On Oct. 11, three days after the ISIS-style mass murder, rape, torture, mutilation and hostage taking of over 1,200 Israelis by Hamas, the worst antisemitic atrocity since the Holocaust, the Financial Times US editor Edward Luce, in an op-ed (“Biden, Netanyahu and America’s choice”), putatively condemned the terror, but ultimately blamed the victims.
There is no contradiction between reviling terrorism and tackling its roots. Both the following statements are true: Hamas has plumbed new depths of bestial cruelty; Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel has starved non-violent Palestinian alternatives.
Last Saturday’s killing was horrific, yet should come as no surprise. Gaza, as others have remarked, is the world’s largest open-air prison. Netanyahu has deprived Palestinians of hope for the future and peaceful outlets to express their frustrations
The assertion that Hamas’s plans for a peaceful solution to the conflict were stymied by Israel, which then resulted in the terror group ‘expressing their frustrations’ by murdering 1,200 Jews, we wrote at the time, is as risible as it is morally contemptable.
Luce is at it again, in his latest op-ed, (“Joe Biden’s invisible Palestinians”, Jan. 17), which – though including a moral throat clearing by describing Hamas’s attacks as “barbaric rampage” – largely is focused on condemning Israel, and begins thusly:
Every leader has their blind spots. In Joe Biden’s case, his seeming indifference to Palestinians could prove costly. Ten thousand Palestinian children have been killed in the past 100 days, according to Save the Children.
However, if you go to Save the Children’s page, you’ll see that their “ten thousand Palestinian children” killed stat is based on figures released by the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. Hamas counts as innocent “children” even teenage Hamas fighters, and also includes in the ‘10,000’ figure Palestinians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets, which represent between 10 and 20 per cent of all Gaza rocket fire.
Luce goes on to claim that younger Americans, progressive legislators and Arab-Americans, “whose enthusiasm Biden will badly need in November”, are alienated by what they see has the president’s lack of concern for Palestinian suffering.
However, the problem may not be with Joe Biden, but with segments of his supporters who hold extremist views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For instance, a poll conducted by Harvard University and The Harris Poll found that 60% of Americans aged 18-24 (that is, ‘younger Americans’) believe that that the Oct. 7 attacks were justified, while 51% believe the way to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict is to end Israel and hand it over to Hamas and the Palestinians.
Luce then makes this extremely odd claim:
Israel has received more than 100 2,000lb bunker buster bombs from the US since October 7. These pack the kind of punch meant for the battlefield, not for precision targeting of terrorists in urban settings. Nobody seriously disputes claims that the Israel Defense Forces have used such munitions indiscriminately.
However, as the Wall Street Journal reported, such bunker bombs, similar to what the U.S. military used in the Gulf war and the war in Afghanistan, are to be used to destroy terrorist military tunnels, an underground military network spanning up to 450 miles where Hamas’s leaders have been hiding. Luce’s allegation that “nobody serious disputes claims that the IDF have used such munitions indiscriminately” reflects poorly on his editors – who failed to flag such a sweeping, unevidenced statement.
The FT journalist makes another specious assertion:
By putting tough conditions on US aid, Biden could topple Netanyahu if he wanted — and earn the thanks of Israelis, the Arab world and the majority of Jewish-Americans.
First, putting “tough conditions” on US aid would likely hurt the president in November, as a recent poll show that 62% of Americans think that the US is sending either the right amount of aid to Israel or not enough aid.
Further, the suggestion that tough conditions on future aid would be popular amongst Israelis is just strange. Support amongst Israelis for the war with Hamas is extraordinarily high, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where even Benjamin Netanyahu’s political opponents would welcome a US decision to attach strings to aid to resupply Iron Dome missiles, munitions and other armaments.
Luce’s pattern of deception continues in this passage, designed to create the impression that President Biden has not been conveying to Israel any concern about Palestinian civilians or the need for a two-state solution.
At a fundraiser last month, Biden said: “We’re not going to do a damn thing other than to protect Israel. Not a single thing.”
Omitted is the fact that, during that fundraiser, Biden also said this his administration would continue “to emphasize to our friends in Israel the need to protect [Palestinian] civilian life”, that “we have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of option — an option of a two-state solution”. Moreover, at Davos just yesterday, Biden’s Secretary of State said that Israel cannot achieve “genuine security” without a pathway to a Palestinian state – a message the administration has been pushing consistently since the attacks on Oct. 7.
Further, Israel’s decision to transition to a more surgical phase of its war against Hamas has been widely reported as the consequence of US pressure – with the goal of the partial drawdown being to reduce the threat to Palestinian civilians.
Luce ends his piece repeating his concern that Biden’s pro-Israel stance will hurt his chances to defeat the Republicans in November. However, in addition to the fact that Israel remains popular amongst most of the US electorate, with an overwhelming majority blaming Hamas for the war, the fact is that foreign policy (post Cold-War) rarely plays a decisive factor in US presidential elections. ‘Bread and butter’ economic concerns (and other domestic issues, such as immigration) weigh far more heavily in the minds of most voters.
In fact, a recent Associated Press article reported polling which reflected that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is an extremely minor issue for most Americans, with only 5% listing it as an area of concern.
Luce may be the FT’s US correspondent, but his analysis suggests a profound failure to understand the political landscape in America, and, in particular, the depth of public support for the Jewish state.