Power Suits 22 May 2020
Joe Biden has released his plan for Palestinians and Israelis.
Interestingly it is not in his campaign website’s foreign policy section, but falls under the title “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community.”
This is a clear indication that he views the matter as one of domestic political pandering, without the normal pretense that it is about pursuing “peace” or “US interests.”
It is also evidence that Biden holds the anti-Semitic belief that American Jews are, or should be, primarily concerned about Israel, something Donald Trump has been castigated for in recent years by the liberal press.
The webpage mentions Israel 21 times! It reads as an Israel lobby wish list of anti-Palestinian and anti-Iran policies – and that’s precisely what it is.
Amid promises to support practically any hardline pro-Israel policy you can think of, there is only a passing reference to a “two-state outcome,” and it makes no mention of Palestinian rights – standard, tedious fare for mainstream American politicians.
But one line in particular stands out – the former vice president’s attack on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.
Biden pledges to “Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel – home to millions of Jews – and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”
Choices? Did Palestinians choose to be expelled from their homeland by Zionist militias in 1947 and 1948?
Have they chosen to live under Israeli military occupation and siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967?
Have Palestinians chosen to have their land confiscated and their homes demolished, while Israeli soldiers and settlers kill their children so that Israel can build colonies on their land?
It is striking how the liberal language of “choice” deployed against Palestinians internationally closely echoes the justifications used domestically since the Reagan era to support mass incarceration and to attack social safety nets that supported poor, particularly Black communities.
In this framework, the poverty of those with the least power is always a result of their own moral failings – a resurrection of Victorian notions of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.
Beginning with his 1976 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan notoriously embellished a single extreme case of a Chicago woman who had defrauded public assistance programs to create the enduring racial stereotype of the “welfare queen.”
As writer Josh Levin notes, this “vicious, baseless caricature demonized some of the nation’s most vulnerable people, laying the groundwork for bipartisan welfare reforms that slashed direct aid to the poor.”
Biden eagerly took it up himself: In the late 1980s, he admitted there may be no truth to the narrative of “welfare mothers driving luxury cars,” but nonetheless deployed it to justify his support for Reagan’s cuts.
The underlying logic was that it wasn’t an American system built on centuries of genocide, enslavement of Black people, segregation and rampant capitalism that created and entrenched poverty and inequality, but bad “choices” by individuals who now had to be forced by a punitive state to take “personal responsibility.”
A perfect encapsulation of this approach was the Clinton administration’s “welfare reform” law of 1996, which resulted in an increase in extreme poverty: It was named the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.”
As a senator, Biden, of course, voted for that law – a decision he’s unwilling to defend today.
Biden will keep Trump’s policies
Yet the “welfare reform” approach remains alive and well in Biden’s plan for Palestinians.
He says he would “reverse” the Trump administration’s cuts of humanitarian and “security” aid to Palestinians, but only subject to requirements that the Palestinian Authority “is taking measures to end acts of violence against Israeli and US citizens, including terminating payments to individuals engaged in acts of terrorism.”
Palestinians, like young Black Americans, are always the ones cast as superpredators.
Palestinians must jump through endless hoops, whose height is always set by Israel and its lobby, according to their own interests and definitions.
Incidentally, aid cuts are the only policy Biden says he will reverse.
He is totally silent about Trump’s decisions to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights and of East Jerusalem, his move of the US embassy, as well as Trump’s declaration that Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are legal.
Biden’s proposals include no word of opposition to the new Israeli government’s plans to annex even more of the West Bank.
And he pledges to continue the record levels of military aid the Obama-Biden administration gave Israel in order to ensure – no strings attached – that “Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge.”
Unlike the punishment meted out to Palestinians, who have had no choice in being colonized by Israel, Israel will not be held responsible for its bad choices, but will continuously be rewarded for them.
The same punitive logic underlies the system of mass incarceration targeting Black communities described by Michelle Alexander in her landmark 2010 book The New Jim Crow.
In the wake of the civil rights movement, Biden joined forces with segregationist senators to prevent Black students from joining their white counterparts in the nation’s classrooms.
And Biden has notoriously bragged about his role in helping put many of those young Black people behind bars.
“The truth is,” Biden declared in 1993, “every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the State of Delaware: Joe Biden.”The Delaware senator was also one of the chief proponents of the 1994 Bill Clinton crime bill that further increased racialized mass incarceration.
Biden had warned that it was needed to deal with “predators on our streets” who were “beyond the pale.”
