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Israel-Palestine war: US politicians greenlighting 'potential genocide' of Palestinians, analysts warn

Political analysts warn that US blanket support for Israel is leading to mass atrocities against Palestinian civilians
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Palestinian attacks on Israel at the White House on 10 October 2023.
US President Joe Biden at the White House making remarks about Israel, on 10 October 2023 (AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

US President Joe Biden's unflinching backing of Israel's military response to attacks by Palestinian fighters over the weekend could give Israel the green light to commit mass atrocities in Gaza against Palestinians - including potential genocide and ethnic cleansing - political analysts have warned.

On Saturday morning, Palestinian groups in Gaza launched a surprise attack on Israel, breaking out of the blockaded enclave and attacking a number of Israeli kibbutzim while taking captives back into Gaza. Israel responded with a large-scale bombing campaign and appears to be readying itself for a potential ground invasion of Gaza, which hasn't happened since 2014.

So far, at least 1,100 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis have been killed, with a large number of civilians on both sides. Nearly one-third of those killed in Gaza are children. 

In his public address on Tuesday, Biden described the actions of Hamas, the Palestinian armed group leading its attack on Israel, as "sheer evil", and said that the US stands behind Israel and will provide it whatever it needs to attack Gaza.

"We will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack," Biden said.

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"Let there be no doubt. The United States has Israel's back. We'll make sure the Jewish and democratic state of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have."

And while the US has always supported Israel in previous incursions and attacks on Palestinians, a number of concerned experts say this time is completely different.

"What's different now is that the president and congress have provided the greenest of possible green lights to enable Israel to do anything that it wants to do up to and including genocide," Josh Ruebner, a political analyst, told Middle East Eye.

"Make no mistake about it, by providing 100 percent backing for any action that Israel takes in the Gaza Strip, President Biden is complicit in Israel's commission of war crimes, and potentially much, much worse," Ruebner, who is also the author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace, said.

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US Senator Lindsey Graham said clearly and unequivocally in an interview aired on Fox News that "we are fighting a religious war, and I am on Israel's side".

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Graham's message to Israel was: "Do whatever it takes. Raze this place to the ground."

And nearly 400 members of US Congress signed a measure introduced on Tuesday, in which it condemned Hamas for its attack on Israel and gave complete support for Israel's right to defend itself.

"Lawmakers on the left and on the right, from Lindsey Graham to Ritchie Torres, are using this opportunity to viciously demonise Palestinians in order to drum up anti-Palestinian hatred that will give Israel cover to commit unspeakable crimes right in front of our eyes," Tariq Kenney-Shawa, a US policy fellow for Al-Shabaka, told MEE.

"Israel is hellbent on exterminating Palestinians in Gaza, and it knows no one will get in between them and what they see as their divine objective."

Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said that rather than calling for a ceasefire and end to the hostilities, the US is "cheerleading" the latest Israeli assault.

"The Israeli forces are murdering entire families in Gaza while supplying arms to their violent settlers in the West Bank to carry out attacks. The situation in Gaza was already devastating and again the people of Gaza are facing attacks from the most powerful military force in the region, with no Iron Dome, no military, and no US government valuing their lives," Abuznaid said.

No mention of concern for Palestinians

Israeli air strikes have so far targeted hospitals, mosques, and residential buildings across Gaza. Entire families have been wiped out by the bombing campaign.

So far, in addition to the Palestinians that have been killed, at least 5,339 have been injured. It is unclear how many buildings have been razed, as the number continues to rise by the hour.

The violence has also made its way into the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed 28 Palestinians. The Lion's Den, a Palestinian armed resistance group based out of the West Bank city of Jenin, has made a call to take up arms against Israel, a move that could further escalate the conflict.

'It's rich that the US would claim to abide by the laws of war'

- Tariq Kenney-Shawa, Al-Shabaka

Palestinian armed groups have taken more than 100 Israeli captives, and a spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades has stated that it would begin to kill hostages if Israel continues to bomb Gaza.

Israel has imposed a full siege on the already blockaded enclave, cutting off electricity and water and also refusing requests to allow the entry of food and medical supplies. It also threatened to bomb aid trucks trying to enter from the Egyptian border with Gaza.

The UN Refugee Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said on Tuesday that it has about 12 days of supplies of food and water for the nearly 200,000 people taking shelter in its school buildings. While a blockade is not necessarily a war crime, the intentional starvation of a civilian population as a war tactic is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Yet none of Israel's actions against the civilian population of Gaza received a mention in Biden's speech on Tuesday.

"Biden's address to the nation yesterday, was horrifying in that he didn't express one iota of concern for the loss of Palestinian civilian life, the war crimes that are being committed currently by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip, and the widescale incitement to genocide that we've heard in recent days from Israeli political and military leaders," Ruebner said.

Instead, Biden said with confidence that "we uphold the law of war". However, experts said the US and Israel both have an extensive history of violating international humanitarian law and the laws of war.

"The United States has been the most fervent violator of the laws of war and international law in general on a global scale ever since it played a leading role in establishing the so-called 'rules-based' international order during the post-WWII years," Kenney-Shawa said.

"I want to be clear with my words right now. It's rich that the US would claim to abide by the laws of war. Anyone who still believes that the US would uphold the laws of war or respect the international laws it wrote is deluding themselves."

'Israel's 9/11'

In previous Israeli incursions on Palestinians, the US has often quickly called for Israel to use restraint. However, in the past few days, there have been no such calls coming from Washington, at least in public.

"In the past, the US may have been counted on to go through the motions of parroting the usual de-escalatory talking points, like calling for 'both sides' to avoid civilian casualties or for Israel to exercise a modicum of restraint," said Kenney-Shawa.

"But today, Biden and the rest of the American political establishment are fervently united in giving Israel carte blanche to completely devastate Gaza."

Ruebner said he is also worried about whether the US, the largest military backer of Israel, would even be able to rein the country in if it tried.

"It's unclear how long this green light will last. It's unclear to what extent mass murder would need to be committed by Israel before it's reined in by the United States," he said.

'I gravely fear that Israel's response will pale in comparison to anything that it has inflicted on innocent Palestinians up to this point, including 1948'

- Josh Ruebner, author and political analyst

"As of this point, I do not believe that President Biden will stop Israel at any point."

The attack on Israel from Hamas' and Palestinian armed groups has been described by Israel as its own 9/11 - in reference to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US by members of al-Qaeda.

The rhetoric around it has caused even more concern about the fallout for Palestinian civilians, as well as Palestinians across the western diaspora, as governments have begun using rhetoric aimed at cracking down on pro-Palestinian sentiment by equating it with support for Hamas, a US-designated terrorist group.

"The mass attack on Israeli civilians on Saturday was not only unprecedented in its scope, in terms of Israeli civilians being impacted by Palestinian attacks. That's obvious. What hasn't been discussed so much yet, is that what Hamas did on Saturday is the deepest, darkest fear of every settler colonial society," Ruebner said.

He added that in looking throughout history, settler-colonial states have often responded in "an overwhelming perhaps eliminatory response".

"And I gravely fear that Israel's response will pale in comparison to anything that it has inflicted on innocent Palestinians up to this point, including 1948. That's how dire I think the situation is."

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