On February 1, Biden signed an Executive Order that imposes “sanctions” (punishment) on four Israeli “settlers.” I’ll get to what those “sanctions” mean shortly, but in a word, they are bullshit. They do nothing to stop the bombs and tanks, the siege cutting off food and water; the genocidal slaughter going on in Gaza. And at least for now, they leave those responsible for a wave of Israeli terror and death in the West Bank region of Palestine off the hook.
But… these sanctions still drove the top shot-callers in Israel ballistic. Before getting into why, first let’s have a “reality check.”
Tens of Thousands of Israeli “Settlers” Are Thugs, Terrorists, and Murderers—Biden Punishes FOUR of Them
First, let’s talk about who these “settlers” really are. They are reactionary Zionist fanatics and thugs who build their homes on stolen Palestinian land and houses—creating a climate of terror for the Palestinians who try to stay. There are more than 700,000 Jewish “settlers” living in 150 settlements and 128 militarized encampments in areas of Palestine that were seized and illegally occupied by Israel in war in 1967.1 The cutting edge in the “settler” movement is heavily armed Jewish fundamentalist fascist militias.2
Biden’s sanctions targeted just four Israelis involved in “settler” violence and terror against Palestinians. In fact, just since October 7, settlers and soldiers have killed more than 382 Palestinians—including 94 children—in the West Bank. Of the ones sanctioned, one of them led hundreds of Jewish settlers on a rampage through a West Bank town, killing 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash and wounding 98 other Palestinians. The others were involved in similar crimes, along with violently assaulting Israelis protesting for peace.3 But they are just four of tens of thousands doing the same thing.
And settler terror and murder in the West Bank goes hand-in-hand with the actions of the official Israeli military (see box below on “The Israeli Police/Settler/Military Murder of Tawfic Abdel Jabbar,” for example).
The penalties for those hit with sanctions prevent them from entering the U.S. unless they are U.S. citizens.4 More significant are penalties that block any access to financial transactions within the U.S. or controlled by the U.S.5 While that does not seem to be significant for the four thugs impacted by this round of sanctions, it could also be seen as a “message” to powerful actors in the Israeli government who are heavily dependent on fundraising and other financial interactions within the U.S.
Biden Aim Number One: Resuscitating the Toxic Myth of a “Two-State Solution”
Biden is all-in when it comes to support for Israel. He and his people deny that Israel is committing genocide. His crocodile tears for the dead children in Gaza have been accompanied by shipments of 5,000 2,000-pound bombs to destroy homes, hospitals, refugee shelters, and of course, kill more children. So, what was the “message” he sent to Israel’s rulers by applying sanctions to these four Zionist thugs?
A big difference between Biden and the dominant section of the Israeli ruling class is over the so-called “two-state solution.” This “two-state” solution is really neither a plan for two different states, nor is it a “solution” to anything. It is a plan to lock down the Palestinian people into areas separated by the Israeli military. They would be choked off, isolated, and bitterly oppressed. These areas would then be administered by a puppet Palestinian Authority that would serve as a (very!) junior partner in the oppression of the Palestinian people, with Palestinian faces at the top. As Bob Avakian, BA, breaks down in his social media dispatch REVOLUTION Number 5, the “two-state solution” is modeled after the Apartheid system in South Africa where the indigenous African people were locked into poverty-stricken, infertile and violently oppressed areas called Bantustans. In fact, Israeli rulers for years openly embraced the Bantustan model.6
Biden and the Democrats are convinced it is necessary to revive the “two-state solution” in some form. It is a big part of their strategy to shore up an anti-Iran alliance that includes reactionary Arab states like Saudi Arabia in a bloc with Israel. But millions of oppressed people within these reactionary states hate Israel and the U.S. This “two-state solution” provides the rulers of these countries with the cover of a phony Palestinian state to mislead their people and enable them to enter into the U.S.-led alliance.7
In that light, Biden and the Democrats see it as necessary to not just preserve but to revive and build up the “Palestinian Authority (PA),” which right now is illegitimate in the eyes of many Palestinians. The PA administers some social and government duties (including suppressing protests against Israel) in areas of the West Bank. Biden’s sanctions order seems to be aimed, in part, at creating conditions where the PA could have the backing and credibility to “govern” (enforce Israeli domination over) a Palestinian “state” encompassing both the West Bank and Gaza, with some enhanced authority. It would still be a puppet, just a more credible one.
But, as outrageously unjust as the “two-state solution” would be, dominant forces in the Israeli government find that insufficiently genocidal. They are on record as calling for the complete removal of the Palestinian people, one way or another. They got the “message” Biden sent by applying sanctions to four Zionist thugs and they essentially said “no fucking way.”
