2023 Was the Year the Liberal West, Led by Joe Biden, Betrayed Palestinians in Gaza

As we begin a new year, the horrors in Gaza continue, prosecuted and sustained with a flagrant combination of US weapons and European blessings. History will not look kindly on those who keep running cover for Israel’s war crimes.

People inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli air strikes on January 3, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza. (Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images)

At Israel’s founding, in a brutal campaign that Palestinians call the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”), the new state ethnically cleansed and destroyed over five hundred Palestinian villages and towns, killing more than ten thousand Palestinians. As Zionist forces seized over 78 percent of historic Palestine, at least 750,000 Palestinians, out of a population of 1.9 million, were expelled from their homes. Many of those uprooted fled to Gaza, tripling its population and transforming the tiny coastal strip into a colossal refugee camp.

While Palestinians always feared the prospect of a second Nakba, most never imagined it would unfold before their eyes in broad daylight, believing that genocides belonged in the past century. Last year, the United Nations (UN), for the first time in its history, commemorated the anniversary of the Nakba, assuring Palestinians that the injustices of the past would never be repeated.

They were wrong. Since October 7, Israel has killed twice and displaced three times as many Palestinians in Gaza as it did in all of Palestine during the Nakba. The staggering death toll has now exceeded twenty-two thousand Palestinians, including over nine thousand children. Half of the population is on the brink of starvation.  About two million Gazans have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands have left Gaza through the Rafah Border Crossing in exodus trails, evoking tragic scenes from the Nakba. Just this week, two far-right Israeli ministers openly advocated ethnic cleansing: “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million Arabs,” said finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, “the entire discussion on the day after [the war ends] will be totally different.”

The Israel Defense Forces, which has long branded itself the “most moral army in the world,” has instead distinguished itself as a specialist in massacring civilians — doctors and nurses, journalists and their families, pregnant women and children. Israel has dropped some eighty thousand tons of explosives on Gaza, the equivalent of five nuclear bombs, and blitzed the coastal enclave with tens of thousands of air strikes, tearing thousands of impact craters into the earth, some nearly forty feet wide. Gaza City, a town of sixty thousand, has been razed. It’s a second nakba carried out from the air.

On Friday, South Africa launched a case at the UN top court accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and asking the court to order Israel to halt its attacks. The case, submitted to the International Court of Justice at the Hague, states that Israel’s actions in Gaza are “genocidal in character” because they are committed with the intent “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.” Many experts concur.

The mass slaughter in Gaza is shocking not only because of its breathtaking pace, daily horrors, and chilling scale, but also because of the level of complicity it has garnered from Western elites. Israel’s war has been prosecuted and sustained with a flagrant combination of American weapons and European blessings, even as the onslaught reaps three times as many victims as the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia.

For nearly three months, Palestinians in Gaza have been sharing live videos of their daily executions, pleading with the world to stop the madness. But the Western political class has remained silent, piping up only to offer platitudes about human rights, invocations of Israel’s absolute right of self-defense, and blanket condemnations of Israel’s critics as antisemites. The Gaza genocide has exposed the hollowness of Western liberalism, the thin gruel of its professed moral values and human rights institutions.

Anti-Palestinian McCarthyism has run rampant in the United States and Europe. France and Germany have banned antiwar protests and cracked down on pro-Palestinian activists, while US states have raced to pass laws prohibiting nonviolent solidarity with Palestinians, including boycotts of Israel. Several US states have vowed to bar Palestinians refugees. Countless supporters of Palestinian rights have been fired or disciplined in the United States; many more have self-censored, for fear of retribution. Meanwhile, thousands of foreign mercenaries and extremist settlers with American and European passports are wreaking havoc on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The liberal West, led by the Biden administration in the United States, has betrayed Palestinians in Gaza. It has denied Palestinian children even the pretense of humanity, let alone a cease-fire that could have saved thousands of innocent lives. Despite the barrage of genocidal threats pouring out of Israel officialdom, mainstream politicians in the United States have allowed Israel to carry out one of the worst atrocities in recent memory. In doing so, Western governments have thumbed their nose at the popular rage unfolding in their capitals, where demonstrators — Muslims, Jews, Christians, seculars — have marched en masse in support of Palestine and a cease-fire in Gaza, sweeping the streets of Washington, New York, London, Paris, and Berlin.

The mass bloodletting in Gaza is the tragic culmination of the Western colonial legacy in Palestine. The same global forces that failed Palestinians in the past have returned to ensure their final dispossession: the UK, which handed Mandate for Palestine to political Zionists, thanks to the Balfour Declaration, has pledged its full support to Israel. The UN, which created Israel thanks to its Partition Plan, has failed in its mission to protect Palestinians and prevent a repeat of the Nakba. The United States, which was the first country to recognize Israel, has become a partner in its war crimes.

Gaza may be annihilated, but it’s not going anywhere. As we begin a new year, history will not look kindly on those who continue to stand on the side of genocide. In the words of Reverend Munther Isaac of the Evangelical Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, “If you are not appalled by what is happening; if you are not shaken to your core, there is something wrong with your humanity. Gaza today has become the moral compass of the world.”