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The moral failure of Biden’s State of the Union address

The president’s hyper-partisan address had more harsh words for Israel than Hamas, for whom he offered a floating pier. He said not a word about the surge in antisemitism.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the Capitol building in Washington, March 7, 2024. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the Capitol building in Washington, March 7, 2024. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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.

In an age in which partisanship is greater than ever, opinions about the quality of the annual report by the president to the Congress—mandated by the U.S. Constitution—depends entirely on whether the listener shares the party affiliation of the person who lives in the White House. That means that Democrats regarded President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address as feisty, truthful and showed that he was not too old to serve and exactly what the country needed to hear. Republicans thought of it as angry, divisive, full of lies and wondered whether the 81-year-old had relied on some artificial help to get through the evening while speaking at a speed that was oddly faster than his usual pace.

From a Jewish perspective, regardless of whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the best one can always hope for in a State of the Union is when Jews and Israel never get a mention. When that happens, it is a clear indication that American Jews are largely safe, and Israel is not involved in active conflict.

That is not the case in 2024. Biden’s speech therefore took on an added importance for those who care about Israel and the battle against antisemitism. And what he said—and didn’t say—spoke volumes about the dismal attitudes of his administration on each of those topics.

Morally disastrous demands

Regardless of whether you support the Democrats or the Republicans, with respect to Jewish interests, Biden’s State of the Union address was a disaster. While he deplored the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and even invited relatives of the hostage families to be in the gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives for the speech, the fact that he went on to have more harsh words for the democratically elected government of Israel than the terrorists of Hamas was shocking.

So, too, was his unrealistic demand that Israel could wage a justified war against the Islamists without harming the Palestinians Hamas hides behind. And his demand that Israel accede to a Palestinian state at the end of the war is not only immoral, it will grant a reward to the terrorists and undermine U.S. interests in the region.

His plans to deploy U.S. troops and resources to create a floating harbor to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza was an ill-thought-out idea that will likely do far more to help Hamas, which is certain to steal most of the supplies that the Americans will deliver unless Biden foolishly breaks his promise and U.S. troops do land in the Strip.

Worst of all, the president had not a single word to say about the unprecedented surge of antisemitism sweeping through America, driven by his erstwhile intersectional allies on the left-wing of his party.

A floating harbor for Hamas

While Biden denounced the atrocities of Oct. 7 and demanded the release of the 134 hostages languishing in tunnels, cages and who knows where, most of his rhetorical attention was devoted to lecturing the Israeli government that its top priority should be to avoid harming Palestinian civilians. As Biden knows, the Israel Defense Forces takes greater care to do that than any army in the world, including that of the United States. By harping on the issue, it’s clear that the administration’s declarations of support for Israel’s right of self-defense are meaningless if the only way that it can be carried out is by a miraculous, immaculate campaign, which would be impossible even if Hamas wasn’t deliberately using civilians as human shields.

His demand for a ceasefire isn’t doing anything to help free the hostages. Hamas, which has once again rejected even the lopsided deal that Biden has been trying to force on Israel, has come to the not-unreasonable conclusion that it should continue to hold out rather than surrender or agree to terms. The reason is that the terrorist organization believes that the pressure Biden is feeling from the angry intersectional left-wing of the Democratic Party will lead to the Americans bailing it out by preventing Israel from finishing it off.

Biden’s discussion of the question of aid to Palestinians, especially those living in areas still under Hamas control, was even more troubling. Here again, he harshly lectured the Israeli government that it was responsible for the problems in getting supplies to Gaza residents in need. Yet he failed to acknowledge that Hamas has been stealing most of the food, fuel and other materials intended for civilians, and keeping it for their terrorist forces and leadership hiding behind the population. Israel has actually been continuously allowing aid even into areas controlled by their genocidal enemy, though it is trying to prevent them from using the convoys to resupply the terrorists and help them continue to kill.

The plan to build a floating harbor for Gaza has so many potential pitfalls that it’s hard to imagine how such an idea is being seriously considered, let alone implemented. The commitment of resources to what amounts to a replay of the D-Day invasion “Mulberry” harbors used off of Normandy in June 1944 is considerable, especially when the U.S. military is being pushed to its limits by shortages created by Biden’s stripping it of resources to help Ukraine. 

The main point is that the massive quantity of supplies that will pour into Gaza as a result of this project are almost certain to end up in the hands of Hamas unless there are, as Biden pledged there would not be, American “boots on the ground” there. The temptation to get involved in the distribution of what is brought ashore will be intolerable, despite the promises and danger to U.S. forces from being caught up in a war in which they have no business—Israel can and wants to fight its own battles, and only asks for the arms and ammunition it needs to defend itself—is obvious.

If Americans don’t prevent Hamas from stealing these goods, what Biden is doing is creating a lifeline for an ally of Iran that is hell-bent on carrying on an endless war against both Israel’s existence and the United States. It has all the earmarks of the same kind of foreign policy/military disaster that marked Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan in that it will help America’s enemies and hurt its allies.

