Skip to main content

Joe Biden is the lesser evil among two old, white, pro-Israel men

Proven to be an opportunist, Biden may reluctantly shift from his pro-Zionist stance when he sees the Democratic base has changed
Joe Biden is the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee (AFP)

While much is still in flux between now and the November US presidential election, all indications are that Joe Biden will be the Democratic candidate.  

For progressives, and anyone concerned with justice in the Middle East, this is no cause for celebration. Biden’s record on Palestine is well-established. The former vice president has been a politician for almost half a century, during which he has routinely asserted his “unstinting support for Israel”. 

In a speech to a conference of rabbis in 2011, Biden declared: “I am a Zionist, for I learned you do not have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” 

This isn't the strictly formulaic, quasi-obligatory, default statement that politicians are expected to make in the United States. On his website, he pledges: “As President, Joe Biden will continue to ensure that the Jewish State, the Jewish people, and Jewish values have the unbreakable support of the United States.”  

He takes pride in having helped to secure the largest-ever aid package to Israel, calling it “the best $3 billion investment we make”, and noting on his site: “Biden helped shape the unprecedented $38 billion, ten-year memorandum of understanding for defence assistance to Israel signed in 2016, the largest such military aid package in U.S. history.” 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


On 3 November, we will be choosing between two old, white, pro-Israel, racist men

That package, of course, was made as President Barack Obama was preparing to leave office, in a sad reminder that Democrats have historically been as treacherous to the cause of justice for Palestine as any Republican.   

Like Bernie Sanders, who recently withdrew from the Democratic presidential race, Biden opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. But Biden goes further, saying he is “outraged” at the thought of conditioning aid to Israel. 

“The idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous,” he told a Wall Street Journal reporter late last year, as he intentionally set himself apart from Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, who were still in the race for the Democratic nomination.  

The lesser evil

Biden has also criticised the context of Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but affirmed he would not reverse it. “Now that it’s done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv,” he recently said. This cavalier acceptance of “facts on the ground” plays into Israel’s agenda and suggests that Biden would not probably call for illegal settlements to be abandoned either. 

Meanwhile, Israel is eyeing further annexation of Palestinian land, confident that the leadership of the US Democratic Party, now rallying behind Biden, will not take action to oppose it. 

US President Donald Trump and Biden are pictured separately (AFP)
US President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are pictured separately (AFP)

A growing number of Americans have, sadly, learned that every four years, we can only vote for the lesser evil, in full knowledge that the lesser evil is still evil. That is the sad, sobering reality behind the facade of democracy in the US.

On 3 November, we will be choosing between two old, white, pro-Israel, racist men (Biden once opposed non-“orderly” racial integration policies, fearing his children would grow up “in a racial jungle”).  

We will be choosing between a man who brags about getting away with sexual assault, and one who continues to deny persistent allegations of assault, refusing accountability.

Simply put, Biden represents the worst of the Demorats' old guard and his all but certain nomination is a blow to the energy and aspirations of activists who thought they could bring change from within the system. 

Lukewarm voters

And yet, there is a difference between Trump and Biden. Trump is fully confident of the support of his base. Even the many, many allegations of sexual misconduct and assault, which Trump denies, have not deterred his fans, as evidenced by women who proudly wear T-shirts that are openly dismissive of such claims. 

Those who voted for him when he proposed to “Make America Great Again” - his slogan in 2016 - are seemingly satisfied with his accomplishments, and want to “Keep America Great” (the 2020 motto) for the white supremacists he has emboldened.  

'Between a rock and a hard place': Palestine activists slam Biden
Read More »

Biden is fully aware that a majority of Democratic voters are lukewarm - even reluctant - to support him, and that many are horrified at the sexual assault allegations he is shrugging off.  

Many are so disheartened at the fact that he is the presumptive Democratic nominee that they are considering not voting at all. Biden also knows that there are hundreds of thousands of votes that could still go to Sanders, who has strategically chosen to remain on the ballot to push the party in a more progressive direction.

As Sanders explained in his speech announcing he was ending his campaign: “We must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions. Then together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump - the most dangerous president in modern American history - and we will fight to elect strong progressives, at every level of government.”

Shifting to the left

Biden knows he will need to shift to the left. We have seen him do so already by adopting some Sanders positions, especially on public education, and Elizabeth Warren’s position on bankruptcy protection, both of which he had earlier opposed, because he knew these were very important to Democratic voters.  

It's not much to look forward to. But it is something that distinguishes him from Trump

He has proven to be an opportunist, and he may shift on Israel too. This will not come out of a change of heart, or a moral impulse to do what is right. Rather, it may happen, very reluctantly, when Biden realises how much the Democratic base has changed on that too.  

It’s not much to look forward to. But it is something that distinguishes him from Trump, who can only shift further to the right, into an open embrace of fascism.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Nada Elia teaches in the American Cultural Studies Programme at Western Washington University, and is currently completing a book on Palestinian diaspora activism.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.