US President Joe Biden is forging ahead with the most progressive and forward-looking agenda since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in bringing economic relief to the underclass and underemployed. Indeed, Biden has promised to revamp the country’s crumbling infrastructure and invest in climate friendly initiatives, but when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he remains a relic of the past and history will judge him unkindly for that.
The new President has promised to restore US leadership by assuring allies that the world’s leading superpower is committed to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and that the four years of Donald Trump were an aberration, not the norm for “American values.” Biden has reversed Trump’s Muslim travel ban, re-entered the Paris Climate Accords, denounced China’s human rights violations, removed sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) judges and then slapped them on Russian officials for interfering in the 2016 election.
The metaphorical cat has somehow got Biden’s tongue, even as senior members within his own party condemn Israel’s latest round of violence against Palestinians.
But on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, the metaphorical cat has somehow got Biden’s tongue, even as senior members within his own party condemn the latest round of violence against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem over the weekend. When you compare what actually happened in Jerusalem in recent days to the response given by the Biden administration, you see how the President has completely disconnected himself from reality for Israel’s convenience.
What happened was this: Israeli security forces stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, spraying tens of thousands of Palestinian worshippers with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades as they gathered for evening prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan, leaving hundreds injured and dozens hospitalized.
Israel’s motive was to crackdown on those who have participated in the peaceful protests against the Israeli government’s violent expulsion of 28 Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, located just a few minutes’ walk from Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israel’s objective is to forcibly displace all Palestinians from Jerusalem to secure the future of the ancient city as a Jewish capital for the Jewish people, in other words, to carry on its ethnic cleansing of the occupied neighborhoods of the city.
The Biden administration’s response?
“We are extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah. We call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence,” reads a statement from the US State Department on May 7.
This is a Trump-like distortion of objective reality. The violent expulsion of an indigenous population from their land is not a “confrontation.” It’s ethnic cleansing! Similarly, a military raid on worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque is also not a “confrontation.” It’s an act of state terrorism! Even worse, on May 10, reports began to circulate that Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, leaving at least nine dead, including children. The strikes were apparently made after Hamas launched rockets on Israel in response to its attack on al-Aqsa.
I mean, it’s not like Israeli authorities are even trying to hide their intent to expel Palestinians, with the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, telling the New York Times, “This is a Jewish country. There’s only one. And of course, there are laws that some people may considers as favoring Jews – it’s Jewish state. It’s here to protect the Jewish people.”
The Biden administration’s sinister effort to whitewash these crimes by holding “both sides” responsible is not one made in isolation, but as part of a trend.
Moreover, the Biden administration’s sinister effort to whitewash these crimes by holding “both sides” responsible is not one made in isolation, but as part of a trend. When hundreds of Israeli settlers marched through the streets of Jerusalem in April, chanting, “Death to Arabs,” the State Department issued only a generic call for calm without identifying the settlers by name, only denouncing “the rhetoric of extremist protesters.”
“It was equally striking that hardly a single member of Congress could muster even a generic condemnation of violence perpetrated by Jewish Israeli extremists, particularly given how traditionally vocal they are whenever violence emanates from Palestinians,” observes Khaled Elgindy, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute. “But none of it was surprising. Indeed, Washington remains firmly in denial about the growing trend of extremism in Israeli politics and society—a reality that has both enabled and fueled it.”
Reputable human rights organizations, including Israel-based B’Tselm and US-based Human Rights Watch, have openly accused Israel of operating a regime of “apartheid” in the Palestinian Territories. Yet, the fact that neither President Biden nor his administration has muttered a word in response to these accusations, leaves him pushing against the arc of history, which Biden has promised to bend towards justice.
Perhaps we should’ve taken Biden at his word when he described himself as a “Zionist” during the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primary.
If there’s a reason to be hopeful for a change in Biden’s indifference towards the Palestinian people, it comes in the form of a growing pro-Palestinian caucus within the Democratic Party, with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders issuing strong and clear condemnations of Israel over the weekend.
“The forced removal of long-time Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah is abhorrent and unacceptable. The Administration should make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately,” tweeted Senator Warren.
“The United States must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward,” tweeted Senator Sanders.
These comments are also representative of a changing American electorate, one that is far less inclined to offer Israel blank check support and uncritical bias than previous generations. Recent polling shows that support for Israel among young adults is at record lows and falling. Thus, these changing attitudes are being reflected by progressive voices within the Congress.
If President Biden is truly committed to universal human rights and democracy, then he can no longer ignore Israel’s systematic violation of both. Nor can he afford to ignore the will of the American people, who are increasingly taking a stance against Israeli cruelty towards the Palestinian people.