On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of liberal Jewish American activists staged sit-ins in the Capitol Hill offices of top Democrats, including in the senate office of progressive champion Bernie Sanders, to demand a ceasefire in the escalating war between Israel and Hamas.
As they sang in Hebrew and prayed for peace, the House floor resumed legislative activity for the first time in weeks after the election of a new Republican speaker, congressman Mike Johnson.
In his first act, Johnson brought to the floor a resolution declaring US solidarity with Israel after Hamas rampaged through Israeli cities, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages, Americans among them. Nearly all House Democrats voted to approve the measure, save for a resolute minority who dissented, citing its failure to address the thousands of Palestinians killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign of Gaza.
The discontent on display in Washington was a testament to the rising anger among the party’s left over the response from Biden and Democratic leaders to Israel’s war in Gaza. But as many progressives split from the White House over the US’s staunchly pro-Israel stance, there were also splits within the left itself – a sign of the raw emotions stirred by the conflict.
Nor were the scenes in the House the only signs of discontent as US politics – and civil society as a whole – becomes increasingly roiled by Israel’s response to the 7 October Hamas attack.
That same afternoon, Joe Biden was asked about the rising Palestinian death toll during a news conference at the White House. Biden replied that he had “no confidence” in the death count provided by the Gaza health ministry, which says nearly 7,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began.
“I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war,” Biden said, in comments the Council on American-Islamic Relations described as “shocking and dehumanizing.”
Online, many progressives seethed, accusing Biden of further enabling violence against Palestinians and predicting that he would pay an electoral price next year with Muslim and Arab American voters, who have emerged as an important Democratic constituency in recent elections.
“The White House and many in the US government are clear as they should be that 1,000 Israelis killed is too many,” said Eva Borgwardt, the political director of IfNotNow, a progressive Jewish group leading many of the demonstrations in Washington, including the one at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Our question for them is: How many Palestinian deaths are too many?”
As Israel intensifies its bombardment of Gaza, Biden is facing extraordinary and growing resistance from his party’s left flank, especially from young voters and voters of color, over his steadfast support for Israel. They have staged demonstrations, penned open letters and even tendered resignations in protest of the Biden administration’s handling of a war they say is threatening the president’s standing at home and possibly his chances of winning re-election next year. [Continue reading…]