Palestine activists reflect on the Biden administration’s first 100 days

Joe Biden has now been President for 100 days. We know the moment is largely an arbitrary Beltway obsession, but we’re also confident that Palestine will barely be covered in the mainstream assessments. In that spirit I reached out to some activists, authors, and organizations to get their thoughts on the administration so far.

Sumaya Awad. Adalah Justice Project’s Director of Strategy and Communications. Co-editor of Palestine: A Socialist Introduction from Haymarket Books:

Trump wreaked havoc on Palestinians, but Biden has shown he has no intention of reversing any of Trump’s most harrowing policies, whether it be the formal adoption of IHRA, the embassy move to Jerusalem, settlement expansion, or the normalization deals with Arab despots. Sanctions remain on Iran, children continue to be detained on the US-Mexico border, immigration laws remain stringent, and the US Palestine rights movement continues to be smeared and its activists persecuted. It should come as no surprise that Biden’s first 100 days in office had no positive bearing on the lives of Palestinians. If anything, Biden is simply picking up where Trump left off when it comes to Israel.  It was Biden after all who rushed to Israel shortly before the end of Obama’s presidential tenure to secure the $38 billion military funding package. Restoring funding to UNRWA, which Biden did begrudgingly, is a low bar and reflects no serious commitment to changing the facts on the ground or pulling US funding for apartheid. 

Olivia Katbi Smith. National U.S. organizer for the BDS Movement:

On the campaign trail, President Biden made it clear that he “firmly rejects” the BDS Movement, and he and his administration, from Blinken to Yellen to Thomas-Greenfield, have affirmed their commitment to this shameful position. But the progressive movement in the US that is pushing the Biden administration on a variety of issues recognizes that cutting US military aid to Israel is vital to the progressive agenda of “healthcare not warfare” and social, racial, climate and gender justice. Movement partners like JVP and DSA, and the ongoing Black-led uprisings against police violence have all incorporated BDS demands into their work for justice. Over 72% of Americans support the right to boycott. As this progressive movement in the US continues to grow, so does the nonviolent movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. Pressure on the administration will exceed well beyond 100 days, and President Biden would be wise to listen, or remain out of touch.

Jennifer Loewenstein. Human rights activist, retired professor of Middle Eastern Studies, and editorial assistant at Eyewitness Palestine:

The Biden administration’s stance on Israel-Palestine has returned us to the days of the US as phony “honest broker” in a decades’ old ‘conflict’ – a scenario in which Israel is given free reign to occupy stolen land, displace and dispossess Palestinians, violate their fundamental human rights, and complete the destruction of the Palestine National Movement.

Superficially, Biden’s actions have improved Palestinian lives: he has reopened the PLO Mission in DC, restored funding to UNRWA, re-joined the UN’s Human Rights Council & reiterated the US’ ostensible commitment to a two-state solution. In practice, however, this does little more than return the Palestinians to a pre-Trump status quo but with significant omissions: the US embassy will remain in Jerusalem; the Golan Heights will remain (per US understanding) Israeli land; no settlements will be dismantled; no prisoners released from illegal detention; and the administration will stay silent on blatantly illegal acts of collective punishment [such as Israel’s recent decision to close off the Palestinian fishing zone in response to rockets fired from Gaza].

The march toward Greater Israel proceeds apace as an ‘impartial’ hypocrisy green lights Israel’s nearly 75-year old land grab and its championship of a dominant race. The undercurrents of bias & preference will continue to guide a US policy that allows the entrenchment of Israeli-style apartheid while opposing any conditioning of aid on the cessation of gross human rights violations.

