Biden won’t protect Palestinian Americans from Israeli attacks

Ambassador Tom Nides gesticulates

Amb. Tom Nides has expressed dismay about Israeli settler violence, but his rhetoric is empty.

Debbie Hill UPI

For the second time this year, large numbers of armed Israeli settlers have rampaged through Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank terrorizing Palestinians in their homes.

The attacks, which started Wednesday, have continued into the weekend. Settler attacks on a smaller scale against Palestinians, usually in more agricultural areas, occur with alarming frequency and with far less media coverage.

The Israeli government and military frequently abet settler attacks on Palestinians, even as settlers employ life-endangering violence, including an incident this week that could have burned to death members of a Palestinian American family in the West Bank village of Turmus Aya.

Eyewitness Mohammed Suleiman, who was visiting his hometown from Chicago, told The Washington Post of the settlers: “It was terrifying, we just saw mobs of people in the streets, masked, armed.” He added that the Israeli military was “literally clearing the way for them.”

Abdulkarim Abdulkarim of Ohio called out “terrorism supported by the government,” referring to Israel’s government of extreme right wingers.

And 15-year-old Mohammed Awwad from northern California said, “I just kept thinking I was going to die.” He relayed this as he picked glass from his bare foot and prepared to flee to the hills for potential greater safety from settlers funded by the Israeli government and Israel Bonds as documented this week by human rights group DAWN, Democracy for the Arab World Now.

This is what it has come to as Palestinian Americans flee and the US government is unprepared to protect them or even properly lambaste the government of racists enabling such violence.

Such fearful realities for Palestinians and Palestinian Americans are too infrequently relayed to American audiences, though the extremism of the current ultra-nationalists leading Israel is making it more common. The American public is seldom told that settlers receive funding from US charitable donations.

Settlers threatening, intimidating, injuring and possibly killing Palestinian Americans, as the Israeli military did twice last year, could eventually create a problem for both a friendly Biden administration and for the far-right Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Biden administration doesn’t want Israel to be an issue as the US heads into elections because it’s unwilling to explain the apartheid issues to the American electorate for the first time.

US ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, though not to be taken seriously due to his anti-Palestinian bias, which still isn’t enough for pro-Israel activists, went so far as to declare: “We do not stand and watch settler violence. I’ve been very clear and very specific that we will not stand by, and we’re pushing the Israelis to take whatever action they need to take to stop those people.”

This is rhetoric the US surely won’t back up.

The US “will not stand by”? What does that even mean?

Standing by is precisely what the US government has been doing for decades – along with funding Israel’s military.

The US military isn’t going to step in to stop Israeli violence directed at Americans visiting family members living under occupation. The US won’t even stop the flow of arms to Israel.

Nor is the US likely to arrest any dual citizen settlers it identifies as participants in violence against fellow Americans upon arrival in the US.

The US State Department has not responded to a request from The Electronic Intifada for further clarification of what Nides meant.

No, until President Joe Biden speaks to the contrary, one must assume he wants this “headache” to go away but without taking concrete measures against Israel.

And Netanyahu isn’t stupid. He knows Biden isn’t going to take a stand against Israel and for Palestinians or even Palestinian Americans heading into a presidential election.

Two who did speak out were Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – who referred to “the violent apartheid government of Israel” – and Congressman Chuy García of Illinois.


Israeli settlers say the impetus for this assault on Palestinians in their homes was the killing of four Israeli settlers in the settlement of Eli earlier in the week. This was also the case in February when two Israeli settlers were killed near Huwwara.

Both of those Palestinian attacks on settlers were immediately preceded by large-scale Israeli military assaults in the West Bank killing 11 Palestinians in Nablus in February and five in Jenin this time. Two more Palestinians, including Sadil Ghasan Ibrahim Naghnaghieh, a 14-year-old girl, died of injuries shortly after the Jenin attack.

Governments around the world have abandoned Palestinians, leaving them in an impossible situation. Israeli governments continue to take more and more land with settlers complicit in the theft of both private Palestinian land and land at one time intended for a future Palestinian state or glorified bantustan.

Settlement activity, illegal under international law, is not negatively sanctioned by the US or European Union and, in fact, the US provides approximately $4 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

Consequently, Israel for decades has done as it pleased in the occupied territory and for years has only had to fend off empty words of concern.

Left without meaningful legal recourse, and told that the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is an illegitimate and even “anti-Semitic” response to decades of oppression, those Palestinians defending their private property and homeland from outright theft are frequently deemed “terrorists” by leading American politicians. They do not refer to Israeli settlers, politicians and military leaders with the same terminology or even regard them as war criminals.

Many on the American political right, quick to cite “stand your ground” laws as an excuse for white people to kill Black Americans, wouldn’t dream of upholding as acting in self-defense a Palestinian refugee thrown off family land in 1948 and threatened with it again today.

In their book, Palestinians are “terrorists” whose anger emerges from a vacuum. All of it, in this view, whether directed at soldiers or armed settlers violating international law is “terrorism.”