Two-state madness

Biden also used the speech to advocate for a two-state solution at the end of the war that Palestinians have continuously rejected because they refuse to live in peace with a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn. The Hamas regime in Gaza that was an independent Palestinian state in all but name for 16 years was proof of what Israel could expect if this was replicated, as Biden insists, on imposing the same scheme in the far larger and strategic areas of Judea and Samaria, and even dividing Jerusalem. The overwhelming majority of Israelis regard this as not so much unwise as insane. For Biden to insist on imposing this idea that has been tried and repeatedly failed by others throughout his decades in public life shows that he has forgotten much and learned nothing in all that time.

What made this advocacy even more offensive was the way Biden trotted out his supposed credentials as the most pro-Israel American politician to date. He may be the only U.S. president to have visited Israel in wartime, but that war was the direct result of his appeasement of Hamas’s Iranian sponsors. The invoking of his record in this matter is analogous to the “as a Jew” critiques of Israel by Jews who only speak of their identity when it can be used to bash the Jewish state. No real friend of Israel speaks this way and, in truth, Biden’s support has always been conditional on their people heeding his foolish, even suicidal advice— something the voters of Israel have consistently refused to do.

Nothing about antisemitism

But the most grievous failure of Biden’s address with respect to the aftermath of Oct. 7 is his failure to say one word about the surge in antisemitism during his presidency.

Oct. 7 didn’t just present a threat to Israel. As it soon became clear, the attacks were also the pretext for a surge in antisemitism around the globe, unlike anything seen since the end of World War II. Though often cloaked in alleged concerns for the suffering of Palestinians caught up in the war Hamas launched, the veneer of human-rights advocacy is tissue thin. As is readily apparent in the language they deploy, their goal is, like that of Hamas, the destruction of Israel and its people. Moreover, their tactics target Jews everywhere for harassment and attacks. If nothing else, Oct. 7 has once again proved conclusively that the line that some say separates anti-Zionism from antisemitism is a distinction without a difference.

The engine of this antisemitism has been fueled by the ideas of the woke left to which Biden has continuously bent his knee since he became president. The intersectional mindset of those indoctrinated in the myths of critical race theory divides the world into two warring groups: white oppressors and people of color who are their victims. As has long been apparent, this is not just bad for America, as it heightens racial divisions and locks the country into an endless and immutable conflict. It also grants a permission slip for antisemitism since Jews and Israel are invariably considered “white” oppressors regardless of the realities about the Middle East or anything else.

This has caused considerable political problems for Biden since the focus of the protests has been to halt any American support for Israel. As a result, Biden has been working hard to appease anti-Israel and antisemitic voters in places like Dearborn, Mich., the country’s “jihad capital” to whose pro-Hamas mayor he sent a high-ranking delegation of policymakers to apologize for any pro-Israel measures.

Biden should not have let this occasion go by without a strongly worded condemnation of antisemitism. Nevertheless, he had nothing to say about the mobs calling for Israel’s destruction and terrorism against Jews everywhere that have become commonplace on college campuses and in the streets of American cities. Antisemitic invective has become equally pervasive in public discourse, including in many leading publications and broadcast outlets where the delegitimization of Israel and Zionism is now considered fair comment. This has caused even many liberal Jews to question their security and future in a country where, for good reason, they no longer feel secure.

Appeasing the Israel-haters

The reason for Biden’s failure is obvious. Had he done so, he would have felt obligated to twin any concern about Jews with bogus claims about a rise in Islamophobia, though most of what is termed hatred for Muslims is nothing more than efforts to call out the rabid and vicious antisemitism in that community. Even if he had done that, it would have still been intolerable to the mobs in the streets (including those that held up the motorcade that took him to Capitol Hill for the speech) and their supporters in Congress. They regard any mention of Jew-hatred as a way to divert attention from their efforts to smear the Jewish state and its supporters. And in an address that even his backers conceded was more of a campaign speech to his base than anything else, talking about antisemitism was not going to make the cut.

Biden is foolish to think he has more votes to lose among antisemites than among Jews or the vast majority of Americans who stand by Israel and against antisemitism. But so strong is the grip of the intersectional wing of the party on the White House that he feels obligated to bash Israel and ignore the plague of Jew-hatred spreading across the country on his watch.

The state of the union for Jews in 2024 is very shaky indeed, and that is no small measure due to Biden’s implementation of the woke catechism of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout the U.S. government, which is enabling a sea change in the culture that makes antisemitism inevitable. Were he serious about doing something about Jew-hatred, he would reverse his decisions and begin to roll back the ideological underpinnings of the new antisemitism. Yet given his lack of understanding of the problem and political dependence on the forces that are spreading this hate, that is unimaginable.

Sometimes, what presidents don’t say is as important as the words that pass through their lips. Biden’s comments about the post-Oct. 7 war against Hamas were lamentable. But his failure to mention antisemitism in his annual address in the wake of Oct. 7 is a moral failure that should not be forgotten.

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

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