Obama-Biden administration’s racism
One of Biden’s chief selling points is his role as President Barack Obama’s vice president. But far from representing a break with his racist past, it provided an opportunity for its continuation, with respectable cover.
After all, Obama himself eagerly adopted Reagan-era racist tropes in order to attack Black communities.
For instance, in a 2013 commencement speech at Morehouse College, a historically Black institution, Obama admonished the graduating students that “too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices.”
“Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict Black people – and particularly Black youth – and another way of addressing everyone else,” Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates observed at the time.
“I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard [College] that – there’s no longer room for any excuses – as though they were in the business of making them.”
In a speech the same year marking 50 years since the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama “resurrect[ed] Ronald Reagan’s phantom armies of ‘Welfare Queens,’” as Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford put it.
Biden now purports to have disavowed some of his anti-Black racism – though there is little reason to believe that he would fundamentally change after a career spent promoting right-wing policies.
(Indeed, last year, Biden reassured rich donors that if he is elected president, “No one’s standard of living would change. Nothing would fundamentally change.”)
Similarly, when it comes to Palestinians, the bigotry remains fully intact, both in rhetoric and in substance.
In reality it is Israel, which subjects millions of Palestinians to brutal oppression, that is allowed to do as it pleases while living large off the American taxpayer.
Meanwhile, Palestinians, corralled in bantustans and ghettos, and habitually bombed by Israel and murdered by its snipers, are admonished for their poor “choices.”
- Joe Biden
- Democratic Party
- 2020 US presidential election
- mass incarceration
- Barack Obama
- Michelle Alexander
Permalink Deborah Chasteen replied on
I was not a Biden voter: Warren all the way.
I hope that Bernie (whom I respect for pulling the Dems left, though I don't think he could have gotten a d--n thing done) will grab Biden and yank him toward decency.
As will I, in any way I can think of, or you can suggest.
Permalink Frank Dallas replied on
Yes, the poor are always to blame for their poverty and the oppressed for their oppression. The native people of north America, who had lived there for thousands of years, were obviously to blame for their genocide: they didn't have gunpowder and they fought back. According to the Israelis the thirty babies killed at Deir Yassin were to blame for their own deaths: they fought back. The language of choice is ideology. It's purpose is to mask the reality of unjust arrangements. Biden, being a multi-millionaire, can choose to live where he likes in the US. The 20 million who compose the American underclass are lucky to have anywhere to live. As the US shop-floor poet Fred Voss says, all you need is a redundancy notice and you're eating from trash cans. The record re Israel Palestine is clear: in 1976 and 1980 the US vetoed UN resolutions in favour of the 2-states solution endorse by the PLO; in 1989 a General Assembly resolution of the same kind was passed 151-3 ( Israel, US, Dominica. ) The rejectionism has always come from Israel and the US. Nor is this recent. The Israeli position from the start has been to agree to compromise, win a concession, and then reject the compromise. They refused the borders agreed by Resolution 181. They have been consistently perfidious. Ben-Gurion claimed that Palestinian resistance was anti-Semitism, killing Jews "because they were Jews". Moshe Dayan told the truth: that "the combat helmet" and the "barrel of a gun" made Israel. Violence. Terrorism. They are what made Israel and they sustain it. Israel, a country of 6 and half million Jews is the fourth or fifth greatest military power. Racism and violence. They are the basis of the Israeli State and of its ideology. Biden follows US long-term policy: support the powerful, connive with violence and racism, excuse the terrorism of your friends. There is nothing to hope for from mainstream US politics. The radical grassroots must do the work. The status quo is corrupt to its core.
do the math
Permalink John m Costello replied on
Nothing coming from the mainstream - it's up to the roots? Donald Trump is still in office, not because of the power of his intellect or political savvy. The GOP supports him almost universally and why? It's because the lion's share of conservative voters support Trump and vote down ballot too. The only ones who take to the streets amongst that basketful of deplorables are loony nazis, who're little more than a slight embarrassment. They vote. With all due respect I see no evidence whatsoever, in fact plenty quite to the contrary, that progressives are going to affect gov't from the streets.
Are people like me just fools hoping to squeeze blood out of a turnip? I guess so but I just don't see anything else to realistically hope for.
I think we need to vote and we need to do it in a block. The system's always going to veer conservative because conservatives sustain legal corruption. With Dems there are brief periods when that's stifled. In a few weeks enough of the W Bank is going to be annexed that it might as well be all of it. Biden has expressed opposition to that. It's a hope, a reprieve, a moment to recoup in retreat. Because that's what Biden represents, a retreat from the reaction to the first black President and a chance, if we can demonstrate the better part of valor.
