TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2023
The topic is deeply important: How should Israel be responding to the massacres of October 7?
We can't exactly answer that question. It takes us outside our experience, our background, our depth.
Is Israel violating international humanitarian law in its ongoing military actions? Is Israel possibly committing war crimes?
We can't answer those questions either. That said, concerning those last two questions, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) seems to think the answer is yes.
On Sunday, Jayapal appeared on CNN's State of the Union, where she discussed her ideas about the best way for Israel to proceed.
Along the way, she described Hamas as a terrorist organization on three separate occasions. She also said that Israel's current military campaign may not be in that nation's long-term best interest.
Rep. Jayapal stated some familiar concerns about the possible effects of the military action being taken in Gaza. Those concerns have been widely stated by mainstream center-left journalists. Whatever your ultimate view may be, they make an obvious type of sense.
That said, it wasn't clear to us that Jayapal was able to say exactly how Israel should proceed, should it decide to follow her recommendation of an immediate ceasefire.
What should Israel be doing? Whatever your ultimate view may be, the answer isn't obvious. That said, we thought the CNN interview went downhill when Dana Bash introduced a very important topic to the conversation.
The topic was (vicious) sexual violence. The exchange started like this:
BASH (12/3/23): I want to ask you about sexual violence. And the— It is kind of remarkable that this issue hasn't gotten enough attention globally—widespread use of rape, brutal rape, sexual violence against Israeli women by Hamas.
I have seen a lot of progressive women, generally speaking, that are quick to defend women's rights and speak out against using rape as a weapon of war, but downright silent on what we saw on October 7 and what might be happening inside Gaza right now to these hostages. Why is that?
JAYAPAL: I mean, I don't know that that's true. I think what—we always talk about the impact of war on women, in particular. In fact, I remember, 20 years ago, I did a petition around the war in Iraq, saying that—
BASH: Have you talked about it since October 7?
JAYAPAL: Oh, absolutely. And I have condemned what Hamas has done. I have condemned all of the actions.
BASH: Specifically against women?
JAYAPAL: Absolutely, the rape, the—of course.
We don't know if Jayapal's statements are accurate. Has she specifically condemned Hamas' apparent acts of sexual violence against women?
We have no idea. Bash didn't seem to know either, and she's the one who brought the topic up.
Beyond that, we think Bash was possibly being a bit careless in her sweeping initial complaint about the alleged conduct of "a lot of progressive women, generally speaking."
Was her statement accurate? Have "a lot of progressive women, generally speaking," refused to discuss the sexual violence which apparently occurred on October 7—the sexual violence which may still be occurring in the case of female captives of Hamas?
Have "a lot of progressive women, generally speaking," really refused to do that? It's easy to make such sweeping claims, but it isn't a great form of journalism.
Bash gave no specific examples. As the conversation continued, it seems to us that Jayapal's subsequent statements made more sense than Bash's. We thought Bash's statement that Israeli soldiers aren't raping Palestinian women was especially strange.
The next day, the Morning Joe gang played an edited version of this exchange on CNN. Things went downhill from there.
Easy to be hard, a song once said. Also, it's easy to engage in highly performative red-faced spouting on blue tribe "cable news" programs.
We thought Joe and Mika's behavior was extremely poor. After playing a tightly edited bit of the CNN interview, Joe began getting red-faced about Jayapal's alleged behavior while Mika began acting puzzled by it.
On came Mimi Rocah and Joyce Vance, with Rocah immediately mischaracterizing something Jayapal had said to Bash.
Rep. Jayapal is a progressive legislator. We don't automatically agree with her views, but we thought she was treated quite unfairly yesterday morning, pretty much by all concerned.
We thought Joe and Mika's behavior was lazy, careless, uninformed. In our view, because the topic is very important, the behavior was especially bad.
For more on this topic, you can peruse this news report from this morning's New York Times:
Accounts of Sexual Violence by Hamas Are Aired Amid Criticism of U.N.