columnIsrael at War

Biden’s double game on Hamas should fool no one

A presidential speech condemned past and present antisemitism. However, it contradicted policies aimed at letting the terrorists win and appeasing pro-Hamas voters.

U.S. President Joe Biden signs the guestbook at the Israeli president's residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden signs the guestbook at the Israeli president's residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
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.

When President Joe Biden wants to say the right things about Israel and antisemitism, he knows how to do it. Much like his comments immediately after the Oct. 7 massacres, his speech at a Holocaust commemoration held in the U.S. Capitol on May 7 struck all the right notes. He not only spoke appropriately about the Six Million slain by the Nazis, he correctly noted that, “This ancient hatred of Jews didn’t begin with the Holocaust. It didn’t end with the Holocaust either. Or after—even after our victory in World War II. This hatred continues to lie deep in the hearts of too many people in the world and requires our continued vigilance and outspokenness. That hatred was brought to life on October 7th of 2023.”

Going on, he acknowledged that the current war has unleashed a surge of antisemitism in the United States that has been particularly felt on college campuses. He even detailed the unspeakable atrocities of Oct. 7 (which, according to a live New York Times update about the speech, offends “pro-Palestinian” protesters who deny Hamas’s crimes). And unlike his first comments about the antisemitic campus protests, he didn’t try to balance that with either bogus concerns about a largely mythical problem of Islamophobia or discussions about the alleged sufferings of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He also placed the blame for the current war squarely on the Hamas terror organization.

Yet, the president said, “people are already forgetting. They are already forgetting. That Hamas unleashed this terror. It was Hamas that brutalized Israelis. It was Hamas who took and continues to hold hostages. I have not forgotten nor have you. And we will not forget.”

A broken promise

While his words earned the applause they garnered, that last statement isn’t true. That’s because his policies—as distinct from some of his speeches that were, like those at the Holocaust ceremony, largely aimed at Jewish voters—contradict that promise.

Although he initially endorsed the Israeli goal of eliminating Hamas and seemed to implicitly commit to that again in his speech, the entire thrust of Biden’s current Middle East policy is quite the opposite. He is doing everything he can, including threats of cutting off certain military weapons, diplomatic maneuvers at the United Nations and duplicitous efforts to push through an agreement with the terrorist group, to save Hamas from defeat just when Israel put it on the ropes.

Biden has essentially been playing a double game on the war with Hamas since Oct. 7.

At times, his words have been just what Israel and its friends needed to hear as they reeled from the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. But just as the antisemitic left didn’t wait for the Israel Defense Forces to begin its counter-offensive into Gaza to begin to flip the narrative about the conflict to one about Palestinian victimhood instead of one about the atrocities of Oct. 7, similarly, Biden began to edge away from his initial strong stand behind Jerusalem at the same time.

Though the elimination of Hamas and the end of its rule over Gaza are actually compatible with Biden’s quixotic quest to revive a two-state solution to the conflict that the Palestinians have never wanted, the administration has done all it could to delay and minimize the IDF’s efforts since October. And since Israel is dependent on U.S. arms and ammunition—both in terms of offensive operations and the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries that were working overtime in the war’s first months as Hamas fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt he had no choice to slow down and limit the army’s efforts.

Throughout this period, Biden and the rest of his foreign-policy team continued to smear the IDF’s actions as “over the top.” They blamed it for creating a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The truth was that Israel’s armed forces were using more care to avoid civilian casualties than any other modern army involved in urban combat, including that of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Appeasing the antisemitic left

The reason for Biden’s carping at Israel had nothing to do with human rights or America’s strategic interests. It was motivated by politics.

From the moment that the Oct. 7 attacks happened, the left wing of the president’s Democratic Party has been vocal in its distaste for Israel and opposition to a successful effort to take out Hamas. So-called “progressives,” as well as the extremists of the left-wing congressional “Squad,” were falsely accusing Israel of war crimes and “genocide” even before the bodies of the Oct. 7 victims were cold. They are motivated by intersectional and critical race theory ideologies, which falsely label Israel as a “white” oppressor and regard the Palestinian war to destroy the one Jewish state on the planet as a righteous cause. They want self-determination for everyone but Jews, perceiving Hamas’s genocidal goals as a form of justified “resistance.”

