Biden Human-Rights Pick Withdraws Following GOP Pushback over Anti-Israel Statements

Sarah Margon, the former Washington director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), withdrew her application to serve as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor following Republican pushback.

President Joe Biden nominated Margon in April 2021, prompting pushback from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republicans, particularly ranking member Jim Risch of Idaho.

Risch highlighted Margon’s previous comments about Israel, particularly her ostensible approval of a one-state solution and support for boycotting Israel, as leading factors disqualifying her candidacy.

When Airbnb decided to remove listings from Israeli towns in disputed territories, Margon applauded the company “for showing some good leadership here. Other companies should follow suit.”

Margon had earlier expressed her support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), a dedicated body overseeing Palestinian refugees, that has been repeatedly cited for promoting and distributing antisemitic textbooks to children.

“The beginning of a new Congress provides the president with opportunities to reassess all nominees who did not get confirmed before the end of the year. There are many qualified people on both sides of the aisle for positions in government, and I look forward to thoroughly reviewing the nominees the president sends to the Senate,” Risch told National Review in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The Republican Jewish Coalition had also long opposed Margon’s nomination.

“Sarah Margon has made her career at some of the most virulently Israel-hating organizations around. For several years, she ran the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, a terribly misnamed, bitterly anti-Israel organization,” a press release from May 2021 asserted.

“President Biden and Secretary Blinken claim to oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but now they want to install a supporter of Israel boycotts in a senior role.”

However, during the nomination process, Margon denied ever supporting a boycott of Israel. “Sometimes when we retweet or say things in the heat of the moment, we do not necessarily think of the broader impact of them,” Margon said during her nomination hearing. “What I was focused on was the importance of ensuring Israelis and Palestinians could have equal protection under the law, access to democratic processes, security and prosperity. That was the thrust of my tweet.”

The struggle for Democrats on the committee to successfully pass Margon through the nomination process ultimately led her to pull her candidacy.

“At present, I don’t see a path forward for confirmation, and after 1 ½ years, it’s time to move on,” Margon said in a statement obtained by Politico. “I will continue to work on democracy and human rights, and am grateful to President Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken for their confidence in me and the honor of a nomination.”

Margon worked as the U.S. Foreign Policy Director at the Open Society Foundation, funded by the billionaire George Soros.

Fellow HRW alum, the organization’s former director Ken Roth, was also embroiled in controversy this week when Harvard re-extended a fellowship invitation to him after concerns over his “anti-Israel bias.”

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