out Palestinians as the source of any problem. Clinton’s condemnation of the natives is in line with the settler-colonial fascination performed by Obama and previous US administrations, who usually have expected Palestinians to condemn and combat themselves. Clinton outlines that “this violence must not be allowed to continue,” that “the international community should condemn any political and religious leader who stokes tensions with irresponsible rhetoric,” and that “this incitement needs to end period.”
The problem of incitement in Palestine/Israel, however, has a very different dimension. The Netanyahu government is using incitement to hatred and violence as a fundamental strategy in its perpetuation of racism. Israel’s destruction of Gaza in the summer of 2014 was accompanied by open calls for genocide by several military, political, religious, academic, and cultural figures within Israel. These genocidal fantasies have ever since been fortified as the core of Israel’s relations with the Palestinian people. Ayelet Shaked, who is now Israel’s justice minister, called for a genocide through a Facebook post, in which she proclaims that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy,” encouraging the destruction of the Palestinian people as a whole, of its elderly, women, cities, villages, property, and infrastructure and the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.” Mordechai Keidar, a lecturer at Bar Ilan University, called for the raping of mothers and sisters of what he defines as “Palestinian terrorists.” Dov Lior, chief rabbi of the illegal West Bank settlement ‘Kiryat Arba,’ justified the extermination of the Palestinian people through Jewish law. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu regularly uses social media channels to funnel hatred and promote death. Preparing the 2014 slaughter of Gaza, Netanyahu demanded via twitter “vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.” Netanyahu’s continuous dehumanization of Palestinians has been closely tied to his racist incitement to actual violence against all Palestinians. Avigdor Liberman, former foreign minister and current defense minister, is repeatedly displaying his desire for the destruction of the Palestinian people and his dreams of death and torture, for example when he called for the beheading of critical Arabs or when he revealed his plan for another assault on Gaza which he would combine with a genocide. The fantasy of ‘gasing’ Palestinians has become mainstream in Israel social and political discourse, while Israelis critical of these policies and social tendencies might have to fear for their lives.
The Russel Tribunal for Palestine, which has found evidence of severe war crimes, crimes against humanity, extermination and persecution in and around the 2014 war, has evaluated that “in a situation where patterns of crimes against humanity are perpetrated with impunity, and where direct and public incitement to genocide is manifest throughout society, it is very conceivable that individuals or the state may choose to exploit the conditions in order to perpetrate the crime of genocide.” Hillary Clinton must be aware of these genocidal developments in Palestine/Israel. She does not only accept them silently. Through her fanatic support towards Israel, she vigorously encourages them.
Transnationalizing the Threat
Clinton extends her fear production onto a transnational level when she formulates “the rise of ISIS and the struggle against radical jihadism, Iran’s increasingly aggressive regional ambitions, and the growing effort around the world to isolate and delegitimize Israel” as the “three converging trends” the US and Israel needed to address together. Clinton desires to “continue to fight” the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which she defines as “the latest front in this battle,” clearly conceptualizing a battlefield in which she is fighting a war for Israel’s protection. The Palestinian civil society called for BDS due to the international community’s failure to intervene in Palestine, envisioning to maintain “nonviolent punitive measures” until Israel complies with international law – similar to the boycott that was applied against South African apartheid. Without discussing BDS, Clinton decides that attributing the notion of “apartheid” to Israel is “wrong” and that this campaign should simply “end.”
In her open letter to financially potent donor and Zionist extremist Haim Saban, Clinton had early on dedicated her presidential campaign to demonizing BDS. With populist fear-mongering, Clinton calls for a totalitarian fight against BDS across party lines and communities, labeling it as “anti-Semitic,” and seeking to delegitimize even the right to criticize Israel. Hence, she declares a battle against freedom of expression. Over the years, Saban has donated at least 12 million USD to the Clintons. He knows that “everything that [Hillary Clinton] thinks and everything she has done and will do will always be for the good of Israel. We don’t need to worry about this."
