Fact check: Meme miscaptions image from Beirut port explosion as part of conflict in Middle East

The claim: The Middle East was at peace under Trump and a war zone under Biden 

After 11 days of deadly conflict, Israel and Hamas began a cease-fire on May 21. As leaders work toward peace on the ground, adversaries used the occasion to criticize the Biden administration.

One widely-shared meme uses a photo of a Trump administration diplomatic event alongside a photo of an apparent warzone to compare the state of the Middle East during the Trump and Biden administrations. 

“This was 240 days ago,” the meme captions the top photo. The bottom photo is captioned, “THIS IS NOW…”

The top photo shows President Donald Trump smiling at a signing ceremony with leaders from several Middle Eastern countries. The bottom photo shows what appears to be a devastating scene with smoke in the air and debris littering the ground.

The logo for “Ridin’ with Biden,” a popular online group for Biden supporters, appears on the bottom image. The meme does not specify whether it was referring to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians or conflict in the Middle East in general. 

Fact check: Photo shows Palestinian couple at site of their old home, not related to recent conflict

USA TODAY reached out to several Facebook users that posted the meme for comment. Facebook user Georgia Michael responded that she posted the meme “to highlight differences between Trump & Biden & how it relates to conflict in the Middle East.”

But the photos in the meme do not show recent events, and the second image isn’t a warzone at all. 

Top photo: Trump with leaders from Israel, UAE and Bahrain

The photo of Trump was taken on Sept. 15, at the White House with leaders from Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The image was taken by White House photographer Tia Dufour and is available on Getty Images.

President Donald Trump welcomes Israel's Prime Minister and the foreign ministers of two Gulf Arab nations – the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – to the White House Tuesday to sign a historic diplomatic deal. (Sept. 15)

AP Domestic

Fact check: Photo of Palestinian child in tears not from recent Israeli airstrikes

At the signing ceremony, the leaders agreed to the “normalization of relations” between Israel, UAE and Bahrain. The agreement was a major geopolitical shift in the Middle East in which UAE and Bahrain formalized diplomatic relations with Israel. Historically, many Arab nations in the region had avoided such agreements as a way to show their support for Palestinian statehood.

It is unclear if the meme’s creator misinterpreted one of the flags behind the four leaders. The UAE and Palestinian flags have nearly the same colors and patterns.

Bottom photo: the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion

The bottom photo used to criticize Biden was actually taken more than a month before the first. The image, available on Getty Images, captures the aftermath of a tragic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanese photographer Marwan Tahtah took the photograph on Aug. 4 after a deadly explosion devasted the city.

At the time, Trump was still in office.  

Explosion in Beirut, Lebanon (Photo: Google Earth; USA TODAY)

According to Lebanese officials, the explosion likely occurred when a fire ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port since 2013. The blast that killed at least 160 people and injured thousands led to international accusations of negligence and corruption. Less than a week after the explosion, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his cabinet resigned. 

Following the explosion, USA TODAY debunked the false claim that the blast was caused by an Israeli attack.

Our rating: False 

Based on our research, we rate this meme FALSE. The image presented as proof of peace in the Middle East under Trump does not involve the Palestinians. And the image used to reference the recent conflict in the Middle East was actually taken in Bierut after a port explosion in August. The image predates the one used to reference the Trump administration’s foreign policy and doesn’t relate to Biden or his presidency in any way. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, May 24, Blinken visiting Middle East, as Biden administration dampens expectations on Israeli-Palestinian peace process
  • Ridin’ With Biden, accessed May 29, Facebook Page
  • Getty Images, Sept. 15, 2020, UAE and Bahrain’s normalization deal with Israel
  • USA TODAY, Sept. 15, Israel signs accords with United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at White House ceremony
  • Britannica, accessed May 29, Flag of the United Arab Emirates
  • Britannica, accessed May 29, Flag of Palestine Liberation Organization
  • Outspoken, May 13, Facebook post
  • Getty Images, Aug. 4, 2020,, Massive Explosion Near Port Area Of Beirut
  • USA TODAY, Aug. 5, 2020, What we know about the massive explosion in Beirut that killed at least 135, injured thousands
  • USA TODAY, Aug. 7, 2020, Lebanon president: Beirut explosion either due to negligence or missile, bomb
  • USA TODAY, Aug 10, 2020, Lebanon’s prime minister resigns amid protests over port explosion, says corruption has ‘paralyzed’ the state
  • USA TODAY, Aug. 6, 2020, Fact check: No evidence Beirut blast was an Israeli attack

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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