columnIsrael at War

Biden’s and Blinken’s words do real harm

The president has been paying a political price for supporting Israel since Oct. 7. But the smears of Israeli actions are only encouraging Hamas and fueling antisemitism.

Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Jerusalem on Feb. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Jerusalem on Feb. 7, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Jonathan S. Tobin. Photo by Tzipora Lifchitz.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Words matter. That’s the thing to remember about the libelous descriptions of Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas terrorists that came forth from both U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in recent days. The administration is paying a political price for standing with the Jewish state after the Oct. 7 pogroms that constituted the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. The left-wing intersectional base of the Democratic Party, including officeholders and the president’s re-election campaign staff, is in open revolt against Biden over his refusal to date to cut off the resupply of arms for the Israel Defense Forces or to go along with U.N. Security Council resolutions to impose a ceasefire that would allow Hamas to survive the war and emerge as its victor.

That’s why it’s possible to dismiss the recent statements by Biden accusing Israel of an “over the top” response to the slaughter, rape, torture and kidnapping of its citizens, and demanding a “prolonged pause” in the war as mere rhetoric aimed at easing the political pressure on the administration. Yet those words do matter, and they are doing far more damage than perhaps American observers, who may view them solely in the context of the president’s increasingly desperate political trouble, understand.

Every sign of weakening U.S. support only encourages Hamas terrorists to hang on longer in the dwindling portions of the Gaza Strip where they remain as Israel’s military methodically closes in on them in their tunnel hideouts. And it prolongs, rather than shortens, the suffering of the remaining Israeli hostages still being held captive by terrorists, as well as the Palestinians in Gaza. If Hamas leaders think that Israel’s sole superpower ally is ready to turn off the supply of arms—either by the excuse of new specious restrictions being imposed by Washington or simply Biden’s whim—then they are willing to wait it out so in the end, they can win.

These hateful and false descriptions of Israeli actions, which are belied by the unprecedented care that the IDF takes to avoid civilian casualties and that have cost soldiers’ lives, also serve to encourage antisemitism in the United States that has been fueled by efforts to delegitimize Israel and its Jewish supporters.

Taking Biden seriously

Granted, an increasing number of Americans are having a hard time taking anything Biden says seriously.

The Special Prosecutor report on the president’s mishandling of classified material provided a damning indictment of his fitness for office when it determined that a prosecution would not go forward, despite clear violations of the law that were committed, because no jury would convict a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and “diminished faculties in advancing age.”

This language about Biden’s fitness overshadowed what should have been the most important aspect of the report—that he was dodging prosecution for mishandling and inappropriately sharing classified material when his Department of Justice chose to indict former President Donald Trump—the presumptive Republican presidential nominee currently leading Biden in the polls—for similar behavior.

The president angrily denounced the report, but it remains to be seen if his assurance that “My memory is fine,” will, as Ari Fleischer speculated, go down as comparable to Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” as words that brought down a presidency.

Sadly, for the president and his supporters, as well as the country as a whole, his furious denunciation of the accusation that he is diminished was undermined only moments later when he stated that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was the president of Mexico. Biden makes such gaffes virtually every day, including some that are especially egregious, like forgetting the name of the Hamas terrorist movement or mixing up French President Emanuel Macron with his predecessor François Mitterrand, who died in 1996, as well as his telling the family of one of the U.S. soldiers slain in Jordan this past week that his son Beau died in Iraq when, in fact, he died of cancer six years later in the United States.

Life goes on in Israel

Whether or not Biden knows that what he says bashes Israel, the harm that he’s doing is real.

After spending a few days in Israel this week—from conversations with a variety of people in various places—it’s easy to see that the people here have bigger worries than what Biden or Blinken thinks of them, their army or even its government. Life goes on as normal in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, though the sense of stress and grief is palatable over the Oct. 7 massacre, the ongoing fate of the hostages and the course of the war, which the overwhelming majority of Israelis support. Some may focus their anger at Hamas, others on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and still others on Israel’s foreign critics or frenemies like Biden and Blinken, but the tension that hangs in the air over everything is hard to miss.

Israelis know they are—as has been the case for their country for its entire 75-plus years of existence—being judged by a double standard applied to no other nation in the world. Most seem prepared to carry on with the burdens of living in a country that remains the object of an international movement bent on its destruction that is viewed by its adherents as a form of “human rights” advocacy. So-called “progressives” seem determined to lend support to a genocidal Islamist terrorist group whose Oct. 7 atrocities were just a trailer for what they intend to do to the rest of Israel’s population if they get the chance. Nevertheless, Israelis—who have seen their country grow in wealth and power from an impoverished backwater to a regional military superpower with a First World economy in just a few decades—aren’t daunted by a few more insults, even from someone who purports to be their best friend, as Biden does.

Blinken Eizenkot Gantz
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, meets with Israeli Minister Gadi Eizenkot and Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv on Feb. 8, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

The West prolongs the conflict

Still, they are well aware of the responsibility that such “friends” must bear for the failure to achieve peace with the Palestinian Arabs. The West has encouraged Palestinians in their consistent refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn. That is demonstrated not just by the support given to the corrupt Palestinian Authority, which subsidizes terrorism by paying murderers and others who commit crimes against Jews or others in Israel salaries and pensions. The same is true of the billions in foreign aid that poured into Gaza in the 16 years during which Hamas ruled it as an independent Palestinian state in all but name.

The extensive tunnel network underneath Gaza’s cities, which may exceed the length of the New York City subway system, was built with money intended by well-meaning Western liberals to help poor Palestinians. That same crowd is now pressuring Biden and Blinken for a ceasefire, which will halt efforts to ensure that Hamas can never again attack Israel, and pushing for Palestinians to have a sovereign state where terrorists can redeem their pledge to repeat the horrors of Oct. 7 again and again. And Biden and Blinken are taking the bait.

Biden’s pronouncements about a Palestinian state won’t make that unlikely prospect any likelier in the foreseeable future. But they do harden the resolve of Hamas to hang tough in their bunkers, constructed with the money given to Palestinians by other “well-meaning” people, whether they, too, are elderly and have bad memories.

The notion that the president can sufficiently endear himself to left-wingers who are demanding a victory for Hamas’s genocidal killers by endorsing libelous and false characterizations of Israeli actions is risible. That’s especially true at a time when the same Democrats, who claimed that Trump’s erratic behavior warranted the invocation of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and his removal from office because of his lack of fitness during his presidency, must now say that their candidate should be exempt from such scrutiny.

Here in Israel, as well as in Jewish communities across the United States beset by the resurgent tide of Jew-hatred in which calling for Israel’s destruction and the genocide of its people is now considered reasonable political discourse, the issue is different. Biden’s efforts to appease left-wing antisemites with language that smears Israel and bolsters Hamas are more than a matter of election-year politics. The willingness of the U.S. government to lend its rhetorical support to the notion that Israel’s right to self-defense is limited or that Hamas must be allowed to survive is making peace even less likely. That’s not something that Israelis or anyone who purports to care about the Jewish state, human rights or peace should tolerate.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin

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