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They're Scared of Us
The White House and its allies thought nobody would care about Palestine. They were wrong—and they're freaking out.
You probably heard that hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC this weekend for what appears to be the biggest pro-Palestinian demonstration in US history. But DC was not alone. There were protests in San Francisco. And Los Angeles. And Tulsa. And Brussels. And Alexandria, Louisiana. And Middlesbrough, England. And Tokyo. And Jakarta. And Cincinnati. And Toronto. And Santiago. And Johannesburg. And Melbourne. And Paris, and Berlin, and London, and Stockholm, and Sao Paulo, and Warsaw, and Bucharest, and Belfast, and Cyprus, and Turkey, and on and on and on and on and on—protests in every corner of the globe. The pictures of Palestine marches from this weekend alone run to 39 pages in Getty.
This mass mobilization is wonderful. It’s just about the only wonderful thing that has happened over the past month. And there’s an added bonus: it has Joe Biden absolutely terrified.
At the beginning of this conflict, Biden was so firmly supportive of Israel that he refused to even refer to Palestinians in his speeches. His spokespeople were calling proponents of a ceasefire in Gaza “repugnant” and his State Department was ordering its staffers not to use words like “de-escalation” out loud. Every signal sent was the same: Israel gets to do what it likes, and the US and its allies won’t stand in its way for a second.
Cut to now. State Department staffers are resigning. Employees at the Democratic National Committee are urging Biden to call for a ceasefire. A growing number of elected officials are doing the same. Arab and Muslim voters are abandoning Biden en masse. The majority of Americans want a ceasefire. And the biggest pro-Palestinian protests in history are taking place, despite all of the efforts to equate them with pro-terrorism or antisemitic marches.
You can tell that the White House didn’t see this coming, because they have been flailing around like mad in recent days, trying to show that, no, they’re not actually into all of this bloodshed, and, come to think of it, Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims might be people after all.
They rolled Kamala Harris out to suddenly announce that the White House is going to develop a big new strategy to counter Islamophobia. They started leaning on the vague talking point that “how Israel does this matters.” They started saying that it would be really nice to have a “humanitarian pause.” Antony Blinken started talking about Palestinian children and going around the Middle East stressing that the United States loves humanitarian aid.
Over the weekend, things got even more ridiculous. The New York Times reported on Sunday that US officials have “privately outlined several steps to Israel to reduce civilian casualties in its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, including using smaller bombs, when going after Hamas leaders and infrastructure.”
Smaller. Bombs. This is where we are at.
Of course, this stuff is mostly bullshit, as US officials candidly told NBC News on Friday (emphasis mine):
“If this really goes bad, we want to be able to point to our past statements,” a senior U.S. official said. The official said the administration is particularly worried about a narrative taking hold that Biden supports all Israeli military actions and that U.S.-provided weapons have been used to kill Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children. The Defense Department has said the U.S. is not putting any limits or restrictions on the weapons it’s providing Israel.
Yeah, where did people get the crazy idea that US weapons are being used to kill Palestinian civilians??? Apart from the objective truth of that statement, I mean. (Also, the fact that US officials are talking about what happens if the situation in Gaza “really goes bad” shows you just how high their threshold for Palestinian suffering is.)
I don’t want to overhype what’s happening here. Israel’s genocidal assault is continuing, and the US is still backing it. Biden has not turned into some anti-Zionist. He hasn’t even turned into Bernie Sanders. The climate of censorship and repression around Palestine is intense and awful. These are the actions of people trying to find literally anything that will help them get out of what is an obviously growing political nightmare while still letting Israel kill as many Palestinians as possible.
But this is a growing political nightmare. And that feels different, and kind of incredible. Joe Biden is losing ground because he doesn’t support Palestine enough. It’s amazing. The pro-Palestinian movement is bigger than it has ever been, and the White House and the Democratic Party are both shocked and mystified about how to respond to that.
They thought the world would show the same contempt for Palestinian lives as they have shown over the past 75 years. They think Palestinians are disposable, and they assumed everyone else did too. They thought that nobody would care that thousands of children are dying, that hospitals and churches and mosques are being bombed, that we are all witnessing human suffering on an unbearable scale. They thought that the rest of us would be as cruel and callous as they are.
But they were wrong, and thank god for that. People don’t like seeing children die. We don’t like seeing indiscriminate slaughter. We don’t like it when hospitals are bombed, and when food and water are restricted. We have empathy, and we have heartbreak, and we have anger, and we are letting the United States government, and everyone aligned with it, know. And they are scared of us. They are scared of the better world that the movement around the world represents. They are scared that people are actually holding them accountable for the horror they are perpetrating. They are scared that they are losing control of this situation. They are scared, scared, scared.
This hasn’t stopped the killing. The blood is still flowing, and the US dollars to Israel are too. But something real has happened, a great mass wave of opposition to this crime against humanity, and it is beautiful, and it is powerful, and they are scared of it. So let’s keep it up. Free Palestine.
Top (L-R): Washington, DC: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images; San Francisco: Amy Osborne/AFP via Getty Images; Jakarta: Azwar Ipank/AFP via Getty Images; Berlin: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images
Bottom (L-R): Middlesbrough: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images); Tokyo: Yusuke Harada/NurPhoto via Getty Images; Santiago: Sebastián Vivallo Oñate/Agencia Makro/Getty Images; Johannesburg: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images