A Troubling Misstep: Biden Walked Into Hamas’ Trap

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The headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, known as Al Muqata’a, greets guests with a mural depicting past empires that have come and gone from the region—Romans, Byzantines, Turks, and British, among others, in a land dubbed “Syria Palaestina” by the Romans in 135 CE. The message is clear: just as past occupiers were expelled, so too, they claim, will the Zionists be.

This belief, embedded in Hamas’ narrative, that Zionists are white colonial settlers, is fundamentally flawed and destines their militant actions to failure. Israel is not a white colonial settler state; therefore, the strategies that once ousted colonial regimes from this region are inept for dislodging Zionists. It’s akin to using a hammer to fix a software coding error—it only serves to violently destroy the system.

It is disheartening to see that President Biden has played directly into Hamas’ hands by inadvertently aligning with this flawed narrative.

Jews started migrating back to Israel in significant numbers in the later part of the 19th century as refugees from scores of pogroms in the Russian empire. In the 30s and 40s, they were predominantly refugees from European states. After the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, nearly a million refugees came to Israel from Muslim countries, having been forced to leave the lands they had lived in for generations and, in some cases, millennia. From 1948-1950, refugees from Ethiopia were airlifted to Israel. Then, history repeated itself, with roughly a million people in the 70s, 80s, and 90s fleeing the Soviet Union for better lives in Israel. Of Israel’s 9.9 million citizens, 7.2 million are Jewish, and the vast majority of that seven million are either refugees themselves or the descendants of refugees.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a colonizer is “a nation or state that takes control of a people or area as an extension of state power.” Refugees are nearly the antithesis of colonizers. While colonizers exploit lands for the benefit of their home states, refugees seek escape from oppression to build new lives elsewhere.

The refugees from the Middle East and Africa, which now make up over half of the Jewish population of Israel, exemplify this. They are not white, they did not arrive from any imperial power, and many were forcibly removed from their ancestral homes. For instance, Baghdad, Iraq, which was once over 25% Jewish, now has almost no Jewish population. The notion that Jews are colonizers working for the benefit of a foreign state or that they could simply return to their countries of origin is absurd.

A unifying factor among Israelis is their refugee status—from all corners of the world, they share the understanding that Israel is not just their home, but the only place they can assert their independence and protect themselves.

This distinction is crucial. Empires and colonizers can be pushed out of a land through brute force, intimidation, boycotts, sanctions, etc. They have some place to go back to, so these tactics work. But they cannot work on a people who have nowhere else to go.

This is the lesson Golda Meir taught then-Senator Biden on his oft-recited first trip to Israel. As President Biden now tells the story, after leaving a briefing in Israel, Biden looked distraught and concerned that Israel would not survive. After seeing the Senator’s expression of dismay, Prime Minister Meir leaned over to him and said, “Don’t worry, we have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go.” In that moment, Biden understood Israelis are not colonizers, but refugees.

Here is where the Hamas, and frankly Iranian, tactics become nuanced. Some understand that Jewish Israelis have nowhere else to go but wrongly believe Israel’s existence hinges on external support—viewing it as a neo-colonial project. Let’s put aside the fact that Israel’s hegemonic patron has changed over its 76 years. Using Israel’s primary arms supplier as the proxy for that patron, support has shifted from the Soviets in the 40s, to the French/British in the 50s and 60s, and finally to America from the 70s onward. That aside, and putting this in today’s context, Israel’s enemies believe that if they can detach it from American support, Israel will fall or be destroyed.

In his December piece titled, “The Wisdom of Hamas,” in the Free Press, Matti Friedman described how Yahya Sinwar’s genius was to understand that no matter how grotesque Hamas’ actions would be on October 7th, some portion of the world would still side with him. He would be able to leverage the Israeli military response, and the associated loss of life, to normalize and encourage Jew haters to come out of their holes and lead a mob of misinformed impressionable people. He was certainly right in his assessment, as evidenced by the protest movements on US college campuses.

Detaching Israel from American support is a key objective of Hamas. Post October 7th, Hamas was counting on an Israeli military response, and their dream was that the IDF actions would cause a separation between America and Israel. By conditioning aid to Israel to prevent an IDF maneuver in Rafah, a necessary step in achieving the war goal of removing Hamas from power, President Biden has given Hamas its greatest achievement, daylight, however slight and couched, between Israel and America.

Up to this point, none of Sinwar’s other major objectives had been achieved. Where Sinwar was counting on his initial chess move of October 7th to spark a full-blown regional conflict, it has not. No Ramadan intifada started in the West Bank. Israel’s domestic politics, which were on the brink of civil war, did not devolve into an implosion. Arab-Israelis not only refused to start a revolt, but polling data shows they feel even more Israeli post-October 7th. No full-blown ground invasion came from Hezbollah. The Abraham Accords were not dismantled. Jordan and Saudi Arabia even helped protect Israel from an Iranian missile barrage on April 13th. And the march towards Israeli-Saudi normalization has not only continued but has accelerated. To date, Hamas has failed at sparking many conflicts it hoped to ignite.

Biden’s policy, by showing a fracture in American-Israeli relations, has not only awarded Hamas a major tactical win and put all the listed Hamas failures in flux, but has also jeopardized his goal of minimizing Palestinian civilian casualties, making a truce less likely and increasing the risk of further violence.

Secretary of State Blinken described Israel’s last truce offer, which Hamas rejected, as “extraordinarily generous.” Instead of supporting its ally after the rebuff, Biden’s administration has effectively punished Israel. By displaying a break, Biden has encouraged Hamas to remain intransigent at the negotiating table. Why would Hamas reduce its demands now that it knows Israel is under duress? Why would they reduce their demands if they think their stubbornness will lead to an even bigger break between America and Israel? Hamas’ goal is not to limit the destruction of Gaza. It is not to save civilian Palestinian lives. Hamas’ stated goal is the destruction of Israel, and their first objective on that path is ending American support for the world’s only Jewish state. Biden just gave Hamas the false impression that their tactics are working.

Israel remains a sovereign democratic state accountable to its citizens, who demand the return of hostages and the cessation of Hamas rule in Gaza. These demands, increasingly urgent as hopes for a truce fade, necessitate decisive action in Rafah. If US policies hinder these objectives, Israeli resourcefulness will find alternative solutions. This will not be the first time Israel has achieved a significant military goal despite Washington’s objections.

It saddens me to say this, but Hamas laid a trap for America and the West, and President Biden just walked right into it.

Thank G-d, Israel has the strength to confront Hamas independently.

About the Author
David Jacques Farahi, a multifaceted investor and philanthropist in the U.S., stands out for his strategic approach to hospitality and gaming and his roles as a board member and adjunct professor — all underpinned by a broad global perspective gained from living across three continents and his ability to converse in French and Persian.
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