Like obscenities, you know kishkes when you see them.

Not actual kishkes, the Yiddish term for guts that usually references a dish of stuffed innards. Metaphorical kishkes are about whether you feel something in your gut. It is difficult to quantify but easy to recognize. And so, for all eight years of his presidency, Barack Obama was dogged by “the kishkes test”—the question of whether his statements of support for Israel were genuine or merely poll-tested fair-weather politicking. It’s a way of asking: Does he really get it, what all this means to the Jewish people? Is it important to him, too, on a visceral level?

Obama hated talk of the kishkes test because he failed it. And no amount of arguing about generous foreign aid or insisting that “all [my] friends in Chicago were Jewish” can un-fail the kishkes test.

During those eight years in office, Obama’s vice president was Joe Biden. And now, in his own presidency, Biden has routinely passed the kishkes test with flying colors. It’s a study in contrasts. Because a new president relies to such an extent on staffers and advisers from the last president of his own party, you can tell when new policies are driven from the top.

“I am a Zionist,” President Biden said at last night’s White House celebration of Hanukkah, perhaps the most nationalistic of all Jewish holidays, commemorating the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greek Seleucid empire in the second century BCE and the restoration of the holy temple and Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem.

It’s not the first time Biden has pronounced himself a Zionist. In fact, last night he preceded the declaration by noting that he gets in trouble each time he says it. Although he was unspecific about the nature of that “trouble,” it’s easy to imagine that political trouble is part of it, especially at a time like this. Israel’s defensive war in Gaza is bringing to the surface the hostility many of his fellow Democrats feel toward Israel. A new Wall Street Journal poll finds that 24 percent of Democrats sympathize more with the Palestinians than the Israelis in the conflict and 17 percent sympathize more with the Israelis. And it’s even worse than it looks, because the current war is against Hamas and it began with the terrorist group’s brutal unprovoked massacre of Israelis on Oct. 7. If in this context Democrats still favor the Palestinians, Biden is standing against very strong currents in his own party.

On display at the White House Hanukkah party was a menorah saved from the rubble of a house in Kfar Azza, one of the communities hardest hit by the Hamas slaughter. The White House leaned into the symbolism with a note that read: “It is a reminder of the flame of faith that endures from tragedy and persecution, and is a symbol of the Jewish people’s eternal spirit of resilience and hope that continues to shine its light on the world.”

Such a display while the conflict still rages sends a clear message.

Obama, too, used the occasion of Hanukkah to send clear messages—of the opposite kind. On the eve of his last Hanukkah in office in 2016, Obama sent out his Hanukkah greeting to the Jewish community. It was full of pablum about religious liberty and the like. That same day, Obama made a move against the Jewish state that went far beyond confirming his “kishkes test” failure. It displayed a petulant animosity toward Israel not seen in the White House in decades.

Obama ordered his UN ambassador to abstain from a vote on a resolution declaring the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem to be occupied Palestinian territory and the Jews’ presence in their eternal capital to be illegitimate. The resolution was not a surprise to the administration—the U.S. and the UK had advised its sponsor states on how to word it so that the West would stand aside and wave it through.

This was less than a month before Obama left office and was therefore also a crude sabotaging of the political norms surrounding the American transfer of power. The move was a premeditated denial of Jewish rights and history, carried out on the same day that Obama marked the holiday of Hanukkah, which is centered on Jewish rights and history in Jerusalem. As such, it was about more than Israel; it was a parting shot at American Jewry too.

It is worth remembering this history when evaluating Joe Biden’s Mideast policies. His record contains its share of missteps. Indeed, the current war in Gaza is not unrelated to his administration’s gestures at reviving Iranian power projection in the region. But it is easy to see how differently this war might have been handled by a past Democratic president—and, polls unfortunately suggest, a future Democratic president as well.

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