The Biden administration could restrain Israel from carrying out possibly genocidal plans in Gaza. Instead it is egging them on.
In the wake of the devastating attack on Israel by Hamas last Saturday, it was inevitable that Israel would respond with brutal force. Hamas surely knew that when they launched the attack, and it remains to be seen how prepared they and other armed groups in Gaza are to deal with what is still to come. What we’ve seen already has been horrifying, and it is surely only the beginning in Gaza.
The feeling in Israel after Hamas’ raids into Israel is similar to what was felt in the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In both cases, the unimaginable and shocking nature of the massive war crimes that were committed led to rage, bloodlust, and a widespread demand for vengeance. In 2001, there was no one who could have possibly restrained the United States.
But the U.S. could, today, restrain Israel. It is not realistic to expect the United States to even try to stop Israel from attacking Gaza. But the idea of restraining Israel from the sort of all-out bloody and indiscriminate attacks—unprecedented even by the already criminal standards of Israel’s history of attacking Gaza—is hardly outlandish.
But U.S. President Joe Biden has made a clear decision to go entirely in the opposite direction. Even as Israeli tanks and ground troops drove into the Gaza Strip there was no American effort to even temper, much less stop, this Israeli onslaught. Even after Israel ordered half of Gaza’s population to move from the north to the south of the Strip–which the United Nations immediately stated was impossible and demanded Israel rescind the order—all White House spokesman John Kirby could say was, “it’s a tall order.” The green light from Washington was clear as day.
Using a leading tool in the Democratic tool chest, Biden and Antony Blinken have stated several times that the U.S. and Israel act in accordance with “the laws of war,” a statement which is not only a demonstrable lie in both cases but also clearly contradicted by Israel’s stated intentions and actions since the brutal Hamas attack on Saturday. They have also said that they urge Israel to protect civilians.
By making these statements, Biden and Blinken draw a false distinction between war crimes on one side and lawful actions on another, when in reality, they are fully aware that Israel is committing heinous war crimes and is about to do even worse. That is a politically safe way to give not just tacit approval to those war crimes but to cover for them as well.
The subterfuge is blatant, and it’s a mark of the success of the political deception and the sheepish complicity of most media that it is passing largely without question. Israel, gripped in that 9/11-like rage, has cut off food, water, electricity, and gas to Gaza. That is a blatant war crime, collective punishment. They did not do so quietly, as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s declaration that Israel was doing this—along with his characterization of Palestinians as “human animals”—was loud and clear, and widely reported even in the United States.
Israel’s bombing of Gaza since Saturday has targeted hospitals, schools, marketplaces, mosques, shelters, apartment complexes and other civilian sites. There has been no effort to avoid even one civilian casualty. Israel told Gaza’s residents to leave, but the bombing is everywhere. Some tried to get to the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the one exit from Gaza that Israel does not control and has not sealed off. But Israel has been bombing there too, ensuring that Gazans could not flee anywhere at all. And, in any case, many reasonably suspect that this is another ethnic cleansing campaign, and they won’t ever be allowed back.
Americans who are old enough to remember September 11 surely recognize the rage that is gripping Israel and the disregard for civilian life, the life of the other (particularly the darker-skinned other) that rage at such a horrifying attack causes. But that doesn’t excuse or justify war crimes. Worse, the United States which, however much empathy it might feel for Israelis right now, was not itself the victim here, cannot hide behind that excuse of rage this time. We needed to be the level-headed friend, offering support but trying to restrain our ally from rash actions in the heat of anger.
Instead, even if unsurprisingly, we have encouraged it. We have moved warships into the eastern Mediterranean to guard against any allies of the Palestinians getting involved (only Israel’s allies may join in). We have supplied even more weapons. We have sent our top officials to Israel to coordinate. Most of all, we have done absolutely nothing to protect innocent Palestinians, even while the death toll in Gaza has rapidly caught up to the abominable number of dead and wounded in Israel and, by the time you read this, will likely have surpassed it. Biden and Blinken have not seen fit to mention this, nor the more than 440 children (at this writing) known to have been killed in Gaza. …