Essay from Christopher Bernard

Christopher Bernard invites people to sign on to this letter in the comments.

An Open Letter to President Biden

Dear Mr. President:

Surely you would agree that defending a "rules-based order" when, and only when, it decides in your favor is not acceptable; in fact, it violates the very principle of such an order. 

Why, indeed, are we attempting, through legal actions almost too numerous to count, to hold Donald Trump accountable for his attempt to overturn the 2020 election? When a ruling, whether from a judge in court or the voters in an election, goes against you, it is neither morally nor legally acceptable to attack the system that led to that ruling in a fit of pique.

Yet that is precisely what your administration seems intent on doing. The scurrilous response by Secretary of State Blinken to “work with Congress to penalize” the ICC if it merely considers issuing warrants for the arrest of members of Israel's leadership - and your own petulant response (which, ironically, sounds curiously similar to the response by Trump when legal institutions act against him) - are, both of them, indefensible. The hypocrisy of American foreign policy, one of the few dependable truths of world history over the last two and a half centuries, has rarely been quite so blatant.

Israel has been murdering and denying the basic human rights of Palestinians in violation of international law and the U.N. for, not months or years, but generations. Israel has fooled much of the world, and decades of American presidents, into thinking it is the innocent victim when it has been the perpetrator of some of the most heinous offenses of modern times, not least the mass murder of civilians in Gaza since October of last year, and including policies of mass destruction, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment, and the killing of civilians going back at least to the Six-Day War of 1967, itself a crime under international law as it was provoked by Israel, who claimed it was a pre-emptive strike against an impending invasion by its Arab neighbors: a falsehood long disproven by the historical record. 

You weep for those killed, horrendously, on October 7. But you have said nothing about the thousands and the tens of thousands who have been massacred by Israeli forces, whose homes have been wiped out, whose land has been stolen, whose families have been slaughtered, whose lives have been destroyed as deliberate Israeli policy since 1948 and before. 

We in the United States are guilty of complicity in war crimes, collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. And that includes, above all, American political leaders.

You can influence long overdue changes in both the policy and actions of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians if you so choose. You can begin by sending Israel no more offensive arms. The Israel Defense Force has clearly, consistently, and defiantly broken American law in its use of our weaponry – weaponry paid for by American taxpayers. As president, you have the power, indeed the moral and legal obligation to do this.  

If you do not reverse your policy of indiscriminate support for Israel, and that means if you do not stop supplying Israel with arms during the current genocidal war against the Palestinians of Gaza – and furthermore, if you do not hold Israel to account for its generations-long apartheid against the people of Palestine – I, and many like me, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to support you for president, despite the truly frightening alternative. 

Often I have had to choose between two evils when voting for an American president, but never to the extent that I am being asked to in this election – and I am haunted by memories of 1968, when the electorate faced a similar moral dilemma during a presidential race, with tragic consequences. Choosing between an insurrectionist and an enabler of crimes against humanity I find profoundly repugnant, on moral grounds. I may find it impossible to make such a choice, or I will vote for a candidate who may have no chance of winning but whose positions do not make me feel I will have blood on my hands if I choose him or her.

I sense there are many like me among the electorate, both Democrats and independents, even among Republicans. If Trump wins in November, his victory, which could well be a catastrophe, may be because you made it morally impossible for conscientious voters to choose the only viable political alternative. 

Respectfully,

Christopher Bernard




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