Within hours of the horrible attack on Israel by Hamas militants, Republicans began placing the blame on President Joe Biden. Presidential candidate and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott cited “Biden’s weakness” for inviting the attack. Former vice president and current presidential wannabe Mike Pence was one of many Republicans who immediately tried to draw a connection between the attack and the release of impounded Iranian funds. Despite many attempts by Republicans to imply some of the money might have been funneled from Iran to Hamas, even Fox News admits that this is completely untrue.
Anyone whose first thought on seeing the terrible images out of Israel is, “How can I use this to gain an advantage on my political opponents?” is intrinsically unfit to hold any position of authority. And any willingness to engage with enemies to gain that momentary edge is dangerous to Israel, to Ukraine, and to America.
Also within hours of the attack, Russian war bloggers began posting videos and images that they claimed showed an Israeli Merkava tank being destroyed by Hamas forces. Many of these images included claims that the tank had been destroyed by weapons sold to Hamas by corrupt Ukrainian officials.
None of this is true. The tank in the image is a Russian tank destroyed in eastern Ukraine last week. The video of the destroyed tank was actually part of a series of images showing an attempted Russian advance west of the occupied city of Kreminna in Ukraine.
It’s part of a larger effort to tie funding of Ukraine to events in Israel. That includes Russian state media already making claims that U.S. weapons may have been used by Hamas.
Republicans like Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, seeking to create a nonexistent link between Biden and Hamas, pointed to a Wall Street Journal “exclusive report” on Sunday that claimed Iranian officials both helped with the planning of the attack and gave Hamas the “green light” to proceed. Citing “senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah,” the Journal reported that Iran conducted multiple meetings with the leadership of both militant groups.
There is no doubt that Iran has direct involvement with Hamas. It has funded the group, provided it with weapons, helped train militants, provided technical information for designing rockets and bombs, and assisted with smuggling weapons into Gaza.
However, the Journal report is being used to support a narrative on the right that paints the attack on Israel as a direct action by Iran. This is being widely accepted even though the report includes unlikely details (such as Iran’s foreign minister directly participating in meetings at which a secret attack on Israel was planned), and in spite of the fact that the sources for the article are reportedly anonymous members of Hamas and Hezbollah. The reason for that is simple enough: Blaming the attack on Iran is the first step toward falsely blaming it on Biden.
However, The Wall Street Journal article is contradicted by both the State Department, which says it has seen no evidence of any involvement from Tehran, and by Israeli military sources, who say there was no indication of Iranian involvement in the attack launched from Gaza.
And again, when it comes to the $6 billion in released funds:
These were Iranian funds being held in South Korea. None of it involved “taxpayer money” or a single dime of U.S. funds, by any description.
The deal requires that the funds be held in an account in Qatar, where a third-party arbiter will oversee any distribution.
Use of the funds is limited to approved humanitarian expenditures.
None of the money has been spent.
There is no way to paint this as Biden providing any funds to Iran that might have gone to Hamas. No way except by simply lying—which hasn’t stopped Republicans from making this claim.
Russia wants to use events in Israel as a way to block further U.S. support of Ukraine. Republicans want to use events in Israel to advance false attacks against President Biden. Expect those two efforts to heavily overlap.
Conspiracy-seeding ties are already being spewed by figures like Donald Trump Jr., who insisted that he had seen more footage from the Hamas attack on Israel than the entire Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was an absolutely ludicrous claim, but it’s already being repeated by other Republicans on social media and backed up by Elon Musk. That’s just a continuation of a broader conspiracy theory among the most pro-Russia Republicans that the war in Ukraine is not real and is actually just an excuse to move American money around.
Republicans are weaving a narrative that argues support for Ukraine is somehow dangerous to Israel. They’re doing this even though Russia is allied with Iran and has its own ties to Hamas. As Radio Free Europe notes, “Russia's ties to Hamas are well-documented, as are its ties to Hamas's main backer, Iran.”
Those who are trying to equate supporting Ukraine with supporting Hamas have their facts completely backward.
In fact, Israel has been supportive of Ukraine in its fight against Russian invaders, and earlier this year promised to increase its support. Hamas is tied to both Iran and Russia. Russia is tied to both Iran and Hamas. Expect Ukraine and Israel to grow closer over this shared experience of tragedy and loss, in which both countries have faced ghoulish opponents willing to launch the most gruesome attacks against civilians.
Months after Vladimir Putin’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, a pro-Putin Russian politician went on state television to predict that events in the Middle East would make the world forget about Ukraine. “In 2024, there simply won’t be any elections [in Ukraine] because there won’t be a country called Ukraine. You’re not taking into account the situation in the Middle East. Such events will unravel there that everyone will forget what Ukraine is. Things are moving toward World War III.”
This isn’t some example of extraordinary prescience, and it’s certainly not evidence that Russia directly pulled the trigger on the Hamas attack to distract from its ongoing attacks on civilians in Ukraine. However, it’s very much an example of what Russia wants to happen. And it fits in snugly with the kind of “End Times” mythology that the right frequently applies to any event in the Middle East.
Some of the most widely followed accounts among MAGA Republicans have already blown way past speculating about Ukrainian weapons being used by Hamas, or even theorizing that some of those weapons may have come from America. They’re just blaming the attack directly on the American government.
That account with over 350,000 followers on X (formerly known as Twitter) not only blames the Hamas attack on the U.S., but insists that it was all somehow done on orders from Barack Obama. Expect more such conspiracy theories, many more false claims, and for the worst of Republicans to continue using the dead in Israel for political gain.
Both Israel and Ukraine are the victims of hideous and unprovoked assaults on civilians. Supporting one in no way lessens or threatens support for the other. And the people now showing corpses of dead children killed at a peace festival in an effort to show that their ideological opponent is weak are only proving that they are despicable.