With the Republican Party set to take the House of Representatives tomorrow, it’s worth taking a look at the new potential majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia and the only Jewish Republican in the House, and his positions on Israel/Palestine, an area that he is “particularly active on.” As Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy writes, “GOP lawmakers stand to play a huge role” in a variety of foreign policy areas, and their impact will be even greater if they are the majority party in the House.
Cantor’s positions on Israel are no different than most Democratic and Republican officials, but his actions and words could play a large role if he becomes the next majority leader.
I’ve done some research–by no means exhaustive–over the past day or so on Cantor’s positions and statements on Israel. Here’s some of what I found:
-Cantor “supported Israel’s handling of the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem.” The area in question here is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which has become a flash point in East Jerusalem and the site of weekly protests by Israeli leftists and Palestinians against the evictions. The evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah is but one manifestation of the ongoing attempts to kick Palestinians out of their homes to make way for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Read more about the situation in Sheikh Jarrah here and here.
-In regards to Jerusalem as a whole, Cantor expressed anger when the White House condemned the announcement of the building of 1,600 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem last March. He wrote, “Could the White House truly be this offended by an Israeli decision to build 1,600 homes years from now in a part of its capital city that everyone understands will remain a part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians?” Further underscoring his contempt for international law, Cantor said, in July 2009, that the “insistence that Israel return lands it has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day war and accept a ‘right of return’ of Palestinians who fled their homes in what is now Israel ‘is just like saying you don’t accept the historical right of Israel to exist.'” International law is clear on the status of East Jerusalem, the occupied territories as a whole and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
-After the flotilla massacre on May 31, 2010, in which Israeli naval commandos rappelled onto the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship that was part of an effort to break the blockade of Gaza and killed nine people (including an American citizen), Cantor “pressured President Barack Obama to veto any ‘biased’ U.N. resolutions in response to an Israeli military attack on a flotilla.” The naval raid was characterized by a U.N. fact-finding mission as resulting in a “series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.” Out of the 9 victims, 6 were found to be killed in what “can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.”
-Cantor regularly paints Palestinian “culture” as being defined solely by violence. In conservative publications like the National Review, Cantor opines that “Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, last year best summed up the prevailing Palestinian culture by quoting from Hitler’s Mein Kampf: ‘If you want adults to be killers, teach the youth hate.'”
-Cantor and his House colleague Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) took to the pages of the Washington Times in January 2009 to defend the Israeli assault on Gaza, an attack that Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction.” The definitive United Nations report on the 2008-09 Gaza war, authored by respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone, found the assault to be “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”