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Nancy Pelosi’s response to Roe v Wade? An Israeli war poem

The Democratic leader's reading of an Israeli settler poem in response to the devastating Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade reveals how twisted corporate Democrats’ priorities are
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reads a poem in response to the US Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v Wade in Washington, DC on 24 June 2022 (Getty Images via AFP)

It was a moment that demanded clarity, determination and resolve.

Instead, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a poem. And not just any poem: addressing the nation in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s catastrophic overturning of Roe v Wade, Pelosi spoke of feeling “personally overwhelmed”, and then began to read a poem she admittedly cites "from time to time".  

It is deeply telling that the 82-year-old Democratic leader couldn’t even be bothered to be original for one of the most devastating Supreme Court decisions in 50 years

There are several issues with Pelosi’s latest stunt. 

First, the very gesture is wholly inappropriate to the dire implications of the present situation, as millions of American women face losing the right to abortion.

As Vulture reflected, among other acts of "resistance" from elected officials which included yoga and glee club, “Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with nearly two full months of warning, foresight, and preparation for this moment, took immediate action in response to the ruling by bravely reading a poem.”

Second, as Pelosi herself acknowledged, she has cited this poem before. She previously recited it in response to the 6 January 2021 takeover of the US Capitol. Then, too, she concluded by hoping that her “Republican colleagues” would “finally open their eyes and hold this president accountable”.

It is deeply telling that the 82-year-old Democratic leader, now in her 18th term and who apparently gets paid to treat disastrous political developments as impromptu open mic nights, couldn’t even be bothered to be original for one of the most devastating Supreme Court decisions in 50 years. 

The settler poet

As millions of women have just been dealt an unconscionable blow, a nominal leader of the so-called opposition party sees fit to engage in behaviour suited for small children getting ready for bedtime and expressing vapid platitudes like “hoping” the institution that has just made good on its clear intent to dismantle core collective rights will "open its eyes".

Roe v Wade: Pelosi recites Israeli poem in response to Supreme Court reversal
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This would be enough in and of itself. But, in perfect keeping with the relentless ineptitude of the corporate Democratic establishment, there is yet another glaring indignity to this shameful spectacle.

The poem's author, Ehud Manor, was an Israeli settler. One Twitter user notes that the poem in question, “My Land is Burning”, is based on "an Israeli settlement named Kiryat Shmona that displaced the Palestinian village of al-Khalisa…The poem is apparently about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the author lived near the border, where tanks were rolling through on their way to kill tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese people, and obliterate Beirut."

Al-Khalisa was ethnically cleansed in 1948, and the Kiryat Shmona settlement was built atop its ruins in 1950. “My Land is Burning”, arguably Manor’s most famous work, was written in response to Israel’s genocidal invasion of Lebanon, euphemistically mislabelled as “Operation Peace for the Galilee".

Demonstrators call for an independent Palestinian state during a protest outside the White House in 2018 (AFP/File photo)
Demonstrators call for an independent Palestinian state during a protest outside the White House in 2018 (AFP)

A long procession of murdered Palestinians and Lebanese haunt the world within which a settler-poet commemorating a racist military incursion that he “will not give up on” his settler-colonial state. 

More than a gaffe

Pelosi’s conduct was far more than a gaffe. It reveals how twisted and out of touch corporate Democrats’ priorities are - and how little they actually have to do with rights, freedom, and well-being.

The reading of Manor’s poem reflects the mainstream Democratic party’s irrelevance to any true project dedicated to collective liberation and justice for the oppressed.

Liberal politicians like Pelosi identify far more with oppressive forces, figures, and institutions, however far to the right, than they do with the oppressed

The use of a poem by a settler who lived in and consecrated the Israeli settler-colony through poetry and song reaffirms the sentiment that it is only certain peoples’ rights that matter.

The reality of the history and ongoing devastation posed to Palestinians by the very project that Manor bolstered through his creative work and settler status is obscured in this very gesture supposedly dedicated to collective uplift and healing. 

Furthermore, by using an Israeli settler-poet’s words to anchor an inappropriate - and frankly, pathetic - plea for reason on the part of the reactionary Supreme Court, Pelosi has offered, by negative example, another key lesson about establishment party politics.

Liberal politicians like Pelosi identify far more with oppressive forces, figures, and institutions, however far to the right, than they do with the oppressed. The Zionist state is free to murder and ethnically cleanse as many Palestinians as it pleases, just as the right is free to divest individuals of any and all rights they see fit. 

None of this will impact corporate Democrats’ affinity with either force. 

Meanwhile, the millions of regular people who are most vulnerable to these various forms of state-sanctioned violence are only good insofar as they continue to cast ballots and raise campaign donations for a party that will self-righteously do literally nothing at all to end their suffering. 

Corporate Democrats

The current situation whereby Democrats do nothing while the right seems to be able to achieve all of its goals (and then some) might appear to be an impasse, but we should reject such a framing in favour of one that allows for a structural analysis of party politics and pushes for accountability from politicians and parties. 

Corporate Democrats support unrestricted funding to violent police forces for the same reason they support subsidising the Zionist state’s colonial apartheid regime

The Democrats spent decades trying to be Diet Republicans. They have agreed with the right on a range of issues, such as racist crime legislation - and abortion. They responded to the racial reckoning of the George Floyd uprisings by increasing police funding.

Corporate Democrats support unrestricted funding to violent police forces for the same reason they support subsidising the Zionist state’s colonial apartheid regime against Palestinians: they have no affinity with the dispossessed.

By contrast, supporting violent disciplinary institutions and colonial states keeps intact the oppressive status quo from which corporate Democrats, like the rest of the elite, benefit.    
 
This woefully out-of-touch gesture demonstrates, in the end, that mainstream Democrats are committed to nothing but business as usual - the maintenance of the US’s funding for Zionist colonisation, as well as leaving the Supreme Court’s decision unchallenged even in sentiment.

From Palestine to the US, the many suffer, while the elite proffers empty words - and then asks for more campaign spending.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Omar Zahzah is a writer, poet, independent scholar, and organizer. Omar is the Education and Advocacy Coordinator for Eyewitness Palestine, as well as a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) and the US Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (USACBI.) Omar holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California,* Los Angeles (UCLA.)