President Biden Is Letting Gaza Bleed While Perpetuating an Antisemitic Trope. And, Yes, I Will Vote For Him To Stop Trump

By Rabbi Robin Podolsky

Every day in which President Biden acts as though he is helpless in the face of Netanyahu’s intransigence adds to the suffering of the Gazan people he claims to care about—and it also perpetuates a dangerous antisemitic trope.

As Senator Bernie Sanders has reiterated over and over again with the willingness of a prophet to repeat himself relentlessly until his message is heard, President Biden doesn’t really have the dilemma he claims to have. With one phone call, he could end the bombardment and threats of invasion. He could open the door to the level of aid need to end the famine and rescue thousands of children from death. He does not need to lay down a “red line” for the future. He does not need to persuade. Certainly, no one needs a shockingly ill-phrased “come to Jesus moment.”

He could simply tell—not ask—Netanyahu to just stop. No more bombardment. No invasion of Rafah. No more blocking food. He could tell him that spigot is, as of that phone call, turned off. No more money, no more weapons, no more support for this indiscriminate slaughter of

To fail to act in this way is, above all, a betrayal of the millions of Palestinians, not Hamas fighters, just regular people, about half of whom are children, about whom the president claims to care. That’s the worst of it. However, there is another aspect to Biden’s dithering which harms the Jewish people as well, and not just by perpetuating the stain of disgrace.

By pretending that he is forced to rely on persuasion with Netanyahu, Biden is reinscribing a key antisemitic trope; he is suggesting that Israel tells the US what to do rather than the other way around.

In that way, Biden’s posture is disingenuous in the extreme. He is not helpless. The US is the great power, Israel is the client state, and everyone, including our president, knows that. Everyone, that is, except for the neo-Nazis and other conspiracy theorists who believe the trope of ZOG, Zionist Occupation Government, a right wing fever dream, drawn directly from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Those people are sure that the international you-know-who are puppet masters, pulling our government’s strings. Biden’s refusal of his power to act only reinscribes that poisonous trope.

Every day he fails to act is a day he makes a choice. A day in which hundreds of Gazan people will die of starvation and illness and bombardment. Our President has said he believes those of us who insist that only a political solution, one that guarantees the freedom and human rights of all the peoples of Israel/Palestine, will end the carnage. Then let him act like it. Finally, our President, by refusing to pick up the phone, is endangering our democracy. Every day he dithers is a day in which more people–people who had not only voted for him but walked precincts for him, made calls, gave what money they could—feel less inclined to vote for Biden, much less work for him.

I am not one of those people. I understand that one does not vote for personalities but for configurations of interests and constituencies. Those of us who care about racial, economic, gender and climate justice have got to cast our votes such that we ensure that Donald Trump never again becomes president. He and the people behind the 2025 Project have made their intentions quite clear. And certainly, his active Islamophobia and, yes, antisemitism, would make Trump’s presidency a disaster for the entire Middle East.

But every day, I encounter people whom I respect who are increasingly disinclined to vote for Biden because of his fecklessness on the Gaza issue. He must know what is happening. For the future of Gaza and all of Israel/Palestine, for the future of our democracy, the president must act.

Rabbi Robin Podolsky serves on the faculties of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California and Hebrew Seminary and on the Board of Governors for the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din. Some of her writing can be found at Shondaland.com, TribeHerald.com and jewishjournal.com. and she is a writing facilitator and script editor for Queerwise, a spoken word and writing group. Rabbi Podolsky conducts workshops, rituals, and study sessions, for Jewish holidays and other occasions, that combine modalities: text study,
personal work and small group sharing, writing (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov), prayer and meditation.

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