Wednesday, May 15FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA, PALESTINE WILL BE FREE

AMAL CLOONEY’S SILENCE ON GAZA SHOWS THE LIMITS OF LIBERALISM

Amal Clooney, the internationally acclaimed lawyer, is a liberal icon. She and her organization, the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), never shrink from pronouncing their global verdicts on human rights matters. And yet, despite being Lebanese and of Palestinian descent herself, Time magazine’s 2022 Woman of the Year has maintained complete silence on Israel’s continued bombardment of those very countries – a crime other human rights experts have labeled a genocide.

It has now been six months since the October 7 attack, Israel’s wholesale destruction of Gaza and its attacks on Lebanon, yet Clooney has made no public statement on the matter, either in public or on social media, despite mounting calls for her to do so.

CONDEMNING ENEMY NATIONS, IGNORING CRIMES OF FRIENDS

Born in Lebanon to a Druze Lebanese father and a Sunni Muslim mother of Palestinian descent, Clooney’s family sought refuge in the United Kingdom after the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War. After practicing law for many years in the U.K. and U.S. in 2016, she founded the CFJ alongside her film star husband, George. “​​We founded the Clooney Foundation for Justice to hold perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable for their crimes and to help victims in their fight for justice,” the pair explain on their website.

Today, the CFJ works in over 40 countries. This includes many countries the U.S. treats as enemy nations or candidates for regime change. Clooney and her foundation have taken strong stances against many of those nations. She has demanded that Russia be prosecuted for war crimes. “Ukraine is, today, a slaughterhouse. Right in the heart of Europe,” she told the U.N. Security Council in 2022. The following year, the CFJ filed three cases in Germany. The cases accused Russia of many war crimes, including leveling a civilian building in a missile strike on Odesa, killing 40 people, unlawfully detaining, torturing and killing four Ukrainians in the Kharkiv region, and sexual violence and looting in the Kiev region. The CFJ is also suing the Venezuelan government over alleged human rights abuses.

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In 2016, Clooney condemned Iran and North Korea for serially abusing their citizens’ human rights. She did this at a conference in the United Arab Emirates, attended by the country’s ruler, Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi. Far from criticizing the UAE’s dismal human rights record, she praised the government and merely offered friendly “advice” to the emirate on how it could improve.

And yet, the Clooney Foundation has been entirely silent regarding arguably the dominant human rights issue of our time. A search for the words “Israel,” “Gaza,” and “Palestine” on both its website and its Twitter account elicits zero relevant results.

While we cannot expect either Clooney or her organization to work on every country simultaneously, it has disappointed many of Clooney’s admirers that neither has even put out a statement about the country of her birth and the country of her ancestry being torn apart by a Western-backed power.

Even when directly questioned about it, George Clooney appeared to dodge the question, stating:

The whole area [the Middle East] is just on fire, and it is heartbreaking all the way around. All you can do is pray that there is some version of this that comes to some peaceful end soon. But I don’t see it happening in the very near future, and I don’t think anybody does.” 

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This relative silence on Gaza contrasts with other major Western human rights organizations, who have vociferously condemned the state of Israel. Amnesty International, for example, wrote that “there are alarming warning signs of Genocide given the staggering scale of death and destruction” and that “The collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population by Israeli authorities is a war crime – it is cruel and inhumane.” This sentiment was shared by Human Rights Watch, which noted that “The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip, which is a war crime.”

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

Why have Clooney and her foundation shown little to no interest in Palestine (or Lebanon)? Firstly, the CFJ is sponsored primarily by large liberal institutions, such as the Ford Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and foreign sources like the German and Swedish Postcode Lotteries, none of whom have shown any interest in pro-Palestine activism.

Moreover, Clooney herself has close connections to many in the Democratic Party establishment, including some of the most hardcore pro-Israel zealots anywhere. In 2016, she and her husband hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton with Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban at their mansion. Tickets for the event cost $34,000 each.

Saban is one of America’s most influential political donors but considers himself a “one-issue guy.” “And my issue is Israel,” he once said. He has also called for “higher scrutiny” of Muslim Americans, suggesting they are a threat to the country’s security, and branded Muslim-American Democrats such as Keith Ellison “anti-semites.” Clinton, who describes herself as an “emphatic, unwavering supporter” of Israel, wrote Saban an open letter promising to stamp out the spread of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement by any means necessary.

