The audience loved it. Many of the Jews who heard Biden speak carry in their mind memories of parents and grandparents who were too marginal, timid, and fatalistic to pressure America’s government to act to save their brethren in Europe in the 1940s.
For their children to assemble near the Capitol, eating kosher food and being pandered to by the most powerful gentiles in the land, represents more than just American Jewish success. It represents American-Jewish redemption. If this were the Purim story, Biden would be King Achashverosh. The AIPAC audience would be Queen Esther: loved by the gentile king and bold enough to use that love to save her people in its hour of need.
I get the yearning to use American Jewish power to safeguard Jewish lives. I get and admire it. What’s awful is the refusal to acknowledge that Jewish power can be abused. And central to that refusal is the language AIPAC and its allies have created to talk about Palestinians, millions of whom live largely at the mercy of Jewish power, as noncitizens in a Jewish state. It’s a dishonest and dehumanizing language, and, unfortunately, Biden speaks it extremely well too.
“Unilateral”: That’s how Biden described the Palestinian effort for statehood at the United Nations. What nonsense. There are many adjectives one can use to describe a statehood bid that receives the endorsement of 138 countries, but “unilateral” isn’t one of them. The term would be better applied to the Israeli government’s policy of subsidizing settlement building in the West Bank, including on privately owned Palestinian land, a policy opposed by virtually every government in the world.
But Biden’s only reference to “settlements” was his boast that the Obama administration had blocked a U.N. investigation into them. In fact, Biden boasted that America had been the only country to oppose such an investigation. When the United States practices it, evidently, unilateralism isn’t such a bad thing.