The Shift: Biden and the new Nazi government

The Shift: Biden and the new Israeli government



In September 2000 Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a purposely provocative move that helped kick off the Second Intifada. On Tuesday, Israel’s new national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir showed up at the site surrounded by bodyguards. Of course, Sharon went on to become Prime Minister. Ben-Gvir’s final political destination remains to be seen.

In 2000 the violence was initially slow before expanding. That’s not the situation this time around, as we’ve seen increased violence and resistance in recent months. 2022 was the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians in almost two decades. On the same day as Ben-Gvir’s visit Israeli forces killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy named Adam Ayyad in Bethlehem.

Ayyad was killed during a raid on the Dheisheh refugee camp, where he was a resident. Hassan Manna, a bakery owner from the camp, detailed the scene to Mondoweiss’ Yumna Patel:

Manna said that as Israeli forces began retreating from the camp, firing tear gas and sound bombs at local youth who threw rocks towards the soldiers, some of the young men began throwing Molotov cocktails towards the convoy of military jeeps. 

The Israeli army and border police said that forces opened fire at a number of Palestinians who allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at them, adding that “suspects were hit.”

“The guys were trying to prevent the soldiers from taking Adnan. At the same time, as they were retreating, an Israeli sniper began firing live ammunition at the young men,” Manna said. Around the same time that Ayyad was shot in the chest, another young man, reportedly related to Ayyad, was shot in the shoulder. 

Ned Price was asked about Ben-Gvir’s stunt and Ayyad’s death at a State Department briefing.

On Ben-Gvir, the administration’s expressed its consistent position of alleged deep concern. They will continue to talk about these things with their Israeli and Arab partners “as part of a broader effort to de-escalate tensions,” etc. etc. Rinse, repeat.

When asked about the killing Price said that the Biden team found recent violence “sharp and alarming,” but managed to pivot to gabble about a two-state solution within about 30 seconds. “And we continue to emphasize that Israelis and Palestinians, as you know, deserve to have equal measures of security, of prosperity, of opportunity, and of dignity,” he explained. “That is at the heart of our approach. Our approach continues to be one that seeks to preserve the viability for a two-state solution. We will be quite clear in opposing any steps, any unilateral steps that set that two-state – the prospects for a two-state solution further back.”

This week the new Israeli government also kicked off their forcible displacement of over 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta. About half of the residents are children.

Last month Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that the administration would judge incoming Israeli leaders on their actions. “We will gauge the government by the policies and procedures, rather than individual personalities,” he said at a J Street conference. “We will hold to the… standards we’ve established in our relationship over the past several decades. And we will speak honestly and respectfully with our Israeli friends as partners always should.”

It’s unclear how Biden is gauging the new leaders behind closed doors, but Blinken wasn’t technically lying here. The United States has established standards for Israel over the past several decades. The country’s government is allowed to do whatever it wants with full economic support from the United States, and it never has to worry about being held accountable.

Cracks in the foundation

I have been catching up on some stories I missed over the holiday, and a couple stand out.

Last spring, the actress Jenna Ortega tweeted, “We must never give up on the people of Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Syria… the list goes on unfortunately. For anyone who is willing and wanting to contribute any way they can, I want to form a thread with information. Does anyone have resources/links they could add?” One of the resources Ortega ended up boosting was the organization Decolonize Palestine.

The tweet is almost a year old at this point, but Ortega is the star of the recent Netflix hit Wednesday and this provided someone named Dan Margolis with the only hook he needed for a wholly unhinged Times of Israel Op-Ed. The piece is called “Jenna Ortega vs. Kanye: Whose antisemitic hate is worse?” Based on the title you might assume Margolis is taking a stab at satire. After all, Kanye West heaped praise on Hitler while Ortega linked to a website promoting Palestinian human rights. No one in their right mind would find these two things comparable. At the beginning of the Op-Ed Margolis concedes that his entire premise probably seems ridiculous to virtually everyone.

“Kanye is an open Jew-hater. He creates tweets that are both incomprehensible and threateningly antisemitic, spews Black Hebrew Israelite and Nation of Islam propaganda, and declares his love for Hitler and the Nazis,” writes Margolis. “He even appeared to cause discomfort for even Alex Jones, the guy who attacked the survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting. Ortega, who plays Wednesday Addams in the current Netflix series, is, according to those who work with her, genuinely nice. While West uses his social media for self-aggrandizement, unhinged rants, declarations that he is a god, and, most troublingly, Jew-hatred, Ortega uses hers to promote her work and humanitarian causes. She seems to genuinely want to help others.”

Ah, but “therein lies the problem,” explains Margolis. Ortega is well-intentioned and seems to have a genuine concern for human rights, but Margolis clicked on Decolonize Palestine’s website and was “horrified.”

Margolis claims that the website is full of “antisemitic tropes,” but provides no actual examples. This doesn’t stop him from consistently conflating the words “Israeli”, “Zionist”, “Jew” throughout the piece to make his original assertion appear factual. He particularly miffed about the website stating, “a colonial society will also produce a colonial ‘left’, and even a colonial ‘peace’ movement. This was exemplified by Yitzhak Rabin.”

Margolis presumably knows that Rabin signed an order to expel 50,000 Palestinians from their homes during the Lydda Death March and told his soldiers to break the bones of Palestinians who resisted during the First Intifada. Rabin was a “left-wing” leader in Margolis’ mind, which proves the very point he’s attempting to refute.