Amal Clooney
George and Amal Clooney, right, pose with Hillary Clinto and Bryan Lourd and Bruce Bozzi at at an event at the Clooney home in Hollywood. Photo | Instagram

Moreover, Clooney has accepted a number of U.K. government posts – positions that rarely go to radical outsiders but rather to those firmly inside the establishment beltway. Those posts include being appointed to the Attorney General’s Office Public International Law Panel, meaning she represented the British government in domestic and international courts. The government also appointed her the U.K. Special Envoy on Media Freedom and the Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom.

One senior position Clooney publicly rejected, however, was to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council inquiry looking into Israeli war crimes in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (2014). When pressed to explain her decision, she simply cited a scheduling conflict (while refusing to condemn Israel), stating:

I am horrified by the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, particularly the civilian casualties that have been caused, and strongly believe that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed… I am honored to have received the offer, but given existing commitments – including eight ongoing cases – unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavors.”

“MORAL MERCENARY”

The refusal to investigate Israeli war crimes is especially notable, given that Clooney has made her career taking controversial posts concerning the Middle East. She previously served as an advisor on Syria to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. She currently represents hundreds of Yazidi survivors of ISIS massacres and is in the process of suing cement maker Lafarge. The lawsuit alleges that the French company provided material support to the terrorist group, which kept many Yazidi women as slaves.

In 2014, she defended Abdullah al Senussi, the Former Chief of Intelligence under Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. The International Criminal Court charged Senussi with crimes against humanity, who was alleged to have overseen torture, assassinations and public executions.

Perhaps most surprising, however, was her appointment as legal advisor to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain during the Bassiouni Commission – a royal investigation into the events of the Arab Spring. The people of Bahrain briefly participated in their own popular anti-government uprising before the monarchy called in Saudi, Emirati and Kuwaiti forces to crush the revolt, killing hundreds and injuring or torturing thousands more. In this instance, Clooney worked on behalf not of the oppressed but of the monarchy, presumably attempting to absolve it of any blame or responsibility for the crackdown on civil liberties, leading one commentator to dub her a “moral mercenary.”

SILENT ON GENOCIDE

It is barely in doubt that Israel is currently engaged in some of the most egregious crimes against humanity seen anywhere in the 21st century, from genocide to attacks on schools, hospitals, mosques and churches to the deliberate targeting of journalists and other civilians, to the leveling of entire cities and the systematic starvation of a people.

And despite this, Amal Clooney, who presents herself as a champion of progressive, liberal values and human rights, has had nothing to say about it. This is doubly noteworthy, given her country of birth and her ancestry. As an ethical leader with a considerable audience, any pronouncement she utters on the issue would likely make a significant impact.

Palestine is so often, however, the rocks on which the moral and ethical underpinnings of liberalism are dashed. While Western liberals constantly speak in the language of human rights, using them as a weapon against enemy states and even justifying the bloodiest military interventions on their basis, they fall silent when allied nations carry out similar barbaric actions.

This “progressive except for Palestine” mentality is pervasive across the Western world and highlights the profound limits of modern liberalism. While foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin, Nicolás Maduro or Xi Jinping (or even domestic ones such as Trump) are considered beyond the pale for their transgressions on human rights, beltway politicians like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are held up as heroes. This is despite their crimes, which range from using jihadists to overthrow the most prosperous country in Africa to bombing seven countries simultaneously.

It should, therefore, be of little surprise that Clooney and her foundation have remained tight-lipped about the current slaughter. Those who are shocked by their inaction underestimate the moral bankruptcy of modern liberalism.

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Speaking on a panel with Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates (two other liberal icons), Clooney outlined the “real driving force” behind her work.

“My son drew a picture the other day of a prison, and he was like, ‘Putin should be here,’” she said before continuing:

I do think about in a few years when they’re more than five when they start to learn about some of these issues that we’re talking about and what’s happening in the world… When they ask us, ‘What did you do about this? What did you say about that?’ I’ve thought about what will my answer be, and I hope it will be a good one.”

If Clooney’s son ever asks her what she was doing as Israel carried out war crimes across the Middle East, she will also have a clear answer: she was silent on genocide.

Feature photo | Amal Clooney speaks during a conference called “Press Behind Bars: Undermining Justice and Democracy” at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 28, 2018. Craig Ruttle | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

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