Realpolitik and Biden’s sudden sympathy for Gaza

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL October 16, 2023
Michigan is a swing state has huge numbers of ethnic Arab voters
Street front in the Arab Quarter, Dearborn, Michigan. Photo by CC BY-SA 2.5

Any relief one might have felt when Joe Biden said Israel should not re-occupy Gaza, that “the extreme elements of Hamas don’t represent all of the Palestinian people” and that there is a need for a “two-state solution” must be tempered by doleful reality.

Any recognition of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s request to his Israeli counterpart to “minimise impact on civilians” must be put in context.

It took the US president and British prime minister nine days to notice that hundreds of innocent people in Gaza are being killed, starved and sent into perdition. In the case of Mr Biden, one might well ask how much of his sudden sympathy for Gaza and Palestinians is because Michigan is a swing state and it has huge numbers of ethnic Arab voters.

In fact, on October 10, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organisation, called on the Biden administration to oppose Israel’s “self-declared war crimes”.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, who is of Palestinian heritage, said: “through public statements and actions, our nation has yet again given Israel the green light to commit these war crimes against defenseless Palestinians…Allowing Netanyahu to turn wipe out tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians and turn Gaza into another Aleppo or Grozny will not bring peace or stability. Only the de-escalation of this violence followed by credible efforts to end the occupation can bring true peace.”

Mr Awad, who was born in a refugee camp in Jordan, accused Mr Biden of failing to recognise the Palestinians’ humanity. “You are not helping,” he said, as if addressing the US president. “You are, in fact, giving the green light for Israel to commit a genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. You failed us as American citizens. You failed us as Palestinians. And you failed the world community.”

All of this while Mr Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz  weigh up trips to Israel amid a global diplomatic push to prevent the war from escalating.

In any case, Mr Biden and Mr Sunak’s belated recognition of Palestinians’ very real and ongoing pain does not seem to be having much effect on the ground.

Not much appears to be changing, according to scattered reports from Gaza. According to figures released by Gaza’s health ministry on October 16, 2,750 Palestinians have been killed in the territory – a quarter of whom were children – another 9,700 wounded in Israeli attacks. At least 1,000 people are missing and believed to be under rubble, according to the Palestinian civil defence team.

No wonder the tone of bitterness and searing anger that’s creeping into public statements emerging from the Palestinian territories. Surely it’s significant that Mohammad Shtayyeh, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, had to remind the geopolitical West of this basic reality: “We are people of a civilisation, we are not animals like they are painting us and our people will not surrender.”

Also read:

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Britain’s cosplay with warships and suchlike in the eastern Mediterranean

Tony Blinken’s declaration of faith in Israel made me think of Canada’s Ahmed Hussen