For Biden, It’s Michigan Or Israel

Michelle Goldberg, the millennial pixie, conveys a threat from a Michigan activist named Layla Elabed. It’s Israel or us, Genocide Joe. Pick one.

As infuriated as she is by Joe Biden’s stalwart support for Israel, Layla Elabed has not ruled out voting for him in November. A progressive Palestinian American community organizer in Dearborn, Mich., a majority Arab American city near Detroit, she doesn’t want to see Donald Trump back in office.

“Donald Trump has never been a friend to our community,” she told me as we sat in an airy, modern Yemeni coffee shop. But to win her back, she said, “the very bare minimum” Biden needs to do is to completely overhaul America’s relationship with Israel, demanding a permanent cease-fire and ending American military aid to Israel, at least as long as its war in Gaza drags on.

Elabed is one of the activists pushing the Listen To Michigan campaign, where progressive voters are told to send Biden a message by voting “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary. As it happens, she’s also the younger sister of Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of the leaders of the Hamas caucus in Congress.

What they demand of Biden in exchange for their vote is simple. Abandon Israel and reward the terrorists.

“We’re looking at unprecedented times where we are watching a genocide unfold in front of our eyes,” said Elabed. Biden’s backing of Israel may be predictable, given both his own avowed Zionism and the political influence of Israel’s American champions, but to her and others like her, it’s become intolerable.

It’s an article of faith on the left that what is happening in Gaza is a genocide, so much so that nobody bothers to either acknowledge the meaning of genocide or offer any explanation of why their claim is correct. Arguing the point is a fool’s errand, as there are neither facts nor logic that alter religious fervor. While it may be that of two million Gazans, thus far about 29,000 have died according to the Hamas Ministry of Health and Truth, even if some unmentioned share of the dead are Hamas soldiers.

If Israel wanted to commit genocide, it has the capacity to kill far, far more. It hasn’t. And, to note the obvious, it didn’t send in bombs, tanks and soldiers on a whim one morning when Bibi got it into his head that today would be a good day for genocide. On October 6th, Gazans went about their daily lives without fear of death. On October 7th, something changed.

The irony of the pixie’s “political and moral” analysis is that she never mentions Hamas. Not once. It’s as if Hamas never did anything on October 7th. It’s as if Hamas didn’t knowingly bring this down on the heads of their fellow Gazans, their martyrs, their shields. She calls Biden an “avowed Zionist,” a word that has become as much of a curse as racist or transphobe, because Biden has taken the position that Israel has a right to exist. Israel is not the party here required to lay down its arms and let terrorists rape, behead, burn, murder and kidnap at will. And if Israel doesn’t eradicate Hamas, it will happen again and again. Hamas says so. Biden knows it.

And Biden knows what these progressive dreamers do not, or at least won’t admit, that the terrorism won’t end until Israel is destroyed and every Israeli, Jew or Arab, is dead or gone. But it won’t end there either, because this is a war against western values, our values, and these emboldened terrorists will then use terrorism that has garnered them adoration from progressives as the accepted weapon to eradicate the heathens and heretics of the west. Like the pixie. Like the progressives. Like those on the victimhood pedestal.

These voters have heard Biden criticize Israel’s “indiscriminate” and “over the top” bombardment of Palestinian civilians and infrastructure, but they don’t see his administration taking meaningful steps to restrain it. Given the intensity of pro-Israel sentiment in some corners of the Democratic Party, breaking with Israel has long been seen as politically risky. The “uncommitted” margin in Michigan next week will be an imperfect but useful gauge of the degree to which cleaving to Israel has become risky as well.

Biden has tried to thread the needle since the start of his term of office, trying to mollify the authoritarian left and throwing them gifts like forgiving student loans, eradicating any distinction between sex and gender, and eliminating due process for male students accused of sexual assault. He hoped to buy peace from the left side of the schism in the Democratic party between liberals and left wing ideological zealots. It hasn’t worked. It was never going to work, as each new issue put Biden back into the intolerant left’s crosshairs. Nothing he does for them will be good enough. There is no mollifying the children. They demand purity and nothing less will do.

The “uncommitted” margin in Michigan will indeed be a test of Biden. Will he forsake what he knows to be the right thing, the only thing, to do or will he capitulate to the arab and progressive voters? There is nothing Biden can say to make these unduly passionate activists grasp the folly of their ways. If they don’t realize that the alternative to Biden is Trump, and there is no disputing that compelling argument, then there can be no reasoning with them.

