Waheed Saleem Lunar Society’s Chairman Boycotts US Ambassador’s Eid Reception
The current chairman of the Birmingham Lunar Society, Waheed Saleem, is boycotting his invitation to dine with the elite at an Eid reception held by the US ambassador, a move made in protest over America’s role in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
Mr Saleem, an eminent figure in Birmingham business circles, specified his motives for rejecting the VIP invitation from Ambassador Matthew Barzun, saying that the slaughter of innocent civilians in Gaza was due to the American government’s financial support of Israel.
He tweeted: “The @LunarSoc founders stood against slavery in 18thC today I’m standing for the rights of #Palestinians #FreePalestine #GazaUnderAttack”.
In a letter to Ambassador Barzun, the UK’s US ambassador, Mr Saleem stated:
“I feel the unequivocal stance by the USA Government in their support of the Israeli Government’s actions in the Gaza Strip is extremely disappointing and unacceptable”.
Mr Saleem, expressed his concern that the American Government supports the Israeli Government through funds which amount to “$3.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing” and further aid them through a contribution of “$504 million to joint US-Israel Missile Defence Programme”.
He said that the US Government should strongly condemn and not condone the “one sided massacre of innocent Palestinians” in which women and children in Gaza are “being killed in the name of defence”.
In his letter, he condemned the US for having fallen short on its “moral duty” as it had failed to use “its international influence and economic power to ensure a lasting peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict”. He denounced the US’s support of the “illegal operations of the Israeli Government” which had further exasperated the conflict.
Additionally, Mr Saleem criticised the American government on a number of charges which he identified as contradicting the founding principles of the USA, saying that the principles of “justice, equality and freedom have been lost by this administration when it comes to defending at all costs the Israeli Government”.
Furthermore, he was appalled when, on July 23, the USA was “the only state to vote against the UN Resolution ‘A/HRC/S-21/L.1: Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Authorities, including E. Jerusalem’”, a move which can be seen to demonstrate the US’s unequivocal support of the Israeli Government in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution was adopted by the Human Rights Council by a recorded vote of 29 to 1.
In reply to Mr Saleem, the US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Dibble said that the US had “no lack of empathy” for the Palestinian people.
Challenging Mr Saleem, she said that far from the unequivocal support of the Israeli Government by the United States, American officials have, on numerous occasions, called on the Israeli Government “to act responsibly, to do its utmost to avoid civilian causalities and to respond proportionally to the threat it faces”.
She also explained that “the United States continues to work around the clock to realize a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “to end the loss of civilian life” and “have not given up hope in the two-state solution”.
In her response, Ms Dibble expressed the US government’s disappointments in the failure of the U.S.-led efforts over the past year to produce a better outcome in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite conveying her regret for Mr Saleem’s decision, she recognised the courage Mr Saleem showed in standing up for what he believed in which she applauded as it is “a value near and dear to Americans”.
The Charge d’Affaires concluded by saying that they’d be happy to continue “the conversation about the Middle East policy” with Mr Saleem, a sentiment echoed by Ambassador Matthew Barzun, who has tweeted to the chairman of the Lunar Society: “Our door is always open. Let’s continue talking”.