Biden can’t be pro-Israel enough for Republican firebrands

Six members of Congress stand on the House steps of the US Capitol Building

Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne embraces Congressman Ronny Jackson. They and eight others sent letters to President Joe Biden criticizing his then upcoming visit to East Jerusalem.

Tom Williams CQ Roll Call

Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne of Texas led five other Republicans in a typo-laden 12 July letter to Joe Biden attacking the US president just before his recent visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

“We write today to express our concern over the reports of your proposed visit to East Jerusalem during an upcoming trip to Israel. As you know, Jerusalem is the long-recognized capital of Israel.”

“This,” they argued, “has been the constant stance of the United States since the [p]assage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which promoted an undivided [city] of Jerusalem.”

They were incensed that Biden planned to visit East Jerusalem, asserting that this would be unprecedented for a US president.

This is not, however, the case. President Donald Trump taunted Palestinians with his visit to East Jerusalem in 2017 as the Old City, including the Western Wall and the plaza Israel created there by destroying the historic Moroccan Quarter, is within the territory Israel occupied in 1967.

Although Trump was the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, he followed in the footsteps of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who each went there either as candidates, when they were out of office or in at least one case while serving as vice president.

But what the Republican lawmakers probably meant, and clearly objected to, was that Biden’s visit would be the first by a sitting president to Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem outside of the Old City.

They claimed that a visit to East Jerusalem would “reward the Palestinian Authority, which continues to support acts of terrorism including the most recent violent clashes attacks [sic] against Israeli civilians on the Temple Mount.”

As part of the 1993 Oslo accords which created it, the Palestinian Authority has limited responsibility in parts of the occupied West Bank, but Israel has totally excluded it from East Jerusalem.

Moreover, since those accords were signed, Israel has waged a violent campaign to shut down dozens of Palestinian civic and cultural institutions in the occupied city as part of its relentless effort to degrade and destroy Palestinian life there.

Notwithstanding the absence of the PA from Jerusalem, these Republicans ignore how the PA actively collaborates with the Israeli military occupation and Shin Bet spy agency – collusion without which Israel would likely find it far harder to administer its apartheid regime in the West Bank.

And, of course, their letter says nothing about deadly Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, Israel’s violent raids on the al-Aqsa mosque compound and its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighborhoods where Israel is expanding its colonial settlements in violation of international law.

Undeterred by the facts, the lawmakers incoherently charge that it is the PA that “continues to engage in the real obstacles to peace.”

These alleged PA transgressions include “refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, supporting terrorism through incitement to violence and providing payments to terrorists and their families, encouraging discriminatory boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS).”

In fact, as part of the Oslo accords that created the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organization explicitly recognized “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.”

Neither at that time, nor ever since, has Israel recognized any Palestinian right to self-determination, statehood or the right of refugees to return home.

Although this is what Israel and the United States demanded and got from the PLO, once it was delivered the demands were only raised. Now Palestinians are required to recognize Israel’s alleged right to exist “as a Jewish state.” What this means in practice is that Palestinians must recognize Israel’s “right” to enact racist laws and policies aimed at ensuring that Jews always remain a majority and hold a monopoly on power.

In an identical manner, at least in the 1950s, white supremacists in power demanded that Black Americans recognize that US states had a “right” to impose Jim Crow segregation. And white apartheid advocates in South Africa believed they had a “right” to exist as a white-run racist state.

These claims were legitimized by appeals to Christian theology.

The 20 percent of Israel’s population that is Palestinian obviously can’t expect full rights in an explicitly Jewish or ethnonationalist state, nor can Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied territory.

The lawmakers said nothing about Israel’s incitement of violence and payments to racist religious leaders and military officials responsible for killing and maiming thousands of Palestinian children and adults in war crimes for which there has been zero accountability.

And, unsurprisingly, rather than grapple with the fact that the Palestinian-led BDS movement opposes all forms of racism including anti-Jewish bigotry while promoting equal rights and freedom for Palestinians, the Republican congress members disparage it as “discriminatory.”

Though to be fair to them, many Democrats, including the Biden administration, do the same.

The Republican writers were further enraged at American – and Gulf – funds to a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem.

They noted that President Trump cut $25 million in US funding to hospitals in East Jerusalem – providing life-saving treatment to Palestinians from all over the occupied West Bank and Gaza – and were angered that Biden was scheduled to visit one of them.

“A visit would be viewed as a continued sign of continued support [for] the Palestinians in their illegitimate efforts to claim [e]ast Jerusalem and give[s] the perception of future funding,” the lawmakers wrote.

Biden did in fact visit the Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem, where he pledged $100 million for Palestinian health services in the city.

These six whining Republicans, having denied Palestinians equal rights and freedom, now seek to undercut Palestinian medical patients – children and elderly alike.

At least they are being consistent, since it has long been the policy of the Republican Party to take healthcare away from millions of Americans as well.

Notably, all six of these lawmakers – Beth Van Duyne, Randy Weber, Bill Johnson, Pete Sessions, Ronny Jackson and Greg Steube – voted to challenge the result of the 2020 presidential election based on false claims of fraud.

They also all voted Tuesday against interracial and same-sex marriage.
All six election deniers are supported and financially backed by AIPAC. Power politics, discrimination and undemocratic supremacist ideologies come easily to these politicians and to that influential Israel lobby group.

Oddly left unsaid by the congressional representatives is that the Biden administration said no to Israeli officials accompanying them to the East Jerusalem hospital.

This modicum of independence infuriates the political right in the US as these conservatives may be even more determined to support and finance Israeli apartheid than is the Biden administration.

More election deniers write Biden

A separate 13 July letter from Congressmen Lee Zeldin, Doug Lamborn, Joe Wilson and David Kustoff, co-chairs of the House Republican Israel Caucus, made clear that their opposition was based on Biden’s “rejection of the request made by Israel to have officials join you in your visit to East Jerusalem outside of the Old City.”

They noted that “no US president in recent history has visited East Jerusalem outside of the Old City.”

All four of the letter signers are presidential election deniers.

And three of the deniers are among the congressional candidates endorsed by AIPAC.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, who does not appear on AIPAC’s congressional list, is now running to be the next governor of New York.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.