International  •  Middle East & North Africa  •  USA

Has Genocide Joe turned peacemaker?

06 June 2024

By Andy Yorke

PRESIDENT BIDEN is busy posing on the world stage as Joe the Peacemaker, after seven months of arming and defending Israel’s war, in the process earning the nickname Genocide Joe.

On 26 May an Israeli airstrike on the Tel al-Sultan camp, where refugees from Rafah city had been told to go for safety, killed 45 people, at least half women, children and elderly. Many were horribly burned, as an inferno raged through the tightly packed tents. Destroyed too was Biden’s claim that he had secured assurances from Israel that no Rafah operation would take place without a ‘credible plan to protect civilians’.

Two days before the deadly strike the UN’s International Court of Justice ordered Israel to ‘immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governate which may inflict upon the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’ under the UN Genocide Convention. Israel said it would continue its operation, simply claiming it would not take genocidal action.

The limits of criticism

Biden’s criticisms of Israel have gone no further than calling Netanyahu’s conduct of the war ‘a mistake’, while State Department sanctions against individual illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank are yet another token measure—why not place sanctions on the leaders of the religious and settler parties, Ben Gvir and Smotrich, who are propping up Netanyahu’s government and demand their removal? Because the stability and security of a strategic ally come first.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) responded by piecemeal attacks aimed at keeping the operation under the radar of the world media. Protecting civilians is impossible in densely packed Rafah, the final refuge of 1.4 million Gazans. As one distraught father told Israeli paper Ha’aretz, ‘death is chasing us at every corner. Many have lost relatives and fled in order to protect the survivors. Where else is there to go?’
Israel followed this up with yet another airstrike on 28 May in the heart of Rafah, killing another 45 victims, half of them women. Then on 5 June, a further strike on a UN school in Deir al-Balah murdered 40 more. Truly nowhere in Gaza is safe.

Over 36,000 have been killed, though the real figure is likely to be far higher, since thousands are buried under rubble. Indeed IDF generals are taking extreme measures to cover up their crimes, excluding all media from Gaza and targeting journalists, with 107 killed so far (often with their families) in what the Committee to Protect Journalists has called the deadliest war for journalism since it opened its doors in 1992.

Meanwhile Israel has worked hard to keep aid to Gaza to a minimum, allowing right wing activists to destroy it while police watch on. The murder of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers forced the rest of the Western NGOs to pull out, compounding the damage done by defunding Unwra. This has aided Israel’s aim of starving Palestinian refugees, ensuring the deaths of thousands of children and old people. The US military’s alternative, a temporary dock for aid shipments, is no replacement for the land crossings that Israel controls and blocks.

Then there are the settlers from the far right parties in Netanyahu’s coalition, busy ethnically cleansing Palestinian land in the West Bank. Since 7 October, over 500 of its inhabitants have been killed and 37,000 acres of their land seized. Settlers openly celebrated the Rafah ‘bonfire’, terrorising Palestinians in East Jerusalem on Flag Day.

There have been over 100 quiet approvals for the delivery of weapons to Israel since the war began. Biden circumvented Congress to directly transfer bombs and shells to restock Israel’s blitz in December. US military in the area continues to provide deep practical support.

Despite Biden calling Rafah a ‘red line’ in February and warning Netanyahu not to send in the IDF, in late March he approved another major transfer of arms worth billions, including fighter jets and the 2,000 pound bombs implicated in mass killings in Gaza. Though he has since ‘paused’ these, artillery shells are not included in the ‘pause’.

The aims of the peace plan

However, as the war continues a majority of Americans believe Israel is guilty of genocide and support a permanent immediate ceasefire. In the age of social media, images of charred and dismembered children’s bodies have shocked millions, increasing the pressure on Biden to pressure Israel once again.
At the start of the war Biden, like Labour’s Keir Starmer, insisted ‘I am a Zionist’. He has consistently said his support for Israel is ‘ironclad’. Now, however, he has threatened a Security Council resolution to impose his three stage peace plan: a six week temporary ceasefire, with release of hostages; then a permanent ceasefire with aid and reconstruction; finally negotiations over a two state solution. In this plan Hamas’ role will be only to stop fighting and release the hostages.

Beyond the immediate aim to stop the war, the US is trying to stitch together a grand plan for the region—identical with Trump’s 2019 proposal—to ‘normalise’ political and economic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, sidelining the Palestinians.

Of course the perpetrators and abetters of genocide have no right to decide who the Palestinian people recognise as their negotiators. In any case Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotrich may well sabotage Biden’s plan, which does indeed clash with their aims for a ‘second Nakba’.

There is no sign that Netanyahu and his coalition partners intend to do anything other than militarily occupy Gaza, while accelerating Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. They will do all they can to find pretexts to prolong the war, hoping the US election will return a more hardline pro-Israel Trump to the White House, possibly allowing them to annex Gaza and large chunks of the West Bank.

Israel isolated

Nevertheless, Israel’s diplomatic isolation is deepening to historic levels. In the same week that the ICJ ordered it to abandon the Rafah invasion, as part of its ongoing genocide case brought by South Africa, the International Criminal Court issued warrants for the arrest of Netanyahu and his Defence Minister

Yoav Gallant for suspected crimes against humanity.
At the same time Spain, Ireland, Norway and Slovenia have partly broken with the EU’s complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. They join with 143 other countries in recognising Palestine as a state.

None of these acts will stop the war but they do significantly impair Israel’s image around the world and its freedom of manoeuvre. That is why Israel, the Zionist movement, US Republicans and Biden himself have ramped up accusations of antisemitism against the Gaza solidarity movement, to push back and shield Israeli apartheid and annexations from criticism. It hasn’t worked. Polls show Israel’s escalating actions against Gaza since 2007, culminating in the current war, have delegitimised it worldwide.

Meanwhile there is growing opposition inside and outside of Israel. The courageous wave of student Gaza encampments, starting in the USA and rolling out across Britain and internationally, involving both Jewish and Palestinian students, have drawn wide support. Growing polarisation inside Israel has seen IDF generals question Netanyahu’s war plans.

His partner and successor in waiting, Benny Gantz, his has called for September elections, a year earlier than required. Gantz is manoeuvring inside the system to exit the war and give Israel’s battered position a soft landing, while keeping many of its gains in the West Bank and Gaza intact.

But Biden’s plan has led to thousands flooding the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in its favour, while right wing counter-mobilisations demand Netanyahu stay the course.

The Palestinian resistance

The steadfast Palestinian youth, workers, farmers and intellectuals have done their bit to hold on and resist dispossession at great cost. If they can revive the popular committees of the first intifada and create a new leadership linked to the international solidarity movement, they can seize this historic moment.

The guerilla strategy of Hamas cannot defeat Israel, the most powerful military in the region with US might on tap. Socialists must unconditionally support resistance to Israel’s Gaza invasion, but even if this could wear the IDF down in the coming year, the price tag is a nearly uninhabitable, isolated enclave.

A new leadership fighting for a single, secular, democratic state for both peoples can win Israeli Jews with guarantees for their security and an appeal to the Palestinian diaspora and wider working class of the Middle East to come on the streets with protests and mass strikes in defiance of their collaborationist rulers.

To achieve that would take a revolutionary socialist party organised across borders to build a movement that could rock the Middle East, topple the corrupt Arab monarchies and dictators, as well as the Israeli ruling class and Zionist state.

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