U.S. imperialism’s ‘ironclad’ support for Israel increases fascist danger at home
The Biden administration's declaration of 'ironclad support' for Israel threatens to drive a wedge between the president and progressive voters, a potential electoral gift for Trump. In this photo, a woman walks by an election campaign billboard in Tel Aviv for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party that shows the Israeli leader with Donald Trump, Sept 15, 2019. Hebrew on billboard reads: 'Netanyahu, in another league.' | Oded Balilty / AP

President Joe Biden declared Saturday that U.S. support for Israel is “ironclad” as more than 300 slow-moving Iranian drones and missiles meandered across the sky toward Israeli military installations. With assistance from the U.S., Britain, France, and Jordan, it’s estimated that 99% of the weapons were destroyed in the air before reaching their targets. There were zero people killed.

As Biden’s declaration was being reported, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “and made clear that Israel could count on full U.S. support.”

On television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu peddled the image of a besieged Israel fighting for its life. Wearing a stern face, he said, “We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination.”

Of course, once the cameras were off, the Israeli leader was no doubt smiling. That’s because the pledges from Biden and Austin guaranteed that U.S. weapons will keep flowing his way and that Western leaders’ criticism of his genocidal war in Gaza—which has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians—will be tamped down.

It wasn’t just Netanyahu celebrating this weekend, though. Here in the U.S., ex-President Donald Trump and his allies were also beaming. The militaristic neocons and religious extremists that make up different wings of the Republican coalition were united in cheering for a bigger war and blaming Biden for disaster.

They sense a moment of opportunity to divide anti-MAGA forces, and the policy being pursued by the White House is unfortunately aiding them in their effort. All these developments combine to make the demand for an immediate arms embargo on Israel all the more urgent.

Settler rampage: A Palestinian woman attacked by illegal Israeli settlers arrives at the Palestine Medical Complex in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, April 12, 2024. While the world was consumed with the Iranian attack on Israel, dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through a Palestinian village, killing Palestinians and destroying property. In Gaza, meanwhile, the genocidal destruction also continued unabated. | Nasser Nasser / AP

Netanyahu’s partial victory

The U.S. response to the Iranian attack was a partial victory for Netanyahu.

The weekend assault by Tehran was the result of Israel’s April 1 bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. That last part is worth stating again—the Iranian attack this weekend was not some unprovoked incident; it was retaliation for an Israeli action that killed 13 people at an Iranian diplomatic outpost two weeks ago.

If one were only getting their news from the mainstream corporate media in the U.S. or listening to the words of many political leaders in Washington, they would probably never know that it was Israel that had provoked Iran.

That doesn’t make the latter part of some anti-imperialist alliance nor necessarily a friend of the Palestinians, but it is a context that is inconvenient for the narrative of an innocent Israel alone against aggressive neighbors.

At any rate, Netanyahu managed to prompt Iran to elevate the war danger. That will get him his weapons and temporarily hush the increasingly critical voices of allies skeptical of his execution of the war in Gaza. But the Iran provocation was not quite the complete win he’d hoped for.

The bigger goal was to escalate the war against Gaza into a wider regional war that would include direct U.S. involvement in the fighting. He wants to make U.S. imperialism not just his accomplice but his direct partner in waging war in the Middle East.

Why? The reasons are many.

So far, the Gaza genocide is not achieving many of its declared aims. Hamas has not been smashed. The hostages have not been freed. Gaza has been destroyed and tens of thousands have been killed, but the plan to completely eradicate the Palestinian presence there hasn’t materialized. That’s the case thanks to both Palestinian resistance and the refusal of Israel’s neighboring states to transform themselves into permanent refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the war is increasingly unpopular at home, and hundreds of thousands are demanding elections in Israel—elections which would certainly result in Netanyahu’s removal from office and the resumption of a long-delayed corruption trial that could send him to prison.

Clearly, he needs and wants this war to drag on as long as possible and to become as big and involve as many countries as possible, particularly one country—the United States.

To Netanyahu’s disappointment, however, Biden told him to consider the shootdown of all the Iranian missiles “a win” and close the book for now: Don’t expect U.S. help in any follow-up attacks on Iran.

The coalition for war

But there are other forces coalescing to give Israel the bigger war it wants.

