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The lethal narcissism of Joe Biden

Why is America so blasé about the threat posed by Hezbollah’s Jew-haters?

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics USA World

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What is more important: Joe Biden winning the votes of America’s entitled coastal elites, or Israel protecting itself from an army called the Party of God that has sworn itself to the eradication of the ‘cancerous’ Jews from the Middle East? This would have been a no-brainer a few years ago. Most people – aside from Israelophobic hotheads on the far right and hard left – would have agreed that defending the Jewish State from fanatics who view Jews as ‘evil’ and ‘blasphemous’ is of greater moral import than a president’s longing to get back in the good books of woke voters. And yet today, such simple moral clarity is in alarmingly short supply.

Right now, nothing fills the Biden set with greater dread than the prospect of war between Israel and Hezbollah. And it’s not because they’re peaceniks. Biden voted in favour of the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was vice-president to the drone-happy Barack Obama, who dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone. In Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan. If Biden is now of an anti-war bent, it’s been a recent conversion. No, it is self-preservation, not anti-militarism, that underpins Biden’s fear of an Israel-Hezbollah war. It’s the potential death of his presidency, not potential death in the Middle East, that keeps him up at night.

Tensions have exploded between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group whose name means Party of God. Unsurprisingly, the West’s ‘anti-war’ activist class has had little to say about Hezbollah’s blitz on northern Israel. Hezbollah, which is allied with Hamas, has been firing rockets into Israel almost every day since Hamas’s pogrom of 7 October, with the aim of ‘pulling Israeli forces’ away from Gaza. That is, with the aim of aiding the anti-Semites of Hamas in their holy war against the Jewish nation. Entire ‘swathes of northern Israel’ have been engulfed by fire as a result of Hezbollah’s rockets. Tens of thousands have been evacuated.

Now, Israel is talking about taking decisive action against Hezbollah. You can almost hear the West’s activist class buffing their anti-Israel placards and rummaging around for their keffiyehs in order that they might hit the streets and damn Israel for plotting yet another ‘genocide’. In these people’s minds, fried by the binary moralism of identity politics, ‘white’ Israel is to blame for everything in the Middle East, while ‘brown’ Gaza and Lebanon are pure, sad victims, responsible for nothing. If Israel were officially to declare war on Hezbollah, they would rage and splutter, with not one thought for the rockets from Lebanon that have rained on Israel almost every day for the best part of eight months.

Even Hezbollah’s threats against Cyprus were not enough to rouse the concern of the West’s supposed peace lobby. This week, the leader of the Party of God – Hassan Nasrallah – warned that Cyprus would feel his wrath in the event of war between Israel and Hezbollah. It is presumably the fact that Cyprus has let Israel use its territory for military training that led to this outrageous threat against its sovereign integrity and social peace. Where are the peaceniks? Where are the anti-war activists who’ve been marching every week against Israeli militarism? It’s almost as if it’s not war they hate, so much as the world’s only Jewish state.

The actual institutions of the West have likewise been coy in response to Hezbollah’s threats on Cyprus. There was a perfunctory feel to the EU’s response. ‘Cyprus is a member state of the European Union… any threat against one of our member states is a threat against the European Union’, a spokesman said. I bet the Party of God is quaking. Where’s the fire, the anger? In recent weeks, Euro officials have fumed against Israel. They’ve expressed ‘outrage’ over its ‘massacres’ and ‘bloodbath’ in Gaza. Yet all they could muster in response to an Islamist army’s threat of war against one of the republics of their own continent was a fainthearted ‘Please don’t’.

US officialdom, too, seems skittish on the Israel-Hezbollah question, if not outright cowardly. US dignitaries have been dispatched to warn Israel not to go to war. Two senior officials reportedly instructed Israel that a ‘limited war’ with Hezbollah, even a ‘small’ war, was not an option. The White House is ‘warning’ Israel not to engage in ‘war with Hezbollah’. Is there any other country on Earth that would be expected to put up with a daily fusillade of rockets without war, at some point, ensuing? I’m a generally anti-imperialist person, but even I like to think that if an army of racists were firing rockets at Britain day in, day out, at some point we’d say: ‘That’s it. It’s war.’ But Israel shouldn’t?

It’s the reason for Biden and Co’s hostility to the idea of war with Hezbollah that is most offensive – they don’t want to save lives, they want to save their own skin. As a CNN headline summed it up, the threat of a ‘wider war’ in the Middle East ‘looms over Biden’s re-election effort’. Leading Dems are terrified of the impact a ‘wider war’ might have on ‘Biden’s already fraying electoral coalition’. He’s already lost the support of some in the Arab-American community and among the graduate elites for whom hating Israel is a core part of their dinner-party identity. Now Bidenites are worried an Israel-Hezbollah war would make things worse.

If Israel does go to war with Hezbollah, it’s possible it will ‘undermine… Biden’s chances in the 2024 election even further’, says one international-relations expert. This really is the fear rattling the White House. The narcissism of it is staggering. Imagine seeing rockets rain down on Jews, fired by an army that has branded ‘the Zionist entity’ a ‘cancerous growth’, and thinking about yourself. Imagine seeing the north of Israel set on fire by militant anti-Semites and thinking, ‘Okay, but don’t push back too hard, because that might be bad for me among high-status voters’. Let’s be blunt: Biden is elevating his own electoral prospects above the security of the Jews.

It’s impossible to overstate the seriousness of what has happened to Israel these past eight months. A nation founded to protect Jews from pogroms was itself besieged by a pogrom. And as the pogromists slaughtered Jews in the south, their allies in Hezbollah attacked Jews in the north. It was a pincer movement of racial hatred, a two-pronged act of fascistic violence. Hezbollah is a movement that is devoted to ‘finish[ing] off the entire cancerous Zionist project’, whose leaders have said that any Jew who survives the coming apocalyptic war ‘can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from’. These violent racists pose an existential threat to the Jewish nation. To elevate your own desire for the votes of Oberlin grads above the right of Jews to live free of fascism’s violent menaces is unforgivable.

It tells us so much about the Biden administration. About its political short-termism, its geopolitical idiocy, its deadly vanity, its failure to reckon with the threat posed by radical Islam, not only to Jews but to the West more broadly, too. The dark irony is that this ideology of appeasement, this vain instinct to muzzle Israel lest its actions reflect badly on us, is likely to inflame war, not end it. The cowards of our political class unwittingly embolden Hezbollah when they warn Israel against taking decisive action against these anti-Semites who’ve been bombing it for eight months straight. They make Hezbollah think, ‘We’ll carry on then’. Their narcissism kills.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Melanie Phillips and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

Melanie Phillips and Brendan O’Neill – live and in conversation

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Topics Politics USA World

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