As President Biden is visiting Israel, it can’t be clearer – if it ever was unclear – how much this presidency cares about human rights.
Yet if you’ve been following American politics, you must know it’s very rarely about human rights, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
Just last month, in June, President Biden was inviting Latin American countries to his Summit of the Americas, quickly to be called a ‘Summit of Exclusion’.
Why? Because three countries – Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba – were intentionally not invited.
That led to more countries (Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Honduras) boycotting the event, not only making it an imperialist parade of “America’s backyard“, but a failed one.
Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba, according to President Biden, have a bad human rights record. They’re not entirely democratic. They’re not to be partnered with.
And here we are, just a month later, seeing President Biden happily shaking hands with Israeli politicians and swearing his support for Israel:
” You need not be a Jew to be Zionist. <…> We invest in each other, we dream together.”
The investment part is definitely true: it comes in billions each year.
And these would be beautiful words to embrace but for some potential issues.
Apartheid is one of them.
Ethnic cleansing needed to maintain a Jewish majority in the country is another one.
A brutal military occupation.
Palestinian children being arrested and kept in Israeli jails. Sometimes killed.
Journalists being targetted and murdered, including US citizens.
A 15-year-old siege on Gaza, which comes with occasional bombings and thousands of civilians killed. The poverty, the electricity shortages, the lack of clean water, the children with PTSD.
The daily humiliation that comes with second-class citizenship.
But that is all known — it would be difficult not to know it by now.
So if there’s a gap between knowledge and actions, what’s in that gap?
It’s not necessarily not caring.
It’s not wanting to lose potential supporters. It’s being afraid to anger all the sides financially benefiting from this support, like military contractors.
In other words, it’s politics.
In it, there is no room for Palestinian rights, speaking out against a military occupation, or the expansion of illegal settlements.
As Gideon Levy noted in his article,
Soldiers serving in the occupied territories know very well that nearly anything they do is treated as permissible: shooting, killing, abusing, humiliating. They will never be punished, not by Israel nor by anyone else. Every day there are more killings, politically motivated arrests without trial, collective punishment, home demolitions, land confiscation, torture and humiliation, settlement expansion, and exploitation of natural resources.
No other country has anything like Israel’s spectrum of impunity. No other army is treated as guiltlessly, despite perpetuating an occupation and committing all the avoidable and unavoidable crimes that are part and parcel of this illegal situation.
The next stop on Joe Biden’s trip is Saudi Arabia.
This is nothing new: US-Saudi relations have been almost as unshakeable as the support the US has been showing to Israel. The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, by Saudi agents, can be placed in the same category as the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh — crimes that will remain unquestioned by the US, pushed under the big rug of Saudi and Israeli impunity.
If the killings of famous journalists result in zero actions, why would we ever think that systemic killings of unknown Palestinians would result in anything more?
“They’re not entirely democratic. They’re not to be partnered with” is one big sham.
We have to keep on pointing to this hypocrisy until it gets uncomfortable.
We have to continue saying “Mr. President, this is apartheid”.
Mr. President, these are besieged people.
Mr. President, these are Palestinian houses.
Mr. President, these are just children.
In case you’ve missed it, here is my episode on the topic of apartheid (you can find the original post with references here):