Biden’s Inflection Point

On 20 October 2023, upon his return from Israel, President Joe Biden addressed the American people. In part, he said the following: “Good evening, my fellow Americans. We’re facing an inflection point in history—one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come. That’s what I’d like to talk with you about tonight.” What followed had nothing to do with the problems or needs of the U.S. public. It had nothing to do with abortion rights, book banning, authoritarian rule in Florida, gun violence, Christian nationalism, the rewriting of the history of the state of Texas, or the civil rights of gay and transgender people—none of which, at that moment, were to be found in Joe Biden’s mind and heart. What he wanted to talk to the nation about was his personal reaction to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. 

Why an address to the nation about the travails of a foreign nation with a very bad human rights record? Well, it seems that Mr. Biden was literally raised as a supporter of Israel. His father told him repeatedly that a Jewish homeland in the Middle East (Palestine, that “land without a people’) was more than justified by what Jews suffered in Europe during World War II. That message resulted “in support for Israel being encoded in Biden’s political DNA.” It expressed itself immediately upon his entering national politics in 1973. He would spend 36 years in the U.S. Senate and during that time, “he was the chamber’s biggest recipient in history of donations from pro-Israeli groups, taking in $4.2 million, according to the Open Secrets database.” So, as Dennis Ross, another long-time Zionist, tells us, “what we’re seeing now” in Biden’s support for Israel’s incessant bombing of Gaza, “is instinct.”

Running off to Israel was then, apparently, an “instinctive” act, as was coming home to tell the rest of us how seminal was Israel’s plight. Israel—Biden’s Israel—had been attacked by (and these are Biden’s words) “the terrorist group Hamas” which has “unleashed pure, unadulterated evil in the world” by “slaughtering more than 1300 people in Israel, including at least 32 American citizens. Scores of innocents—from infants to elderly grandparents, Israelis, Americans—were  taken hostage.” At this point it might be pointed out that Mr. Biden has never addressed the nation about his emotional reaction (if any) to the surely “evil” fact that every year in the USA over 117,000 people are injured and 48,000 killed by gun violence. But I guess this reality does not touch him, instinctually.

To be fair, Biden does go on to claim that when in Israel, he told the government to use caution in their response to Hamas’s action. He told this while meeting with Israel’s war cabinet—an unprecedented act that made him potentially complicit in whatever decisions that group took. Caution here did not mean any moderation in Israel’s bombing of Gaza and  the killing of tens or thousands. It meant not rushing into a land invasion of Gaza which would certainly up the casualty rate for the Israelis. We have no way of knowing if this was actually what he advised. Subsequent evidence shows that, if such a message was delivered at all, it came along with a generous munitions aid package. We can also be sure that subsequently, due to domestic pressure, Biden has raised only the most sotto voce objections to Israel’s continued blanket bombing of the Gaza Strip as it reaches genocidal levels.

Inflection Point

So why is all this an “inflection point?” According to Joe Biden, Hamas’s attack was made against Israel, the democracy. And, so enamored is Biden with this particular democracy that he equates this as an attack on all democracies. Then, just to make sure we all get his point, he likened Hamas’s action against Israel to the Russian Republic’s war against Ukraine (another democracy). The conclusion to all of this, in Biden’s mind, is that Congress and the American people must support, emotionally and financially, the war efforts of these two problematic symbols of democracy, if the American way of life is to prevail.

Let me list some of the facts that call into question this worldview: (1) The Hamas attack, as murderous as it certainly was, was a reaction to decades of illegal Israeli policies that turned Gaza into a concentration camp. (2) Israel is not a proper democracy, it is an apartheid state which reserves democratic rights first and foremost for Jews. (3) The Russian attack on Ukraine was not unprovoked. It was a response to Nato expansion led by the U.S. (4) Ukraine’s present democratic political status can be seen as the result of a 2014 U.S. inspired coup. (5) The American way of life is not in danger from any of this. It is in danger from narrow-minded domestic politicians and their backers who want to suppress all ideas that compete with their own.

Context and Analogies

There is no doubt that what is now unfolding, particularly as concerns Israel/Palestine, is of great moral importance. This comes through when one contextualizes the moment. That is, as implied above, when one comes to see Gaza for what it really is, an Israeli-created place of decades long enforced suffering. A place under permanent siege. That is exactly what Biden and many other political Zionists cannot see. They cannot see that whatever “sheer evil” was committed by the Hamas fighters on October 7 was bred into them by their own personal and emotional experiences. Those experiences were not random. They were prescribed by the conscious choices made by Israeli leaders blind to everything but their own tragic history. 