For instance, Israel’s fascist Finance Minister Smotrich, himself a settler who publicly denies the existence of the Palestinian people, responded to these sanctions by accusing Biden of legitimizing “an antisemitic lie” to smear “pioneering settlers.”8
Biden Aim Number Two: A Move to Channel Fury at Home into the BEB (Bourgeois Electoral Bullshit) of Voting for the Democrats
There is another dimension to Biden’s sanctions. An important part of the mission of the Democratic Party in this “two-party system” is to channel the better aspirations of decent people into the toxic dead end of voting. But a lot of the people that Biden and the Democratic Party regard as “their base”—especially Arab-Americans, progressive youth and many Black people—are righteously furious at how Biden is enabling and backing up Israel’s genocide.9 Biden’s “poll ratings” among Arab-Americans in particular have dropped like a rock.
Biden hopes that meaningless but showy moves like these sanctions will persuade some people to come back to the Democrats and that “at least he’s better than the even more fanatical backer of Israel, Trump.” If people fall for this, it would be a costly mistake and in fact extremely unrealistic.
In this regard, the truth brought home by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian on recent social media post Number 7, recorded before these recent moves, is extremely important:
[F]or those of you who think that politicians just act in their own narrow personal interests, think deeper—think about this: Biden has not only been a long-time fanatical backer of Israel, with its terrible crimes against humanity, but now Biden is fully supporting the genocide being carried out by Israel, even though this is likely to cost Biden the votes of large numbers of people who are righteously outraged by this genocide, and this could end up costing Biden the election. (And don’t be fooled by Biden putting on the act of telling Israel to be more careful in killing civilians—Biden has continued to send military aid to Israel, and to provide it with “political and diplomatic cover,” as the bodies of Palestinian civilians massacred by Israel pile up in the tens of thousands.)
Why is Biden, and basically the entire government and ruling class of the U.S., supporting Israel in carrying out genocide against the Palestinian people, before the whole world? Here is the answer to that crucial question:
This is not because of “the power of the Jewish lobby”—or because of some ignorant, ridiculous and outrageous notion that “Jews are controlling everything.” It is because Israel plays a “special role” as a heavily armed bastion of support for U.S. imperialism in a strategically important part of the world (the “Middle East”). And Israel has been a key force in the commission of atrocities which have helped to maintain the oppressive rule of U.S. imperialism in many other parts of the world.
(That is from my statement Some Basic Truths About the U.S.-Supported Israeli War Against Palestine, which is posted at revcom.us.)
It’s the system! The system of capitalism-imperialism that Biden serves. The system he has to serve—the system that anybody and everybody has to serve if they want to hold office, and especially “high office,” like president, within this system. That is why Biden is doing what he’s doing—what all these politicians are doing—above and beyond their more narrow personal interests.
It’s the system! This system of capitalism-imperialism that embodies and enforces white supremacy, patriarchal male supremacy and other brutal oppression—this system resting on ruthless life stealing exploitation of masses of people in this country and literally billions of people worldwide, including more than 150 million children—all enforced with massive violence and destruction, of people and the environment, posing a very real threat to the future and the existence of humanity.
This system that needs to be overthrown at the soonest possible time, through an actual revolution.
To underline BA’s point: while Biden is now trying to make showy but meaningless moves to assure people “he’s listening,” he is willing to risk his own re-election to support Israel in this genocidal war. Israel is just that important to the strategic interests of those who rule this system.
The question is, what will YOU do about that?
The Israeli Police/Settler/Military Murder of Tawfic Abdel Jabbar
Biden’s sanction order came two weeks after Tawfic Abdel Jabbar, a Palestinian-American student born and raised in New Orleans, was gunned down in a hail of bullets while visiting relatives in the West Bank. Tawfic Abdel Jabbar’s murder was harder to cover up than others because he was a U.S. citizen. He was sitting in a truck when he was executed, unarmed, by an off-duty Israeli pig, an on-duty Israeli army soldier, and a civilian “settler.”
When the U.S. government issued a mild, formal request for an explanation, the Israeli army claimed Tawfic Abdel Jabbar had been involved in a rock throwing incident. His family denies that, but what if he was?! What does it tell you when the Israeli military offers that as the official explanation of why they murdered Tawfic Abdel Jabbar? His murder has set off widespread fury and outrage in New Orleans’s Arab community, and beyond. On January 28, more than a hundred cars with Palestinian flags took part in a protest motorcade through New Orleans demanding “Justice for Tawfic.”