‘In his kishkes, Biden is a Zionist’

‘In his kishkes, Biden is a Zionist’

That’s Biden 1, Abe Foxman says; Biden 2, not so much

Abe Foxman and President Joe Biden embrace at Holocaust Memorial Day at the Capitol. (Stacey Saiontz)
Abe Foxman and President Joe Biden embrace at Holocaust Memorial Day at the Capitol. (Stacey Saiontz)

Abraham Foxman was in Washington last week.

That’s not unusual; the retired longtime head of the Anti-Defamation League is a constant traveler, often going much farther away from his Bergen County home than the nation’s capital. But on May 7, to mark Yom HaShoah, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum hosts a ceremony and the nation’s president always is the keynote speaker.

Although in many ways this year is very different, the ceremony was unchanged. President Joe Biden gave the keynote talk; the speaker of the House of Representatives and its minority leader spoke as well.

Four Holocaust survivors offered their reflections. Mr. Foxman, who is also — among many other credentials — a member of the museum’s council, was one of those speakers.

A few days later, he talked about his experience on that day, and about the talk from the man he calls Biden 1.

“There seem to be two Bidens serving in the White House today,” Mr. Foxman said. “Biden 1 is a mensch, a decent man, with knowledge, a sense of history, and a clear moral compass. He’s a person of empathy and sensitivity; a person with values. He’s the Biden who spearheaded an initiative on antisemitism almost a year ago, making the fight against antisemitism a responsibility of the American government.

“That is historic in both its concept and its impact.

“Biden 1 is the mensch who flew to Israel on October 17,” just 10 days after the barbaric October 7 attack. “He was the first president in history ever to visit Israel in a time of war. He embraced Israel and its people, and even Bibi” — its president, Benjamin Netanyahu; the relationship between the two men has been increasingly barbed.

“Biden 1 declared to the world that America will not again stand by, as it did during World War II, when Jews are in danger,” Mr. Foxman said. “And he followed up with a request from Congress for $14 billion in aid to be sent to Israel for military and financial assistance.

“And it was Biden 1 who instructed the American military to defend Israel on April 14, when Iran attacked.

“This is the Biden who spoke so eloquently at the Days of Remembrance, again embracing Israel with compassion, pledging ironclad support.”

And then there is Biden 2, “who took over,” Mr. Foxman said. “I see Biden 2 as a creature of the current political campaign for the presidency.”

This cartoon, from 1978, was prescient; Arab money has funded much hatred of Israel.

The two Bidens have alternated, Mr. Foxman said. “Almost immediately after Biden visited Israel, the campaign managers took over, in what I call parity politics. Whenever Biden spoke about Israel, he had to speak about the Palestinians — which really was Hamas.

“After that visit, every day Biden 2 made an effort to separate himself from Israel. He tried to separate Bibi Netanyahu from the rest of Israel.” In effect, Mr. Foxman said, Biden 2 “was saying that we support Israel but not the prime minster. And that is ludicrous, because Hamas didn’t attack Bibi. It attacked Israel. So to separate Bibi from the rest of Israel was a major disservice to the relationship between Israel and the United States. It undermined it.”

Remember, Mr. Foxman said, that although on October 6 Israel was a deeply divided country — massive numbers of Israelis protested against Mr. Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms every week — “those same people who marched in the streets in Israel and said that they will not fly or fight for the country, on October 8 they fought for Israel, and they flew. They still didn’t like Bibi, but Hamas attacked Israel, not Bibi.

“The United States is sending the wrong message to Hamas and its friends. It’s saying that America is no longer a strong supporter of Israel. That means that there is no reason for Hamas to make a deal on hostages.

“In his kishkes, Biden is a Zionist,” Mr. Foxman said. But that’s Biden 1. “Every single day, Biden 2 is acting on a political agenda to placate what in shorthand I’m calling Michigan” — the swing state with the country’s highest concentration of Palestinians. “Somehow the political apparatus managing the campaign decided that they have to balance Israel with Hamas.

“It is catastrophic. Every time they mention antisemitism, they have to mention islamophobia. If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny.

“When 9/11 happened, and Americans talked about islamophobia, they didn’t talk about antisemitism,” Mr. Foxman said. “When George Floyd was murdered, and Americans talked about racism, they didn’t talk about homophobia.”

So, given those models, why is there such a pressing need to balance out the struggle against antisemitism to condemn islamophobia?

