Joe Biden's lethal trap: His embrace of Israel has become support for war crimes

Biden talks about compassion and restraint, while offering unconditional assault for Israeli carnage in Gaza

By Norman Solomon

Contributing Writer

Published October 31, 2023 9:00AM (EDT)

US President Joe Biden is welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 18, 2023. (GPO/ Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden is welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 18, 2023. (GPO/ Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

For the past three weeks, President Biden has played a key role in backing Israel’s worsening war crimes while touting himself as a compassionate advocate of restraint. That pretense looks like lethal nonsense to most of the world as Israel persists with mass killing of civilians in Gaza.

The same standards that led to fully justified condemnation of Hamas’ murders of more than a thousand Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 should apply to the Israeli military's ongoing assault on Gaza, which has already taken the lives of several times as many Palestinian civilians. And it's clear that Israel is just getting started.

“We need an immediate ceasefire,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., wrote in an email Saturday evening, “but the White House and Congress continue to unconditionally support the Israeli government’s genocidal actions.”

That unconditional support makes Biden and the vast majority of Congress directly complicit in mass murder and, at least arguably, also in genocide, which is defined as “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.” That definition would seem to fit the words and deeds of Israel’s leaders to this point.

“Israel has dropped approximately 12,000 tons of explosives on Gaza so far and has reportedly killed multiple senior Hamas commanders, but the majority of the casualties have been women and children,” Time magazine reported at the end of last week. Israel’s military has killed civilians in homes, stores, markets, mosques, refugee camps and health care facilities. We can expect information about such realities to become even sparser now that communications between Gaza and the outside world are only intermittently available, at best.

For reporters, being on the ground in Gaza is very dangerous; Israel’s assault has already killed at least 27 journalists. From the Israeli government's point of view, the fewer journalists are reporting directly from Gaza, the better. If the international media must rely on official handouts, news conferences and interviews, Israel can control more of the narrative.

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Pro-Israel frames of reference and word choices are routine in U.S. mainstream media. Yet some exceptional reporting has shed light on the merciless cruelty of Israel’s actions in Gaza, a congested enclave of 2.2 million people with roughly the same land area as the city of Philadelphia.

After Biden spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu last week, the White House issued a statement without the slightest expression of concern about the carnage and destruction that Israeli bombing was inflicting on civilians in Gaza.

On Oct. 28, "PBS News Weekend" provided a human reality check as Israel began a ground assault while stepping up its bombing of Gaza. “As Israeli ground operations intensified there, suddenly the phone and internet signal went out,” correspondent Leila Molana-Allen reported. “So people in Gaza, voiceless through the night as they were under these intense bombardments ... were unable to call ambulances, and we’ve heard this morning that ambulance drivers were standing at high points throughout, trying to see where the explosions were, so they could just drive directly there. People unable to communicate with their families to see if they’re all right. People this morning saying, ‘We’ve been digging children out of the rubble with our bare hands because we can’t call for help.’”

While residents of Gaza “are under some of the most intense bombardment we’ve ever seen,” Molana-Allen added, they have no safe place to go: “Even though they’re still being told to move to the south, in fact most people can’t get to the south because they have no fuel for their cars, they can’t travel and even in the south bombardment continues.”

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Meanwhile, Biden has continued to express his unequivocal support for Israel's actions. After he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, the White House issued a statement without the slightest expression of concern about the carnage and destruction that Israel’s bombing campaign was inflicting on civilians in Gaza. Instead, the statement simply said that the president had “reiterated that Israel has every right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism and to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.”

Biden’s support for the relentless assault on Gaza is largely echoed in Congress. As Israel began its fourth week of this rapidly escalating war, only 18 members of the House appeared on the list of co-sponsors for H.Res. 786, “Calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” All 18 of those members are people of color.

While Israel kills large numbers of Palestinian civilians each day — and clearly intends to kill many thousands more — we can see the “progressive” masks falling away from numerous members of Congress who remain silent, as if paralyzed by political conformity and cowardice.

“In a dark time,” poet Theodore Roethke wrote, “the eye begins to see.”

By Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of many books, including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." His latest book, "War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine," was published in June 2023.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Commentary Foreign Policy Gaza Hamas Israel Joe Biden Palestinians War