So what is the proper analogy for Gaza and the Hamas attack? The only analogies the press sees fit to put forward are: (1) the October 7 attack was Israel’s 9/11 moment (a favorite analogy of American Zionists) or (2) the recent assertion that Hamas’s attack was like the attack on Pearl Harbor (Netanyahu’s favorite). I can think of a better, more historically fitting analogy—the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943 where a number of inmates turned fighters rose up against their captors. Israel had turned Gaza into something like the Warsaw Ghetto. Hamas led a bloody uprising and Israel responded to this the same way the Nazis dealt with the rebellious ghetto. One used artillery, the other is using jet bombers to accomplish wholesale destruction. Both led the survivors on what, for many, was/is a forced death march.

Biden’s Gamble

How we see present events does make a difference in the choices we make. Mr Biden begins his analysis on October 7.   Previous acts by Israel against Palestinians, occupation, displacement, murder etc, are not considered relevant. Israel is now the victim. His assumption that everyone else of clear vision sees things the same way is a naive and dangerous gamble.

Consider the fact that for the past several decades the Democratic Party has spent much time and energy cultivating  its multi-ethnic image—including an alliance with the nation’s Arab and Muslim population. This particular political context, whether considered at all by Biden, seems to have gotten as short shrift as the historical context of Gaza’s Palestinians. The result is a sense of betrayal on the part of most Arab Muslim and Christian Americans (and many Jews as well). These voters are presently “furious with the White House, feeling that Palestinian lives are being disregarded and international law and norms trampled.”

Here is how Eman Abdelhadi, a University of Chicago professor of comparative human development, describes the moment for this Arab and Muslim American community, “This generation was raised in a time when [American] Muslims and Arabs were constantly in contact with Democrats, felt and were part of the progressive coalition. Now they are completely disillusioned. … It’s really crazy to me that the Democratic party destroyed 20-years … worth of good will with Muslims and Arabs in just 2 weeks, losing an entire generation that was raised in the progressive coalition, possibly forever. … Young people are already talking about sitting out the election in protest. I think Biden has lost the Muslim vote.”

That is what happens when you make “inflection point”decisions on “instinct.” Realizing what is now happening in his own political party, Biden and his aides went into damage control mode—sort of. They met with a carefully chosen group of Arab Americans, excluding any one who was on record as disagreeing with the president, and told them that they are listening to their complaints, that they want to do everything in their power to protect innocent civilians, and increase the rate at which a trickle of aid is reaching Gaza (presently deprived of food, water, fuel and shelter by the Israelis).

All of this is certainly too little, too late. As one person involved with the White House meetings said, “There’s that Arab saying, ‘Don’t look at what the mouth is saying, look at what the hands are doing.’” When you compare the amount of munitions the U.S. is giving to Israel with the amount of aid reaching Gaza, it is hard not to conclude that Biden’s “hands are stoking the flames.”


There are times when we must make choices: personal, political and, of course, moral choices. But what does it mean to make such choices for the entire American nation, its multiple ethnicities, as well as the vast populations of Israel and Palestine based on the rooted emotion or “instinct” of the President of the United States? In this case, it means to allow the seminal present to be at the mercy of one person’s emotionally infused past—Joe Biden’s past.

Where does all of this leave the rest of us—the innocent civilians, the potential collateral damage? It leaves us caught between a terroristic act of self-defense committed by Hamas on October 7 (symbolic of a vengeful lashing out against oppression), and an ongoing act of self-defining genocide by Israel.* Hamas’s act of desperation has set Israel free from world opinion and opened the door to a reaction overtaken by an apparently insatiable blood lust (symbolic of a “final solution.”)

*The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York issued a document warning that Israeli actions may well be prosecutable as acts of genocide. They write, “mass killings are one means by which genocide is committed, but that is not the only method by which a group is “destroyed” or exterminated (in whole or in part). Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer credited with coining the term, said that genocide often includes “a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups so that these groups wither and die like plants that have suffered a blight . . . . It may be accomplished by wiping out all basis of personal security, liberty, health and dignity.”

Lawrence Davidson is a retired professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.