- A leading figure of the Institute for Policy Studies and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
- Views Israel as an oppressor nation that violates Palestinian human rights
- Opposed U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq throughout the 1990s
- Opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of both the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. She is also an Advisory Board member of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Viewing Israel as an oppressor nation that violates Palestinian human rights, Bennis has referred to the 1948 creation of the Jewish state as "the Palestinian catastrophe … al Nakba." She characterized Israel’s 2004 assassination of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin as a cold-blooded "murder" and has condemned Israel for wanting the Palestinian Authority to arrest Hamas operatives who she said may not have had "any involvement in military or terrorist attacks." In September 2000 she stated that the newly launched Palestinian Intifada "may give us a chance to challenge [Israel's] apartheid character." A strong advocate of the Palestinian "right of return" to Israel, Bennis says: “Certainly not all Palestinian refugees will ultimately opt to return. But the right to return is absolute, and cannot be compromised away.”
In a December 2006 interview, Bennis made the following comments regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict:
“The Israeli goal has always been to maximize the amount of land that they control and that becomes part of their state with the minimum number of people on it. ... [Look at] how the Israeli military has gone after Palestinians in their own homes, sometimes for no reason, sometimes because a wanted fugitive was thought to have been in that house. Someone is convicted of a crime and his parents’ house is destroyed. … If we talk about what is going to make America safer, … getting the U.S. out of the business of supporting the occupation of Arab lands, by its own soldiers in Iraq and by Israel in Palestine, would be the single biggest thing that would begin the process of minimizing the antagonism toward the U.S., which is grounded in very real U.S. policies."
Bennis worked as a journalist at the United Nations during the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War. She criticized America for its alleged domination of the UN, and she opposed the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq throughout the 1990s. In 1999 she accompanied a group of congressional aides to Iraq to study the humanitarian impact of those sanctions, and thereafter joined former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday in a speaking tour aimed at raising anti-sanction public sentiment around the world. In a related matter, Bennis defended the UN in the Oil for Food scandals.
Bennis said the following about the 2008-09 war between Israel and Hamas, in which Israel responded militarily to Hamas' repeated rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns:
"Israel’s claim that it is ‘responding to’ or ‘retaliating for’ Palestinian rocket attacks is spurious. The [Palestinian] rocket fire as currently used is indeed illegal ... However, that rocket fire, illegal or not, does not give Israel the right to punish the entire population for those actions. Such vengeance is the very essence of 'collective punishment' and is therefore unequivocally prohibited by the Geneva conventions....
"The U.S. is also directly complicit in the violations of the Geneva Convention inherent in Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip ... [which has been] backed and supported by the U.S. and others in the international community….
"Still another violation involves the disproportionate nature of the [Israeli] military attack … [whose effect] far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians….
"The United States remains directly complicit in Israeli violations of both U.S. domestic and international law through its continual provision of military aid..."
Bennis has authored such books as Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer (2007); Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis (2003); Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN (2000); Altered States: A Reader in the New World Order (1994); Beyond the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader (1991); and From Stones to Statehood: The Palestinian Uprising (1990).
In addition, Bennis has contributed numerous articles to the website ZNet, which also features the writings of Anthony Arnove, Jessica Azulay, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Edward Herman, Robert Jensen, George Monbiot, John Pilger, Milan Rai, Arundhati Roy, Stephen Shalom, Norman Solomon, Mark Steel, Paul Street, Maria Tomchick, and Tim Wise.
Bennis works closely with the the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, which is led by the longtime pro-Castro communist Leslie Cagan.