Margolis never actually says whether he thinks Ortega is worse than Kanye West, but he accuses her of being hoodwinked by a “genuinely evil piece of anti-Zionist propaganda” so…maybe?

Decolonize Palestine has a good thread dismantling the op-ed in more detail. “What is actually ‘horrifying’ to the author, is that support for Palestinians outside the failed two-state paradigm is becoming more mainstream,” it concludes. “That Palestinian dispossession is no longer seen as a given as has been for so long.”

That’s the big takeaway here. Support for Palestine is growing, and the backlash is predictably becoming more laughable. Margolis is on the governing board of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts and just a couple weeks after his ridiculous piece dropped, a politician from the state criticized Israel in powerful language.

Massachusetts State Representative Jamie Zahlaway Belsito (who represents the 4th Essex district in the Massachusetts House of Representatives) tweeted, “The US must acknowledge that the Israel administration is an apartheid run thuggery terrorist regime on a mission to kill Palestinians. Killing and land taking has nothing to do with anti-semitism. It is genocide.”

This isn’t the first time Belsito has expressed support for Palestine recently. Last month she tweeted about the Netflix film Farha, which tells the story of a young Palestinian girl whose family is killed by Israeli forces during the Nakba. “My family sat together to watch this film,” tweeted Belsito. “The United States has ZERO understanding of what the Nakba is. The truth cannot be silenced. 1948 European British Zionists created a hell on earth. This movie is about visceral hate, ethnic cleansing, terrorism and apartheid.”

The reality is that more and more people are beginning to see Israel the way Belsito does, which will inevitably lead to more preposterous op-eds.

Odds & Ends

🏫 Kenneth Roth was the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for almost 30 years and was poised to become a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He was denied the position over HRW’s criticisms of Israel. Michael Massing has a great piece in The Nation breaking down all the details:

Members of foreign intelligence services..flock to the Kennedy School, because it offers “a conduit to the highest echelons of the U.S. government.” Israelis are prominent among them. A key pipeline is the Wexner Israel Fellowship (part of the Center for Public Leadership). It was created in the late 1980s by Leslie Wexner, the founder and former CEO of L Brands (which once owned Victoria’s Secret and is now called Bath & Body Works). A rabbi representing Wexner approached the Kennedy School with the idea of bringing Israeli officials and civic leaders to Cambridge for a year of mid-career study, and the school agreed. Among the 10 fellows who come annually are ministry officials, local government representatives, policy analysts, and directors of nonprofits, as well as members of the Mossad, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Shin Bet security service. Wexner has donated more than $40 million to the Kennedy School over the years, and in 2018 a new building there was named for him. After it was revealed in 2019 that Wexner had for decades employed Jeffrey Epstein as a personal adviser and given him sweeping powers over his finances and philanthropy, there were calls for Wexner’s name to be removed from both the building and the fellowship, but it remains on both, and the Israeli fellows are highly visible at school events.

Originally, the Kennedy School planned to have a parallel program for Palestinians, but it never materialized, and only a small fraction of Wexner fellows are Israeli Arabs. Israeli Arabs do, however, have access to other fellowships at the school, including the Emirates Leadership Initiative Fellowship, which is funded by the United Arab Emirates—America’s strongest ally in the Gulf. (The UAE is also a close ally of Saudi Arabia and a serial violator of human rights.) In 2020, Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian diplomat and senior official with the PLO, was awarded a fellowship at the Belfer Center, but he died from Covid before he could start it. The Palestinian presence at the Kennedy School is sparse and discussion of the Israel-Palestine issue fleeting. According to people knowledgeable about the school’s programs, its administration is terrified of touching anything related to Palestine, and Palestinian voices have largely been silenced. That’s due not to any particular administrator, they say, but to “the ethos of the place” and the people who fund the Belfer Center.

🇮🇱 Phil Weiss has a post about the calls for Israel’s new government to be sanctioned.

🇵🇸 Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Twitter: “2022 was one of the deadliest years for Palestinians on record. Israeli forces and settlers killed more than 200 Palestinians, including more than 50 children, injured thousands more and demolished over 800 Palestinian homes. Congress must stop funding apartheid.”

📚 A new fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights does not embrace the controversial IHRA working definition of antisemitism. Palestine Legal has a thread about it.

🍦 Good op-ed in the VT Digger about Ben & Jerry’s lawsuit.

🤥 Michael F. Brown on lying Congressman-elect George Santos and his support for Israel in The Electronic Intifada:

Santos is on the record as a fierce advocate for a strong US-Israel alliance and as a supporter of the apartheid-promoting Benjamin Netanyahu – or “David Netanyahu,” as he called him in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Following his victory in November, Santos stated in an interview with JNS, a publication focusing on Israel and the Jewish community, that “we’re going to fight to debunk and end BDS,” the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and equal rights.

In a genocidal statement that received no pushback from JNS, he said of Iran: “We’re going to keep pushing back against them until there’s nothing left of Iran.”

In May 2021 he posted on Twitter, “Jerusalem is Israeli territory, end of discussion!”

🙏 Theo Rehm with a great tribute to Shatzi Weisberger in +972 Magazine.

📱 Great to see Said Arikat reinstated on Twitter.

Stay safe out there,


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