As the U.S. and the world wait with anticipation for the Biden administration to take office, people with progressive agendas are feeling optimistic. Teams working on immigration, health care, and the environment, to name just a few, are already at work preparing to move the United States in a new direction.
The one progressive issue where there is little optimism though is Palestine. This is mostly because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are both self-declared Zionists and because there is a history of total U.S. support for Israel. But even though most American politicians are Zionists, Trump moving out of the White House presents a sense of a new beginning and should be used as an opportunity to change the paradigm on Palestine.
It can easily be demonstrated that Israel is a dangerous, even reckless state and that continued support for it only promises instability. Israel is an apartheid state that is already on the verge of collapse. With over two million men women and children locked up in the uninhabitable Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Naqab living without access to water or electricity, crime on the rise, and political instability growing, Israel is likely to become even more dangerous than it is today.
Furthermore, the Netanyahu government is tightly connected to Trump. In fact, one could argue that Trump’s entire foreign policy regarding the Middle East and Iran were dictated by Netanyahu.
Reversing the Zionist agenda
Israel will, of course, vehemently oppose any reversal of the actions taken by the Trump-Kushner-Freedman trio. One may safely assume that Zionist organizations and agents in the U.S. are already hard at work with the Biden people to assure that no such reversal takes place.
Still, Joe Biden will have to show that he stands by some, if not all, of the foreign policy agreements that were reached during the Obama years and later abandoned by Donald Trump. He will likely have to do this even if it means Israel will be displeased. First and foremost would be a return to the Iran nuclear deal, also known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The agreement with Iran was central to the Obama legacy, and Trump dropping out of the agreement pleased Israel to no end. A return to the agreement will cause friction between Biden and Israel but since the entire spectrum of Israeli politicians – the one exception being the Joint Arab List – made no secret of their support for Trump, one would hope that some political payback is forthcoming.
Biden’s foreign policy team will also have to deal with the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and the consequent moving of the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as the U.S. recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights. Both were gifts to the Netanyahu government, both were diplomatic blunders that aided Netanyahu, and both will be difficult to reverse.
There are a few things that the Biden team will be able to reverse, though not without serious objections from Israel. These include a return to funding UNRWA, the UN agency charged with caring for over five million Palestinian refugees. Those refugees languish in camps throughout Palestine and the surrounding countries because Israel violently expelled them, stole their land and property, and then banned them from returning. Trump stopped funding for UNRWA in order to satisfy his Zionist-laden foreign policy team.
The reopening of the Palestinian mission in Washington D.C. is another act Israel will not like but one might expect will happen under the Biden administration. It was on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accords that the Trump administration closed down the mission and did so in a manner that could not be less diplomatic, practically throwing out the head of mission, Dr. Husam Zumlot. Needless to say, Zionists were thrilled to see that there was no longer Palestinian representation in the U.S. capital.
Even if a new Biden administration ended up reversing Trump’s implementation of the above-mentioned policies, it would only mean that things had returned to where they were before, which was total support for Israel with a symbolic hint that some small measure of regard is given to the rights of Palestinians. Progress will only come when it is made clear in Washington that no one can claim to support democracy and human rights while supporting Israel.
Support in congress
Support for Palestine is growing in the U.S. House of Representatives and with it the understanding that Zionist foreign policy, which dominates U.S. foreign policy, is flawed. Furthermore, there is a growing understanding that supporting human rights includes supporting Palestinian rights.
People are growing weary of the U.S. arming and financing Zionist ambitions, and it is not hard to see that Israel does not violate international law and human rights, but rather Israel is itself a violation of international law and human rights. Every day that Palestinian refugees languish in camps is a violation of human decency as well as international law and the basic human rights of over five million people. The fact that the homes, land, and property of these refugees were stolen by Israel after they were forced to flee by armed Zionist terror squads – that is an ongoing violation of international law.
Each day that Palestinians in Gaza remain locked up in the world’s largest open-air prison is a violation of international law and the human rights of the over two million people who live in the Gaza Strip. These are just a small sample of the many examples that demonstrate why no one can be progressive while supporting Israel.
Moving past Anti-Semitism
Israel has armed itself with the weapon of “anti-semitism” and it is wielding it with great mastery. The use of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism and its acceptance by countless governments and non-governmental organizations has created a shield that protects Israel from criticism.
This shield also holds prisoner any organization that has adopted the definition. Having adopted the definition prevents the possibility of ever expressing legitimate criticism of Israel without being accused of anti-semitism. In the U.S., this definition has been adopted across the board, even the United States Department of State has adopted it.
Still, when the facts are laid out clearly, even the weaponization of anti-semitism cannot protect Israel. There is a change in the air in the United States and although the Biden-Harris duo has declared themselves Zionists, there is an opportunity to push forward an aggressive pro-Palestine, pro-justice agenda.
A long time ago it seemed that U.S. support for a country by the name of South Vietnam (yes, there was a country by that name once) was unwavering and would never end. There was also a racist, apartheid regime that ruled over most of Southern Africa, and the U.S. government as well as American corporations fought hard against any attempts to boycott and bring it down. Yet, South Vietnam fell, as did the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Biden and Harris may be supporters of Zionism today, but that can change. It is the duty of those who care for Palestine to make their voices heard now louder than ever before, to organize better and push as hard as possible. Millions of lives are at stake.
Feature photo | Joe Biden, projected on screens, is applauded by the audience as he addresses the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, March 4, 2013. Susan Walsh | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”