As Israel wages genocidal war against the Palestinian people in Gaza, the United States is back to playing regional cop in the Middle East. The Biden administration has warned regional players against attacking its foremost ally and deployed not one but two aircraft carriers to back up its words.
Washington also dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to reinforce the message to state and non-state actors alike.
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The US envoys doubled down on equating Hamas to ISIL (ISIS) to emphasise the brutality of the October 7 attack and make clear that there is no diplomatic solution to pursue, only a military one. The analogy with ISIL goes a long way to providing Israel with carte blanche to wage a “long and painful war” against Gaza.
The Biden administration has rejected Arab calls for de-escalation or a ceasefire, rendering the US complicit in present and future Israeli war crimes.
It has also demanded from Arab governments and the Palestinian Authority to unequivocally condemn Hamas. Most have refused, with the exception of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
US pressure, however, managed to get the Arab League foreign ministers to release a watered-down statement after an emergency meeting in Cairo, equating Palestinian and Israeli actions for the first time by condemning the targeting of civilians on “both sides”. Meanwhile, not a single one of the six Arab governments “at peace” with Israel even bothered to recall its ambassador or freeze its normalisation, let alone close its embassy.
But the sentiments of the Arab public could not be more different from their governments’ official statements. Wherever protests have been allowed, crowds have filled squares in solidarity with Palestine.
For years, poll after poll has highlighted the overwhelming Arab support for Palestine as the foremost Arab cause, and the growing hostility towards America, which is seen as a destabilising hegemonic force in the region.
In fact, there is clear synergy between the Palestinian and the broader Arab struggle for justice and freedom. As the New York Times has finally concluded in a recent article, “supporting the Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation is associated by many Arabs and Muslims with a broader struggle against injustice and oppression”. But the Biden administration continues to be blind to this reality.
This was reflected in Blinken’s insistence that Arab partners with contacts to Hamas use their leverage for the release of all the Israeli captives held in Gaza. A tall order, considering both Israel and the United States have shown no concern for the safety of Palestinian civilians as they publicly commit to crushing Hamas, once and for all.
There has been hardly any American mention of the Palestinians’ plight during a week of vicious Israeli bombardment of Gaza, except in the context of them being used as “human shield” by Hamas. Only after meeting Arab leaders, did Blinken speak in vague terms about potential humanitarian assistance.
As Israel warned of an imminent ground invasion, and gave 1.1 million Palestinians 24 hours to relocate from the northern to the southern part of the Gaza Strip, the Biden administration echoed Israeli calls to evacuate Palestinians to “safety” in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula through the establishment of a “humanitarian corridor”.
But for the Palestinians who have long suffered from the trauma of displacement, the “humanitarian corridor” is an Orwellian term that stands for another round of ethnic cleansing by way of resettling Palestinian refugees in tent cities in the Egyptian Sinai.
As the devious plan failed to gain traction in Arab capitals, Blinken began to push for displacing the Palestinians within the Gaza Strip. He suggested dispatching them into special “safe zones”, another Orwellian invention to enable their expulsion from their homes. Soon enough, the immense suffering Israel’s full blockade has caused may well send hundreds of thousands to the border, looking for food and shelter, leaving Egypt no option but to take them in.
Obviously worried, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi lectured the US Secretary of State during their meeting in Cairo about the realities of the Middle East in front of the media, telling him that Israel’s military response has gone beyond the right to self-defence, and warning that the liquidation of the Palestinian issue at the expense of neighbouring states will have repercussions across the Middle East.
Bizarrely, as the US is offering Israel unconditional support, there is no sign that it is privy to its specific war plans, or its endgame. Hence, President Joe Biden advised the Israelis in a prerecorded interview on Sunday against “a new occupation of Gaza”, warning it would be “a big mistake”.
But, instead of calling for de-escalation and a ceasefire, the Biden administration has recklessly paved the way for a second Palestinian “Nakba” – or catastrophe – in the name of crushing Hamas, all of which is destined to lead to greater regional instability, violence and hostility towards the US as the enabler of Israel’s war crimes.
As Blinken toured the Middle East, the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian also visited a number of Arab capitals. Undeterred by US threats, he called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza and warned that the war could expand to other parts of the Middle East if Hezbollah joined the battle, and that would make Israel suffer “a huge earthquake”. Hezbollah and Israel are already clashing around the Lebanese border.
After decades of costly US failures in the Middle East, both on the strategic and diplomatic levels, losing wars and failing to mediate peace, the US seems addicted to Middle East chaos. The US naval buildup is risking another regional conflict and drawing America into another Middle East war, despite Biden’s commitment to end forever wars.
If the US must interfere directly in regional affairs, let it be for the cause of peace and justice, not war and genocide, starting in Gaza, Palestine.