No occupant of the White House has demonstrated more hostility towards the country’s Muslim minority than US President Donald Trump, who has cast them as dangerous outsiders, banned the visitation of their families from select Muslim majority countries, and called for Nazi-era surveillance and harassment of their communities, including suggesting they should be tracked via special “ID cards” and registry.
Thus, it’s not surprising prominent Muslim American elected officials are enthusiastically endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden in his bid to oust Trump in the presidential election, which is now fewer than 100 days away.
“Joe Biden’s presence serves not only to galvanize Muslim Americans to cast their ballots, but to usher in an era of engaging with Muslim American communities.”
“Joe Biden’s presence serves not only to galvanize Muslim Americans to cast their ballots, but to usher in an era of engaging with Muslim American communities under a Biden administration,” said Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of Emgage Action, a group that aims to turn out a high percentage of Muslim American voters on November 3.
A draft of the 2020 Democratic Party platform includes a promise to repeal Trump’s “Muslim ban,” end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, prioritize a return to nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and shut down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
No doubt the aforementioned proposed policy prescriptions signal that the candidate is shuffling towards both the foreign policy wishes of Muslim Americans and the Democratic Party’s progressive base, but notably absent is a promise to end Israel’s violations of international and human rights laws against the Palestinian people.
In fact, Biden’s position on Israel has been described as only a “pinch less hawkish than Trump’s, but to the right of those of Obama,” with the Democratic Party flag bearer offering only pro-forma odes to seeking peace through diplomacy, while at the same time denouncing the constitutionally protected right of US citizens to support a boycott of Israeli products.
“As Democrats, we seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security, and democracy for all,” reads the draft. “No matter what the final resolution regarding states and borders, Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve peace, equal rights, dignity, and security.”
Pro-Palestinian organizations and human rights activists are rightfully outraged Biden’s platform fails to mention the word “occupation.”
Pro-Palestinian organizations and human rights activists are rightfully outraged Biden’s platform fails to mention the word “occupation” and that he has promised to maintain US military aid to Israel, even if the Netanyahu-Gantz government fulfils its promise to annex the West Bank in defiance of international law.
An open letter signed by more than 100 progressive, anti-war, and faith-based US organizations calls upon Biden to “adopt a principled foreign policy towards Israel and the Palestinian people based on justice, freedom, equality, and human dignity.”
The letter reads as a reminder that through its “unlimited diplomatic protection and massive military financing,” the US has enabled Israel to “entrench its occupation, expand its illegal settlements, impose a 13-year-long siege and wage three wars against Gaza, [and] pass laws that officially deny equal rights to Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, all under the veneer of peacemaking.”
It also reminds Biden that a “majority of American voters, including many Jewish voters, young voters, and voters of color” are looking for a dramatic change to the way in which the US provides Israel with tacit support for its criminal settler-colonial enterprise, veto protection from United Nations enforcement of resolutions in the Security Council, and a no-strings-attached military aid package.
Unwavering support for Israel has declined dramatically among Democratic voters during the past decade.
Unwavering support for Israel has declined dramatically among Democratic voters during the past decade, especially among the most agitated wing of the party, the 18-35-year-old demographic, which accurately views the Palestinian people as victims of an illegal Israeli occupation, one underwritten by the military might of the US.
“In Congress, a sidling away from Israel among Democrats may already be underway,” observed Shmuel Rosner for The New York Times in 2016. “Once, Democratic legislators had to worry about appearing unsupportive of Israel; today some of them — especially those who need to be re-elected by liberal voters — seem to have the opposite concern: They do not want to be seen as too supportive.”
This changing sentiment against Israel was recently reflected in the way 13 congressional and senate Democrats, including Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, and Rashida Tlaid, published a letter pledging to “pursue legislation that conditions” US military aid in a way that ensures US taxpayers “are not supporting annexation” of the West Bank.
Another indication of the trend to hold Israel accountable, is the recent primary defeat of one of the staunchest supporters of Israeli policies, Congressman Eliot Engel, a 30+ year veteran Democratic New York Representative. According to Shemi Shalev of Haaretz, pro-Israel groups spent millions of dollars to support Engel while old-guard Democrats including Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pilosi intervened on his behalf.
Biden’s reluctance to move in step with the increasingly liberal-progressive base, is characteristic of the stubborn loyalty that centrist Democrats share with Republicans towards maintaining the “special relationship.”
Biden’s reluctance to move in step with the attitudes and energy of the Democratic Party’s increasingly liberal-progressive base and the American public writ large, as it pertains to the US-Israel relationship, is characteristic of the stubborn loyalty that centrist Democratic lawmakers share with their Republican colleagues towards maintaining the “special relationship,” no matter what.
It’s worth remembering how the Israeli government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly undermined and humiliated the Obama-Biden administration by partnering with Republican lawmakers to subvert the Iranian denuclearization deal, culminating with the Israeli prime minister delivering an unhinged diatribe from the floor of the US Congress, marking an unprecedented moment in US history in which a foreign leader was invited by an opposition party to foil US foreign policy objectives.
That said, Biden has successfully pulled together the broadest coalition of voters since the election of Obama in 2008, and thus enjoys an almost unassailable lead over Trump with roughly three months to go until election day. From an electoral strategy perspective only, it probably matters not to Biden’s chances of victory whether or not he toughens his party’s policy language towards Israel’s international law violations. This election is more a referendum of Trump’s leadership failures and corruption.
But in the age of “Black Lives Matter,” anti-racist movements are successfully righting the country’s moral wrongs, bringing questionable US foreign policy into increasing public scrutiny. Already, Shalev points out: “Biden has criticized Netanyahu’s planned annexation, labeling it… as a grave mistake. Biden has no interest in highlighting his differences with Netanyahu – but annexation could force his hand. The rise of the radicals could compel him to stiffen his opposition to a move that he explicitly warned against but, under other circumstances, he could very well ignore. If Biden wins, he will carry his party’s escalating censure of annexation into the White House.”
If not, while Biden may escape paying a political price for his stubborn and blind loyalty towards Israel in 2020, he may lose the coalition he has mobilized in the 2022 midterms and 2024 general election should he not deliver on his promise to address racism and injustice for all peoples, including the Palestinians.