The bodies are stacked impossibly high. Children are being mutilated. Millions are starving. And Benjamin Netanyahu, the man responsible for it all, is being welcomed to the US by Democratic leaders as a dignitary rather than a bloodthirsty maniac.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan / AFP via Getty Images)

With elections looming and the Democratic base overwhelmingly opposed to Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, Joe Biden seems at times to be feeling the heat and talking left. On May 31, he claimed that Israel had agreed to a “permanent cease-fire” — only to be immediately rebuffed when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu disgracefully rejected that idea, caving to far-right pressure from within his government.

The Democratic leadership should have seized the moment and, in a unified voice, urged the president to defund Israel’s brutal war. That would have been morally right. If successful, that action could have, most importantly, finally halted a genocide. It also could have helped Biden to defeat Donald Trump in the fall.

But that is not what the Democratic leadership did.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, joined Republican House speaker Mike Johnson in penning a letter inviting Netanyahu, fanatic far-right architect of a war in which Israel has been burning people alive without impunity or shame, to address Congress.

It’s hard to imagine a worse guest for the United States right now. Netanyahu has prosecuted an utterly callous war in which more than 36,000 people have died, most of them children. His war has exposed more than a million people to catastrophic starvation. He has also done his best to eradicate Palestinian civilization, bombing all its universities.

The New York Times reports that because of Israel’s ground offensive in Rafah, more than a million Gazans forced to flee that city have no power, water, or shelter. A construction worker who fled Rafah last week told the paper, “The situation is as bad as you can imagine. We are waiting for God’s mercy.”

Netanyahu has also knowingly targeted hospitals in this war, turning hospitals, “which should be safe havens, into scenes of death, devastation and despair,” according to the World Health Organization. Even after the International Court of Justice noted “catastrophic conditions” in Gaza and warned Israel that starving civilians and obstructing humanitarian aid were war crimes, Human Rights Watch reported that the situation had only grown worse. Israel’s vicious disregard for Palestinian lives is almost matched by its contempt for the international community.

Netanyahu has made clear that he intends to continue to prosecute an eliminationist policy against the Palestinians, calling Gaza a “city of evil” and citing the Biblical commandment to destroy the Amalekites. As the war began last October he said, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you.” Such rhetoric — along with the massive death toll and efforts to block humanitarian aid — was part of the robust body of evidence South Africa brought to the International Court of Justice when charging Israel with genocide earlier this year.

After protests flooded the streets, as well as the offices of Democratic politicians, Senator Schumer in March criticized Netanyahu and said that Israel should have elections to elect a new leader. Jeffries — who like Schumer receives millions from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which lobbies on behalf of a foreign power committing daily war crimes — wouldn’t go there but also refrained from comment.

But now, Schumer has recovered from his temporary bout of conscience, and the two appear to be united.

In the letter, officially issued Friday and jointly authored with Johnson, they wrote, citing the “friendship and partnership of our democracies . . . we join the State of Israel in your struggle against terror.” They did not mention the terror that millions of Palestinians are suffering, nor did they mention that Netanyahu has undermined the possibility of a deal that would free the Israelis Hamas is holding hostage — even as those hostages continue to die in captivity, at times as a result of Israel’s own bombing campaign.

In addition to the moral depravity of allowing Netanyahu to enter the United States, it’s stupid of the Democratic leadership to embrace someone who is not only unpopular within the Democratic base but transparently trying to undermine Biden, the elected president from their own party. Many commentators believe that Netanyahu feels he will be able to conduct his war with even more impunity under Trump. Does the Democratic leadership want to kill Palestinians even more than they want to beat Trump?

Not everyone in Congress is happy about this invitation. Socialist senator Bernie Sanders has been the loudest dissenter.

“It is a very sad day for our country that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been invited — by leaders from both parties — to address a Joint Meeting of Congress,” Sanders said Saturday. “Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal. He should not be invited to address a Joint meeting of Congress. I certainly will not attend.”

Congressmember Rashida Tlaib has for months been critical of Johnson’s plans to invite the Israeli head of state, who she recently called a “genocidal maniac.”

Perhaps more surprisingly, and indicative of growing distress over the war within the Democratic Party, Senator Dick Durbin, second-ranked Senate leader, said this week that he would not have invited Netanyahu.

It’s not clear when Netanyahu’s address will take place — the date was going to be June 13 but since that is a Jewish holiday, it will likely be later this month. He will probably be greeted by massive protests in Washington, DC. Perhaps Schumer and Jeffries should be dogged by such protests wherever they go, too.


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