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Bibi, Biden and Trump: Do Palestinian Lives Matter?


Dr Can Erimtan
21st Century Wire

Seven years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) unleashed a more than a “month long campaign of destruction and devastation of the Gaza Strip,” even naming the genocidal exercise quasi-poetically and blatantly ironically, Operation Protective Edge (8 July–26 August 2014). In comparison, the recent military campaign against the Palestinians appears rather benign.

This year’s 11-day military assault on the world’s largest open-air prison, colloquially known as Gaza has now come to an end (10-21 May 2021). The end results are clear and simple: ‘248 Palestinians killed. Including 66 children and 39 women. At least 1,910 wounded.’ And more ‘than 90,000 Palestinians displaced,’ as tweeted by the English-language news channel Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, 12 people in Israel have also been killed, including two children, one Indian woman as well as two Thai men living and working in Israel. The fact that the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas started firing rockets into Israel proper remains beyond doubt, but the Israeli leadership and its settler cohorts had been provoking the displaced Palestinians for quite some time now.

Starting on 13 April 2021, coinciding with the first day of the Muslim month of Ramadan dedicated to fasting, praying and sleeping, Israeli police raided the Haram al Sharif [Temple Mount] in Jerusalem, proceeding to cut the loudspeaker cables used to broadcast the alAqsa mosque’s call to prayer (adhan). This clear act of provocation has to be seen in conjunction with the ongoing violence surrounding the adjacent East Jerusalem area of Sheikh Jarrah – called ‘property disputes between Palestinians and Israelis,’ in sanitized English; or, the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes by Israeli settlers, in plain English.

In the meantime, the Israeli state continued its provocative attacks on the alAqsa, which is not just an important mosque for Palestinians locally but to all Muslims worldwide as the site of Muhammad’s legendary night journey to Heaven (Isrā’ and Mi’rāj).

In response to Bibi’s seemingly wanton acts of provocation, ‘Hamas had demanded that [Israel] pull all troops from the Shimon Hatzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by 6 PM [on 10 May 2021]. Hamas also called on Israel to free all Arabs detained for rioting in Jerusalem by that time.’ Early on that very day, the Israeli police stormed the alAqsa, “firing stun grenades and tear gas and clashing with Palestinians inside following days of worsening clashes.” This provocative attack followed by an expected non-compliance to the ultimatum on the part of the Israeli authorities, led the Palestinian resistance organization to fire seven rockets at Jerusalem shortly ‘after 6 PM Monday evening, right as the ultimatum . . . expired. One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome system,’ as related by Arutz Sheva (Israel National News, in English), an Israeli media network identifying with religious Zionism. Bibi took this as his invitation to start all-out war on Gaza. The Wall Street Journal ‘s Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber explain that “Israel carried out airstrikes in Palestinian territory after militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time since 2014 . . . The targets included eight Hamas operatives and a Hamas terror tunnel. Israel also bolstered its troops on the border with Gaza.” And that was the first day of the 11-day military assault on Gaza. The Israeli PM then told the press that the “current conflict could continue for some time. We do not seek escalation but whoever chooses to escalate will feel the weight of our arm,” indicating that the current military action would be nothing but a Blitzkrieg rather than a serious named operation like seven years ago.

The reasoning behind this 11-day Blitzkrieg seem beyond easy comprehension. The Jerusalem Post correspondent, Dr Seth Frantzman suggested on Twitter that this whole episode was all about Bibi’s electoral failure and his desire to cling to power and distract from his court case: “The Chairman of the Yamina party, “[Naftali] Bennett in Israel who was working to form a government with Lapid says he will go back to Netanyahu and Likud, [and therefore,] the recent violence [effectively] defeated opposition to Netanyahu.”  Frantzman even added that “one might find [this] a bit suspicious given the timing.”

Building Back Better: Biden does MAGA

Throughout these eleven days, the world had been watching the events in Israel and Gaza in awe and disbelief. One could argue that the Middle East has now once more reasserted its place at the forefront of the world’s attention, at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. President Trump fully supported Israel and its beleaguered leader Benjamin Netanyahu over the past four years; and, the relatively fresh Biden administration was in the process of devoting its full attention to the Far East instead: China is “deadly earnest on becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world,” is what President Biden said last month (28 April 2021), only to add:

We are in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We are at a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back better . . . We have to compete more strenuously.