But as long as his efforts don’t directly address the catastrophic suffering in Gaza, they’re not going to mollify activists. And while it appears obvious that Trump would be worse on the issues pro-Palestinian activists care about, their desperation to exert leverage on Biden seems, at least for the moment, to override fear of Trump’s return.

Then again, it’s not as if the Times’ millennial pixie sees a problem here.

13 thoughts on “For Biden, It’s Michigan Or Israel

  1. RJ

    Great piece. If Goldberg were a real journalist or even a pundit interested in writing a fair piece, she might ask these Palestinian supporters why we don’t see mass protests by Palestinans (indeed, Muslims) around the world, opposing Jihadist terrorism, and calling on Hamas to lay down their harms and release the hostages. (They could call it “Not In My Name”) She might question whether progressives’ use of terms like “genocide” and “indiscriminate bombing” (terms which used to mean something) are fair. What is Israel reasonably expected to do, other than continue the war, when Hamas still holds hostages and refuses to stop shooting at its soldiers? There’s never an explanation.

  2. Mike V.

    The Biden Administration has come out in support for a UN resolution for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza without demanding anything from Hamas. This is undoubtedly a sop to people like Elabed, and Ilian Omar and blatant pandering on Biden’s part. If he carries through and turns his back on Israel, he can kiss reelection goodbye, I think.

    1. B. McLeod

      If you sent Biden into a quiet room and gave him fifteen minutes to write down five things he really believes in, he would come out with nothing. His entire existence has been that of a poll-watcher and panderer, and actual moral values are strangers to him.

    1. RJ

      Not seeing the difference between a coordinated attack on civilians, using rape, beheadings and other atrocities as weapons of war on one hand, and a country responding to the attack on the other, is moral confusion. Every death of an innocent Palestinian is 100% the fault of Hamas.

    2. Miles

      It’s not genocide when it’s not genocide, no matter what all the cool kids say. I really don’t think you “got it” at all.

  3. PML

    If the US stops supporting Israel then they will only have one option to defend against Hamas and Hezbollah, that being Nukes which we know they have

  4. Tris

    Hal Broker your response encapsulates the prevailing approach to the question at hand: pithiness over substance.

  5. eric zaetsch

    Strangely, with a focus on an NYT item not mentioning Hamas, you do not mention Trump. The Dearborn Muslim population in the general election will vote Biden. Presumably they are practical while being pissed. If they stay home, they lose bigger than if they Go With Joe. Name calling those on the left, “pixie” is a fraud in place of good argument.

    Israel bombed in order to lessen troop loss of life in the ground war. Tunnel war on this scale is new, or seems so unless Fallujah involved tunnels, which seems unlikely. Fallujah was situated to where civilians could be evacuated before the carnage.

    With some reporting that a year prior to Oct 7 Israel held intelligence of Hamas planning details, how does that fit your perspective? Deny it as false? Reconcile it somehow with what unfolded?

    Don’t oversimplify. Don’t use a strawman argument. Israel does have nukes, that part you perceive. Saying it, some analysis might help about why they don’t use tactical nukes. We arm them otherwise, bunker busters included, precision guided bombs.

    Not claiming military nor intelligence nor political expertise, I do not see end game except things stand as they do, Israel will finish its ground action however that ends, and the two state vs. Greater Israel question will then have to be faced internationally with Netanyahu’s current government making numbers via some of the more extremist people in Israel. Thinking in Israel is not monolithic. Rabin got shot in the back for being reasonable.

  6. eric zaetsch

    Apology, I scan read, you state, “If they don’t realize that the alternative to Biden is Trump, and there is no disputing that compelling argument, then there can be no reasoning with them.” Our opinions mesh.

    “Israel has a right to exist,” is a cliche where current truth is “Israel has the power to exist, and to expand”

    History has a long term view, where right to borders and power to shape them interact, power winning.

    And winners of wars write the history. In 1948 Israelis won. “Israel has a right to exist” is their writing.

    I tried to read Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Cultures,” (I hope I got title etc. right) but could not adapt to the writing style, which was my fault, not Huntington’s. Your saying Arab (capitalized) and generalized Islamic culture is against Western culture seems to be nodding to Huntington’s thoughts, which might be correct. I cannot see Western values as solidified, rather in flux, but dollar hegemony seems an anchor.

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