So, what's the alternative?
Permalink Lee Mortimer replied on
Should we vote for a third-party candidate and ensure that Donald Trump gets a second term?
Vote early and vote often
Permalink Zionism Is Not Judaism replied on
Vote for whomever one wishes, because they don't count it anyway.
absolutism is a privilege
Permalink John m Costello replied on
And it's the privileged who invariably claim absolute ideological authority. Sure, I wanted Bernie to turn America in a direction with some hope of making it into the future but then I wanted Al Gore for the same reason. It is what it is and I still think that while time is working against our survival, it's our only hope. Are yours and Debs and Carlin's takes on things right? Not completely but there is certainly a lot in them that is and needs to rise to the surface. We've seen some hope with the Congressional freshman class and that has to keep going. But the selfish and heedless path you show us is a dead end as long as the road signs don't make sense to the traffic. Yelling is great as long as the crowd speaks the same language. But if they don't, look for the demegogues to interpret your frightening truths the way they will, which is to their benefit, not ours.
Mundane as it may seem to you in your ivory tower, voting is still an alternative to a civil war the left can't win.
Permalink John m Costello replied on
Trump revealed what already existed. Jerusalem wasn't home to our embassy, yet, but it may as well have been. Syria was already fully controlled by Israel.
I think the threat of full annexation is clear because the annexation of Area C represents most of nascent Palestine and really the heart of any remaining hope for a Palestinian homeland.
So is it better for Palestinians to have a Trump or a Biden? Or will it matter?
Maybe only time will tell and maybe it's about how much time is spent easing into the thing or fast dealing it. Or not. I do think though that hope lies with the law and when it goes and the strong rule, there will be no hope for Palestinians, whether as a nation or as a significant minority in a quasi-fascist state.
So why Ali, do you pick up the torch carried by the likes of Chris Hedges and Norman Solomon, from 2000 to 2016? There is ample room for political context in the case of Biden.
I do not think Biden hates
Permalink JOHN CHUCKMAN replied on
I do not think Biden hates Palestinians or anyone else.
But he loves the funds and other assistance from the Israel lobby.
Here is what Biden represents, and it ain't pretty:
Joe Biden and the Palestinians
Permalink Barbara A Mullin replied on
Years ago Joe Biden spoke at an AIPAC meeting and called himself a Zionist. Jimmy Carter called Israel an apartheid state years ago and wrote a book about it. For Biden to support the attempted law that's it's against the law to be in favor of boycott, divest and sanction when it comes to Israel ought be illegal. Twenty some states have signed on to this. Biden will be no different from Trump on all important issues. He is no progressive.
Permalink edward lama replied on
Bravo Mr Ali Abunimah your truthful eloquence and command of the English language makes you a feared nemesis if the Zionist/pseudo Christian alliance- Alas the American public will never get to hear you interviewed or debating the other dude on CNN or any mainstream outlet. I believe it’s the duty of all good people to carry your message in their spheres of influence and beyond
The Damascus agenda is a
Permalink Muneer Gonsalves replied on
The Damascus agenda is a perpetuating model of terroristic domestication and colonialism. The same which bulldozed the way for the slavery, poverty, and social injustices in America.
Article failed to read full Biden platform
Permalink Joseph replied on
After reading this article, I went to Biden's site to look at his policy, and this article seems to have missed what the campaign states in the next section titled "Joe Biden's plan for Muslim American Communities" (quoted below). It doesn't really change his opposition to the BDS movement, but does clearly oppose Israeli settlements and support a two state solution. This article certainly misrepresents the position of Biden's campaign by not looking at that section.
"As President, Joe will engage Israelis and Palestinians alike to help them find ways to live together in peace, freedom, security, and prosperity and to champion a two-state solution. He will continue to oppose Israeli settlement expansion and has spoken out against annexation in the West Bank. He will reopen the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem, and restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians."
When he has never done
Permalink Ali Abunimah replied on
When he has never done anything to oppose Israeli settlements, I do not know what “continue to oppose Israeli settlements” means. He does not pledge to close the US embassy in Jerusalem, merely to re-open the consulate in East Jerusalem. As for “humanitarian assistance,” that is rendered necessary by precisely the policies he has supported and advanced his entire career. There is nothing of substance in these statements. The two-state solution is an empty slogan for those who do not have the guts or principles to face reality.
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