Did Joe Biden’s Website Mention ‘Letting Palestinians Off the Hook for Their Choices’?

Claim

Joe Biden's campaign website's section on Israel mentioned not "letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices" -- language that was later removed from the page.

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On May 20 2020, Twitter user Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) tweeted an apparent screenshot from Joe Biden’s campaign website, with one portion (“while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices”) highlighted:

Visible in the screenshot underneath a “Biden [for] President” logo (along with “donate” and “menu”) were the following two bullet points:

  • “Urge Arab states to move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps toward normalization with Israel.”
  • “Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.

Uhl added a second tweet with a link to a page on Biden’s site JoeBiden.com, titled “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support, and Action”:

That page contained a six-point platform for Biden’s plank on Israel and Palestine. As of May 27 2020, some of the language under the portion titled “A Biden Administration Will” matched the screenshot — but not all of it:

  • “Urge Arab states to move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps toward normalization with Israel.”
  • “Firmly reject the BDS movement — which singles out Israel and too often veers into anti-Semitism — and fight other efforts to delegitimize Israel on the global stage.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a global boycott campaign with a stated objective to publicly pressure Israel to meet what the campaign describes as Israel’s obligations under international law. It has been very politically charged since its inception, as a description in Wikipedia makes clear:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is a Palestinian-led campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel. The campaign claims that its objective is to pressure Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as Israel’s obligations under international law, defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and “respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties”.[4] The campaign is organized and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries. BDS supporters compare the movement to the 20th-century anti-apartheid movement and view their actions similar to the boycotts of South Africa during its apartheid era, comparing the situation in Israel to apartheid. Critics have charged that the BDS movement is antisemitic, accusing it of promoting the delegitimization of Israel, and have likened it to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

As Middle East analyst Nathan Thrall described in The Guardian in 2018, it is unique even among boycott and divestment campaigns:

The chief innovation of the BDS call was not in the tactics that it advocated: boycott and divestment campaigns were already pervasive in 2005, and even sanctions and arms embargoes had been proposed previously, including by the UN general assembly. What was new about BDS was that it took disparate campaigns to pressure Israel and united them around three clear demands, with one for each major component of the Palestinian people. First, freedom for the residents of the occupied territories; second, equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel; and third, justice for Palestinian refugees in the diaspora – the largest group – including the right to return to their homes.

The BDS call was a challenge not simply to Israel but to the Palestinian leadership. It represented a conceptual reframing of the national struggle, more in line with the original positions of the PLO – before it had been forced by military defeat, international pressure and political pragmatism to abandon the goal of a single democratic state, acquiescing to a two-state compromise instead.

A cursory look at the page “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support, and Action” might lead visitors to believe the screenshot was altered or manipulated to exaggerate Biden’s position on that issue. However, the page in question was archived repeatedly in May 2020, as interest in the page intensified. A version saved on the Wayback Machine on May 21 2020 contained the language seen in the screenshot. It appeared the section emphasized by Uhl appeared in versions of the page archived on May 24 2020, and was absent by May 25 2020.

Screenshots of a JoeBiden.com page titled “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support, and Action” depicted a section about “letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.” That language was replaced at some point between May 25 and 26 2020, and the language in the second quote above was substituted in its place.

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