But now Bibi has thrown a spanner in the works and the world is once again watching the bloodshed in the so-called Holy Land. Rather than building back better; and, treating the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” as “a much less urgent matter,” as worded by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the Biden administration is back in the middle of a foreign policy issue “which has bedeviled generations of American presidents.”

As Woke-in-Chief, Joe Biden and his VP Harris were all about diversity, inclusion and equity (aka #DIE), they wanted to change America for the better and take the world along for the ride. And their chosen slogan possessed a sound pedigree, as expressed by Drs Ksenia Chmutina and Wesley Cheek:  the phrase Build Back Better “was found floating around the international development/post-disaster reconstruction world by Bill Clinton following the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami.” At the time, Bill Clinton penned a United Nations Report entitled Key Propositions for Building Back Better. About a decade and a half later, Biden and/or his advisers/mentors picked up this catchy phrase to re-fashion the world (or rather ‘America’) according to the specifications of newly-minted fashionable ideas and slogans: “Building back better means an updated social contract that treats American workers and working families as essential at all times, not just times of crisis . . . Building back better means helping small businesses and entrepreneurs come out the other side of this crisis strong, while demanding more from corporate America.” President Biden’s mantra does sound a lot like his predecessor’s slogan Make America Great Again (#MAGA); but, in order to quickly dispell any such impressions he equally quickly told the world that “America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back,” while speaking to the annual Munich Security Conference virtually last February.

Quite logically now, the People’s Republic of China has now quite robustly taken sides in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Its foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declaring the following on 14 May 2021: “What we can feel is that the U.S. keeps saying that it cares about the human rights of Muslims . . . but it was ignoring the suffering of the Palestinian people.” On the one hand, China thereby all but reaffirms its stance in the New Cold War realignments, while taunting Biden in his desire to concentrate on China even as he now has to deal with Palestine.


IMAGE: ‘The Squad’ continues to pull Biden to the left: Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put direct pressure the White House to take a more sympathetic line regarding the Palestinian plight.

#BLM becomes #PLM?

Before the end of the 11-day war, “President Biden [had] held six phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and one with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.” From Tel Aviv, the Israeli journalist and commentator Barak Ravid explains that President “Biden told his top advisers that this time around, the U.S. would deal with the crisis through intense but quiet diplomacy with Israel and Egypt,” as if replaying Obama’s strategy of leading from behind though the latter never really seems to have uttered such a phrase. While the President was frantically working behind the scenes, Biden’s America had nevertheless undergone some important changes, changes that have come into place as a result of the power and influence of the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) movement and its political allies. On ‘Nakba Day,’ the annual day of commemoration of the Palestinian Catastrophe which is the declaration of the state of Israel on 15 May, across the U.S. demonstrations took place in major cities – Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and others. The Associated Press (AP) reported that in ‘Atlanta, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, including grandparents, teenagers and mothers and fathers with youngsters in tow, assembled downtown to wave signs and chant slogans . . . One sign read, “We can’t breathe since 1948” — a nod to the racial injustice and police brutality protests in the U.S. during the past year in the wake of George Floyd’s death.’ In this way, the hashtag BLM had suddenly become ‘PLM’ or Palestinian Lives Matter. While on American television screens hitherto unheard words and phrases were being broadcast. The 22-year old Palestinian “writer and a poet” Mohammed el-Kurd’ namely appeared on CNN and MSNBC (11 May 2021). The young man quite self-assuredly called the Israeli attacks on Gaza a “war crime” and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, “ethnic cleansing.” He even stated that Israel “came about by stealing people’s homes and stealing people’s lands, stealing people’s villages.”

Now they use a supremacist, colonial judicial system that colludes with settler organizations registered in the United States to take our homes. Just because it’s legalised  doesn’t mean it’s moral or correct or historically just. What’s happening to us in Sheikh Jarah is ethnic cleansing.

