October 9, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
No, the Biden administration did not fund Hamas’ attack on Israel
Biden reaffirmed America’s “unwavering” support of Israel, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to Trump or other GOP candidates.
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The news out of the Middle East today adds to the horror that began over the weekend when Hamas, the Palestinian paramilitary group that’s backed by the government of Iran, launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. Militants also took many people hostage.
The Israeli government has officially declared war on Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a siege of its base of operations, the Gaza Strip. There will be “no electricity, no food, no fuel,” the defense minister said. Now, this morning, the US State Department announced that nine Americans have been killed in the fighting.
On Saturday, the president said that he told Netanyahu that the US “stands with the people of Israel in the face of these terrorist assaults. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop. There’s never a justification for terrorist attacks and my administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.’’
Donald Trump has lied so often and so intensely that the white evangelical Protestants who already believe that liberal weakness is emboldening our enemies, triggering the end of days, may no longer need Christian eschatology to anchor them.
You wouldn’t know that by listening to Donald Trump or any of the Republicans who are currently running for their party’s nomination. According to them, Joe Biden is complicit in the deaths of those nine Americans as well as Hamas’ decision to fight a war that it cannot win. Biden is responsible, they have said, because he paid $6 billion to Iran.
Here’s historian Heather Cox Richardson, from her Saturday dispatch: “In an echo of a similar lie from Trump, who falsely claimed the Obama administration had paid $150 billion to Iran for a nuclear agreement, they took to social media in a flood to say that the US had funded the attack on Israel because it had recently ‘paid’ $6 billion to Iran.”
Here’s the AP: “Trump, like others, directly blamed the $6 billion — ‘American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks,’ he said in an earlier statement — and argued that, under Biden, the US is perceived as being ‘weak and ineffective’ on the global stage, opening the door to hostility. ‘They didn’t have that level of aggression with me. They didn’t have it. This would have never happened with me either,’ Trump claimed, adding later in Cedar Rapids that Biden had “betrayed Israel.”
And here’s the thing: Biden made no such payments. The money isn’t taxpayer money. It’s not even American money. It’s South Korean money used to buy Iranian oil in recent years, according to the AP.
The money has been frozen in South Korea because of US sanctions on Iran. The administration arranged for the money’s release in exchange for five US citizens detained in Iran, with significant restrictions on its use. Again, the AP: “That money is now held in a restricted account in Doha [Qatar], and is meant to be used for solely humanitarian purposes — such as food and medicine for Iranians — and handled by what the administration described as vetted non-Iranian vendors.”
So pretty much everything that Trump and the Republican candidates have been saying about Biden and his alleged complicity in the deaths of scores of hundreds in the Middle East is not based on fact.
It’s based on the already established belief among Trump supporters and many Republicans that Biden and the Democrats are undermining the true character of the American republic, enervating the nation’s resolve with calls for “wokeness” and emboldening its enemies. That Hamas attacked Israel is not a product of the particular geopolitics of that particular region. It’s a consequence of liberal weakness.
Everything they are saying about the president is also rooted in widespread belief among the GOP’s most animated supporters that what’s happening in the Middle East, in particular to Israel, is a sign that the End Times are near – that is, the Second Coming of Jesus.
I don’t know exactly what role Biden plays here, but it probably has to do with the Antichrist, a biblical figure whom everyone but true Christians believes is a source of good but in fact places himself and his values in Christ’s place, setting himself as the opposite of Christ.
In any case, you don’t need to know this bit of Christian eschatology to understand the power of Trump’s lies. They are, of course, the basis of his presidential campaign, which is transparently fascist in nature. “Part of what fascist politics does is get people to disassociate from reality,” said Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works, in a 2018 interview.
“You get them to sign on to this fantasy version of reality,” Stanley said, “usually a nationalist narrative about the decline of the country and the need for a strong leader to return it to greatness, and from then on their anchor isn’t the world around them — it’s the leader.”
Donald Trump has lied so often and so intensely that the white evangelical Protestants who already believe that liberal weakness is emboldening our enemies, triggering the end of days, may no longer need Christian eschatology — anyway, the Bible — to anchor them.
All they need is lies – or as Jacques Berlinerblau speculated, whatever “Trump is saying or posting on any given day.” “Modern Evangelicalism may have capsized theologically. The faithful may be taking their cues not from Scripture. … The religion has flipped, as it were.”
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.