Michel Moushabeck: Biden delivers wrong message in the Middle East

  • President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 28, 2022. AP

Thursday, August 04, 2022

President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East and his meetings with leaders of apartheid and authoritarian regimes required strong leadership and bold actions. Sadly, it was short on both.

Many of us remember what Biden said during his campaign and after about “upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.” We applauded him when he said that “the United States will not tolerate extraterritorial threats and harassment against dissidents and activists by any government.”

Yet, in both Saudi Arabia and in Israel he kept silent. Upon arrival in Bethlehem, President Biden was greeted with billboards that said “Mr. President: This is Apartheid,” courtesy of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group. But Biden chose to remain silent about Israeli crimes of apartheid, including the brutal siege of Gaza, the building of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian lands, Israel’s systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists, the arrests of human rights defenders, the shutting down human rights organizations, and the numerous other human rights violations — crimes the entire international human rights community (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and others) have well-documented.

This administration, like those before it, continues to shield Israel from accountability for its violations of international law and enables its settler-colonialism and apartheid by providing it with billions of dollars in military funding. Biden’s pledge “to stand with Jewish and democratic State of Israel” — which excludes the rights of Palestinians — is neither Jewish nor democratic. His failure to mention the imminent injustice faced by the thousands of Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta region that are being threatened with forced expulsions and home demolitions is a disgrace.

Remember that it was the U.S. and not Iran that pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Arms Deal and that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. The threats by the trio (Israel-US-Saudi Arabia) to strike Iran will only serve to escalate the possibility of war and increase the suffering of the people in the region. Biden missed a great opportunity by delivering the wrong message to both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Michel Moushabeck