Dazed but not confused on Biden and Israel

Rima Najjar
5 min readNov 25, 2023
“He was born in Chicago and emigrated to Israel after his bar mitzvah when he was 13 and was there to explain the ‘legal issues’ and didn’t know much else.”

Throughout these historic days since Oct 7, I have sat transfixed before my laptop screen flipping among three live continuous TV news streams, namely Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English and Al Mayadeen.

Al Jazeera provides simultaneous translation to English and Arabic (depending on the channel) when a foreign language is being spoken. Al Mayadeen is an Arabic station (it also provides translation when necessary), and unlike Al Jazeera, is explicitly pro-resistance, presenting “Reality as it is.” It kept me sane and sustained me whenever the outrageous statements of Biden or Israeli military spokespersons that Al Jazeera was broadcasting were hard to stomach.

So, at one point, I was listening to one of the three news stations while pacing in my living room, when I heard in Arabic a voice talking about what I thought was the logistics of the release of Palestinian prisoners in the exchange between Israel and the Islamic Palestinian resistance in Gaza. I heard that they would be taken to five hospitals, each with a different specialty. Because I knew about the ill-treatment Palestinian prisoners had been experiencing since Oct 7, I remained in the same mistaken frame of mind for a little longer. But when the speaker began to talk about trauma and taking them to see therapists, I suddenly snapped out of my trance and walked towards my laptop to see who was speaking. It turned out to be a spokesperson, speaking in English (with Arabic translation voiceover) from “National Public Diplomacy Directorate, Prime Minister’s Office, The State of Israel,” as the sign behind him said.

The man (whose name sounded like Zeiger Mon) listed the basic logistics for the first day of release of the Israeli hostages, and then responded with “I don’t know” in answer to practically every question that followed. He explained he was a lawyer in Israel and that, for the past few years, he had been working in the United Arab Emirates in the “international field.” He was born in Chicago and emigrated to Israel after his bar mitzvah when he was 13, and that he was there to explain the “legal issues” and didn’t know much else.

I wondered what “international legal issues” were involved here. Was this perhaps related to the threat that Biden had issued to Netanyahu to coerce him to accept the temporary truce and the terms of the resistance for the exchange deal? I had heard on Al Mayadeen that Biden threatened not to veto the next resolution against Israel by the UN Security Council if Netanyahu remained intransigent about the negotiations to release the hostages. Good for Biden, I thought.

But after the release of the first group of Israeli hostages, when I heard Biden’s statement to the press, I was furious at this heartless old man, who was clearly thinking only of his reelection. My reaction to his statement was emotional, because I had just finished watching the powerfully touching joyous scenes and reports of the release of Palestinian prisoners, women and teens, and heart-rending stories of what they and their families had endured. I was seeing what Ayman Mohyeldin had reported: “You are about to see in real time over the next 4 days how the media can choose who it humanizes and who it villainizes, who is a child and who is a minor, who is a mother and who is an accomplice. Who is a hostage and who is a prisoner. In short, who is innocent and who is not.”

Biden made absolutely no mention of the released Palestinian prisoners. His statement was exclusively about the release of Israeli hostages and Hamas “terror.” It was as though we Palestinians did not exist outside this equation, as though there were no occupation, as though Israel’s prison regime did not ruin the lives of thousands of Palestinian families.

Marah Bakeer, one of the first Palestinian prisoners to be released through the exchange deal between Israel and Hamas

His attitude is especially appalling because the utter savagery that Israel inflicted on the Palestinian people and its scope were immediately revealed in all its horrors on the very first day of the truce: “On the first day of the ceasefire, a Sky News crew made it into the heart of Gaza City which is obliterated. Buildings uninhabitable and thousands of bodies trapped beneath the rubble. Inside the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza, they found scenes of horror and carnage with up to 20 dead bodies on the ground.” (Report by @alex.crawfordsky)

To remain unmoved, Biden doesn’t even have the excuse of the average Israeli, who is left in the dark by strict military control of information, hijacked by propaganda and conscious only of the attack by Hamas and the displacement of the settlers. In Israel, even people on the liberal left are afraid to speak up. The Israeli Minister of Communication has just submitted a bill to stop the government from buying ads or subscriptions in Haaretz.

The reference of both Biden and Israelis seems to be Wild West movies that focused on white protagonists and portrayed the indigenous Native Americans stereotypically as savages and warriors. Or maybe what dominate their imagination are the common stereotypes and cultural biases that Hollywood movies have long used to depict Arabs and Muslims: as terrorists and hostile figures or rich oil sheikhs (no offence to Qatar.)

Biden may or may not have a good relationship with Netanyahu, but what is certain is that he has a good relationship with fellow Israeli Americans, voters, who can easily reach him in Washington. Akiva Eldar, columnist at Haaretz and the author of ‘Lords of the Land: The War for Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories,’ had this to say on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story: “[in my neighborhood], there are two families who lost their sons and one family that doesn’t sleep a minute because they [are worried about] the whereabouts of their son, a soldier, 19 years old. My neighbor visited Washington already twice and met with President Biden.”

Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.