Joe Biden's moral collapse on Gaza could help Donald Trump win

Joe Biden; Gaza, Rafah Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
Joe Biden; Gaza, Rafah Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
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Days ago, when the United States cast the only vote in the U.N. Security Council against a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza, it was yet another move by President Biden to serve as the main enabler for Israel’s ongoing mass murder of Palestinian people. Since early October, nearly 30,000 have been killed by U.S. weaponry and, increasingly, by hunger and disease. The cruelty and magnitude of the slaughter are repugnant to anyone who isn’t somehow numb to the human agony.

Such numbing is widespread in the U.S. Some factors include ethnocentric, racial and religious biases against Arabs and Muslims. The steep pro-Israel tilt of news media runs parallel to the slant of U.S. government officials, with language that routinely conveys much lower regard for Palestinian lives than Israeli lives.

And while the credibility of the Israeli government has tumbled, the brawny arms of the Israel lobby — notably AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel — still exert enormous leverage over the vast majority of Congress. Few legislators are willing to vote against the massive military aid that makes the carnage in Gaza possible.

A chilling example is Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. On the night of Feb. 12, he took to the Senate floor and condemned Israel in no uncertain terms. “Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food,” he said. “In addition to the horror of that news, one other thing is true. That is a war crime. It is a textbook war crime. And that makes those who orchestrate it war criminals.”

Watching video from Van Hollen’s impassioned speech, you might assume that he would vote against sending $14 billion in further military aid to those “war criminals.” But hours later, he did just the opposite. As journalist Ryan Grim noted, “the senator’s speech pulsed with moral clarity — until it petered out into a stumbling rationale for his forthcoming yes vote.”

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Only three senators in the Democratic caucus — Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders, both of Vermont — voted no. Sanders delivered a powerful speech calling for decency instead of further moral collapse from the top of the U.S. government.

While the Senate deliberated, the White House again made clear that it wasn’t serious about getting in the way of Israel’s planned assault on the city of Rafah. That’s where most of Gaza’s 2.2 million surviving residents have taken unsafe refuge from the Orwellian-named Israel Defense Forces.

An exchange at a White House news conference underscored that Biden is determined to keep enabling Israel’s continuous war crimes in Gaza:

Reporter: Has the president ever threatened to strip military assistance from Israel if they move ahead with a Rafah operation that does not take into consequence what happens with civilians?

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby: We’re going to continue to support Israel. They have a right to defend themselves against Hamas and we’re going to continue to make sure they have the tools and the capabilities to do that.

Later, Politico summed it up: “The Biden administration is not planning to punish Israel if it launches a military campaign in Rafah without ensuring civilian safety.” Citing interviews with three U.S. officials, the article reported that “no reprimand plans are in the works, meaning Israeli forces could enter the city and harm civilians without facing American consequences.”

Biden continues to serve as an accomplice while mouthing platitudes of concern about the lives of civilians in Gaza. Month after month, he has done all he can to supply the Israeli military to the max.

Under an apt headline — “Biden Is Mad at Netanyahu? Spare Me.” — Jack Mirkinson of The Nation wrote in mid-February:

In the real world, Biden and his legislative partners have continued to arm Israel; the Democratic leadership in the Senate actually brought people in on Super Bowl Sunday to take a vote on a bill that would, along with rearming Ukraine, send Israel another $14.1 billion for what is euphemistically dubbed "security assistance.”

Ever since October, protests and activism in many parts of the country have challenged U.S. support for Israel’s military assault on Gaza. However, boosted by revulsion at the atrocities that Hamas committed against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, the usual rationales for supporting Israel’s violence against Palestinians have been hard at work.

In this election year, an additional factor looms large. The prospect of Donald Trump returning to power is all too real. And with Biden set to be the Democratic nominee, many individuals and groups are careful to avoid saying anything that might sound overly critical of the president they want to see re-elected.

Instead of candor, the routine choices have been euphemisms and silence. Morally and politically, that’s a big mistake.

The electoral base that Biden will need to win this year's election is heavily against his support for Israel’s war on Gaza. Polling shows that young people in particular are overwhelmingly opposed. Most have seen through the thin veneer of his weak pleas for Israel to not kill so many civilians.

No amount of evasions, silence or doubletalk can make Biden’s policies morally acceptable. But while the administration combines its PR hand-wringing with an endless flow of arms and military supplies, Biden apologists must resort to evasion and verbal gymnastics to defend the indefensible.

A better course of action would be actual candor about current realities: Biden’s moral collapse is enabling the Israeli government to continue, with impunity, its large-scale massacre of Palestinian people. In the process, Biden is increasing the chances that the Republican Party, led by fascistic Donald Trump, will gain control of the White House in January.