Column: Gaza and the Vulnerable President

Oct. 25, President Biden voiced doubt about the death toll of Gaza inhabitants in light of Hamas’ record of lies and brutality.

Oct. 26, Biden reportedly apologized to five Muslim leaders for questioning Hamas’ casualty figures, even lowering himself to admit he was “disappointed in myself.”

His Oct. 26 comments could be translated thusly: “Please turn out to vote for my re-election in a year from now, especially in tenuous swing states like Michigan.”

On Oct. 6, it would have been reasonable to predict that Biden or any Democratic nominee might sweep the six swing states, especially Michigan. After Oct. 7, Biden’s campaign could be imperiled in the aftermath of Hamas’ slaughter of 1,200 people in southern Israel.

Biden’s sorrowful meeting, in more ways than one, tops a pattern of conflicts consuming Washington stemming from the war. Most are silly and disruptive sideshows, but some policy votes and revealing hearings are worthy of our attention.

Dearborn, Mich., population 109,000, and its neighboring towns (including Detroit) comprise the largest Arab-American community in the country, and Arabs and Muslims are outraged by Biden’s support for Israel’s military campaign against Hamas. Gaza’s health ministry, controlled by Hamas, claims that 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, primarily in bombings.

In recent years, Michigan was moving close to claiming blue-state status, thanks in part to Arabs and Muslims from Dearborn. They are already expected to ignore the ballot-line for president or vote for a third party that will peel away votes from Biden if he is the Democratic nominee. If the Arab bloc is sizeable enough, combined with other voters opposed to Israeli bombing, former President Trump could win the plurality.

These other voters are misguided or far-left lunatics, plus minority racial groups who wrongly identify with the so-called Palestinian cause. The leftists are either upset with the high casualty rate or supported Hamas’ goal from the outset– to destroy Israel.

Minority groups, particularly some in the Black community, compare the Palestinian struggle with the civil rights movement in America. Palestinians do face oppression, but moreso from their leaders and fellow Palestinians whose goal is to eliminate Israel. Yasser Arafat was much closer to Attila the Hun than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Turnout could again be low among Black voters in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee, which factored into Trump’s 2016 victories in those cities’ respective states, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

And there is the Jewish vote. On average, 75 percent of American Jews vote for Democrats because of their domestic policies, but they have grown impatient with Biden’s seeming acquiescence to the Arabs and tolerance of anti-Israel members of Congress. Some could be more likely to vote Republican.

Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been urging Israel to avoid civilian deaths in Gaza. Harris even proclaimed that “too many” Palestinians were killed because of Israel’s retaliatory moves. Her phrasing suggests that there is an acceptable level for civilian deaths.

Israel originally called on Gazans to move to the south end of Gaza while its troops battled Hamas in the north, and in recent days the Israeli leadership warned Gazans that they will be taking the fight to the south since Hamas bosses have moved there with their people.

“They are moving us from one place to the other,” an unidentified Gaza man said, according to NBC News.

The perception of Israel’s actions among Black voters can be hampered through guilt by association. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina was among Republicans who expressed strong backing for Israel during a hearing in which family members of Israeli hostages testified.

Wilson, who is white, made a name for himself toward the end of former President Obama’s first year in office, 2009, by interrupting an address to Congress. He told our first biracial president that “you lie.” Wilson apologized, but who believes he was sincere?

Tension over the war is also coursing through Congress. Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Fla., a Jewish Democrat, exited the party’s progressive caucus because of its abrasive treatment of Israel, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Who can blame her? Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, who chairs the progressive caucus, on Sunday deflected questions about sexual violence against Israeli women on Oct. 7, telling CNN’s Dana Bash, “It’s horrific and I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations, terrorist organizations like Hamas, obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.”

By Jayapal’s standards, doesn’t bombing of apartment buildings “happen in war situations”? San Francisco attorney Christine Pelosi tweeted, “RAPE IS RAPE. Do not minimize, excuse, ‘balance’ or ‘both sides’ sexual assault.” Her husband is of Jewish descent and mom Nancy was pro-Israel long before she was elected to Congress.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Jewish Democrat who lost relatives in the Holocaust, urged Americans in a New York Times column and on the Senate floor “to stand with Jewish Americans and to denounce antisemitism in all of its forms. Too often in Jewish history, legitimate criticism of Israeli policies or even older disputes…have crossed over into something darker, into attacking Jewish people simply for being Jewish.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, praised the lengthy speech recited by Schumer, who represents New York state, home to 1.5 million Jews.

Republicans rate our appreciation for taking strong stands on Middle East issues that are usually ignored. At the same time, they exploit the situation by taking cheap shots at Democrats. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee on Monday demanded that we withhold funds from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency after she learned of a news report that an UNRWA teacher held an Israeli abductee hostage in his house.

“The United States will not be complicit in propping up Hamas’ terrorism, and this report proves why deep change is necessary within UNRWA before we even consider providing another dollar to the agency,” Blackburn wrote in a letter on Monday, according to The New York Post.

Yet on Wednesday morning, Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Colman of Trenton, N.J., blasted a GOP resolution which could be interpreted to formally equate anti-Zionism with antisemitism. She said she does not understand how the measure will “get us closer to a resolution.” Under the bill, Congress “strongly condemns and denounces all instances of antisemitism occurring in the United States and globally.”

Nobody can predict for certain how the politics will play out. I lean toward expecting Biden or any credible Democratic nominee to win the presidency. I do think the party will easily regain the House majority because Democratic turnout in blue states increases during presidential elections. However, the Senate majority will again be narrow. Either party can add enough senators to control the majority by a thread.

I hope Democrats take full control in 2024, especially enough to eliminate the filibuster which precludes votes on domestic policies. I am grateful to Republicans for their consistent support of Israel, but I will only consider voting for them if they re-evaluate their stance on social programs.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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