Biden administration caving to BDS tactics against Israel

Biden administration caving to BDS tactics against Israel

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is reportedly considering blacklisting the IDF’s Netzach Yehuda Battalion under the “Leahy Laws,” two statutory provisions that, according to the State Department, prohibit the U.S. government “from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.”

Extreme political NGOs and rights organizations often falsely accuse Israel of committing human rights abuses. In October 2022, DAWN (Democracy for the Arab World Now) submitted to the State Department a Leahy Law referral against the Netzach Yehuda Battalion for alleged “systematic and widespread abuses.”

The battalion, an exclusively male, ultra-Orthodox battalion that, until late 2022 served in the Jordan Valley and Samaria and today operates in Gaza fighting Hamas terrorists, has faced accusations of abuse, most notably in the case of 78-year-old Palestinian-American Omar As’ad, who in 2022 died after being detained by the battalion.

But many critics see this hostile move as nothing short of preposterous, with the Biden administration hoping to win over anti-Israel voters ahead of the U.S. elections in November by delegitimizing the Jewish state as it fights a crucial war against a genocidal enemy.

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, specifically blamed U.S. President Joe Biden, telling JNS the president “appears to be ready to cross yet another Rubicon, this time in delegitimizing the military of a close democratic ally by fundamentally questioning its integrity, morality and adherence to the rule of law.”

Goldberg added that the Biden administration is sourcing its information from “radical extremist organizations that work to destroy the State of Israel on a daily basis—some with ties to terrorist organizations.”

According to Goldberg, the ongoing political warfare against Israel “has emboldened Hamas, Hezbollah, and ultimately Iran.

“That Hamas refuses to release any more hostages and that Iran felt so confident in launching 120 ballistic missiles at Israel is a direct result of the Biden administration using BDS delegitimization tactics against a democratic ally,” he said.

In an April 21 post on X, Goldberg called on U.S. senators to “elevate this [the Netzach Yehuda issue] to the President right now before the supplemental has passed the Senate, and get a firm commitment that such a morally bankrupt and irresponsible action will not occur. The House and Senate should ready legislative responses.”

He also accused some employees of the State Department of harboring “virulent anti-Israel sentiment” and said there are “radical anti-Israel activists inside the Biden administration” who have a “long-awaited dream of imposing sanctions on the IDF or its units.”

Goldberg called on committees of jurisdiction to “move expeditiously to demand Secretary Blinken turn over the list of organizations that submitted ‘evidence’ that’s been used as the basis for a potential imposition of sanctions. … All communications on this matter between both State and NSC [the National Security Council] and State and outside groups should be subpoenaed.”

Far-reaching damage

Jacob Olidort, director of research for the Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), told JNS the Biden administration’s reported decision to rebuke Israel “by imposing sanctions on a unit of its military—as well as the manner and timing of how it was done—causes far-reaching damage, in this case not only to the institution of the IDF but to Israel’s security.”

Israelis “across the political spectrum are right to view this as a rebuke of the entire IDF, with a secondary message that Israel’s military has no credible legal or judicial system to hold its own accountable,” Olidort said.

He said he considered the move as “a concession by the administration to parts of its electoral base during an election year as well as an expression of its personal displeasure with certain members of the Knesset.

“This move could not have come at a more inappropriate time—during war, as Israel prepares for the Rafah operation in Gaza and braces for escalation on its northern border as well as from Iran directly—or in a more distasteful manner—announced publicly by the secretary of state rather than through the discrete channels of deliberations between U.S. and Israeli militaries—and sends an unmistakable message to our adversaries abroad and their supporters on U.S. college campuses that the United States restrains its support for Israel during its most precarious moment,” Olidort said.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the Biden administration’s intentions to sanction the Netzach Yehuda Battalion. 

“I will strongly defend the IDF, our army and our fighters,” he said. “If somebody thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit in the IDF—I will fight this with all my powers. As our soldiers are united in defending us on the battlefield, we are united in defending them in the diplomatic arena.”

Defense Yoav Gallant spoke with Blinken on Sunday and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, to discuss the issue of sanctions, according to an Israeli Government Press Office statement.

“The battalion’s activities are carried out in accordance with the values of the IDF and in accordance with international law,” Gallant said in the statement. 

He admonished the U.S. and said, “Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow on the actions of the IDF, which operates to protect the citizens of Israel. Damage to one battalion affects the entire defense establishment—this is not the right path for partners and friends.”

Gallant called on the U.S. to “withdraw its intention to impose sanctions,” adding that Israel’s “friends and our enemies are closely watching the ties between Israel and the United States, now more than ever.”

A slippery slope

Goldberg told JNS that using BDS tactics to delegitimize Israel and exercising the Leahy Laws “would start a slippery slope where the U.S. signals to the world that democracies are not capable of holding themselves accountable, giving the ICC [International Criminal Court] pretext to step in with arrest warrants for Israeli officials for made up war crimes, reopen investigations into the British military and eventually indict American officials for made-up war crimes, too.

“The president may think he’s just throwing another dart at Israel, but it’s actually a boomerang that will hit the U.S. military, too,” he said.

In his post on X, Goldberg wrote, “This is entirely a campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel—and to kneecap its efforts to defend its citizens from annihilation.”

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