World / March 12, 2024

The Tragic Absurdity of Biden’s Gaza Policies

The US government is making elaborate plans to ameliorate a humanitarian catastrophe that would not exist without its own bombs.

Jack Mirkinson

President Joe Biden joined Israel’s prime minister for the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023.

(Miriam Alster / AFP via Getty Images)

Since Israel’s campaign of death began, President Joe Biden has perfected the art of cognitive dissonance, planting story after story about his ever-increasing “frustration” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while continuing to send Israel the bombs it is using against the people of Gaza. But the past seven days have taken this absurdity to new levels. That’s because this was the week when we saw both Biden’s most dramatic attempts to appear to be radically shifting his approach and the most dramatic evidence of just how deeply the United States is helping to perpetuate this war.

First, the attempts to telegraph that change is happening: Biden used his State of the Union address to announce that the United States would be building a pier off the Gaza coast so that it could deliver aid to the millions of people who are either being massacred or left to starve to death due to Israel’s unceasing bombardment and total siege of the region. He was then filmed telling Senator Michael Bennet that he was going to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with Netanyahu, though he immediately undercut the seemingly accidental nature of the broadcast by adding, “I’m on a hot mic here. Good.”

On Saturday, Biden went further, telling MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart that Netanyahu was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” and that an Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped, would be a “red line.” All of this was enough to prompt some of the White House’s more sycophantic chroniclers, such as Axios reporter Barak Ravid, to proclaim that Biden was “breaking” with Netanyahu.

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And it’s true that these moves could seem like an encouraging signal about his willingness to put some kind of pressure on Israel.

But wait, what’s that sound? That would be the other shoe dropping.

The most important news about the American handling of the war in the past week could be found not in any of the aforementioned, highly choreographed moments, but in a pair of reports on Tuesday in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, in which the outlets revealed that not only has the United States been transferring vast amounts of weapons to Israel, but that it has been doing so in a way deliberately designed to evade public scrutiny.

According to the reports, the US has approved more than 100 arms sales to Israel since October 7, constituting what the Journal called “tens of thousands” of weapons. But the Biden administration has revealed only two of those deals to Congress. The rest have been masked by one of the oldest shady financial tricks in the books, as the Post explained:

[Th]e weapons transfers were processed without any public debate because each fell under a specific dollar amount that requires the executive branch to individually notify Congress, according to U.S. officials and lawmakers who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military matter.

[…] “That’s an extraordinary number of sales over the course of a pretty short amount of time, which really strongly suggests that the Israeli campaign would not be sustainable without this level of U.S. support,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a former senior Biden administration official and current president of Refugees International.

So let’s recap. Biden is publicly lamenting the scale of death in Gaza, going after Netanyahu, and pledging to build a maritime aid corridor to get around Israel’s siege. But Netanyahu’s ability to carry out that level of carnage, and impose such an inhumane siege, is dependent on the continued flow of weapons to Israel from the government headed by… Biden. Or, to put it more succinctly: The US government is now making elaborate plans to ameliorate a humanitarian catastrophe that would not exist without its own bombs.

When you add the fact that Biden’s government is not only sending Israel weapons but is so eager to do so that it is purposefully skirting congressional oversight and public accountability, it all gets even more ludicrous. We’re no longer in a simple “this makes no sense” situation. Instead, we’ve arrived at a Twilight Zone “if I try to rationalize this, it will tear a hole in the fabric of space and time” situation. It’s as if you kept secretly handing an arsonist gasoline and matches, then showed up five minutes later with the firefighters, read out a statement about how unconscionable arson is, and announced that you were taking major steps to help the survivors.

Things get more maddening when you look at the nature of the American aid effort. That pier Biden announced? The Pentagon says it could take up to two months to build. There is a famine happening right now in Gaza, not two months from now. And the US won’t even give assurances that Israel will be prevented from firing on Palestinians trying to retrieve American aid. There are other agencies on the ground, but the US is in the way there too. It has cut off funding to UNWRA, the main relief organization in Gaza, on dubious evidence that the UN now claims was based in part on evidence obtained through torture.

These loopholes and contradictions have become so glaring that people you might normally expect to overlook them are unable to. A recent report in The New York Times, for instance, delicately noted that “the United States finds itself on both sides of the war in a way, arming the Israelis while trying to care for those hurt as a result.” And Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen told The New Yorker, “I really haven’t heard a good response to the question of why we should not apply existing U.S. law…to insure that U.S. military assistance is used in accordance with our values.”

Nobody has heard a good response—and that’s because there isn’t one! It’s shameless hypocrisy from Biden all the way down.

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Jack Mirkinson

Jack Mirkinson is a senior editor at The Nation and cofounder of Discourse Blog.

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