Biden pledges to keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, boasts of “unstinting support” for Israel, promises to fight the BDS movement and send military aid, and spins it as a way to somehow fight anti-Semitism in the U.S.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Marc Steiner: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. It’s great to have you all with us. 100 progressive Jewish Arab American faith-based organizations called on Joe Biden to support full equality for Palestinian rights. This came on the heels of Joe Biden announcing last month that if elected, he would keep the US Embassy in Jerusalem in violation of international law and everything even the Obama administration stood for.
Now, Biden blames Trump for encouraging antisemitism in this country, he’s right about that. His response though is to support Israel with military aid, sanctions on Iran, fighting the BDS movement, and any movement that criticizes Israel and stands for Palestinian rights. He’s supposed to be incorporating some of Sander’s platform into his, clearly not when it comes to Israel.
Now, we welcome Ariel Gold, who is CODEPINK’s national co-director, who’s traveled to Israel and Palestine to support Palestinian rights until she was banned in 2018. She’s published in the Forward, Huffington Post, Tikkun, Truthout, Mondoweiss, many other publications. Ariel Gold, welcome back to Real News. It’s a pleasure to have you with us.
Ariel Gold: Thanks so much for having me on.
Marc Steiner: First, tell us what’s the genesis of this letter, this hundred and plus organizations sent to Biden. How did that start? Did CODEPINK start that?
Ariel Gold: Well, we were inspired by another letter sent by over 50 national organizations calling for a more principled and progressive foreign policy, calling on Joe Biden and President Trump to adopt a more principled and just foreign policy. And this covered broad issues, Yemen, ending the US relationship with the Saudis, ending sanctions on Iran, et cetera, et cetera. And so we were inspired by that, to narrow it specifically on Palestine, and to list exactly what a just and principled policy towards the apartheid government of Israel and the Palestinian struggle looks like. It was just last week that Biden finally came out against the annexation. Only last week. That only brings him up to par with Chuck Schumer, Ben Cardin, some of the most pro-Israel people.
His remark against annexation last week was so mealy mouthed. The extent of what he said was “I do not support annexation,” yet his campaign, his policy advisor has said that Biden would not condition aid to Israel on anything even annexation. So he is like back in the 1980s with his head stuck in the sand. And he did, as you said, he indicated to the movement that was built during the Sanders campaign that he would be integrating some of those. And yet instead, he has actually to the right of where the Obama administration was. He has said that unlike the Obama administration, if elected president, he will keep all disagreements with Israeli policies private.
So let’s assume that annexation doesn’t happen next month, or let’s just assume that it’s done out in pieces, and so some of that takes place with Biden in office, he wouldn’t even criticize them publicly?
Marc Steiner: I mean, let’s talk about what you think might be happening here. Public opinion is changing, I mean, slowly, but it’s changing significantly around Israel and Palestine, especially among younger voters and even inside the Jewish community, especially among younger voters and younger people in Jewish community. While Biden is taking this position as kind of to the right of much of US public opinion, Trump clearly has the most right wing neofascist elements behind him, as well as those same elements that are part of Zionism in the right wing that are backing him. So let’s talk about the politics at play here. I mean, it still made them [inaudible 00:04:10] still look at being anti-Israel as a third rail in politics, right? That’s how people perceive it.
Ariel Gold: It’s not as much of a third rail as it used to be.
Marc Steiner: So what do you think is at play here, though? I mean, why do you think, when you have Bernie Sanders speaking in front of J street, talking against the annexation, talking he would use the $3 billion as leverage to stop Israel from annexing Palestinian land and more. I mean, what do you think is the political force that would play here inside the Democrats at this moment?
Ariel Gold: I think Joe Biden is behaving incredibly tone deaf. This is not the only instance where he’s trying to show that he can be almost as hawkish as Donald Trump. Just the other day, he attacked Venezuela, going after Maduro and saying that he wouldn’t meet with him under any circumstances. Which is again, he’s trying to out Trump Trump. And he’s trying to do that on the question of Israel, Palestine. And you wonder, has he been hiding in a cave these past few years and hasn’t seen that lawmakers don’t want to show their face at AIPAC, or has he not seen the most recent Washington Post poll that says that 67% of Americans support questioning the US relationship with Israel. And if you look at just Democrats, it’s 81%. So he is incredibly out of touch here.
You talked about the change in public opinion, and it’s so pronounced among young Jews. And we just see these growth of progressive Jewish organizations, like the youth [inaudible 00:05:50] of Jewish Voice for Peace or IfNotNow. Both IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace action are signers on the letter.
Marc Steiner: I noticed.
Ariel Gold: But this is really where the trend is. This is the future, and Biden needs to get on board.
Marc Steiner: So when you say, he has to get on board… I mean, when I looked at his platform earlier this morning in preparation for our conversation today, there’s still that line in there about the best three billion dollar investment we make is the… talking about military aid to Israel, that’s still there inside in the note he has there on the site where he talks to Jews and when he talks about Israel.
So the question becomes… I’m curious what you think, given the power of this right wing nationalist racist threat under Trump and the struggle that you’re working on now, that people are working on now around Israel and Palestine in this democratic platform. I mean, what do you think is going to happen? What do you think is going to… What will it boil down to here when it comes to the convening of the democratic convention, what’s in the platform, how you approach Israel, what we talk about the annexation? I mean, do you think that’s going to play a role inside this democratic convention and part of this coming election?