“It gives the wrong message,” Mr. Foxman said. “The continuous criticism of Israel, and of Bibi Netanyahu, encourages the 40- or 50-member large squad” — the left-wing Democratic members of Congress who gathered around the original, much smaller squad — “to criticize Israel. Right after October 7 they were quiet, but once Biden 2 started criticizing Israel, it gave them food and air.” It gave them permission. “Now they are demanding conditions on aid to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Foxman continued, Mr. Biden is making a political mistake. He and his political advisers think that unlike American Muslims, American Jews surely will vote for the Democrats. “I think that’s a terrible mistake,” he said. “They are misreading the American Jewish community. I believe they have sold Biden on the notion that 75 percent of the American Jewish community is liberal, and that they won’t vote for Trump.”

That’s true as far it goes. “They’re worried that people in Michigan won’t vote for Biden — but, you know, we have the same option.” Just as Muslim Americans in Dearborn can choose to do, American Jews can decide to vote for neither Biden nor Trump.

And, Mr. Foxman continued, “You cannot satisfy both camps. He” — that is both Bidens, 1 and 2 — “is making a terrible mistake. The only way to satisfy the Arabs in Michigan is to dump Israel. He can’t do that. So in the end, he could lose both groups.

Students and demonstrators lock arms on April 29 to prevent authorities from reaching fellow pro-Palestinian protesters who barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall at Columbia University, a building that has been occupied during past student protests (Alex Kent/Getty Images)

“If he takes us for granted, he will lose the Jews. Politically that would be a terrible mistake.”

Mr. Foxman turned to Mr. Biden’s decision, last week, to hold back some bombs that could be used over Rafah, should that incursion begin in full force.

“I hope that the pushback on Biden’s decision to withhold arms from Israel over the issue of Rafah will have an effect, now that it’s coming not only from Republicans but from Democrats as well.

The issue, he said, is that “Biden 1 says that Israel has a right to defend itself — but Biden 2 says okay, but we will decide when, where, and how.”

Yes, Mr. Biden is continuing to send defensive materiel, and the cooperation between the intelligence services is continuing, but “Israel cannot live its life under an iron dome. That is not its future. That is not the life that the citizens of an independent state should live.”

That leads us to the situation on campus, Mr. Foxman said.

“The demonstrations on campus are not about a Palestinian state,” he said. “They are primarily about the destruction of Israel.”

The well-known chant “From the river to the sea” “doesn’t talk about a Jewish state,” Mr. Foxman said. “It means no Jews.

“It starts with Hamas and the Middle East, and then it moves to antisemitism. It is not about Palestinian rights. It’s about no rights for Israel, and for the Jews.

“A lot of people are surprised about that. Sadly, I am not one of them. I am not surprised.

“Almost 20 years ago, in January 2005, I met with the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, to talk about how Columbia was failing to protect its Jewish students from harassment by anti-Israels professors. He pledged that he would take seriously student allegations that faculty members were bullying Jewish students and suppressing their opinions in the classroom.

“There were promises — but nothing happened.

“So now 20 years later, we’re seeing some of the results of that kind of atmosphere at Columbia.

“I wrote op-eds about it in 1994, and again in 2005,” Mr. Foxman said.

In 2007, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke at Columbia. It was a highly controversial appearance. Ahmadinejad was a notorious antisemite; although he loathed other groups as well, including Americans, he reserved his greatest shots of toxicity at Jews. “Hwe was brought to the campus because of freedom of speech — and now the school is paying the price,” Mr. Foxman said.

“We have lost track of this, but after the price of oil doubled in 1973, the Arabs woke up with a bonanza, and they started investing in universities, think tanks, Middle Eastern studies departments. They gave billions to universities.

“Ironically, a lot of Jews also collectively gave billions, but they did not condition their giving. They gave money to support education, because education is what helped Jews make it in the world. The only demand from donors was to put their names on the wall.

“Money from Saudi and other Arab countries came with a lot of conditions.”

And that’s how the antisemitism that we’re seeing on campus now grew there, Mr. Foxman said.

“I believe that what we are seeing now is not only about Israel and the Middle East,” he concluded. “It’s about American democracy and freedom of expression.”

Mr. Foxman always has had a reservoir of optimism from which he drew constantly. It seemed inexhaustible. But now it seems to be running out.

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