Arguably, this was the first time ever American television viewers heard such words. The mood in the U.S. has now clearly changed. The public opinion pollster John Zogby simply says that “[t]he shift is dramatic; it’s tectonic;” adding that “[t]here is a non-white population, particularly among Democrats, who are very sensitive to the treatment of fellow non-whites.” Zogby even made this incredible following statement: these non-white Americans, “[t]hey see Israel as an aggressor.” After all, Biden as Woke-in-Chief has ensured that his administration is more diverse than ever, more non-white than ever. And now, this newly acquired sensitivity is slowly gaining ground in the wider population of the United States.

Part of this shift can be credited to the emergence of “The Squad” faction within the Democratic Party, led by a trio of Congresswomen – Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Somalian refugee Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and the popular outspoken representative from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The BBC recently acknowledged this change in Congressional demographics as one of the factors which is nudging US opinion away from its previously hardened policy positions:

As the US Congress has become an increasingly diverse body, however, that has had some serious consequences for US policy toward Israel. In 2021, a record 23% of members of the House and Senate were people of black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American heritage, according to a Pew Foundation study. Two decades earlier, that number was 11%. In 1945, it was 1%.

Bibi and Biden: A Love Affair in the Making?!??

Benyamin Netanyahu may have had many reasons to initiate this latest bout of violence against the Palestinians living in Gaza. Arguably he could very well have reasoned that this latest flare-up would have negative consequences for Biden, thereby aiding his personal friend and ally, Donald J. Trump. After all, both men for four years had a “mutually beneficial relationship,” as worded by the AP. A former Israeli consul-general in New York, Alon Pinkas, even said at the time that “[t]hey [meaning Bibi and Trump] see eye to eye.” After all, Bibi did say that Trump was “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.” As a result, it would seem conceivable that the Israeli PM intended to help his friend and ally’s party in the upcoming mid-terms and Trump’s possible presidential run in 2024. But Bibi had clearly not counted on the wider #BLM effect in the U.S. And Biden showed himself to be an adept mover and shaker behind the scenes. Rather than weakening the Democrat’s hand, Biden seems to have proven his mettle.

In the end, Netanyahu still came out on top, even if Biden’s position and credibility do not seem to have been weakened by the recent events. In fact, the U.S. President has now even rewarded Bibi following the cessation of hostilities:

The Prime Minister . . .  shared with me his appreciation for the Iron Dome system, which our nations developed together and which has saved lives of countless Israeli citizens, both Arabs and Jews. I assured him of my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future.

At the same time, ‘President Biden said his administration is working with Palestinians and Israelis to work toward a sustained calm, adding that both deserve to live in safety and security,’ as reported by the news agency Reuters. And now (24 May 2021), the President has even dispatched his Secretary of State to the Middle East for a hands-on intervention during a three-day trip. Anthony Blinken will be in Israel, but next will also visit the Palestinian Territories, Egypt and Jordan. Before boarding his plane, Blinken went on CNN to make this statement:

[A]s the president said, I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to try to make the turn to start to build something more positive, and what that means at heart is that Palestinians and Israelis alike have to know in their day in and day out lives equal measures of opportunity, of security, of dignity,

That means, Joe Biden is now trying to perform a cunning manoeuvre that is meant to keep the Israeli and Palestinian sides happy, while placating his white as well as his now arguably more important non-white public at home. As a self-confessed Zionist, Biden’s commitment to Israel is unquestionable yet at the same time, as the Woke-in-Chief, he must also try to further a now newly-emerged ‘PLM’ agenda that dovetails with his progressive and non-white base. As reported by the AP:

Blinken . . . announced some $38.5 million in additional aid for the Palestinians. In all, the Biden administration has pledged some $360 million to the Palestinians, after the Trump administration cut almost all aid.

Whether President Biden will fail or succeed remains to be seen, but the fact that U.S. public opinion now seems to be reassessing America’s relationship with Israel will only grow stronger and deeper as time goes by . . . and time will also undoubtedly tell whether Palestinian lives do matter or not?!?

***
21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans, the greater Middle East, and the world beyond. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in the English language Turkish press, culminating in him becoming the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @TheErimtanAngle. Read Can’s archive here.

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