'This is apartheid' billboards to greet Joe Biden in the West Bank

Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem welcomes US president with campaign to end support for Israel

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The Israeli-occupied West Bank has been filled with billboards carrying stark messages for US President Joe Biden, such as “this is apartheid,” in reference to the growing and increasingly militarised divide between Israeli and Palestinian communities.

The billboards were organised by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, that believes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, both in the Palestinian territories and inside Israel itself, should be considered a form of apartheid.

Billboards and digital screens were put up in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah ahead of Mr Biden’s visit.

The US president will spend two days in Jerusalem for talks with Israeli leaders before meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

The talks with Mr Abbas will mark the highest level of face-to-face contact between the US and the Palestinians since former president Donald Trump took a tough approach to the relationship on taking office in 2017.

“US policy treats Israel as though it were running two separate regimes side by side: a permanent democracy [within the country’s sovereign borders] and a temporary military occupation [in the occupied Palestinian Territories],” said a statement by the group.

B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El Ad accused various administrations in Washington of tolerating Israeli human rights abuses “without demanding accountability” and urged the US to change its attitude towards Israel.

“The US must acknowledge that the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by an apartheid regime, and change its attitude to Israel accordingly,” he said.

“When the attitude changes, so will the regime,” he said.

Upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport Mr Biden participated in a formal welcome ceremony and received a briefing on Israel’s Iron Dome and Iron Beam air defence systems.

A woman walks past a poster put up by Israeli rights group B'Tselem in the West Bank city of Bethlehem ahead of US President Joe Biden’s arrival. AFP

He will visit Jerusalem for a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to Holocaust victims in the Second World War.

Mr Biden will hold talks with Saudi officials and attend a summit of regional allies at the weekend, attending a meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council, plus Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan, known as the GCC+3.

His trip aims to promote regional stability, deepen Israel's integration in the region and counter Iranian influence.

Updated: July 15, 2022, 8:16 AM