US president Joe Biden compares Britain’s torment of Irish Catholics to that of the plight of Palestinians today. An eyebrow-raising statement in Tel Aviv.
President Biden has hailed his Irish roots during a meeting with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog whose father was born in Belfast.
The US president is in the Middle East for the first time since taking office in early 2021 and arrived in Israel on Wednesday to hold talks with Israeli leaders.
He has also met with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank ahead of talks with Saudi leaders and other Gulf allies in Jeddah on Saturday.
Britain’s torment of Irish
“I — 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,” Mr Biden said in a speech on Friday.
“But my colleagues, when I was a U.S. senator, used to always joke with me that I was always quoting Irish poets when I was on the floor of the Senate.
“And they thought I did it because I’m Irish. That’s not the reason I did it; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.
Britain may have forgotten the past, but across the Irish Sea, Britain’s torment of Irish Catholics – from the Great Famine to the War of Independence – still shapes attitudes today.
The Cure at Troy
He then quoted from the Seamus Heaney poem ‘The Cure at Troy’ which he described as “classically Irish, but it also could fit Palestinians” to make the point that hope springs eternal.
During the US president’s tour to the middle east, President Biden had a crucial meeting to repair one of the world’s most important diplomatic relationships, with Saudi Arabia.
It began blissfully with a fist bump on Friday as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden at a royal palace.
There was little evidence of any warmth between the leaders, and none of the backslapping or smiles that Biden or the crown prince usually display when greeting other leaders.