John Bolton—former Trump cabinet member and one of the architects of the U.S. war in Iraq—is rallying neocons in the U.S. to squeeze Biden. Ever since President George W. Bush declared Iran to be part of the “Axis of Evil” over 20 years ago, Bolton and his allies have been angling for a fight with that country.

In January this year, he was already telegraphing the message that the U.S. has “no option but to attack Iran.”  This weekend, he said “passivity…would be a big mistake” and said Biden was “an embarrassment” for urging Israel not to attack Iran (again).

The Evangelical Christian leaders who command major swathes of the Trump MAGA coalition, meanwhile, are revving up their followers for war, as well.

Televangelist Pastor John Hagee, founder of the lobbyist group Christians United for Israel, characterized the Iranian attack as the fulfillment of prophecy, the beginning of the “Gog and Magog war” predicted in the Bible. Demonizing those who advocate a ceasefire in Gaza, Hagee said on Sunday that “the word de-escalate is music to the ears of Hamas and Iran.”

He and other pro-war Christian leaders will be going to Congress “like a bulldozer” in the coming days, he said, ordering lawmakers to “bless Israel” with more U.S. taxpayer-funded weaponry. In the meantime, he urged the faithful to bless the ministry run by him and his son with their hard-earned money.

Then, turning to the 2024 U.S. elections, Hagee indirectly endorsed Donald Trump when he called the Iranian attack on Israel “a tribute to the weak and pathetic leadership of Joe Biden.”

Fascist threat, imperialist strategy

Although Hagee’s remarks are often dismissed as the ravings of a conman cult leader, he illuminates the class and democratic contradictions that define U.S. capitalism and an electoral contest that is forcing voters to choose between two varieties of imperialism.

‘Ironclad support’: President Joe Biden and his national security team meet in the Situation Room amidst the Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel.

The absurdity of the moment was perhaps best illustrated when the red-hatted legions at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday broke into chants of “Genocide Joe,” and their leader responded, “They’re not wrong!”

Trump paired his apparent acknowledgement that Israel was committing genocide with U.S. complicity with a “God bless Israel” platitude and an affirmation that the Iranian attack wouldn’t have happened if he was president.

Follow the logic (if there is such a thing with Trump), and you get a pledge that he will do an even better job at assisting in genocide and supporting the Israeli military if he is re-elected.

An open fascist who has already tried to overthrow the U.S. government before and is working tirelessly with Republican officials across the country to destroy democracy is openly and cynically attempting to drive a wedge between the Democratic nominee and anti-war voters with a pro-war message.

Does Trump actually expect to win the votes of many pro-Palestinian voters? No, most of them wouldn’t give him the time of day, and he knows it. The goal is to demobilize progressive voters and stoke discontent toward Biden. Trump’s team has done its calculations, and it knows that getting Democratic-leaning voters to stay home in a few key states could be enough for him to win. And the threat extends down-ballot, because it’s not just Biden who’d be in trouble but other progressive candidates running on the Democratic ticket at the state and local levels, as well.

Unfortunately, the imperialist strategy being pursued by the Biden administration is making Trump’s task easier. The unity that’s needed to block fascism at the polls in November is jeopardized every time the president approves another weapons shipment to Israel or reaffirms his “ironclad” support of the government in Tel Aviv.

Ceasefire alone cannot be the demand of the peace movement in our country. A total and complete arms embargo on Israel is an absolute necessity—not just for saving the lives of the Palestinian people and preventing a wider Middle East war, but for saving U.S. democracy from a fascist takeover.

Many organizations and leaders are already making that call, including Jewish Voice for Peace, which on Sunday issued yet another call for the U.S. to end all military funding and weapons sales.

Rep. Cori Bush again reiterated the demand she and other lawmakers have made for an end to the “shameful and unconditional” arming of the Israeli government as it commits war crimes. “The people of our country do not want war,” she said.

There are a million reasons to vote against Trump in November, and almost everyone who is a part of or connected to the mass labor, anti-war, African-American, Latino, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, and other democratic movements know them by heart. But the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign cannot simply rely on the bogeyman of Trump to motivate voters. The administration’s Gaza policy must change.

Every dollar for Israel’s war is another crack in the anti-MAGA coalition that’s needed to stop fascism in November.

As with all news-analytical and op-ed articles published by People’s World, this article reflects the views of its author.

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C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.