Atrocities Are Atrocities No Matter Who Does Them

I highly recommend this commentary from Chris Hayes on the U.S. response to the Israel-Hamas War.

As he says, it seems pretty obvious that the Biden Administration’s plan since the October 7 Hamas assault has been to embrace and support Israel publicly but work diplomatically behind the scenes to keep the government of Israel from commiting atrocities in Gaza. And given that the government of Israel is headed by hard-right bigots, that always was probably the best we could do. There was no way Israel was not going to slam Gaza to some degree; the only question was how hard.  And there is no power on earth that could persuade Netanyahu’s government to agree to a cease fire right now. And, frankly, whatever leverage the Biden Administration might have in Israel is built mostly on the popular opinion of Israelis. Not commiting support to Israel after October 7 was not an option, IMO.

Meanwhile, Anthony Blinkin is working his ass off trying to do damage control. For example:

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday issued a strong message after a day of meetings with Israeli leaders in Tel Aviv, declaring, “we need to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.”

In some of his most forceful comments to date, the top US diplomat said that “civilians should not suffer the consequences for (Hamas’) inhumanity and its brutality.”

Still, Blinken continued to offer support for Israel’s “right” and “obligation” to defend itself after the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks.

He’s getting slammed in some quarters for stating support for Israel’s self-defense, but in truth whatever little bit of influence he might have on the hard-liners would end the second he stopped saying that. Since then Blinken made a surprise visit to the West Bank and met with the Palestinian Authority — which may have reverberated a lot more in Israel than it did here. And I see now that Blinken made a surprise visit to Iraq to talk to Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad.

It’s obvious to me that the U.S. is trying to get Israel to back off and adopt a more humanitarian posture toward Gaza. Blinken wants the Arab world to know this. But it seems this has to be made more explicit, or it’s going to destroy the Biden Administration.

Bernie Sanders is proposing that we use the only leverage that we have left, which is the $3.8 billion the U.S. gives every year to Israel. I can’t see Congress going along with that, but somebody needed to say it.

Also do see Obama Urges Americans to Take in ‘Whole Truth’ of Israel-Gaza War at the New York Times. No paywall. I so miss President Obama’s deep thoughtfulness. In brief, what he says is that there is plenty of blame to spread around for the current situation in Israel and Gaza. And also, “What Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it,” Mr. Obama said. “And what is also true is that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable.”

Naturally the Right had an absolute fit about this, because they want there to be clear good guys and bad guys. This is one of the milder complaints:

Tim Scott on Saturday slammed Barack Obama as “dead wrong” after the former president called for a more nuanced approach to the Israel-Hamas war.

“From Obama to Biden, Democrats have a problem: supporting Israel always has an asterisk,” the South Carolina senator and presidential contender said in a statement to POLITICO.

“Obama is dead wrong and he has a legacy of aiding those who support terrorism,” Scott continued. “The truth is simple: Hamas is evil.”

I haven’t heard anyone making excuses for Hamas. But there is no rule anywhere in the Universe that says that evil only takes one side. In any situation where there are two opposing forces, it’s always possible they are both evil. (Although I want to go on the record I am not comfortable with dismissing any group of people with the word “evil,” no matter what they’ve done. It’s a label that doesn’t tell us anything useful, IMO.)

And maybe what we need right now is a hell of a lot bigger asterisk. Close association with Netanyahu’s Israel is not in the long-term interests of the United States.

Jonathan Chait:

Here is a simple proposition: You can oppose antisemitism without condoning hatred of Muslims or Arabs. Likewise, you can oppose bias against Muslims and Arabs without condoning antisemitism.

This may sound like a simple idea. Yet it is one the entire Republican Party seems unable to grasp.

Last May, the Biden administration announced what it called the most ambitious strategy to oppose antisemitism ever undertaken. In the wake of Hamas’s terrorist attack last month, President Biden and Second Gentleman Douglass Emhoff held a roundtable with Jewish leaders to express support for Israel along with opposition to antisemitism. And as antisemitism has grown on campuses, the administration recently announced new stoops to combat it.

Republicans insist Biden and his party are complicit in antisemitism. The main reason they give is that the Democrats also oppose bigotry against Muslims and Arabs.

Given that I am accusing the Republicans of failing to grasp a principle a literal child could easily understand, you may be justifiably suspicious I am either making it up or picking on one or two random outliers. So I am going to supply several examples, all taken from published journalism, not random social-media posts.

And then Chait does give examples of prominent right-wing columnists in major right-wing media citing the Biden Administration’s concerns about Islamophobia as evidence that the Biden Administration is antisemitic. Chait continues,

Conservatives — ironically, like many radical leftists — see the world in zero-sum terms, so that opposing prejudice against one party to a conflict means accepting it toward the other. Segments of the anti-Israel left cannot bring themselves to denounce antisemitism precisely because they see doing so as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The right’s mentality is a mirror image of that thought process.

There is all kinds of research showing that liberals and conservatives have very different psychological wiring. Let’s just be blunt and admit that the conservative brain is miswired.