Biden endorses Israel’s war to eliminate Gaza
Amid "utter carnage" in Gaza, the White House insists that the Israeli government has a "legitimate objective."
The temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has slowed the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza and begun to free civilians held captive by both sides. The Biden administration has made clear that it will support Israel’s continued military operations when the pause officially expires – at this point, as early as Tuesday. Israel’s stated goal of “attempting to eliminate Hamas,” President Biden said on Friday, “is the legitimate objective... and I don’t know how long it will take.”
In endorsing the next phase of Israel’s military operations, the White House recognizes that the brief lull poses a new challenge. According to Politico, “there was some concern in the administration about an unintended consequence of the pause: that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”
The Biden team’s concern is understandable: the devastation that they have supported in Gaza is without precedent in recent memory.
The United Nation’s top aid official, Martin Griffith, describes Gaza as “the worst ever” crisis that he has witnessed. “I don't think I have seen anything like this before,” Griffith remarked. “It's complete and utter carnage.” Former senior Pentagon analyst Marc Garlasco likewise describes as Gaza “beyond anything that I’ve seen in my career.” With so many large bombs hitting a small and densely populated area, a historical precedent could only be found “back to Vietnam, or the Second World War,” Garlasco says. As the New York Times notes, after ordering hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to leave their homes in northern Gaza for supposed refuge in the south, “Israel has continued to carry out airstrikes across the south with large munitions: 1,000- to 2,000-pound bombs.”
The scale of US complicity in the carnage grows with each passing day. On top of providing weaponry and diplomatic cover, the US has given Israel the GPS coordinates of medical facilities and humanitarian groups that Israeli forces have ended up bombing, according to Politico. The US claims that this location data was shared to help Israel avoid hitting these sites; instead, it appears that Israel has seen them as targets. Aid officials also report that Israel is abandoning deconfliction practices that were previously used to protect humanitarian groups. Despite this, the Biden administration is loosening the already the lax controls on US military support for Israel, according to The Intercept.
Under the Israeli-US onslaught, the official Palestinian death toll in Gaza is undoubtedly a significant undercount. Accounting for all of the casualties has become impossible, and an unknown number of victims are buried under rubble. According to the United Nations, an estimated 67% of those killed in Gaza are women and children. Over less than two months, that toll is already more than double the number of women and children killed inside Ukraine in the nearly two years since Russia’s invasion. The dead also include dozens of Palestinian journalists, now permanently silenced from illuminating Israel’s decimation of their land.
In rationalizing his continued support for Israeli aggression, Biden echoed the Netanyahu government’s claim that its attacks have forced Hamas to negotiate the captives’ release. “I don't trust Hamas to do anything right,” Biden told reporters during his Thanksgiving vacation. “I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure.”
The available evidence shows otherwise. As Mohammad Alsaafin notes, the thousands of Palestinians – and an unknown numbers of Israeli and other foreign captives -- killed by Israeli bombings “did not have to die—not just because Israel could have refrained from targeting civilians, which it has clearly refused to do, but because the contours of the deal announced Wednesday have been on the table for weeks.”
On Oct. 26th, Hamas official Ali Barakeh laid out the terms for a proposed hostage exchange similar to those reached this week. “We are ready to let them all leave,” Barakeh told the Washington Post. That same day, senior Qatari negotiator Mohmmed al Khulaifi said that he believed “all civilian hostages” could be freed if Israel would pause its bombardment of Gaza.
Rather than engage with these overtures, Israel launched a ground invasion the following day. According to Western and Arab officials interviewed by the New York Times, Israel's Oct. 27th ground invasion thwarted the release of up to 50 captives in exchange for a bombing pause. The talks were additionally “stymied” by Israel's decision to cut off Gaza’s telecommunications network, which meant Qatari officials and Hamas “struggled to make quick, consistent contact.” Another obstacle was Israel’s initial refusal of Hamas’ demand to free Palestinian “women and minors held without charge” from Israeli prisons -- the captives that Western audiences are not supposed to care about.
After undermining a hostage deal with its ground invasion of Gaza, Israel thwarted another opportunity with last week’s attack on Al-Shifa hospital. On Nov. 14th, Israel relayed its acceptance of a similar offer to Hamas’ original. But hours later, after Israeli forces stormed Al-Shifa, Hamas made clear that “[t]he deal was off,” according to the Times. “It had looked like towards the end of that day … that we were closing in and [then] everything stalled,” a senior US official told the Washington Post. According to one source familiar with the talks, Hamas was “concerned about the evacuations of patients, including premature babies, and attacks on other hospitals.”
According to Israeli military correspondent Amos Harel of Haaretz, Israel’s decision to accept a deal this week stemmed from “not only… the terms of the deal,” which “improved somewhat,” but a more important imperative: sustaining the Gaza assault over the long-term. The Israeli “security establishment,” Harel writes, has developed the “understanding that the outcry of the hostages’ families is arousing broad public support, and that it will be difficult to continue with a ground maneuver in the southern Gaza Strip should public anger over what will be perceived as abandoning women and children increase.”
In other words, to keep killing Palestinian women and children caged in Gaza, Israel decided that it must finally stop abandoning the Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza.
Israel’s decision to prioritize attacking Al-Shifa at the expense of a hostage deal was justified on the grounds that Hamas was operating an underground “command and control center,” which one Israeli official described as the “main hub of Hamas activity.” The Israeli government released a 3D animation video claiming to show the purported Hamas headquarters’ operations beneath Al-Shifa. In an admission downplayed by Western media outlets, the Israeli military quietly acknowledged that the video “was a hypothetical illustration,” and “not a real depiction of what was under the hospital,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Anonymous US officials lent credibility to Israel’s claims, telling the New York Times that “they are confident that Hamas has used tunnel networks under hospitals, in particular Al Shifa, for command and control areas as well as for weapons storage.” Tellingly, the Biden administration used different wording than their Israeli counterparts, referring to Al-Shifa as hosting “a command and control node,” rather than “center.”
Since taking over Al-Shifa, arresting doctors – including director Mohammad Abu Salmiya -- and expelling thousands of people, including premature babies, Israel has failed to convince even reliable US media stenographers of its initial claim. Tunnels were discovered underneath the hospital, but this was no surprise, given Israeli officials’ own admission that they built them forty years ago. And as Gareth Porter notes, an overlooked story in the Jerusalem Post one day before the attack on Al-Shifa revealed that Israeli forces had already discovered an underground Hamas command facility miles away.
US media outlets that have parroted Israeli justifications for the war on Gaza and attacks on civilian targets like Al-Shifa have also chosen to downplay or ignore a preponderance of Israeli officials making plain an outright genocidal intent. These include admissions that Israel’s “emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy,” that “Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents,” and that “Israel has no choice but to render Gaza into a place that is temporarily, or permanently, unfit for living.”
By destroying Gaza’s homes, hospital, schools, and every other facet of Palestinian civilian life, Israel is following through on its openly declared aims, and longtime goals. The current Israeli war on Gaza is arguably the most barbaric phase of what the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling dubbed a post-1948 campaign of “politicide.” Kimmerling defined this as a “process that has as its ultimate goal the dissolution of the Palestinian people’s existence as a legitimate, independent social, political and economic entity,” including, he warned, “their gradual ethnic cleansing, partial or complete, from the Land of Israel or historic Palestine.”
As the carnage in Gaza makes clear, this is the “legitimate” Israeli campaign that the Biden administration continues to support in the name of trying to “eliminate Hamas.”
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