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Fischbach Watch

I don’t often write about foreign affairs in this blog, but I always welcome a chance to criticize Michelle Fischbach. The other day I received an email with the tagline “Rep. Fischbach Stands with Israel and Condemns Terrorism.” Okay, swell. Most of the email is a condemnation of Hamas, and they are richly deserving. Not only Israel, but the people of Gaza as well, would be better off if Hamas could be eliminated.

Many years ago, a friend from Central America helped me to understand how much easier it is for people who live under oppressive, authoritarian governments to understand the distinction between a government and it people. Palestinians are not all supporters of Hamas and terrorism, just as many Israelis oppose the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu. That is why, whatever we think of Netanyahu, we mourn for the loss of Israeli lives and the plight of the hostages. It is also why Palestinians should not be subjected to collective punishment for the sins of Hamas.

The rise of anti-Muslim sentiment ever since our own 9/11 was further stoked by Trump and his Muslim ban. Fischbach tries to walk a fine line, referring to “innocent people” in Gaza who are being prevented from evacuating by Hamas. But that’s the first big problem with Fischbach’s position. Is Hamas entirely to blame for the humanitarian catastrophe that is befalling the Palestinians of Gaza?

Apparently Fischbach has no problem with Israel demanding that over a million people leave their homes, with no place to go and no assurance their homes will be there when they return. Apparently it’s fine that Israel cut off humanitarian assistance to people who, after a 16-year blockade, were already heavily dependent on outside help. Does “standing with Israel” require uncritically standing behind actions that willingly treat Palestinian civilians as “collateral damage”? It seems that Fischbach places less value on the lives of Palestinian than on those of Israelis.

That supposition is reinforced by Fischbach’s criticism of the Biden administration’s decision to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets, which she admits is “intended for humanitarian purposes.” In urging Biden “to freeze all proposed funding for Iran,” she shows she is willing to inflict collective punishment on Iranians for the fanaticism of their leaders in the same way that Palestinians are being made to suffer for the crimes of Hamas.

Meanwhile, Fischbach has twice voted for Jim Jordan to become Speaker of the House, a man whom former Republican Speaker John Boehner once described as a “legislative terrorist.” Will she also support him when he tries to shut the government down in November in hopes of exacting deep cuts in federal spending, cuts that will hurt many of our most vulnerable citizens? Fischbach’s expression of sympathy for Israelis cannot hide the callousness of her politics.

The Middle East is a region with deep and difficult problems. One thing is certain, however. Terrorists will continue to find willing recruits as long as young people can only look forward to lives of despair and hopelessness. Hamas deserves to be rooted out and destroyed, but if it is done in a way that only breeds more anger and desperation, there will be no peace.

Paul Harris

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