In the same letter, Clinton recycles her Jerusalem-narrative and praises Zionism, stating that the so-called Jewish state “is a modern day miracle – a vibrant bloom in the middle of the dessert.” She also brags that she has “opposed dozens of anti-Israeli resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights council, and other international organizations,” and made sure “the United States blocked Palestinian attempts at the UN to unilaterally declare statehood,” as she has always “made it clear that America will always stand up for Israel,” and that that is what she will “always do as President.” In other words, Clinton proudly displays her record of oppressing the Palestinian people, boycotting their human rights, and ignoring international law.
A Middle Eastern Conflict
As the establishment around Clinton gets more anxious about BDS, i.e. a grassroots movement without formal leadership which they cannot coerce into silence or buy off, Clinton tries to shield Israel from any pressure as according to her “no outside force is going to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.” Besides the ideological appeasement of the violent settler-colonialism to a “conflict” between two sides and the rhetorical reversion of power relations, this remark completely contradicts Clinton’s argumentation for US-American interference. Concurrently, it reveals Clinton’s investment in prolonging the situation of “conflict,” i.e. complete Israeli hegemony. Clinton’s narrative is not new, however. It follows historically reoccurring colonial paradigms of security, in which the dehumanized natives have to guarantee their violent occupiers’ security. Furthermore, whereas Clinton rhetorically mentions “peace” and a “two-state solution,” Netanyahu has very determinedly refused both peace and a Palestinian state and is instead encouraging genocide. Recently leaked material confirms Clinton’s staunch support for a fake peace process – which is necessary in order to expand Israeli domination.
Clinton’s Destruction of the Middle East and other Geographies
Clinton’s tradition of fear-production extends the self-created threat onto the US. Accordingly, “Israel’s search for security, stability and peace goes hand in hand with the broader effort of the United States to secure and stabilize the Middle East. It’s time to take our alliance to the next level.”
Clinton promotes her radical imperialism in the Middle East, which has always connected the expanding of Israeli geopolitical hegemony with the subjugation of not only Palestinians, but many other populations in the region.
Clinton directly threatens Iran with sanctions and military action should the country be “unable to understand” what she is dictating. In fact, military violence against Iran has long been a declared goal of Clinton’s Middle Eastern fantasy. In 2008, while unsuccessfully campaigning for the Democratic presidential candidacy, she said, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” adding that “in the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
Besides her actions and intentions in Palestine and Iran, Clinton has a long record of aggressive destruction worldwide: She is significantly responsible for the devastation of Libya that forced Africa’s highest developed country into relentless horror. Similarly, her manipulative intervention in Haitian politics has pushed the country into increasing chaos. Clinton’s State Department played a crucial role in the 2009 military coup in Honduras. Clinton has been highly supportive of several autocrats. She considered the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak a family friend, and in her search for arguments to bomb Qadaffi, she called Syria’s Assad a “reformer.”
Clinton’s largest donors are Saudia Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait, who have all transferred millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Besides the nonexistence of human rights and the persecution of several groups of people in these states, especially Saudi Arabia is directly linked to global terrorism. Also, Clinton assists Saudi Arabia in its ongoing bombings of Yemen. These are only examples of Clinton’s overall imperialist and militarist stance towards humanity and her business with human rights.
The Next Level?
One might then wonder how the “next level” that Clinton envisions will look like? Clinton’s metaphoric threat creation serves as a justification for military expansion and the strengthening of US-Israeli hegemony, resulting in her urging the United States to “ensure that Israel continues to maintain its qualitative military edge,” “further bolster Israeli air defenses and help develop better tunnel detection technology,” and “expand high level U.S.-Israel strategic consultations.” Clinton appears as a salesperson for military equipment, promising that “we can meet the threats and challenges we face today” only “if we present a united front to the region and the world.” In another writing, Clinton states, “I will do everything I can to enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has qualitative military edge to defend itself.”
Transcending Homeland: The Israeli Dream
Clinton’s writing “Taking the US-Israeli relationship to the next level,” ends with a very personal glorification of everything Israeli:
“For me, this is more than policy – it’s personal. I was born just a few months before Israel declared independence. My generation came of age admiring the talent and tenacity of the Israeli people, who coaxed a dream into reality out of the harsh desert soil. We watched a small nation fight fearlessly for its right to exist and build a thriving, raucous democracy. And, through it all, Israel’s pursuit of peace was as inspiring as its prowess in war.”
