If You Can’t Tell the Bad Guy in Israel Versus Hamas, You’re the Problem

The war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is the most morally clear conflict in modern history. It pits an actual terrorist group that just engaged in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust against a democratic country that protects citizens Jewish, Muslim and Christian. It pits a monstrously evil tentacle of Iran — handed control of the Gaza Strip by Israel in 2005, when Israel pulled out of that area and forced 8,000 Jews out of their homes — against a democratic ally of the United States. It pits an army of atrocity-seeking villains — who are attempting to maximize Palestinian casualties by locating themselves among civilians, stealing humanitarian aid and literally murdering anyone who gets in their way — against an actual professional army risking the lives of its own soldiers in order to protect Palestinian civilians.
And yet Joe Biden can’t quite make up his mind.
On the one hand, Biden mouths platitudinous support for Israel in its battle against Hamas.
On the other, he continues to grant the central premise Hamas promotes, which is that Israel is a human rights violator and indiscriminate killer of Palestinians — even as Hamas holds Americans hostage in Gaza. Biden has spent the last several weeks pressuring Israel not to go into Rafah, the sole major repository of the Hamas terror apparatus, where some four brigades of terrorists are digging in. Instead, he has deployed his head of the CIA, his secretary of state and a wide variety of other officials to promote “negotiations” between Israel and Hamas.
In fact, he’s done more than that for Hamas. While fully articulating his understanding that Hamas seeks a permanent end to the conflict in Gaza, which would leave them in control and hand them a victory they could never earn on the battlefield, Biden has pushed just that: a permanent end to the conflict leaving Hamas in place. Biden has not explained just how this would benefit the United States, Israel, the Palestinians themselves or the region more broadly. He has simply calculated that an end to conflict is an end in and of itself.
To that end, Biden has been slow-walking aid to the Israelis — including ammunition that allows for better targeting, which would minimize civilian casualties.
He has deployed his negotiators to play both sides of the table, even going so far as to allow his CIA head, William Burns, to negotiate with Egypt and Qatar a series of terms without submitting them to the Israelis — and then allowing Hamas itself to declare its acceptance of such nonsensical and irrelevant terms, presumably in an effort to humiliate the Israelis into accepting their own quasi-surrender. Biden has trotted out spokespeople to claim that America continues to back Israel, while simultaneously claiming — falsely — that Israel is engaging in human rights abuses.
The result is the worst of all possible worlds for Biden: a dissatisfied radical base convinced that Biden is behind the war in Gaza; an angry pro-Israel citizenry bewildered by Biden’s inability to call evil by its name; and a stalemate in Gaza, which means that radical protesters will undoubtedly descend on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in order to harass Biden as he receives his renomination.
It’s all stupid.
But it does raise an obvious question: why?
Why is this so seemingly tough for Joe Biden? Is it all just a misread of the political moment — adherence to a stunningly imbecilic belief that if Biden appeases extremists within his party, he’ll be able to win the 2024 election? Or is it something deeper — a moral malaise that has taken root in the upper echelons of our politics, in which Western powers, including Israel, are seen as inherently problematic while the West’s enemies, including Hamas, are seen as inherently victimized? If the tens of thousands of protesters on America’s streets are any indicator, the latter seems more likely than the former. Which spells doom for a West that cannot see the difference between decency and barbarity.
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