Joe Biden is a proud Zionist. So…What does this mean for Palestinians?

Sammy Al-Sitaro

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It’s been a couple of days since many of us have celebrated the loss of Donald Trump. We celebrated the first woman, woman of colour to add, to be elected as vice-president of the United States of America (#representationmatters), and of course, a President-elect that many of us hope to pretty much “fix” what had happened to the US in the past four years.  Doing what most of us do – I scrolled through social media to find memes or tweets on the election to keep me entertained. Then, I saw this on CNN. It was a video of Joe Biden stating that if he were a Jew he’d be a Zionist. So, you’re telling me Joe Biden is a proud Zionist? Like come on, we just got to celebrate Trump’s exit in hopes of a more inclusive world, and now this. 

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, according to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Zionism is “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.”  For many Palestinians like myself, the word ‘Zionism’ is also synonymous with war crimes, illegal occupation, and a history that has left our hearts to ache and blood to boil. Joe, I hope you know that you being a proud Zionist, you are undermining our history and our existence. Also, the more politicians like Biden and Kamela who take proud stances that they’re pro-Israel, it naturally translates into anti-Palestine. Think about it. How many American politicians say they’re both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine? Why not just say pro-peace? It’s a tactic they use to garner support of zionists nationwide and in their own international political agenda.

In the same light, we all remember Freshmen Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) garnered considerable criticism from Democrats and Republicans for critizing Israel’s occupation in Palestine at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) deemed by many as “anti-Semitic”. So…I don’t get it. We have a President-elect who proudly states he’s a Zionist, yet the moment someone critizies Israel, it’s automatically deemed as “anti-semtic”? As Arabs, we are semites as well. So, I’m a little unsure with this logic. But let’s get back to Biden and what this really means for the Palestinian cause? 

Like what does this mean for Palestine? Is it going to be worse than Trump’s era? Now, we have already seen what happened during Trump’s reign. If you forgot, let me remind you: Trump moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He turned a blind eye to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and went so far as to appoint a well-known advocate of the settlement movement as his ambassador to Israel.

But again – Though Joe Biden is a proud Zionist, what can we expect when he is officially the President of the United States of America? 

Let’s start. 

For one, we can expect the status quo (pre-Trump era) 

Putting his now notorious  statement in the Arab community to the side, let’s not forget that Joe Biden served as vice president for eight years under Barack Obama. It is likely that once he is the President, America’s relationship with Israel will go back to what it was during the Obama administration. In my humble opinion, this is still a step forward. Arguably, it’s because it really couldn’t get any worse from what Trump did.  

Since Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning seventy years of U.S. policy and a longstanding international consensus, his administration has systematically worked to dismantle what remained of the Oslo Peace Process and the potential of a two-state solution. Biden has kept to the traditional pro-Israel line of the party establishment. Like most of his predecessors, Biden has pledged to maintain Washington’s “unstinting support” for Israel. That being said, Biden has openly opposed Israel’s occupation (side note: the word “occupation” did not appear in the Democratic Party platform). 

Two-state solution is back on the table

Biden has historically been a strong supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and sees Israeli settlement activity as a major obstacle to achieving it. According to Attorney General Joshua Shapiro, who accompanied Biden on his trips to Israel when he was vice president, Biden “very much believes that the two-state solution is necessary for ensuring Israel’s Jewish and democratic character”. This was also seen in the 2020 Democratic Party Platform, which calls for the creation of a “viable” Palestinian state, in which Palestinians “should be free to govern themselves,” and explicitly opposes “unilateral action” from either side, is one place to start. 

In his Platform, Biden has also pledged to restore U.S. aid to the Palestinians

According to Time, he has said he would leave the U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem—a move a majority of Israelis regarded as long overdue—but says he would reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem for the Palestinian leadership, as well as the PLO’s mission in Washington.

The reality is, I don’t believe it until I see it. 

This sounds like the kind of stuff we were fed pre-trump era. Your typical politician who makes these promises and it seems promising but nothing really happens. It’s not just about the statement that Joe Biden is a proud Zionist, I really wish I can say this would be different, but I’m not sure. 

All I can confidently say is that for Palestinians and Arabs like myself, we still have a lot of work to be done.

Posting on social media and pressing the ‘dislike’ button on Youtube (*sigh* I hope you still do) can only get us so far. We need to continue educating ourselves, understand international laws a lot better and how we fit in and– start rallying. Our fight for justice doesn’t stop. 

I want to make this very clear: by writing this post, I do not intend to make this “us” versus “them”. It’s about bringing justice to a group of indengious people, the Palestinians, who have been denied basic human rights for 72 years. It’s about lobbying as a collective and finding ways to be heard. It’s about understanding that the president-elect, a proud “Zionist”, needs to hear our voices as well. Only then can we really make substantial progress towards peace. 

If you’re reading this and you’d like peace in the region, I beg you to ask yourself: What can you do that goes beyond social media to make an effort? How can we continue to amplify our voices? And how can we help the Palestinian cause? 

If you have any ideas or suggestions, please comment below. 

by Sammy Al-Sitaro

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Yalla! Let’s Talk’s editorial stance.

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