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January 26, 2023 4:35 pm

Biden Human Rights Nominee Drops Out Amid GOP Israel Bias Concern


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Sarah Margon for Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 22 September 2021 (Screenshot)

President Joe Biden’s nominee for a senior State Department human rights position withdrew from consideration Tuesday amid Republican objection to her anti-Israel statements.

The nomination of Sarah Margon, who was under consideration to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, made no progress for more than a year after the revelation of social media posts that indicated an anti-Israel bias and support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“At present, I don’t see a path forward for confirmation, and after 1½ years, it’s time to move on,” Margon said in a statement first reported by Politico.

At her nomination hearing in September 2021, Margon was confronted by Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with a series of social media posts she had made, including about Airbnb’s removal of rental listings in the West Bank, a decision the company then reversed a year later.

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“Airbnb to remove listings in Israeli settlements of occupied West Bank,” Margon wrote in 2018. “Thanks Airbnb for showing some good leadership here. Other companies should follow suit.”

Margon, who is currently a foreign policy director at George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and previously worked at Human Rights Watch, insisted that the tweet did not indicate support for the BDS movement.

Risch also raised a tweet Margon had written saying that commentator Peter Beinart was “on fire” in reference to a New York Times opinion piece titled “I No Longer Believe In a Jewish State.” Margon, who is Jewish, said that she believed in a two-state solution.

“You haven’t persuaded me at all,” Risch concluded.

Margon’s withdrawal comes as the Biden administration has sought to calibrate its approach to the new Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf on Thursday said that the US and Israel were in a “seamless transition from one government to another” on the topic of Iran, but that Secretary of State Antony Blinken wanted to hear from both the Israeli government and opposition about Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reform package during his upcoming trip to the region.

“The Secretary is going to have an opportunity to hear from a wide swath of Israelis, both the Israelis inside and outside of government,” Leaf said. “And it’s clear that this issue of the judicial legislation packages is one that’s sparked intense, intense discussion, debate within Israeli society. It’s clearly a measure of the vibrancy of the democracy that this is being contested so clearly up and down across segments of Israeli society.”

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