By Joel Pollak
(FEBRUARY 1, 2024 / BREITBART) Jewish groups and legal experts are slamming President Joe Biden’s executive order Thursday applying sanctions against what the White House calls “extremist settler violence” in the West Bank, saying that it effectively encourages more Hamas terrorism.
As Breitbart News reported, Biden issued the executive order as he was en route to Michigan, a key swing state in the election, with a large Arab and Muslim population. Leaders of those groups have threatened not to vote for Biden in 2024 because of his perceived support for Israel in the war against Hamas, which started when Hamas launched a terror attack against Israel on October 7. (As Breitbart News has noted, many leading voices in those communities are themselves “extremist” on the issue.)
The order would apply financial sanctions to individuals committing acts of violence in the West Bank (known to many Israelis as Judea and Samaria), who are already subject to prosecution and punishment under Israeli law.
But the executive order goes much further than that. It could also be used to sanction political leaders and political parties with no direct link to violence; it could also be used to sanction anyone who verbally defends settlers accused of violence.
The language of the executive order claims, without evidence, that settler violence has reached “high levels.” In fact, Israeli officials say, it has declined. Statistically, there are also many times more attacks by Palestinians against Jews than vice versa.
As Israeli legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich notes, the order “does not require acts of violence — anyone vaguely involved in doing or not doing anything the [White House] thinks undermines ‘peace’ and ‘security’” can be punished. It is also only being applied to Israeli Jews — not to Palestinians — even though the Palestinian Authority actively encourages violence against Jews through the “pay-to-slay” policy, which gives stipends to terrorists imprisoned in Israel, and pensions to the families of dead terrorists.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) issued a blistering statement, noting that Biden’s executive order created a false moral equivalence between Hamas and Israeli settlers, the overwhelming majority of whom are peaceful and law-abiding. The RJC said:
Biden has to know that this executive order will be taken by many as suggesting a moral equivalence between Hamas terrorists, who massacred, raped, and kidnapped defenseless civilians, and a small number of Israelis whose reported actions are investigated and prosecuted where appropriate by the authorities.
Let’s be clear: we stand unequivocally against criminal violence – there is no moral equivalence because there can be no equivalence between a democracy governed by the rule of law and a brutally corrupt terrorist organization.
This first-of-its-kind executive order sends precisely the wrong message at absolutely the worst time, emboldening the terrorists and undermining the Jewish state. Joe Biden has needlessly damaged the US-Israel alliance yet again.
Yaakov Katz, former editor of the Jerusalem Post, called the executive order a “terrible mistake” that “is meant to create a moral equivalency between Hamas and Jewish attacks” and showed a “deep confusion” within the White House. He added:
Hamas is a terrorist organization that rules Gaza, has tens of thousands of fighters and is in possession of tens of thousands of rockets. It has massacred over 1,000 Israelis and is state run. The other is a tiny fringe and scattered group of people that has maybe at the most been involved in a handful of violent incidents that are mostly still under investigation.
These violent settlers should all be arrested and tried by Israel, but to issue this executive order now and to impose sanctions is to try and tell a story of how the US is tough on both sides.
Keep in mind that Biden is off to Michigan today. Home to the largest Arab population in the US. Michigan is a swing state. This is about politics.
More importantly though, there are not two sides here and this is the mistake that Biden is making. He is sending a dangerous message to the world, one that will sadly embolden terrorism.
Historian Sara Yael Hirshhorn seconded Katz’s analysis, saying that “it’s clear the Biden admin has little internal understanding of the phenonemon.”
According to the Times of Israel, the executive order is so broad that it could be used to “cut off the entire settler movement from US financial services,” in the view of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace managing director Joel Braunold.
That has long been a goal of the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, which has long sought to target the Jewish communities in Judea and Samara. Likewise, the left-wing group J Street, which often adopts anti-Israel positions, and which sought as early as 2009 to urge the U.S. Treasury to investigate Jewish non-profit groups allocating charitable contributions to projects in Judea and Samaria, welcomed Biden’s executive order.
In a press release, J Street made the exact moral equivalency that critics warned about: “Just as the United States has rightly doubled down on sanctioning terrorists and terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that have targeted Israelis for decades, so too must it take steps against those who engage in terrorism against Palestinians,” J Street said, calling for sanctions to be “vigorously and consistently enforced.”
The controversy recalls the outrage over the outgoing Obama-Biden administration’s decision to allow the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution in 2016 declaring the Israeli presence — including in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem — to be illegal under international law. President Donald Trump responded, upon taking office, by visiting the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so, affirming Israeli sovereignty there.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News.
This article was originally published in Breitbart and can be viewed here.