In “Unbreakable Bond,” she proclaims that ever since 1948, “Americans have believed that Israel is more than a country – it’s a dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest odds.” Due to the density of hyperboles and emotionally loaded adjectives, this paragraph stands out as especially forced and artificial. Clinton romantically worships the Zionist narrative of the blooming dessert – which has ever since been used to erase the existence of Palestinians both historically and presently – and praises the white supremacism of the fearless and strong colonizer. Through ethno-nationalism and historical manipulation, she whitewashes Israel’s crimes not by justifying the Nakba and the evolving genocide, but rather by erasing them completely from her reality.
Clinton “feel[s] a deep emotional connection with Israel” due to the similarities between US and Israeli settler-colonialism: “We are two nations woven together, lands built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, given life by democratic principles and sustained by the service and sacrifice of generations of patriots.” Clinton expresses an “admiration for how Israelis have built a thriving democracy in a region full of adversaries and autocrats.” Through her simplified analogy, Clinton glorifies both countries’ violent establishment and history, and singles out the US and Israel as crucial models for freedom and democracy. Clinton’s narrative not only ignores the existence of natives of Palestine, but also rationalizes the genocide of Native American people, ethnic cleansing, slavery, apartheid, segregation, and other performances of racism that have been foundational to and continue to be employed and developed by both Israel and the US. This colonial comparison and the necessity to maintain hierarchy transnationally are the ideological fundament of Clinton’s worldview. Typically, she refers to “sacrifices” committed by “patriots,” evoking the idea of a well-protected white Israeli-American homeland that defines itself through the exclusion of the actual natives. Clinton’s fanatic support for apartheid and genocide is based on her staunch internalization of Israeli exceptionalism, which sharply juxtaposes her ignorantly radical reduction, demonization, and generalization of the Middle east as a region of evil.
In her writing, “How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond with Israel – and Benjamin Netanyahu,” Clinton seeks an “opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds of friendship and unity between the people and governments of the United States and Israel,” confirming that the alliance between the two nations “transcends politics,” and extending the notion of US homeland onto Israel. Defining Israel’s position within the American nation as being pre- and post-political, Clinton outlines the unconditional and indefinite US support for Israel as a national interest and necessity, concurrently implying an absolute American compliance with all of Israel’s crimes.
Driven by an extremist admiration for Israel, Clinton further diminishes her own credibility by proudly proclaiming, “I have stood with Israel my entire career,” and listing all the many things she has done in order to secure and expand Israel’s exceptional supremacy, such as “request[ing] more assistance for Israel every year,” or “defend[ing] Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations,” i.e. guaranteeing Israel continues its crimes with impunity and preventing the implementation of international law in Palestine. Clinton subjugates her personality, her being as a politician, and her presidency to Israel’s far-right. The Democratic Party’s depiction of Clinton as a liberal antipode to Donald Trump, and the mainstream media’s failure to question Clinton are factors that help culturally consolidate the right-wing Zionist narrative as a part of US-American national identity – consequently guaranteeing that Palestinians remain less than human for the US homeland.
Clinton, the Warrior
Clinton irrationally locates herself within the center of a self-created imagery of perpetual war, presenting herself as a courageous, fundamentalist fighter and proclaiming, “[a]s president, I will continue this fight,” and “step up” her relationship with Israel to “confront” Iran, and to “combat” BDS. In her – sometimes desperately seeming – search for threats, Clinton jumps between Hamas and the Palestinian people, moves from Iran to Russia and from Hezbollah to BDS, all of which she will “confront,” “combat,” and “fight,” as for her “fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy – it’s a personal commitment,” which she justifies through her “vision for peace and security.” In the Zionist narrative, “security” has always been achieved through war that entails a subjugation and/or destruction of neighboring peoples, histories, and geographies. The blind fanaticism expressed in Clinton’s writings reflects a severe detachment from political reality in both Palestine/Israel and worldwide. In her ideological concept of a US-Israeli homeland, Clinton pictures herself as a warrior with a desire to fight even more, dominate even more, and kill even more.
Denijal Jegić is an independent researcher and PhD candidate at the Transnational American Studies Institute at Johannes Gutenberg University (Mainz). His research focuses on Palestine, Post-colonial studies and Arab-American literature, culture, and history.