Living as he does in a left-wing bubble inside the White House and, as he has always been throughout his long political career, a weathervane determined to stay in sync with liberal fashion, Biden thinks the anger at his initial pro-Israel policies is the reason why he continues to trail former President Donald Trump in the polls. He believes that mollifying disaffected young leftists, as well as Arab and Muslim-American voters, is the key to retaining the support of the Democratic base. As some leftist pundits have put it, he must defeat Netanyahu before he can beat Trump. But the truth is that his problems have nothing to do with Israel, and there are far more votes to be lost in the pro-Israel center of American politics than from left-wing Israel-haters.

Still, and to his credit, Biden didn’t make good on his threats to cut off arms until recently. And though he allowed one ceasefire resolution to pass the U.N. Security Council that would have granted Hamas a reprieve without even returning any of the hostages they kidnapped, the administration held off going further than that—vetoing other dangerous resolutions, including one that would have rewarded the Palestinians for their terrorism with the world body’s recognition of their statehood.

Preserving Hamas in Rafah

But once the IDF had backed Hamas into the last enclave it held in Gaza, Biden stopped talking out of both sides of his mouth and made it clear that he opposed Israel going into Rafah and destroying the last operational Hamas military forces that had retreated there.

He’s gone to great lengths and expense to support humanitarian aid for civilians in Hamas-held portions of the Strip and blamed Israel for interrupting the flow of supplies there, including the building of a U.S. floating harbor to assist in the distribution of food and fuel. That has happened even though it’s long been obvious that if there is any real privation there, it is solely because Hamas is stealing the aid that arrives and reserving it for its own use.

Just as troubling, he’s put the full force of American influence behind an effort to broker a ceasefire deal with Hamas that will essentially hand the terror group a victory in the war it started.

The terms of the proposed deals that Washington has backed are appalling. They call for the release of some hostages, but only a percentage of those Hamas is still holding under who knows what horrible conditions. And the pressure that Washington has exerted on Netanyahu to take a deal on virtually any terms and conditions—along with the way it has coordinated this with Hamas’s ally, Qatar—has given the terrorists all the leverage. That’s why Hamas continues to turn down even the most lopsided of agreements; its leaders are convinced that Biden will not let them be defeated. That means they think they can hold out for a deal that will end the war and return the situation to the pre-Oct. 7 status quo in Gaza and still not give up all the hostages, let alone be held accountable for mass murder.

Even when it comes to the surge in antisemitism in the United States, the gap between Biden’s Holocaust speech rhetoric and the reality of his policies grows wider every day. He may have chided the pro-Hamas protests for their violence, rule-breaking and antisemitism. But the only people trying to hold the universities accountable are his Republican opponents. There is no sign that the administration is willing to take any action to withhold funds from these schools.

Moreover, even though the protesters won’t forgive him for his pro-Israel statements and have labeled him “genocide Joe,” Biden has refused to break with openly antisemitic members of his party like Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Just as telling was his administration’s invitation to the anti-Zionist IfNotNow group that has spread antisemitic blood libels to a meeting about antisemitism and its inclusion of the pro-Hamas Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) among those who were allowed to give input on an antisemitism initiative that was nothing but virtue-signaling anyway.

Actions speak louder

So, while Biden’s Holocaust speech soothed the feelings of American Jews who are reeling from an unprecedented spike in antisemitism, especially at educational institutions where Jews have thought they were welcome, his actions speak much louder than those words.

An administration that is using every tactic it can think of to prevent Israel from eliminating Hamas can’t claim that it has not forgotten Oct. 7. Stopping Israel from going into Rafah isn’t about saving Palestinian lives; Hamas is all too happy to sacrifice as many of its people as necessary if that advances their goal of isolating and smearing Israel. It’s about an effort to convince American leftists and Hamas supporters that Biden isn’t as pro-Israel as he sometimes wants to pretend to be.

Having allegedly run for president in 2020 because of his supposed concerns about the hate on display from neo-Nazis at the August 2017 “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va., he is now trying to hold onto office by intermittently appeasing left-wing antisemites and undermining Netanyahu’s efforts to prevent Hamas from committing more atrocities on Israeli soil. The only calculus to judge Biden’s touting of the Holocaust or Oct. 7—or to determine if he truly cares about preserving Israel’s security—is whether he will let Hamas be destroyed. If not, all of his rhetoric about those subjects is nothing more than hypocrisy and hot air.

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

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates