Biden’s Bloody Choice in Gaza

American complicity is rooted in decades of US investment in Israeli apartheid — and Biden’s personal commitment. He won’t blink unless we make him.

In 1986, then-Senator Joe Biden described Israel as the United States’ number one “3 billion dollar investment.” Speaking on the Senate Floor, Biden argued that if there were no Israel, we’d need to “invent” one “to protect US interests in the [Middle East].” 

The US and Israel have long shared a ‘special relationship.’ Israel is by far the largest recipient of US military aid — nearly $300 billion between 1946 and 2023. Providing ‘investment security’, the Biden Administration has determined, is thus far worth at least 30,000 Palestinian lives, and likely many more. 

Already, the US has vetoed multiple UN attempts at a ceasefire. Biden has publicly transferred over $250 million in munitions and shell components. The Washington Post also reports that the White House has secretly approved over one hundred other weapons sales since October 7th, and publically, Biden is requesting much more from Congress — 14 billion dollars in taxpayer money — to aid in Israel’s slaughter. Perhaps most frighteningly, Biden risks embroiling the United States in yet another forever war in the Middle East. What is it all for?

It is clearly not, as Israel’s supporters in the political establishment claim, because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, or that it’s essential to keeping Jewish people safe.

Israel is an apartheid state, not a democracy. Palestinians are second-class citizens in their own homeland, subject to discriminatory laws within Israel’s 1948 borders, held under military occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and locked in a concentration camp in Gaza, facing genocide. Jewish people are also clearly much safer in the United States than in Israel. Israel’s system of apartheid, military occupation, and process of colonization make spouts of deadly conflict and war all but guaranteed.

When Biden called Israel an investment, he meant it. And it’s clear from the lengths to which Biden and US political elites will go to protect their investment, it is extremely profitable. Put simply, Israel serves as an essential outpost for the American military — and its hyper-militarized settler society provides essential boots on the ground to secure American military and corporate interests. To what end Biden and the US foreign policy and military establishment will go to maintain this military outpost in country form is unclear. 

Israel in an Outpost for American Empire

The first political Zionists lobbied imperial powers to back, fund, and legitimize Jewish colonization of Palestine. The goal of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, Theodor Herzl, and other Zionist leaders argued, would serve Western imperialist interests. Jason Farbman, now Digital Director for Jewish Voice for Peace, writes that after Great Britain took Palestine from the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Chaim Weizmann, a prominent Zionist in the British government, pitched Jewish colonization of Palestine as an essential “safeguard to England.” Israel promised a European settler-colony across from the Suez Canal, sandwiched by the Mediterranean and Red Seas, proximate to recently discovered oil fields, and in striking distance of emerging Arab nationalist powers.

Zionist militias soon came into conflict with the English metropole, throwing off British rule and ethnically cleansing over 700,000 Palestinians from their land in 1948. Following the bloody campaign that established the Israeli state, the US and Soviet Union competed for the newborn nation’s favor, similarly identifying its strategic value, as England previously had. 

But despite Soviet courting, it was the US, not the USSR, that replaced Britain as Israel’s “imperial sponsor.” Already, Israel had proven its allegiance to the West against Arab Nationalism, joining the 1956 British and French invasion of Egypt in an attempt to reclaim the Suez Canal from Egypt following President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ’s nationalization orders.

Though at the time, the US opposed the 1956 invasion, by 1967 it fully supported the young country’s six-day-war against neighboring Arab countries — mainly Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — and seizing from its neighbors large swaths of territory, including Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, all of which remains under Israeli military occupation to this day. Israel demonstrated its usefulness to the United States as a Cold War ally and US aid to Israel quadrupled.

One 2005 research paper from the US Department of Defense summarizes this relationship. On the one hand, the authors argue that “key to the Israelis’ strength in the Middle East has been the monetary support it has enjoyed from the U.S. since the early 1970s.” The US provides not only weapons and monetary aid, but will oftentimes foot the bill for Israel’s weapons purchases – providing the military subsidies that in turn pay for the American weapons. And the US provision of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense allows Israel to wage asymmetrical warfare on Palestinians under its rule.

In return, Israel provides crucial counterintelligence capabilities in the Middle East, and acts as a launching pad for US aggression in the region. Pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute identifies a number of ways Israel helped the US get the upper hand in the Cold War: 

Israel’s daring theft of Soviet radar from Egypt in 1969, Israel’s positive reply to President Nixon’s request to fly reconnaissance missions and mobilize troops to help turn around Syria’s invasion of Jordan in 1970, and Israel’s sharing of technical intelligence on numerous Soviet weapons systems captured during the 1967 and 1973 wars.

Today, Israel plays an essential role in identifying and providing for the United States the locations and plans of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, Israeli intelligence was used to corroborate the US’s baseless claims of Iraq’s WMD stockpile, helping justify the US-led invasion. Similarly, Israel closely monitors — and acts as a belligerent toward — Iran, a U.S. antagonist. And for decades has bombed nuclear facilities in countries that could pose a threat to the US — Syria and Iraq — and has assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists. Last, Israel’s ongoing military occupation has required it to become an innovator in armaments, surveillance, and counter-terrorism efforts. After perfecting capabilities and technologies through implementing them on Palestinians under occupation, Israel can then provide cutting-edge technologies, weapons, and strategies, to the US military and police. 

Despite the large contribution made by Israel to US reach in the Middle East, that contribution is still only made possible by US economic and military aid. Any serious analysis would conclude that Israel answers to the US, not the other way around. And the idea that Netanyahu is simultaneously a free agent doing what he will, and that the US is powerless to stop it, relies on anti-semitic tropes in which a tiny country of Jewish people wields far more power than the world’s military and economic hegemon. Biden and US elites want to maintain their investment, and are greenlighting this genocide.

Biden Can End the Genocide Today

When pressed on actions the US could take to end Israel’s assault on Gaza, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller responded that Israel is a sovereign nation, and that the US does not dictate the policy of sovereign nations. Matt Lee, an Associated Press reporter, quickly retorted “Unless you invade them.” Though Miller laughed, dismissing the comment as “stand-up hour in the Briefing Room”, his original claim was an obvious lie. 

As the dominant economic and military power throughout the world, the US government coerces countries into serving its geopolitical interests and the demands of US corporations. In the 21st century alone, the US intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, overturned election results in Haiti, and imposed brutal sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Between bites of ice cream and staring off into space, Biden claimed February 26 that a ceasefire would be coming the following weekend. This statement, quickly rolled back by White House staff, reflects Biden’s attempts at squaring his material support for Israel with his desire to present his government as one that cares about social justice and opposes the wanton slaughter of innocents. 

Though Trump infamously discarded any facade of a President’s commitment to things like “fact” and “truth”, for months now, Biden, and his administration have perfected US government “doublespeak” — an invented word inspired by the fictional language in George Orwell’s 1984, “newspeak”, and mode of thinking, “doublethink”, used to obscure the truth and make the government’s actions more palatable. 

When asked Biden’s message to Arab voters disgusted with Biden’s support for Israeli violence, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre hoped to remind them that “Israel has the right to defend itself”, a euphemism for dropping tens of thousands of tons of bombs on civilians, cutting off access to food, water, and energy, and massacring patients and children. In another press briefing, she argued that the mass death in Gaza is actually the fault of Hamas, who, according to her, “could surrender at any time” but instead choose to “jeopardize the lives of innocent civilians.” If we translate her comments from doublespeak to English, it’s clear she’s describing Israel’s mass murder of Palestinians as a collective punishment (a war crime) that will end when Hamas surrenders.

Of course, establishment officials also try to present Biden as really trying to rein in Netanyahu’s excesses, not fuel them. Every week, a new story includes White House leaks describing Biden’s anger and disapproval at Netanyahu’s actions. And in a recent press conference, Biden called the destruction in Gaza “over the top.” 

At a recent Security Conference in Munich, British journalist Tim Sebastian asked Democratic Party leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Biden could make the violence stop. Sebastian identified a number of  “levers” previous US presidents have deployed to get Israel under control when it’s gone too far off its leash in the past — “Eisenhower threatened sanctions in 1956 if Israel didn’t pull its forces out of Sinai. Reagan… held up delivery of fighter jets over Israel’s actions in Lebanon. George Bush Sr. blocked loan guarantees because of settlement building.” Pelosi, after first feigning these tools didn’t exist, replied that Biden “has said something about the settlements.” Sebastian quickly replied “but saying and blocking weapons supplies, for instance, are very different things, aren’t they?” Pelosi described Biden’s words as “a path.” A path to where, is unclear.

In fact, not only is Biden not deploying tools that previous Presidents have successfully used to rein in Israel’s excesses, but his administration has in fact gone out of its way to defend Israel’s actions. This includes not only government doublespeak, but also sending millions in arms without congressional approval, requesting more in aid, running diplomatic cover for Israel at the UN and International Court of Justice, and even launching airstrikes on Yemen to deter the Yemeni Red Sea Blockade which Yemen’s governing Houthis launched in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. US arms transfers to Israel violate not only international law, but US law that is meant to prevent transfers to countries engaging in war crimes, and those that illegally have nuclear weapons (Israel’s massive stockpile is an open secret).

Anything and everything Israel does, even when criticized by US officials, is done with the explicit or implicit approval of the United States. As long as the United States refuses to threaten funding, arms, and diplomatic cover to Israel, this genocide is just as much the fault of the United States. Contrary to Pelosi’s claim that “Netanyahu is calling the shots”, Biden has the real final say.

How Far Will Biden Go?

Despite overtures toward the movement for a ceasefire, Biden seems unlikely to drop support for Israel anytime soon. And the longer Israel’s genocidal war goes on, the increased likelihood of yet another prolonged US intervention in the Middle East.

Already the war has spilled outside of Israeli and Palestinian borders. In an effort to pressure Israel to end its war on Gaza, Yemen’s governing Houthi movement initiated a blockade on Israel-bound ships in the Red Sea. To the US government, of course, protecting international commerce and US capital comes before all else, though seemingly still not before Palestinian lives. The Houthis have declared that the blockade will end when Israel’s siege on Gaza ends. Instead of pressing for a ceasefire, though, the US has launched multiple airstrikes on Yemen, a country already devastated by a decade of civil war and a constricting Saudi-US blockade and bombing campaign. When asked if the airstrikes were working, Biden replied: “When you say ‘working’, are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.” 

These are dangerous words from the leader of a country that’s spent the 21st century uninterruptedly intervening in and occupying nations in the Middle East. Beyond Yemen, the war has already in part expanded to other countries in the region, with Israel launching airstrikes on Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria. Though the United States has not yet directly intervened in these countries, the longer the war goes on, the greater the risk of a broader regional, if not global, war, especially given increased political and military tensions between the United States and its rising imperial rivals, Russia and the People’s Republic of China.

Around the world, popular movements have mobilized in defense of Palestine, and against Israel’s genocidal war. No country’s anti-war movement has as great a task, nor as steep an uphill battle, as ours in the United States. Biden has the power to end this war, and the ongoing genocide. He also has the power to escalate the war to global proportions. It is on the US anti-war movement to prevent the latter, and force the former.

DSA organizes for a free Palestine and a ceasefire in Gaza through its “No Money for Massacres” campaign and a campaign to encourage voters to withhold their support from Joe Biden in primary elections – get involved today. The Democratic Left welcomes pitches about successes, setbacks and lessons learned by chapter’s organizing for solidarity with Palestinians at [email protected].