"An open letter to Joe Biden."
Complicit in 'the crime of crimes.'
Peter Dimock, the distinguished novelist, previously graced our pages two years ago this week, when Deep Vellum, the Dallas publisher, brought out Daybook from Sheep Meadow: The Notebooks of Tallis Martinson, the most recent of his innovative works. Dimock’s novels are marked by, among much else, an acute attentiveness to the power of language and a vigorous insistence that the art of fiction must remain always cognizant of politics and history. Here we are pleased to publish his direct address to President Biden concerning the Israeli genocide in Gaza and its implications for each and every one of us, in whose names the Biden regime provides its support to apartheid Israel.
The White House, Washington. 22 November 2023
Dear President Biden,
Thank you for the kindness of your letter of November 15th in response to my plea to use all the power at your disposal to bring about a ceasefire in Israel’s U.S.–supported and –enabled genocide against the Palestine population of Gaza following Hamas’s attack against Israel on October 7, 2023.
I realize your intention was not to invite further correspondence from me. I am nevertheless compelled to trouble you further in the sincere hope that this letter will remind you of your obligations under international humanitarian law and the Genocide Convention, to which the U.S. is a signatory along with 148 other nations.
Under the Genocide Convention the United States government and its citizens are required to intervene to redress the commission of genocide as “the crime of crimes.” Signatories to the Genocide Convention are legally obligated to intervene to stop genocide and to prosecute its perpetrators to the full extent of the law as a matter of jus cogens, that is, the peremptory norm, in times of peace and in times of war, against “violent attacks with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”
Current U.S. policy lends unqualified and unquestioning support—in word and deed—for what Israeli leaders have announced is their determination to slaughter unlimited numbers of Palestinian civilians. Under your leadership, American policy constitutes the absolute evil of the crime of genocide. Such evil should never be invoked in support of a nation’s “right to defend itself.” Not to oppose the crime of genocide is to join in its commission. If genocide is not opposed now, it will forever become the norm in international relations. In retrospect, the logic of exterminist Nazi political ideology will have proven itself not to have been an aberration—the temporary and unrepeated suspension of humanity’s implicit universal valuing of every and all life—but the fulfillment of the depravity of political power’s assertion that the unlimited exercise of the violence of unanswerable force finally constitutes power’s only universally recognized relevant currency of self-justification.
In the present instance of genocide your administration’s policies enact a willingness to create—and then to exercise demented global leadership within—an unlivable world. I sense you do this in the name of an ill-advised claim to an entitlement to exercise, with unopposable legitimacy, unlimited “full spectrum dominance” in global affairs through American national militarized force.
Your and your administration’s active participation in the commission of genocide over the last forty-six days implicitly makes every American citizen complicit in that crime to the extent that we do not directly and actively oppose your policies. By refusing to investigate, prosecute, and intervene to prevent the genocide now unfolding in Gaza—as is required by law under the Genocide Convention—you force every American to participate in the unmaking of our moral and ethical selves and of our coherence as a democratic people dedicated to a universal pursuit of human emancipation and universal historical justice.
The complicity of every American with genocide implicit in your administration’s policies destroys our political, ethical, and moral world as a livable form of human solidarity and forces us all into a necessary consideration of first principles. I do not believe that anyone pursuing the policies you are now pursuing regarding Israel’s genocidal acts in Gaza can be elected President of the United States on November 5, 2024. At least I hope that is the case.
As I suspect you inwardly know, the inhumanity of your present conduct of American foreign policy will surely cost you the next election. I suspect you also inwardly know that by betraying your own humanity and compromising that of every American citizen, you are opening the doors to the unspeakable criminality represented by the full-blown fascism of Donald Trump.
For all our sakes, I beg you to change course in giving enabling support to the present Israeli government in perpetrating the crime of genocide in Gaza. It is not too late to do the right thing.
Thank you for considering this second request to do everything in your power to bring an end to the crime of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza by forcing upon the Israeli government an immediate and permanent ceasefire.
Peter Dimock is the author of three novels published by Dalkey Archive Press and Deep Vellum Publishing. He is a former senior acquiring editor at Random House and Columbia University Press. Authors he has worked with include Toni Morrison, Amartya Sen, Angela Davis, Paul Kennedy, and Siddharth Kara.
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