It’s been a horrific past week in Palestine and a shameful one for Joe Biden, who continues to resist calls for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Last Wednesday, Biden landed in Israel, where he embraced Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Isaac Herzog. Reading from an Israeli script, Biden praised the country’s alleged democracy and refused to criticize its relentless assault on Gaza, which had already killed thousands of Palestinian civilians and a mere handful of Hamas officials. The Defense for Children International had just calculated that Israeli forces were killing a Palestinian child every fifteen minutes. Later that day, the United States vetoed a United Nations proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Brimming with the brazen confidence imparted by US backing, Israel bombarded, among other targets, a UN school in Gaza; a mosque in central Gaza; and a bakery in the crowded Nuseirat refugee camp, where many displaced civilians were seeking safety. Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza were slain the day of Biden’s visit.
Since the bombing campaign began two weeks ago — following the heinous October 7 attacks in Israel — children in Gaza have paid the highest price. Israel has slaughtered over 2,360 Palestinian children; hundreds more remain buried under rubble. Children in Gaza are writing their names on their hands to be recognized if killed. All told, Israel has killed nearly six thousand Palestinians in Gaza and wounded over thirteen thousand others. As I wrote last week, “Israel’s war on Gaza isn’t a war on Hamas — it’s a war on Palestinian civilians.”
Yet last Thursday, safely back in the United States, President Biden delivered an Oval Office speech renewing his virtually unconditional support for Israel, declining to press for a cease-fire and asking Congress for tens of billions of dollars more in military aid for Israel, on top of the billions the country already receives annually. The United States has shipped multiple warships and aircraft to Israel, along with two thousand troops ready to deploy; US special operations forces are also assisting Israel’s military in planning and intelligence.
In Washington, dissent has bubbled up in recent days, with one senior State Department official resigning “due to a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel” and four hundred congressional staffers signing a letter insisting the United States push for a humanitarian pause. Several members of Congress, led by democratic socialist representatives Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush, have introduced a resolution calling for a cease-fire.
But Israel remains emboldened, declaring over the weekend that it would take its brutal bombardment of Gaza to the “next stage.” Israel Defense Force spokesman Daniel Hagari warned on Saturday: “We will increase our strikes, minimize the risk to our troops in the next stages of the war, and we will intensify the strikes, starting from today.” Even before the stepped-up bombing, Amnesty International published a report finding “damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli attacks wipe out entire families in Gaza.”
Last Friday, Israel ordered the evacuation of Gaza City’s al-Quds Hospital, where hundreds of wounded civilians were being treated and nearly twelve thousand displaced civilians were taking shelter. On Saturday, Israel bombed a popular café in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, where hundreds of displaced civilians were sleeping, killing at least seventeen Palestinians. Last night, the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza plunged into total darkness after electricity was cut off due to lack of fuel. The UN has warned that at least 120 newborn babies in incubators in Gaza’s hospitals are at risk as fuel runs out; the World Health Organization says that two-thirds of Gaza health facilities have ceased operation.
Each day seems to bring a grim new record. According to official Palestinian sources, Sunday marked the “bloodiest night in Gaza,” with over four hundred Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes. The past twenty-four hours have been the deadliest yet, with over seven hundred Palestinians slaughtered.
Despite international pressure for humanitarian assistance, Gaza is looking into the abyss as Israel continues to deprive civilians of food, water, shelter, fuel, and medicine. Over the weekend, Israel allowed just twenty humanitarian trucks into Gaza (as former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn summarized it, “There are more trucks delivering food to supermarkets on a single road in my constituency than there are for 2.2 million people in Gaza”).
The United States, as Israel’s closest ally, has the leverage to credibly demand a cease-fire now. As an open letter to Biden, signed by Jewish-American writers, put it:
Cutting off resources to more than 2 million people, demanding families flee their homes in the north, indiscriminately bombing a trapped population — these are war crimes and indefensible actions. And yet the United States government is offering “moral” and material support for the dehumanization and murder of innocent Gazans. We write to publicly declare our opposition to what the Israeli government is doing with American assistance.