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Why Does Joe Biden Support Israel? (Hint: It’s Not about Protecting Jews.)

Joe Biden has been unwavering in his support for Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza — even though the policy is horribly unpopular. Some bourgeois journalists claim that Biden is deeply concerned for Jewish life. But as the man himself has explained, this is all about U.S. imperialist interests.

Nathaniel Flakin

January 4, 2024
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For many decades, Joe Biden has been an unwavering supporter of the State of Israel — he’s Catholic, but as he likes to say, “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” Since October 7, Biden’s administration has offered unlimited political, military, and diplomatic support for Israel’s far-right government, even bypassing Congress for an emergency sale of weapons. In the United Nations, the U.S. is virtually alone in opposing calls for a cease-fire.

With over 20,000 people in Gaza killed, Biden’s policy is horribly unpopular, as the New York Times has reported. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z disapprove of Biden’s support for Israel. And Arab American voters in the Detroit area are now turning away from the president, so this issue could cost him a crucial swing state and thus the entire election. Why would Biden risk his neck for Benjamin Netanyahu, after Barack Obama had such a famously rocky relationship with the Israeli PM?

The New York Times claims that Biden’s “views were shaped by dinner table conversations with a father who decried the Holocaust and stories told by an aide who had survived the death camps.” But that’s not the explanation that Biden himself has offered.

Biden in 1986

Back in 1986, when he was on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, Biden argued against selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, because the Saudis could never be “agents of U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region.” The only country that could play that role reliably, in Biden’s view, was Israel. Foreign policy needed to be based on the “naked self-interest of the U.S.” Biden’s thinking can be seen in a clip from C-SPAN:

If we look at the Middle East, I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel.

There is no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make.

Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region; the United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.

I am with my colleagues who are on the floor of the Foreign Relations Committee, and we worry at length about NATO; and we worry about the eastern flank of NATO, Greece and Turkey, and how important it is. They pale by comparison …

They pale by comparison in terms of the benefit that accrues to the United States of America.

Note that Biden says nothing about the Holocaust — not a word about creating a safe haven for the victims of a genocide. From his point of view, the U.S. government “invests” in the Israeli military, and thus it expects a “benefit,” or return on its investment.

For Biden, the U.S. “would have to invent an Israel,” not to aid the long-suffering Jewish people, but rather to secure its interests in the Middle East. Armed to the teeth, the Zionist state wages wars in the interests of U.S. imperialism, allowing Washington to avoid responsibility for them.

In other words, Biden wants Jews as cannon fodder to protect the profits of American banks and corporations.

The U.S. government supports Israel not because it has fallen under the sway of AIPAC or the “Jewish lobby.” Biden and all imperialist politicians support Israel because doing so is in the interest of the big U.S. capitalists — and they would have the same policy without lobbyists.

This is why Democratic Party politicians don’t care what polls say or how many calls they get. Their support for Israel is based on imperialist considerations. Under Obama, who had a much less friendly personal relationship with Netanyahu, U.S. policy was basically identical.

No Safe Haven

Israel is not much of a safe haven. Only about half the world’s Jewish population lives in the country, and it is statistically one of the most dangerous places for Jews. This is not just about hostile states all around: the Israeli government itself shows an appalling disregard for Jewish life. Netanyahu has largely refused to negotiate for the release of Israeli hostages. While families of the hostages have been begging for a prisoner exchange and a cease-fire, Netanyahu has shown zero interest in the fates of their loved ones.

On October 7, the IDF killed Israeli citizens, though we will likely never know how many. Toward the end of a very long article about the attack on one kibbutz, the New York Times quotes an IDF general standing in front of a house in which 14 Israelis were being held hostage: “The negotiations are over,” he declared. “Break in, even at the cost of civilian casualties.” In just that one building, a dozen Israeli hostages were killed. The State of Israeli has a long-standing policy that it is better to kill its own soldiers rather than allowing them to be captured, and this policy seems to apply to civilians as well.

This willingness to sacrifice Jewish life in the pursuit of imperialist goals has always been a hallmark of Zionism. This is why Zionists did nothing to help Jews escape Nazi-occupied Europe — they preferred Jews dying than escaping to the United States, since such refugees would no longer want to go to Palestine. As David Ben-Gurion said, “If I knew that it was possible to save all the children in Germany by transporting them to England, but only half by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second.”

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, understood that a Jewish colony in Palestine could function only as an outpost of imperialism. In The Jewish State, Herzl wrote,

We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence.

It was always clear that such a tiny settler population, surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs, would remain in constant conflict with its neighbors. It would, furthermore, be completely dependent on its imperialist patrons and therefore remain unquestionably loyal to them.

This is what makes Biden a Zionist: he, like the Israeli government, is willing to sacrifice countless Jewish lives in order to maintain an imperialist “rampart” in the Middle East. Socialist, Communist, and anti-Zionist Jews have always understood that Zionism and its backers are happy to see Jews die. The only real friend of the Jewish people — and of every people struggling against oppression — has always been the international workers’ movement, fighting for a world without any kind of oppression or exploitation.

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.

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