In case any of you didn’t know it, I’m a Jew. And proud of it. So I don’t take too kindly to people telling me that I’m an anti-Semite.
No, Joe Biden didn’t tell me that to my face. But he might just as well have. Over the past few weeks, in an attempt to nail down the support of wealthy pro-Israel Democrats, his foreign policy chief, Tony Blinken, has been mouthing the worst platitudes about Biden’s future Israel policy. That bothered me quite a bit. But not enough to write a post. For that, I have to really get ticked off.
No, tonight Biden really stuck his foot in it as far as I’m concerned. This is the NY Times report:
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told donors on a call on Tuesday that it was important to condemn criticism of Israel that drifts toward anti-Semitism, including on the political left, even as he acknowledged that he had “gotten in trouble” for such calls in the past.
“Criticism of Israel’s policy is not anti-Semitism,” Mr. Biden said. “But too often that criticism from the left morphs into anti-Semitism.”
Though this was among the worst of the comments quoted, there were others too. The following comments weren’t so much offensive, as disingenuous and showed a complete divorce from any Israeli political reality:
Mr. Biden himself said he was disappointed in Mr. Netanyahu for having moved “so, so far to the right” and called for Israel to “stop the threat of annexation” of West Bank territories.
“It’ll choke off any hope of peace,” Mr. Biden said, according to a pool report.
Netanyahu “moved to the right?” Um, where have you been all these years, Joe? Bibi didn’t move to the right. He’s been a fascist and son of a fascist all his political life. And as for the “threat of annexation”–Joe, that’s not a threat, that’s a promise. Israel will annex the Jordan Valley. The question is what are you going to do about it when he does. And the answer is clear–nothing. Aside from the usual nostrums and bromides. So that makes strike 2 for Joe in my book.
As for his third strike, read this:
Mr. Biden said “my commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable” and pledged to reverse actions taken under President Trump, including restoring diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Biden has previously said that Mr. Trump should not have moved the United States Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv but that he would not move it back.
Biden actually endorses one of the worst decisions of Trump’s presidency regarding Israel, moving the embassy to the divided city of Jerusalem: endorsing Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, including the portion supposedly reserved for a Palestinian capital. This Democratic presidential hopeful, who served as vice president in an administration which refused to do any of these things, has swallowed the poison pill and declared it delicious.
Of course, it’s totally unsurprising that this event was a “virtual fundraiser” hosted by Dan Shapiro and Deborah Lipstadt, two of the most insufferable liberal Zionists in America.
In earlier statements, Blinken marked a pointed division between his candidate and Bernie Sanders, who said that U.S. aid to Israel should be conditioned on Israeli adherence to international law, including settlements:
“He would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes. Period. Full stop. He said it; he’s committed to it.
The Biden advisor also emphasized Biden’s opposition not only to the BDS movement, but to any UN criticism of Israeli policy:
Blinken [said] that Biden will push back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as well as efforts to denounce Israel for its violations of international law at the United Nations.
“Will we get it to stop? No, I don’t think that’s possible,” he said of the UN criticism of Israel. “Will we stand up forcefully against it and try to prevent it, defuse it and defeat it? Absolutely.”
Blinken then went much farther than the Obama administration in demanding that the Palestinians accept Israel “as a Jewish state.” This is precisely the articulation of Bibi Netanyahu. But not the view of Barack Obama, who never made such an outrageous demand of Palestinians.
And he added for good measure, this even more insulting condescension toward the Palestinian people and its leadership:
“In the category of ‘Never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’, I think a reminder to Palestinians… that they can and should do better and deserve better and that requires leadership: leadership to make clear the reality of the Jewish state; leadership to make clear the need to end incitement and violence; leadership to bring people along for the prospect of negotiating,”
If I had a nickel for every time an insufferable twit like this, either a pro-Israel apologist or politician, offered uninvited advice to Palestinians saying they “deserved better” and would do so much better if they only “accepted the reality of things.” Meaning they should accept the decimation of every aspiration they might have and every right to justice. If I had all those nickels I’d be a rich man.
Joe Biden supports a two state solution. It is a dead letter. Some may not see the danger is pinning an entire foreign policy on a faded delusion. But there is a steep price. When you base such policy on the belief in something that does not and cannot exist, you render yourself irrelevant to the region. You offer no solution. You offer only meaningless houses built of sand.
This means that the region will continue to shake with unrest like a powder keg about to explode. And Biden will have nothing relevant to say. He will have nothing to offer. He will be worse than Obama, who himself was a failure in the region. He will be slightly better than Trump. But that’s not saying much. In fact, it’s saying very little. It’s like the doctor telling you he has good news and bad news. The good news: you don’t have terminal cancer. The bad news: you do have multiple sclerosis.
Returning to the opening passage in this post: I am both a Jew and a progressive (or to use Biden’s term, “leftist”). I am not only critical of Israel, but I reject it as a Jewish supremacist state. I reject it as an apartheid state. And I do this as a proud Diaspora Jew. I accept Israel as a democratic state “for all its citizens.” As a state based in justice for all. A state acknowledging the sins of its past (Nakba) and dedicated to rectifying them. I will permit no one to tell me that these views are anti-Semitic. No one. Not a Jew. Not a non-Jew. Especially not a non-Jew presidential candidate who’s kissing the ass of pro-Israel donors to pass an Israel Lobby litmus test.
Joe Biden is Dickens’ version of Christmas Past. He is out of touch with progressive Democrats. He isn’t worthy of our support. He’s waging a campaign steeped in shibboleths and vapid ideas concerning Israel and many other issues. I will not vote for him. Not now. Not ever.
Others may argue that Trump is such a profound danger to the Republic that we should hold our noses and vote for the best candidate. But frankly, I’m tired of voting for the least of two evils. It offers me the choice of voting for a man who is toxic to the Middle East and my country; or a man who professes to support reform and moderation, but who offers nothing but the suffocating status quo. In both cases, the blood of Jews and Palestinians will flow. The question is will it flow in rivulets or in a torrent? What sort of bargain is that? It’s one I refuse to make.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.