Ariel Gold: We certainly hope so. We invited and released that atrocious and offensive statement, because it really was nothing other than atrocious and offensive. He was trying to reassure Jews in the face of growing antisemitism, which is a genuine and real threat that we’re seeing daily, that was just a stabbing of a Jewish man.
He begins that statement by telling American Jews that they can see that he’s behind them because he supports Israel. But American Jews are not Israel, and we do not appreciate being conflated. Support for American Jews is about fighting antisemitism. And fighting antisemitism means that we have to simultaneously fight for Black lives, we have to fight Islamophobia, we have to fight anti-immigration sentiment. All of these are connected, and, in fact, the antisemitic conspiracy theories are often connected to these other organizations… or, sorry, these other movements, our struggles are connected.
So for Biden simply to say, “I prove my support for American Jews because I want billions of dollars to go to Israel,” is contrary to American Jewish opinion and values here in the US. Right now, the majority of American Jews support Black Lives Matter, and so many young American Jews are out on the streets right now. They’re on the streets because our struggles are connected, because fighting antisemitism is part of fighting for racial justice, and it’s also part of fighting for Palestinian rights.
Marc Steiner: I mean, as you pointed out those things very clear For people who really follow this closely or have been involved in it for years, that Biden seems to believe the only thing that matters to US Jews is Israel, which is clearly not true, as you were just pointing out. And that he also conflates this kind of demand to support Israel with the… if you don’t do it, then you’re antisemitic. This is the conflation that’s taking place. And it’s based on the premise that Israel is the safe haven for Jews. Though, you, if I’m saying it right, were banned from going back into Israel. Am I right about that? Yeah.
Ariel Gold: Israel is not too fond of me. [inaudible 00:09:37] Israel that I was trying to go to… I was trying to go to Palestine. Israel controls those borders. Israel is not a safe haven for Jews. Israel is an incredibly repressive state that has in the past years, in the past decades, been moving further and further to the right, in this past year of election madness that Israel underwent. At times, we had parties that are so racist running that the party is commonly referred to as the Jewish KKK.
American Jews in contrast are increasingly and incredibly, historically, incredibly liberal. We are right now on the break of annexation, which really comes down to the US, and this is another dangerous, dangerous moment. The Middle East could easily erupt in violence from this, just as pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal was so dangerous, and moving the US embassy was so dangerous.
What we need from Biden right now is to be a leader in the other direction for him to differentiate himself from the policies of the Trump administration, for him to support H.R. 2407, the legislation to end Israeli military detention and abuse of Palestinian children. And that’s one of the things that we call for in the letter, it’s a letter both to Biden and to Trump. And we’re calling for very specific things, supporting this legislation, support for conditioning US military aid, adherence to US laws like the lady law. And even repeal of Israel’s nation state law which is inside the boundaries of Israel proper, but really sets up a system of… or cement the system inside Israel of Jews being of a higher status than Palestinians even who have citizenship.
Marc Steiner: So let me finally close with this. Let me see if there’s room here for some broad coalition and how you view that. I mean, if you look at what happened in response to the annexation moves, one that [inaudible 00:12:03] whole government in Israel, thousands of Israelis came to the streets. There’s social distancing, but Israelis, Palestinians, and Jews coming together from everywhere from left-wing Zionists to the most revolutionary communists on the Palestinian and also among some Jews. There was this huge coalition of people out in the streets saying no to annexation.
And the same kind of movement exists here in many ways, though it’s not really coalesced between people who are Zionists on the left, to people who are on the left and liberals in America who are saying no to annexation, there has to be full Palestinian rights. So what can be built that actually has an effect, both on the democratic party here and on politics here in coalition with the folks in Israel who are saying the exact same thing… Israel? Palestine, I should say, that are saying the exact same thing?
Ariel Gold: Well, I like that we are placing the building blocks, and that we’re thinking of a broad tent. Thanks very much to the work of J Street and some other more moderate, I might call them liberal, organizations. Most of the Democrats have made statements against annexation, even those who are known for being the closest with AIPAC, like Steny Hoyer.
So like I said, Biden’s in that category, but this is a building block so we have this opposition to annexation and now we need it to be moved into real action. We need it to really translate into what a solution looks like as the two-state solution has been dead for so long. And we need to make it concrete, such things like H.R. 2407, such things like ending the blockade of Gaza. Really concrete moves. And it’s so encouraging to see Israelis protesting annexation, because for so long, the Israeli peace movement seemed almost nonexistent. I hope that they’re in for the long haul because this could get really messy, and we’re going to need to support the Palestinians that are protesting right now in the Jordan Valley. We’re going to need to support them here, and we’re going to need our members of Congress and our presidential candidates to come out and speak up and take concrete action.
Marc Steiner: Well, Ariel Gold, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. There’s so much more to explore here. Maybe we’ll do it another time. Sometimes I think when I look at the annexation, [inaudible 00:14:33] will actually carry that out, it could actually end the two-state solution altogether. As some of my friends in Palestine and Israel had been saying, they launch a whole new struggle. But we’ll see. And I appreciate all the work that you do, and for taking the time with us here today.
Ariel Gold: Thanks so much for having me on.
Marc Steiner: Always a pleasure. Ariel Gold has been our guest and I’m Marc Steiner, here for Real News Network. Please let us know what you think, write to us, tell us, and we’ll respond to you. Take care out there and stay safe.
Marc Steiner, interim co-Editor at TRNN, is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on issues of social justice. He walked his first picket line at age 13 and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested for Civil Rights protests, in the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught Theatre for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993 through 1997 his signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR – which Marc co-founded – and Morgan State University’s WEAA.