Trump and Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican presidential candidate President Donald Trump participate in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. President Biden and former President Trump are facing off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 campaign.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Vile Racism of Calling Biden a 'Weak Palestinian'

It is unprecedented for someone to call a sitting US president a “Palestinian,” and the use of the term as an insult is a measure of how racist American society is.

During CNN’s sh*tshow — I mean, debate — Trump at one point insisted that Biden let the Israelis “go” at the Palestinians:

    You got to ask him, as far as Israel and Hamas, Israel is the one that wants to go. He said the only one who wants to keep going is Hamas. Actually, Israel is the one, and you should them go and let them finish the job. He doesn’t want to do it. He has become like a Palestinian. But, they don’t like him because he is a very bad Palestinian. He is a weak one.

It is unprecedented for someone to call a sitting U.S. president a “Palestinian,” and the use of the term as an insult is a measure of how racist American society is.

As usual, Trump didn’t make much sense. Was he saying that Palestinians don’t like Biden because although he is a fellow Palestinian he is a weak one? Is he saying it is better to be a strong Palestinian?

One thing he got right (a broken clock is still right twice a day) is that Biden has incorrectly depicted the stance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding a hostage deal and peace plan of the sort ordered by the UN Security Council. Netanyahu and his full-on fascist cabinet members reject it out of hand. Although Biden blames the failure of peace negotiations on Hamas, the blame falls more squarely on Netanyahu (though Hamas also piled on demands that the US and Israel reject).

And it is ironic that someone universally despised as a genocide enabler by Palestinians should be thusly associated with them.

It occurred to me that using “Palestinian” in this way is analogous to how the N-word is used by white nationalists (or just white racists). Moreover, it has been used to shame white presidents in the same way.

Biden and Trump debate over war between Israel and

In 1901, President Teddy Roosevelt hosted presidential adviser Booker T. Washington and his wife for a dinner at the White House. The invitation outraged whites in the Jim Crow South. An anonymous racist with a rotten soul, calling himself “Unchained Poet,” published a piece of doggerel, “N**rs in the White House,” in a Missouri newspaper, and it was reprinted in a number of other newspapers through 1903.

According to Innerkwest, “Senator Benjamin Tillman from South Carolina remarked, “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n***r will necessitate our killing a thousand n***s in the South before they will learn their place again.”

In 1929, First Lady Lou Hoover, had a tea for wives of representatives in the House and she included in her invitation Jessie De Priest, the spouse of African-American congressman Oscar De Priest. The poem was reprinted again at that point.

It is well known that President Lyndon B. Johnson, although he passed the 1964 Civil Rights bill, referred to it in private as that “n***r” bill, and he was presumably echoing the complaints of his white Texas constituents.

Tillman’s linking of Roosevelt’s invitation with an unacceptable encouragement of African-Americans to step out of their “place” underlines one of the purposes of such racist epithets, which is to establish and reinforce a racist hierarchy.

Those at the bottom of the hierarchy, in authoritarian thinking, have to be kept down by violence, and may even be killed for this purpose. Some 4,000 African Americans were lynched by bigoted whites during the Jim Crow era in a standing exercise in terror.

Today it is the Palestinians who are killed with impunity, over 40,000 of them in Gaza if you count the civilians under the rubble.

But the problem of hatred of Palestinians is not limited to Israel. In the US, three Palestinian-American students in Vermont were shot down for wearing kuffiyehs and speaking Arabic. A six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was killed by a white landlord in Chicago, and his mother was wounded. In Texas at a public pool, a woman asked a Palestinian-American mother where she was from, and when the answer was Palestine, the woman tried to drown her children.

Kuffiyehs are being associated with Palestinian identity (lots of Middle Easterners wear them) and are increasingly being criminalized or associated with hate speech.

Congress is trying to pass a law forbidding the use of casualty counts by the Gaza Ministry of Health, attempting to erase an entire genocide. The Ministry of Health is staffed with professionals and its numbers have been used in the past by the US government and are even acknowledged by many Israelis.

That’s the same Congress that kept Black people enslaved until 1863 and that did nothing to stop Southern states from rolling back Reconstruction and denying the vote to African-Americans until 1964.

© 2023 Juan Cole