The purpose of the hearing was to address Israeli impunity and US complicity in crimes against Palestinians. Tariq was one of six panelists to address the room, which was overflowing with congressional staffers.
Moderated by author and campaigner Josh Ruebner, other panelists included Tariq’s mother, Suha Abu Abukhdeir; Hassan Shibly of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Florida chapter; Sunjeev Bery from Amnesty International; Brad Parker from Defence for Children International and Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad.
Though he was just one of six speakers, Tariq’s testimony was especially powerful as he relayed to the audience the horrors and discrimination he witnessed and experienced as a Palestinian-American child visiting his ancestral homeland.
But just as Tariq started to detail the Israeli beating that left him unconscious and unrecognizable, CSPAN 2, which was broadcasting the hearing live, cut to the Senate floor.
You can watch the whole thing back on CSPAN’s website. The cut from Tariq to Boxer occurs soon after time code 03:30.
Suppressing Palestinian voices
Tariq began his testimony by describing the widespread violence Israeli soldiers inflicted on his neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem after his cousin and best friend, sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish vigilantes who were incited to violence by Israeli leaders following the murder of three Israeli teens hitchhiking from an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
Tariq and several of his cousins watched from an alley, Tariq explained, as Israeli soldiers shot rubber bullets at protesters. Eventually the soldiers were attacking in Tariq’s direction, prompting a terrified Tariq to run. After he jumped a fence and tripped, “the Israeli police grabbed me from behind, slammed my face into the floor, zip-tied my hands behind my back and started to kick me and punch me in the face and in the ribs,” recounted Tariq.
For those tuning into CSPAN, this was the last they heard from Tariq, whose speech was suddenly replaced by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer from California on the Senate floor agitating for greater support for Israel to a mostly empty room as most most elected representatives had departed that day for a five-week recess.
CSPAN told the The Electronic Intifada that the channel is required to cut to the Senate floor when an elected official is speaking.
Boxer’s office did not respond to calls asking if the senator was aware that the hearing was taking place. However, organizers collecting names of congressional staffers in attendance told The Electronic Intifada that an intern from Boxer’s office tried to get into the hearing but left because there was no space, suggesting Boxer knew she was interrupting the hearing.
Israeli talking points
Boxer spent the next fifteen minutes spewing semi-coherent platitudes about Israeli victimhood. “We all know that our ally Israel is in a fight for its survival because a terrorist group, so named by the United States and Europe, is at war with Israel right now,” Boxer declared.
In what seemed like a transparent attempt to counter Tariq’s narrative, Boxer added, “we remember how it all started with the kidnapping of three Israeli boys and their torture and their death and a mosque praised that. Tragically there was a revenge killing and the Israeli government arrested the Israelis responsible for that and they are going to face justice while Hamas praises, praises what happened.”
As usual, reality tells a much different story.
Even Israeli officials openly admit that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnapping or the murder of the three Israeli teens, whose disappearance was used by the Israeli government as a pretext to rampage through the West Bank, ransacking homes and arresting hundreds of people under the guise of a rescue mission for three boys thatauthorities knew had been killed hours after they were reported missing.
Boxer also championed the lie that Hamas broke the ceasefire that same Friday morning by capturing an Israeli soldier.
It has since been revealed that the Israelis broke the ceasefire and subsequently carpet bombed Rafah with the stated aim of killing an Israeli soldier because the Israeli army suspected he had been captured — a procedure known as the Hannibal Directive. In an attempt to kill their own soldier, the Israeli army slaughtered more than 150 Palestinians across Rafah, which has sustained incalculable damage.
As Boxer continued to spew Israeli talking points, the reason for her tirade on the Senate floor became increasingly unclear. One moment she was blaming Hamas for violating that morning’s ceasefire and the next she was urging the Senate to allow Israel to participate in the US Visa Waiver Program.
At the end of Boxer’s rant, CSPAN cut back to the hearing in time to catch Suha Abu Abukhdeir’s closing remark: “The life of a Palestinian in Gaza should be valued as much as the life of any human being.”
Next at the podium was CAIR Florida’s Hassan Shibly, who said, “As an American attorney, what happened to Tariq Abukhdeir at the hands of a nation that claims to be a democracy and claims to be an ally of the United States and —” That’s as far as Shibly got before he was replaced by live footage of Boxer once again on the Senate floor. This time Boxer was joined by Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Nevada. The two interrupted the remainder of the hearing discussing various pieces of legislation that can’t even be voted on until the Senate reconvenes in September.
Given the choke-hold pro-Israel lobbying organizations like AIPAC have on US elected officials, it is plausible Boxer’s maneuvering was orchestrated to suppress the reach of an open and honest conversation about Israeli criminality, much like US President Lyndon Johnson called an impromptu press conference to interrupt televised coverage of former sharecropper and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s moving testimonyat the 1964 Democratic National Convention.