Feckless and Complicit: Biden and the Gaza Genocide

Photograph Source: The White House – Public Domain

The news from Gaza is grim.   Palestinians from northern Gaza have been removed by the IDF from their homes–first to Deir al-Balah and then to Khan Younis. More than half the Strip’s population is now sheltering in Rafah near the border with Egypt.

Meanwhile, the IDF has occupied the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, one of Gaza’s last functioning hospitals, forcing most of the hospital’s staff, patients, and refugees southward toward Rafah.

The conditions in Rafah are described as miserable. Families seek shelter in makeshift tents that are unable to withstand cold rains.  People scramble to find clean water, food, and fuel.  Some families resort to eating grass and drinking polluted water. Without proper sanitation and medicines, disease is rampant. Still, there is no refuge from continued bombings.

While U.N. agencies and most nations (except the U.S.) call for a ceasefire, release of the hostages, and a dramatic increase in humanitarian assistance, Netanyahu remains determined to continue his scorched earth attacks.  He has broken off hostage negotiations and now threatens to launch an imminent ground invasion on Rafah. With nowhere to go, the Gazans are “terrified.”

As the Palestinian death toll reaches 29,000, worldwide protests against Netanyahu and Biden grow larger and louder.  Yet Netanyahu’s position is firm: no ceasefire, no more hostage negotiations, no two-state solution, and no retreat from his Rafah invasion plan.

So, where does the U.S. President stand? In his speech of October 10, he expressed his outrage for Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel three days earlier and his sympathy to the victims’ families.  He went on to recognize Israel’s right to defend itself.  He said: “We stand with Israel.  We stand with Israel.  And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”

After Netanyahu declared war on Hamas, his defense minister vowed to wipe the militants “off the face of the earth.” President Biden reacted by moving U.S. military assets to the Eastern Mediterranean and bolstering the presence of U.S. fighter aircraft.  Although professing not to want a wider war, his ongoing strikes on the Houthis in Yemen and on Iran proxies in Iraq and Syria have spoken otherwise. He has delivered more arms aid to Israel and wants another  $14.5 billion for the IDF.

Refusing to heed worldwide appeals for a ceasefire, Biden and Blinken content themselves with sporadic requests that Netanyahu limit civilian casualties. Each time the Israelis rebuff or ignore such entreaties.

Biden recently termed Israeli military operations “over the top.” Like his frequent pleas that Israel obey international humanitarian law, the President’s characterization was too weak and too late.  Moreover, his actions have spoken louder than his words.  If he were serious about civilian casualties, why would he want to send Israel more billions for weapons to be used against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank? Why would he oppose a ceasefire?

Both Netanyahu and Biden have deplored the ICJ decision of January 26 that the State of Israel “cease forthwith”  prohibited acts under the 1948 Genocide Convention. When asked if the U.S. stands by its allegation that South Africa’s genocide case against Israel is “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis of fact whatsoever.”White House spokesperson John Kirby replied “Yes.”  Biden has again refused to consider UN ceasefire resolutions, including the latest one proposed by Algeria.

Biden’s multiple calls for a two-state solution and  his occasional expressions of concern for Gazan casualties  collide with his oft-repeated “Israel has the right to defend itself.” Even to this day, Biden refuses to call for ceasefire or set any conditions on America’s arms aid. Nor has he taken issue with Israel’s siege policy, which uses starvation as a war tactic.

The UN Security Council on May 24, 2018, unanimously adopted Resolution 2417, which strongly condemned the starving of civilians and the restriction of  humanitarian aid. A Human Rights Watch report last December 18 (“Israel: Starvation Used as a Weapon of War in Gaza,”) found as follows:

1) “The Israeli Government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip, which is a war crime.

2) Israeli officials have made public statements expressing their aim to deprive civilians of  food, water, and fuel–statements reflected in Israeli forces’ military operations.

3) The Israeli government should not attack objects necessary for the survival of the civilian population, [should] lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, and [should]restore electricity and water.

Biden’s words and actions have enabled and assisted Prime Minister Netanyahu in his genocidal war that now includes famine; they have increased the risk of a regional war; and they have diminished respect for international institutions and the rule of law.  By focusing on hostage recovery and “day-after” governance, he has neglected the urgent question of where the desperate Gazans can go now to find water, food and safety from IDF attacks.

A feckless U.S. foreign policy is helping Israel put Gazans on the road to famine. It has made Biden and all of America complicit in Israel’s genocide.

L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former Director General, International Development Law Organization, Rome.