Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem greeted President Biden on his arrival in Jerusalem with a billboard campaign proclaiming, “Mr. President, this is Apartheid.”
B’Tselem concluded in a report last year that there is a single governing authority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, which rules over 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians, but systematically treats the Palestinians as inferior based on their ethnicity, the very definition of Apartheid in international law. That is, the organization ruled out of court the typical Biden rhetoric about a democratic Israel and a small temporary occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Over 50 years is not temporary and 5 million occupied people is not a small statistic. The Palestinians are the largest group of stateless people in the world, and they are being kept that way deliberately the the Israeli state.
h/t B’Tselem .
The Executive Director of B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, said: “The human rights community has reached an updated consensus, shared across the board by Palestinian, Israeli and international organizations, that this reality constitutes apartheid. One US Administration after another has continued to back Israel with international support and immunity, allowing it to violate human rights without demanding accountability. The US must acknowledge that the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterreanean Sea is governed by an apartheid regime, and change its attitude to Israel accordingly. When the attitude changes – so will the regime.”
B’Tselem is unlikely to get a hearing from Biden, whose image of Israel was set in the 1950s and 1960s before it seized the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, and who has never shown any real understanding of the Palestinian plight. Although Biden and his cabinet speak about a “two-state solution,” no such thing is any longer possible, given the hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters on Palestinian land and given the determination of Israel’s leaders that it never happen. Biden came up through politics in the Democratic Party in close cooperation with US Israel lobbies, and sees Zionists as his political allies and supporters.
The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reported on President Biden’s visit to Israel Wednesday, as seen from the vantage of Israelis of Palestinian heritage (about 20% of the population).
It says that the Occupation police dispersed throughout Jerusalem from early morning. A thousand Israeli flags were raised in the city to welcome President Biden, who had never reversed his predecessor Donald Trump’s recognition of the entire city as the capital of Israel. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their proposed Palestinian state.
Biden spoke of Israelis’ right to Palestine and affirmed that one does not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist. He added that there is a need for more peace and more stability, and these matters are of the greatest importance for the peoples of the region.
(In the Arabic press, the term “Zionist” has the connotations of aggressive expansionism and the project of displacing or Occupying indigenous Arabs. So for Palestinians this would be like Biden going to Moscow and declaring himself in solidarity with Great Russian nationalism.)
He added that although he knows that there is no talk about the two-state solution, it is the best path to guarantee equality, freedom, flourishing and democracy to both states.
Biden stressed that the US and Israel are united in their common values and vision, and pledged to push for the increased integration of Israel into the region.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid for his part emphasized the need for a “strong global alliance” with Washington against Iran and said the two leaders would be speaking about “the necessity to reforge a global alliance to stand against the Iranian nuclear program and to build a security and economic infrastructure with the peoples of the Middle East in the wake of the Abraham Accords and the achievements of the Negev Summit.”
The two also explored frameworks for technological and security cooperation. They discussed the challenges of the climate emergency and of confronting future epidemics.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog praised Biden for his lifetime of true friendship for Israel. He said that the gales of peace are blowing from North Africa, passing by the Mediterranean, to the Gulf.
On Friday Biden will go to East Jerusalem to visit a Palestinian hospital and meet with Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, after which he will head to Saudi Arabia directly.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that Biden wants a consulate in Jerusalem (for Palestinians) but that talks are still ongoing. He said that Biden would not be launching any initiatives to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
In other words, the “two-state solution” is an empty mantra to ward off difficult questions about Apartheid, not an actual strategic goal to be reached by practical means.
Worse, Biden is in real danger of being trapped by Israeli and Gulf hawks into a posture of war with Iran.
Iran has a civilian nuclear enrichment program but no known weapons program. Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads, and the Gulf states benefit from a Pakistani nuclear umbrella as well as from the American nuclear umbrella. So the depiction of Iran, which has no atomic bomb and is not assessed to be working toward one, as the proliferator is quite bizarre.