Uncategorized · October 22, 2023 1

While In Israel President Biden Told Us Why We Cannot Have Peace

Marty Levine

October 22, 2023

President Biden’s speech from Tel Aviv earlier this week left me deeply disturbed and depressed.  In just a few minutes he was unintentionally able to tell the world why after 75 years, we are no closer to an Israel/Palestine that is safe for all those who call it home. In those few words, he continued the fictions that endanger the Jewish people of that land and have subjected Palestinians, who also see it as their own homeland, to decades of oppression.

He sees the challenges of today through only a Jewish, Zionist lens. He builds his vision for the future ignoring that there is more than one narrative of the history that has gotten to the bloody weeks we are living through. As he does this, he relegates the urgency of  Palestinian claims for dignity and equality to a footnote if it even reaches that level of notice.

From this cannot come a future that is better than the past 75 years of struggle, discord, and violence that has brought us to the brutality of October 7th and the brutal rain of violence that descended on Gaza as a “response”.

In his own words here’s what Biden told us, “the State of Israel was born to be a safe place for the Jewish people of the world.  That’s why it was born.  I have long said: If Israel didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.  And while it may not feel that way today, Israel must again be a safe place for the Jewish people.  And I promise you: We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that it will be…You are a Jewish state.  You are a Jewish state, but you’re also a democracy.  And like the United States, you don’t live by the rules of terrorists.  You live by the rule of law.  And when conflicts flare, you live by the…law of wars.”

This is a perspective that can only be created if you erase history.

This is a perspective that ignores the distortion of the meaning of democracy that Israel has demonstrated throughout its history of ignoring the equality of so many that it governs and controls.

This is a perspective that denies the lived reality of the Palestinian people and their roots in this place he calls Israel.

Yes, the modern state of Israel was created as the horror of the Shoah was exposed for the whole world to see. It was created from the ashes of six million European Jews who had died at he hands of the Nazis. But It was also a state that was created on a land that was forcibly cleared of 750,000 residents whose homes, farms and villages were seen as threats to the Jewish State.

Those exiled people and their children and grandchildren are just forgotten.

Perhaps because Biden, like too many of us, ignores the difficulty of history, he can then tell us “the vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas.  Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people….We must keep pursuing a path so that Israel and the Palestinian people can both live safely, in security, in dignity, and in peace. For me, that means a two-state solution.”

If the two-state solution was possible decades ago, it has long been destroyed by Israel’s policy of territorial expansion.

Yes, it makes supporting Israel much easier if you can see it is a model of democracy. If you can see even the months of mass protests that had made headlines as a good sign. But you can only believe this if you ignore the fact that by defining itself as a Jewish state, different from our own democracy which still sees a separation of religion from state as a core principle, it cannot provide equal rights for all of its citizens. As a Jewish state, one people and their place in society is superior to all those who are not part of the Jewish people.

From this perspective it is okay, even necessary, to control the makeup of the population so that Jews remain in the dominant position at the ballot box. It becomes okay in that definition of Democracy to keep millions of Palestinians, Muslims, and Christians, who live as non-citizens under the control of a government, outside the political system.

Israel can be lauded as a Democracy only if you can ignore that part of reality and rationalize why those people are not worthy of equality.

Biden resurrects the fiction of a two-state solution, the dream that there will emerge a Palestinian majority nation that will share the land with Israel. This appears to be an idea that has little support in Israel, and that remains alive only in the minds of America’s Israel supporters who need to comfort their own qualms about the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.

When was the last time an Israeli government official expressed a desire to create a Palestinian state?  When was the last time that the Prime Minister of Israel and the Leader of the Palestinian Authority held a substantial conversation about any outcome that would provide Palestinians with a truly equal state? The answer is 2010!

CNN’s  Hadas Gold, earlier this year took a look at what Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister sees for any Palestinian state, his vision of a Palestinian less-than-state. “Netanyahu has never been a full-throated supporter of a two-state solution, weaving in and out of different definitions of what that would mean. But in recent years he’s settled on the idea that he’d be open to a Palestinian state – as long as it has no military or security power, an arrangement that would have no parallel among modern sovereign states. ‘I’m certainly willing to have them have all the powers that they need to govern themselves, but none of the powers that can threaten us,” Netanyahu told  {CNN’s Jake]Tapper in Jerusalem…”

And beyond the words of political leaders, the facts on the ground have been that of an ongoing erosion of Palestinian territory as Israel erodes the land of that imaginary state hectare by hectare.

What was once a vision of a Palestinian state that would contain less than half of the pre-partition Palestine has been eroded into a series of smaller and smaller, disconnected areas of Palestinian control surrounded by the ever-expanding Israeli state.

A Palestinian State: 1947


A Palestinian State 2023




Just weeks ago, in his address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu held a map of the middle east with an Israel that had swallowed up even that dimished geographies and which made no reference to the second state needed to make a two-state reality come to be.


Biden’s speech and the US policy that it is guiding cannot lead to a bright future. Even as he speaks of “the fundamental dignity of every human life — Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, Jew, Muslim, Christian — everyone. We are all human beings created in the image of God with dignity, humanity, and purpose.  In the darkness, to be the light unto the world is what we’re about.”

Because he (and we) have not come to grips with the fact that in the reality of 2023, there is no way to reconcile his hope that “Israel will be a safe, secure, Jewish, and democratic state today, tomorrow, and forever.” It is not possible because this vision does not include the aspirations of the Palestinian people and is not built upon an honest accounting of how we got to the precipice we are all standing on today.

This is the tragic mistake that the leadership of Israel has made for the past decades. It has been the mistake that American Jewish leaders have made as well. It has been the mistake that America’s political leadership, left and right, continues to make.

Or maybe and more depressingly, it is not a mistake but a feature of a belief that Palestinians are in fact unequal and lesser, not covered by the rights that are essential to a democracy and the of biblical text, “we are all created in the image of god”, that Israel claims to be.

Mistake or feature the results will be the same. Despite billions of dollars spent on building the strongest military capability in its part of the world the desire for freedom will not be quashed. Despite our horror of how depraved some people can become and how much terror they can mete out; despite pious and pompous words of a better future sometime, we will see violence and death as a marginalized people, an ignored people, continue to struggle for the rights and human dignity they deserve for no other reason that they are not different from me or you and we know that if we deserve that, then they do too.

Recognizing that a solution will not come from guns and bombs is in everyone’s self-interest.

Moving forward requires us to honestly account for the past. That is true in our own country and it is true in Israel/Palestine.

When President Biden spoke last week, he told us we are tragically not willing to do that. That does not leave me feeling very optimistic that better times are before us.