Politics

Joe Biden compares plight of Palestinians under Israel to that of Irish Catholics under Britain – The Irish Times



US president Joe Biden has compared the plight of Palestinians under Israel to that of Irish Catholics under Britain, in a speech on his first official visit to the Middle East.

President Biden opened his speech at the East Jerusalem Hospital Network Event to refer to his own Irish-American background.

“My background and the background of my family is Irish American, and we have a long history of — not fundamentally unlike the Palestinian people with Great Britain and their attitude toward Irish Catholics over the years, for 400 years.

He then went on to quote from a Seamus Heaney poem ‘The Cure at Troy’, which although he said was “classically Irish”, it “could fit Palestinians”.

“There’s a great poem from ‘The Cure at Troy’ — a paragraph. It goes like this — and it’s classically Irish, but it also could fit Palestinians. It says: ‘History [teaches us not to] hope On this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime [That] longed-for tidal wave Of justice [rises] up, And hope and history rhyme.’

“‘Hope and history rhyme.’ It is my prayer that we’re reaching one of those moments where hope and history rhyme.”

President Biden then told the audience of nurses and doctors about his own personal experience with healthcare professionals, when his first wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash.

“My wife and daughter were killed and my boys were trapped in a vehicle for three hours when a tractor-trailer hit them. And doctors saved their lives, but the nurses made them want to live, and cared for them every day, and knew — knew when they were ready and when they weren’t ready,” he said.

President Biden also referred to surgeries that he underwent following two cranial aneurysms and how his son was cared for by nurses when he returned from Iraq.

Later in the day, President Joe Biden bumped fists with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman when the two men met for the first time in Jeddah on Friday, effectively putting an end to his efforts to shun the Saudi leader.

The low-key greeting underscored the tense circumstances of the trip, with Biden seeking Saudi promises to help lower oil prices, but wanting to avoid any appearance of being too friendly with Prince Mohammed, 36, whom he’d vowed to ostracise for the 2018 killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting between the two leaders appeared designed to sidestep any strains to the relationship. At the beginning, members of the US media were brought in — but not allowed to use live transmission equipment, or boom mics that would have allowed reporters to hear what the leaders were saying.

Microphones stationed on the large table where the American and Saudi delegations sat were turned down, so that the opening greetings from both the president and crown prince were impossible to hear.

The two leaders also didn’t answer when reporters shouted questions about whether the Saudis owed an apology to Khashoggi’s family, or if Biden still considered the kingdom a “pariah as he said on the campaign trail.

The muted proceedings contrasted with Biden’s effusive handshakes and hugs as he met Israeli officials earlier this week. Biden wasn’t supposed to shake hands with any foreign officials during his first Middle East trip, a precaution aides had said was meant to protect him from Covid-19. -Additional reporting Reuters



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