Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Biden administration’s foreign policy is a mess and lacks any real consistency. This messiness was on full display in the president’s brief address on Thursday evening, a plea for Congressional funding of both the US struggle to get Russia back out of Ukraine and of support for the extremist Netanyahu government’s combination of targeting Hamas and its genocidal campaign against the civilians of Gaza.
Biden linked Ukraine’s struggle against Russia and Israel’s struggle against Hamas by depicting the conflict as one of authoritarianism versus democracy.
Biden denounced Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for depicting Ukraine as an artificial country, granted an identity by the Soviet Union, which the Russian Federation could now withdraw at will.
He made an analogy to Hamas’s determination to destroy Israel.
Everything is wrong with Biden’s equivalencies and analogies. It is not clear how “democratic” the government of Binyamin Netanyahu was before this crisis. Netanyahu is on trial for corruption. He brought into his cabinet parties that not so long ago were on the US State Department terrorist watchlist. Netanyahu and his extreme-right allies were attempting to gut the Israeli supreme court and to move Israel in the direction of an illiberal democracy. They spoke of wiping Palestinian towns off the map. That was the reason Netanyahu had never been invited to the White House.
Despite Biden’s gestures toward Palestinian dignity and self-determination, regarding which he instanced the toothless Palestine Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, his administration has stood idly by, as did the administrations of Trump, Obama, and Bush, as Israel has illegally poured hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters into Palestinian areas, who have stolen the lands of Palestinian families and have increasingly subjected them to pogroms. Abbas’s police, which are basically adjuncts to the Israeli occupation forces, are only allowed to patrol 40% of the West Bank, and even there they are routinely over-ruled by the Israeli Army.
The Israeli squatters, who now outnumber Detroit in their population, have divvied up the Palestinian West Bank with the full backing of the Israeli government, and make a two-state solution impossible — indeed, it has been impossible since about 2000, when Binyamin Netanyahu boasted of having killed and buried it.
Let us consider all the things Biden left out.
It is the Israelis who played Putin in 1967 when they illegally seized the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, occupying neighbors’ territory in contravention of the UN Charter.
It is the Israelis who deny that there is an organic Palestinian nation, just as Putin denies there is a Ukrainian one.
It is the Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, who vows there will never be a Palestinian state.
Biden gave full-throated supported to the Israeli government’s designs on Gaza, which go substantially beyond a punitive expedition to punish or eradicate Hamas for its horrific attack of October 7. But he neglected to note that Israel has cut off water, electricity and food from the 2.2 million innocent civilians in Gaza, who have been under a severe Israeli blockade since 2007.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union Commission, said of Putin’s actions in Ukraine, “Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity, are war crimes. Cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity and heating with winter coming – these are acts of pure terror. And we have to call it as such.”
Russia’s attacks against civilian infrastructure, especially electricity, are war crimes.
Cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity and heating with winter coming – these are acts of pure terror.
And we have to call it as such. https://t.co/3WY743k1iH
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 19, 2022
The US stance on Russian actions in occupying the Donbass region of Ukraine and of waging a total war on Ukrainian citizens derives its moral force from an upholding of a “rules-based international order.”
Yet the Netanyahu government is acting even more harshly and illegally toward the women, children and other innocent noncombatants of Palestinian Gaza than Russia has acted toward those of Ukraine, bad as Russian behavior has been. The Israeli goal is explicitly the complete destruction of civilian infrastructure and the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians for the actions of a few Hamas cadres.
The hypocrisy of Biden saying he cares about these Palestinian civilians, when he vetoed at the UN Security Council a Brazilian resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, is breathtaking. His elision of the whole history of the Israeli dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians makes it impossible for him even to understand what is going on at the moment.
The professional diplomats in Biden’s State Department know that there is something rotten in Denmark. One has already noisily resigned over Biden’s embrace of the odious Netanyahu, and several others are sending a dissent up channels.
It isn’t hard. The Israeli Apartheid toward the Palestinians has to end. Palestinians must be given the basic human dignity of citizenship in a state that could protect their rights. It is only these steps that can deradicalize some of the Palestinian youths who have turned to terrorism. The lives of Israeli civilians are precious and must be protected from the war crimes of Hamas. But it simply is not possible to implement such a peace and mutual understanding under conditions of occupation and Apartheid.
Biden could force a resolution if he wanted to. He doesn’t. He is stuck in a paradigm from his youth in the Senate of the 1970s, when Israel was considered a democracy, and the occupation of the Palestinian territories was thought to be momentary. He is also mired in the long American policy of kicking the Palestine can down the road while mouthing platitudes about a (non-existent and impossible) two-state solution. Biden’s greenlighting of an Israeli ground operation in Gaza is another typical Ugly American atrocity from which it will take decades for the US reputation in most of the world to recover.