Jennifer Bing. Director of the Palestine-Israel program at American Friends Service Committee:

When I think about Biden and his first 100 days, I’m reminded of the old AOL alert, “You’ve Got Mail!” In their first 100 days, the Biden administration got a lot of mail from Congress that concerns Palestine. Letters to the Biden administration have been sent about restoring U.S. funding to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority cut by the Trump administration, pressing Israel to live up to its international responsibility to provide Palestinians the COVID-19 vaccine, ending the demolition and eviction of Palestinians from their homes, and most recently introducing a new bill (H.R. 2590) that calls on the State Department to certify that U.S. aid is not used to detain and abuse Palestinian children. Our movement has been busy on zoom webinars that inspire action, producing and sharing action alerts for engagement, and letting elected officials know we haven’t given up our demands for change. I don’t think Biden’s mailbox is full, and more calls for action are needed. Despite a pandemic, our movement is energized and dedicated to moving public opinion and holding our government accountable for (and changing) policies that perpetuate militarism and inequality.

JVP Action:

We’ve known for a long time that the Biden administration would seek a return to the “status quo” of the Obama presidency, and it has wasted no time in getting there. At the end of his first 100 days in office, we’ve clearly seen that he will continue longstanding U.S. policy of shielding the Israeli government from accountability, silencing Palestinian rights activists, and continuing ongoing support for Israeli apartheid rule. It’s no surprise, considering that as Vice President, Biden was directly involved in the MOU that still ensures $3.8 billion in military funding to Israeli government every year. And as President, he continues to refuse to hold Israel accountable for how it uses this money.

While we can breathe at least a small sigh of relief that the Biden administration has released humanitarian aid to UNRWA, this should not be mistaken for progress as it sill ignores the root of the injustices happening in Palestine. It’s simple: our tax dollars are paying for the suffocation of Palestinian families living under Israel’s military blockade of Gaza, the Israeli military’s abusive arrest and detention of children across the occupied West Bank, devastating and cruel home demolitions, extrajudicial killings, and the separate and unequal system of oppression against Palestinians living as citizens inside of Israel. They are paying for apartheid.

We must end U.S. military funding to Israel. For JVP Action, all of our work is building toward a U.S. foreign policy that is rooted in justice and equality for all Palestinians and Israelis, and toward forcing Congress to take steps now to truly hold the Israeli government accountable.

Meera Shah. Palestine Legal Senior Staff Attorney:

The Biden Administration’s first 100 days have been marked by an unwillingness to roll back anti-Palestinian policies of the Trump administration, both in foreign policy and domestically. The administration has failed to distance itself from a dangerous and flawed definition of antisemitism that silences Palestinian voices and experiences. It also has continued to attack efforts to seek accountability and justice, including boycotts for Palestinian freedom.  

Particularly in light of the harsh Republican-backed anti-protest laws targeting Black and brown communities at the state level, it’s critical that the Biden administration take some clear steps to reaffirm our constitutional rights to protest, dissent, speak out, and boycott in support of freedom and justice for all.

Malak Shalabi. Media Coordinator at American Muslims for Palestine:

Within the first 100 days of the Biden presidency, Biden has restored aid for UNRWA, which provides critical social services for Palestinian refugees. He has spoken out strongly in opposition to Israeli annexation. But the Biden administration is no where near reflecting the growing majority of US citizens and members of Congress who support Palestinian human rights.

The administration continues to uphold racist anti-BDS laws, with the premise that exercising the right to boycott the state of Israel is an exception to Americans’ first amendment rights. The administration has embraced the IHRA working definition of antisemitism to dampen and attempt to censor advocacy for Palestine. In maintaining Trump-era policies, the administration has also affirmed that they are not reversing the move of the U.S. embassy out of Jerusalem. Biden has also promised not to condition aid to Israel,”period, full stop”, despite a prominent presence of members of Congress who have called for that explicitly. 

It’s important to look at things holistically in understanding the Biden administration’s role in protecting Israel and its colonial positioning in the Middle East. The onus is upon us, as US citizens, as taxpayers, to ensure that our money doesn’t fund human rights abuses in Palestine. As we continue to work for human rights and justice domestically and abroad, we must center the cause for Palestine and understand it as one historically and politically suppressed and targeted by the United States.


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