Joe Biden Needs to Break the Cycle of Giving Israel a Pass

Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders said it best in his New York Times op-ed piece on Friday: “The U.S. must stop being an apologist for the Netanyahu government.”

After more than a week of relentless Israeli bombardment in Gaza that has to date claimed over 200 Palestinians, many of which are children, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Monday that assaults would continue despite growing international pressure to cease fire.

After throwing his unconditional support behind Israel last week, saying Israel’s violence does not represent a “significant overreaction,” U.S. President Joe Biden is now willing to back a cease fire.

Willing to back a cease fire.

Not demand one.

Back one.

While Biden is surprising even progressives with bold actions on infrastructure, jobs, taxation, climate, the economy, and the pandemic, it appears international affairs is the house the old Sen. Joe Biden haunts.

After a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the White House released the statement:

“The president reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The president welcomed efforts to address intercommunal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem. He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians. The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. The president expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”

There it is again, the knee-jerk response to any conflict with its Arab neighbors: “Israel has a right to defend itself.”

Sen. Sanders–who is Jewish–explained in his Times op-ed:

“No one is arguing that Israel, or any government, does not have the right to self-defense. Why is the question almost never asked: ‘What are the rights of the Palestinian people?'”

There will never be a resolution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict as long as the United States keeps enabling Israel.

For the third time in a week, the U.S. obstructed a joint United Nations Security Council statement calling for a cessation to the violence.

The Washington Post recently reported the Biden administration’s approval of $735 million in weapons sales to Israel, in addition to the U.S.-made warplanes and bombs currently being dropped on hospitals and health clinics, prompting Congressmember Ilhan Omar (D-Mich.) to state:

“It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians.”

Some of Israel’s own television reporters are facing threats from far-right Israeli extremists in the wake of an Israeli airstrike that toppled a 15-story block housing offices belonging to the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

Rashid Khalidi Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, stated in a recent interview on Democracy Now!:

“Gaza is not just two million people in a strip of land 356 square miles. These are people who were driven from their homes in 1948 and who have been denied permission to return to those homes and have been stripped of their property by Israeli laws. Nobody talks about this in Washington. Nobody talks about the fact that—a terrible attack on a synagogue, which happened, for example, in Lod, a city that Israelis call Lod, has been featured in all the American media. The third-holiest mosque in Islam, built in the eighth century, has been attacked repeatedly. Stun grenades, tear gas bombs have been fired into the precincts of the mosque as worshipers are praying in Ramadan. I haven’t heard a peep out of an American official about this.”

NY Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Biden, stating:

“By only stepping in to name Hamas’ actions—which are condemnable—and refusing to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, Biden reinforces the false idea that Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence. This is not neutral language. It takes a side—the side of occupation.”

Israeli–not Palestinian–human rights group B’Tselem has accused Israel of committing war crimes through its murdering of blockaded civilians and destroying infrastructure.

In January, B’Tselem published “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid,” in which it stated:

“Israel accords Palestinians a different package of rights in every one of these units– all of which are inferior compared to the rights afforded to Jewish citizens. The goal of Jewish supremacy is advanced differently in every unit, and the resulting forms of injustice differ: the lived experience of Palestinians in blockaded Gaza is unlike that of Palestinian subjects in the West Bank, permanent residents in East Jerusalem or Palestinian citizens within sovereign Israeli territory. Yet these are variations on the fact that all Palestinians living under Israeli rule are treated as inferior in rights and status to Jews who live in the very same area.”

In a report titled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” Human Rights Watch explained:

“For the past 54 years, Israeli authorities have facilitated the transfer of Jewish Israelis to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and granted them a superior status under the law as compared to Palestinians living in the same territory when it comes to civil rights, access to land, and freedom to move, build, and confer residency rights to close relatives. While Palestinians have a limited degree of self-rule in parts of the OPT, Israel retains primary control over borders, airspace, the movement of people and goods, security, and the registry of the entire population, which in turn dictates such matters as legal status and eligibility to receive identity cards.”

Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib asked the rhetorical question “How many Palestinians have to die for their lives to matter?” in an impassioned floor speech on Friday.

She asserted:

“Palestinians aren’t going anywhere no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government.”

According to the UN more than 2,500 Palestinians have been rendered homeless; more than 38,000 are displaced while Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue pounding Hamas.

Last year in a presidential primary debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders called Netanyahu a “reactionary racist,” explaining:

“What our foreign policy should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans.”  

Sadly, President Biden–standing right next to Sen. Sanders when he said that–has not taken heed.

As long as he doesn’t, what incentive does Netanyahu have to stop the bloodshed?

Image credit: Patrick Perkins via Unsplash

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.