Many people were surprised and outraged when US President Biden recently fist bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. After all, as a candidate, Biden pledged to make the Saudi kingdom a pariah since the Crown Prince had been directly linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In contrast, consider the relative lack of outrage to Biden’s statement after the latest criminal Israeli attack on Gaza that began on August 5th. This air bombardment by Israel, a nuclear power with one of the world’s strongest militaries and the occupier of Palestinian land, was against a mostly defenseless people. During this attack, 49 Palestinians, including 17 children, were killed and 360 Palestinians including 151 children were wounded. In contrast, reports suggest that 13 Israelis had minor injuries. Biden said: “My support for Israel’s security is long-standing and unwavering – including its right to defend itself against attacks. … I commend Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his government’s steady leadership throughout the crisis.”
Biden’s comment ignores reality. Israel wasn’t attacked, but it had attacked Gaza. Palestinians responded to the attack by Israel. In addition, note the large number of Palestinian children who were killed or wounded. This Israeli war crime clearly did not spare Palestinian civilians. This is the leadership that Biden and many other politicians commended. Wow – this says a lot! Even worse, Biden doesn’t seem to think Palestinians have a right to defend themselves against Israel’s state terrorism.
Besides the immeasurable human cost of the Israeli attack, the damage Israel did to Palestinian infrastructure and housing makes life in Gaza ever more difficult. Just as in numerous previous horrific and devastating Israeli attacks, there is no talk of Israel paying reparations for the widespread devastation it inflicted on Gaza. Rebuilding is difficult given that Israel has maintained, with US and Egyptian support, an illegal siege on Gaza since 2007.
The US corporate-dominated media plays a role in enabling these Israeli crimes by its biased coverage. For example, it downplays the fact that Israel is an apartheid state. The US media also fails to consistently point out that Israel is occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. There are well over 600,000 Israeli settlers living illegally on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The media doesn’t stress that Israel routinely violates international law, particularly the 1949 Geneva Conventions on occupation, with impunity. The media also seldom mentions that the US has cast over 40 vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions regarding problematic Israeli behavior. These vetoes or threats of vetoes by the US enable Israel to escape accountability.
In addition, given how the US praises Ukrainians who resist the Russian military in Ukraine, it is appalling to see the US commending Israel even though it has been occupying Palestinian land for decades. Ukrainians who resist Russian forces are touted as heroes in the US corporate media whereas Palestinians who legitimately resist cruel and illegal Israeli policies are called terrorists. As this latest attack shows, Palestinians who are simply trying to live their lives are killed with impunity for the killers due to the US preventing any sanctions against Israel.
Unfortunately, this US hypocrisy regarding Israel is of long standing. For example, before the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved by the UN General Assembly in 1947, Loy Henderson, director of the State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, warned: “The UNSCOP [U.N. Special Committee on Palestine] Majority Plan is not only unworkable; if adopted, it would guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future.”
Henderson added: “The proposals contained in the UNSCOP plan … are in definite contravention to various principles laid down in the [UN] Charter as well as to principles on which American concepts of Government are based.
“These proposals, for instance, ignore such principles as self-determination and majority rule. They recognize the principle of a theocratic racial state and even go so far in several instances as to discriminate on grounds of religion and race against persons outside of Palestine.”
This US hypocrisy strongly undercuts the idea that the US cares about the rule of law. For example, the courageous South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, recently made this point in a press conference with the US Secretary of State. She said: “With respect to the role that multilateral bodies such as the United Nations should play, we believe that all principles that are germane to the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian law must be upheld for all countries, not just some. Just as much as the people of Ukraine deserve their territory and freedom, the people of Palestine deserve their territory and freedom. And we should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine.”
Blatant US hypocrisy regarding its own war crimes as well as its hypocrisy regarding Israel are complicating its relations with non-aligned nations. The US desire to remain a leader is running into problems as more nonaligned nations don’t see the militaristic, economically predatory and hypocritical US as worthy of being their leader.
Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics, having taught at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. Since retirement in 1991, has been an activist for peace and social justice. He ran for Congress and for governor of Colorado for the Green Party.