Blood on Biden’s Hands?
The sick, twisted attempt to blame the killings in Israel on the U.S. president.
BEYOND THE TERROR GROUP HAMAS and its state sponsor, Iran, who else is to blame for the horrifying attacks that have left more than a thousand people, most of them civilians, dead in Israel? Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina thinks he’s found another culprit: President Biden. “Joe Biden has blood on his hands,” Scott flatly declared in a speech on Tuesday at Washington’s Hudson Institute. “His weakness invited the attack. His cash giveaways to Iran helped fund terrorism.”
The line about “cash giveaways” refers to an agreement under which the Biden administration two months ago allowed Iran, in exchange for the release of five American hostages, to access $6 billion of its oil revenue assets that had been sitting frozen in South Korean banks since 2019. Other Republicans, including former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have criticized the decision in less over-the-top language as a terrorism-enabling move.
The $6 billion, transferred to a restricted Qatari bank account, reportedly hasn’t been accessed by Iran yet and is available only for humanitarian programs. The argument linking it to the Hamas attacks is that money is fungible, and the $6 billion potentially disbursed to Iran frees up other funds for financing terrorism and specifically for Hamas. An obvious problem with this linkage, however, is that the planning for the massive, elaborately coordinated attack—which, at least according to some early accounts in the press, Iran did help plot—certainly began long before August when the deal was made. One might as well claim that Hamas was emboldened to attack because its leaders saw the clownish antics of U.S. House Republicans when they ousted Kevin McCarthy as House speaker last week and concluded that American power was a joke.
Of course the unfreezing of Iranian assets can be criticized. One may agree with calls to refreeze the money in view of Iran’s almost certain involvement in the Hamas attacks. One may debate, more broadly, the wisdom of the Biden administration’s Iran and Middle East policy, which Eli Lake has slammed as “self-delusion” in the Free Press; or one could instead argue, as Nicholas Grossman does in the Daily Beast, that it was Donald Trump’s policies that contributed to the massacre. If the Biden administration can be taken to task for allowing Iran to grow its terror-subsidizing wealth by loosening the oil-trade sanctions, so can the Trump administration.
And one can certainly allocate some blame—as plenty of Israelis do—to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both for quietly propping up Hamas to undercut the rival Palestinian Authority and prevent Palestinian statehood and for diverting military resources to protecting Israeli settlements in the West Bank (which the Trump administration gave Netanyahu a free hand to encourage).
But to declare the president of the United States an accomplice to terrorism with “blood on his hands” before the blood in Israel is dry—in fact, while it’s still being shed—is nothing short of obscene. In times of crisis, one could expect partisan rhetoric to be toned down, which other GOP contenders certainly haven’t done. Scott, however, has taken it off the charts.
MEANWHILE, MUCH OF THE RIGHT-WING commentariat has decided that Biden and the Democrats are guilty of appeasement at best and secret Hamas sympathies at worst. The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, for instance, declared that Hamas has the support of “the left 1/3 or so of the Democrat Party.” (As some pointed out in the replies, “or so” is doing truly gargantuan work in that sentence.)
The Acton Institute’s Emily Zanotti lamented on the morning of October 9 that the U.S. government took “more than 12 hours” to respond to the attack, and even then only responded with just “one sentence.” A few hours later, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also complained that Biden “is nowhere to be seen and has nothing to say.”
Somehow, both Zanotti and Cotton apparently missed the fact that Biden made a statement on October 7, the day the attack began—with Secretary of State Antony Blinken standing at his side—emphatically declaring “rock-solid and unwavering” American support for Israel and its right to defend itself. A shorter version of these remarks was also posted on the White House website. And, while Zanotti and other detractors lambasted Biden for taking the time to attend a barbecue, the president still managed to have 28 phone calls and meetings about the crisis over the weekend.
NONE OF THIS IS TO SAY that the Biden administration’s messaging has been flawless. Notably, the State Department had to delete two tweets it never should have sent out. The first one, on October 7, came from the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs, the de facto U.S. embassy to the Palestinian Authority:
That tweet probably illustrates, more than anything else, the danger of hiring recent college grads to run the social media accounts of government agencies.
The second, more baffling tweet came from the account of Secretary Blinken:
If Blinken personally approved that tweet, with its call for a cease-fire, one can only ask what he was thinking. If he did not, his office needs to do a better job of monitoring its social media accounts.
But the idea that these two social-media posts represent the Biden administration’s secret anti-Israel id—or even an alarming level of overall incompetence in crisis management—is absurd. Indeed, it is worth noting that, besides Biden’s own remarks, administration officials have made plenty of other statements that unequivocally support Israel and its right to self-defense. On October 8, for instance, there was this from Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism:
That tweet has most emphatically not been deleted.
And, of course, on Tuesday Biden delivered a speech that Axios called “perhaps the most powerful statement of support for Israel by a sitting U.S. president since Harry Truman recognized the Jewish state in 1948” and that was hailed as “the most passionately pro-Israel in history” by former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Axios also reports that Biden “plans to ask Congress for emergency military assistance for Israel, and has already started providing Israel with ammunition and interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system.”
But don’t expect any acknowledgment from the right-wing chorus. Or an apology from Tim Scott.