Biden’s Janitorial Venture in Israel and Saudi Arabia

Photograph Source: Palácio do Planalto – CC BY 2.0

I have seen them in China, in the US, and across Europe.

Dressed in blue or tan uniforms and pushing janitorial cleaning carts, these hard-working men and women (in Europe women clean men’s restrooms) go about cleaning urinals, toilets, mirrors, and restroom walls, doors, and floors. The trademark blue plastic gloves and disposable paper caps are a sharp contrast to the facial expressions of these resolute folks who, in addition to wiping and cleaning human grime, have to mop floors and fish out cigarette butts, gumballs, and a variety of face masks from urinals and floors. And the latter is a sign of  COVID-times.

With stoic, almost robotic and often resigned facial expressions, these men and women perform their menial tasks to help put food on their tables, pay medical bills, and pay rent and utilities.

The only real smile I had ever witnessed by a public rest room janitor was at the Charlotte, NC airport. The janitor, a man in his sixties and barely over 5.2 inches tall and a conspicuous limp, was straining to push the janitorial cart across the scarred and faded terrazzo floor.

Perhaps because the first 31 years of my life I experienced the uncertainty and insecurity of being a stateless refugee, I’ve always had an affinity for socially estranged people, especially for people with physical, social, or developmental challenges. Something about this man’s demeanor rivetted and gripped at me – very hard. I reached into my billfold and handed him a $20 bill and stated: “Thank you for what you are doing.” And I’d never seen a more pleasant and grateful smile.  Befuddled by my having recognized and affirmed his personhood and diligent work, he embraced me, tightly.

And that embrace lingers, even to this day.

Having adeptly cleaned (with much glee and enthusiasm) AIPAC and Israel’s urinals for over 40 years, Joseph Biden is about to clean the Israeli and Saudi Arabian urinals – with  only one difference: while AIPAC and Israel’s urinals are your American Standard porcelain wall-mounted variety, the Marcel Duchamp 1917 readymade Fountain variety,  Saudi Arabia’s specially designed, custom-made, timed-to-flush urinals are 24K solid gold  of the 1986 Sherry Levine appropriated homage to  Duchamp’s Fountain (Buddha) class.

On July 4, 2022, CounterPunch ran a column under the title “Biden’s Meeting With MBS Becoming a Gift to an Autocrat.”

Penned by Kenneth Roth, the article’s lede hooked the reader. Roth rightfully stated the following: “President Joe Biden is bringing the Saudi crown prince in from the cold. Mohammed bin Salman’s human rights record remains abysmal.”

While I whole-heartedly agree with Roth’s assessment of MBS (Muhammad Bin Salman, better known as Al Munshar/The Saw) and Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights, Mr. Roth leaves the reader begging for a balanced view of Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, an apartheid state with an unparalleled record of “abysmal … human rights” violations.

With all its encyclopedic record of genocidal mass killings, wars, pogroms, land theft, and violations of Human Rights, Israel has never “been in the cold.” If anything, Israel has always been America’s darling, the favored child who will forever be defended, supported, and shielded from accountability in international fora and tribunals. To wit the Biden Administration’s glossing over the heinous-in-cold-blood assassination of  Shireen Abu Akhle, an Al Jazeera reporter who is also an American citizen. And, as though this were not enough, and in a heartless Nazi-like tactic, the murderous soldiers invaded her home and the hospital prior to the funeral, the culmination of which was the assault on the funeral procession and the beating of the pall bearers and mourners.

Except for sanitized snippets, the American media has, by and large, egregiously swept this brazen violation of human decency under the proverbial rug.

A Jerusalem friend recently informed me that while her 60 something-year-old son was walking behind the casket carrying the traditional funerary floral crucifix (a Palestinian Christian tradition), he was brutally assaulted. Dressed in full battledress (helmet, heavy weaponry, stun grenades, and a baton), the soldier deliberately struck the mourner’s hand to dislodge the crucifix and fell it to the ground – something Israeli settlers have mastered. The blow was so severe, Ameen (not his real name) had to be treated in the hospital’s emergency room and suffers to this day.

Ameen is an accomplished musician.