As for the political left in the US Congress, most won’t even mobilize to support nonviolent BDS as they did with apartheid South Africa.

On 20 June, just days after he disparaged the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights as a “relic,” Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres tweeted, “My heart goes out to the families of the four Israeli civilians who were murdered at the hands of terrorists acting on behalf of Hamas.”

He added, “Terror is the enemy of peace.”

Torres opposes the most significant Palestinian-led nonviolent movement to secure their rights and he opposes Palestinian violence as a means too. Evidently, they’re to wait on the good will of anti-Palestinians such as Netanyahu and national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a notorious racist in the governing coalition.

Torres has not, as it turns out, tweeted anything about Israel’s assault on Jenin that preceded the attack he cited.

He has not tweeted about the terror of an Israeli military operation in a Palestinian city under occupation and that military shooting to death a 14-year-old girl. He has not commented on the rampaging Israeli settlers who attacked Palestinians and Palestinian Americans and torched their property.

He has not tweeted this week about Israeli settlers taking Palestinian land.

Nor has Torres challenged Israel’s apartheid policies. In fact, in the face of all the evidence, he denies the apartheid reality.

Perhaps he truly believes Israel does not practice apartheid and does not pursue policies fostering rampant discrimination. If he does believe Israeli propaganda rather than the evidence put forward by human rights organizations, he should tell the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that he’s willing to defend Israeli apartheid without taking the organization’s campaign contributions.

Torres comments on the occasionally violent Palestinian reaction, but is unwilling to speak meaningfully about Israel’s underlying injustice in violently imposing settlements. It’s a remarkably superficial grappling with the issues.

Two members of The Elders, a group of independent global leaders working for “peace, justice, human rights and a sustainable planet” initially brought together by Nelson Mandela, raise alarm about settlements in a 22 June statement.

They point to human rights organizations detailing “the ever-growing evidence that the situation meets the international legal definition of apartheid: the expansion and entrenchment of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the establishment of dual legal regimes and separation infrastructure in the occupied territories, and the institutionalized discrimination and abuses perpetrated against Palestinians.”

Netanyahu, defense minister Yoav Gallant and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich – a self-described “fascist homophobe” who has previously yelled at Palestinian lawmakers that “you’re here by mistake” as they should in his view have been thrown out in 1948 – in a joint statement this week made crystal clear their position.

They’re going to kill or attack any Palestinian who violently resists and they’re going to continue to take Palestinian land, thereby making Palestinian resistance all the more likely.

“Our answer to terrorism is to strike at it forcefully and build up our country,” the three declared. “Build up our country” is a euphemistic reference to building more illegal settlements in occupied territory in violation of international law, including 1,000 new units in the settlement of Eli.

National security minister Ben-Gvir has called for killing thousands of what he calls “terrorists.” In recent years he has changed his rhetoric from calling for the deaths of Arabs (meaning Palestinians) to “terrorists” (meaning Palestinians).

Member of Knesset Zvi Sukkot, who also incited against Huwwara in February according to CNN, stated that settlers attacking Palestinians in Turmus Aya “doesn’t concern me too much, what concerns me are Jews who were murdered.” He added that the village is not one of “righteous people,” appearing to suggest that vigilante collective punishment against them was justified.

Josh Hammer, senior editor-at-large at Newsweek, whose anti-Palestinian racism and indulgence of anti-Semitism directed at George Soros has been previously documented by The Electronic Intifada, tweeted that the proposed additional units were “an excellent response to yesterday’s terror.”

One day earlier, Hammer had tweeted, “May HaShem avenge their blood and comfort the grieving families among the mourners of Zion.” He voiced no alarm about the settlers’ rampage through Palestinian communities.

To the point of expanding Israeli control and settlement in the occupied West Bank, Mary Robinson, chair of The Elders and formerly both the Irish president and the UN high commissioner for human rights, and Ban Ki-moon, deputy chair of The Elders and former UN secretary-general, note: “The government of Israel’s intent to exercise sovereignty over all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea undermines the democratic ideals of the Israeli state, denies the Palestinian people their right to self-determination, and risks an uncontrollable explosion of violence on both sides.”

Their comments suggest they put too much stock in Israel’s “democratic ideals” and prefer the two-state solution. But Israeli settlement activity has long foreclosed on that outcome.

The question now is whether Israel will be allowed to continue to impose apartheid or if equal rights for all between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will prevail.

That fight for equal rights is scarcely underway.

One of the major uncertainties of the next five years is what direction new Palestinian leadership will take when the current Palestinian Authority – entirely incapable of protecting Palestinians in their homes and villages – passes from the scene.

The US and Israel will be desperate to find equally inept and accommodating leadership.

That the racists in the Israeli government are somehow able to run circles around the Palestinian Authority – though not the Palestinian people – speaks to failed leadership and the lack of effective strategic planning.


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.