And, while Saudi Arabia, much like Israel,  with its army of lobbyists, has finally mastered the “pay to play game” to sway US foreign policy, the American tax payers shell out billions of hard-earned dollars to Israel in the “Israel gets paid to play scheme,” a stratagem in which US politicians from both sides of the aisle are rewarded with generous AIPAC donations and large blocks of votes in states where it counts.

That Joe Biden’s pro forma lashing out (on the campaign trail and in his first year) at MBS’s involvement in the barbaric killing of Saudi Journalist Adnan Khashoggi is to be guardedly lauded, his visit to Saudi Arabia exposes him for the hypocritical chameleon-like politician he’s always been. While In Saudi Arabia Biden will no doubt get down on his knees and beg MBS to unwind the oil spigot, a routine political stooping to conquer. Biden’s  servility to  the rich and powerful includes a long list of donors, patrons, corporations, and special interest and ethnic groups.

While Biden’s trip to both Israel and Saudi Arabia is intended to shore up support for his Ukraine policy and draw them into the “stay-away from China” camp,  the president of the most powerful nation in the world is going to get down on his knees and beg the Israelis and Saudis to “please allow me to close a deal with Iran on the nuclear agreement abrogated by my predecessor.” Further, his pitch to the Saudis  to increase oil production is a quid pro quo guarantying them billions of dollars’ worth of arms to continue their carnage on Yemen.

While covering an impending routine May 11, 2022, Israeli assault on the town of Jenin, Al Jazeera Reporter Shireen Abu Akhle was brutally assassinated by an Israeli sniper. After denials and deflections by Israel, and after obfuscating State Department remarks  by spokesman Ned Price, the Biden administration orchestrated the perfect coverup narrative. Inconclusive test resultsbullet is too damaged, uncertainty about the video footage and other American hasbara – all in defense of and a shellacking of Israel’s culpability. So much for Biden’s American integrity in promoting democracy and American values abroad.

On July 8, 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh’s family penned a letter to Joseph Biden. In addition to expressing their dismay at the US’s findings, the family told Biden that “Your administration’s engagement has served to whitewash Shireen’s killing and perpetuate impunity. It is as if you expect the world and us to now just move on. Silence would have been better.”

Further, The Akhle family ended their letter  by requesting that Biden “Meet with [them]  during [his] upcoming visit and hear directly from [them] about [their] concerns and demands for justice.” Their letter ended with the following requests:

Provide us with all of the information gathered by your administration to date concerning Shireen’s killings, including any evidence reviewed and assessed by U.S. officials, the identities and qualifications of all individuals present during the latest review of evidence, any forensics reports or other information that has not been provided to us or our legal team.

Retract the Department of State’s July 4 press statement, given that the Department’s own account indicates that it is not based on any credible assessment.

Direct the Department of Justice, including the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and any other relevant U.S. offices or agencies to take action on Shireen’s extrajudicial killing.

Finally, and it should be needless to say, we expect the Biden administration support our efforts to push for accountability and justice for Shireen, wherever they take us.


Anton Abu Akleh

On behalf of the Abu Akleh Family

Not only has Joe Biden refused to meet with the Abu Akhle family, but he has also refused to even mention Shireen Abu Akleh’s name.

Conclusion: Joe Biden is about to Step into Israeli and Saudi Arabia’s Shishmehs (colloquial Arabic for —- houses).  Mr. Biden, please take out the janitorial carts and load them with ample mops, brushes, brooms, gloves, caps, uniforms, mopping buckets, jugs of mega cleaners, and replace the empty toilet tissue and paper towel dispensers. You  will need all the aforementioned to gain respectability for the nation you  represent,

So, Mr. Biden, if you have any decency, you would get busy scraping years of ossified racism and duplicitous foreign policy debacles. Your forty years of foreign policy decisions are so entrenched in your political DNA, it’ll take you years to clean up all the political muck, much of which you helped create.

I am not holding my breath.

And finally, I’ll take an honest hard working Janitor’s word over a modern day US president, congressman, or partisan Supreme Court Justice – any time.

Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a writer, photographer, sculptor, an avid gardener, and a peace activist.