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Biden defends Israel against 'butchers of Hamas', denies genocide in Gaza

Biden reaffirmed 'ironclad' support despite mounting pressure and discontent over his steadfast support to Israel that has prompted massive protests across US universities. Members of Biden's own party are deeply divided over Biden's handling of the war and the university protests.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: May 21, 2024 7:51 IST
Joe Biden
Image Source : REUTERS US President Joe Biden at a celebration for Jewish American Heritage Month at the White House.

Washington: As the United States and Israel faced mounting pressure over the ongoing war in Gaza, US President Joe Biden came out in strong support of its Middle Eastern ally, saying Israeli forces are not committing genocide in their military campaign against Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip in a rejection of criticism from pro-Palestinian protesters. Biden has faced massive protests at many of his events from pro-Palestinian demonstrators who have labelled him "Genocide Joe" for his staunch support for Israel.

At a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House, Biden said, "What's happening in Gaza is not genocide. We reject that." The 81-year-old US President stressed his belief that Israel was the victim, referring to the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took hundreds of hostages.

"We stand with Israel to take out (Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar and the rest of the butchers of Hamas. We want Hamas defeated. We're working with Israel to make that happen," he said at the event, promising "ironclad" support to Israel. Negotiations have stalled between Israel and Hamas in trying to gain the freedom of sick, elderly and wounded hostages still held by the militants, but Biden vowed not to give up trying to gain their release.

Biden on ICC's request for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders

Biden has also rejected the International Criminal Court's prosecutor for saying he had requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence chief over alleged war crimes, saying "whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas." The court's prosecutor, Karim Khan, accused Netanyahu, Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Biden in recent months has faced growing political pressure from his own party over his handling of the Gaza conflict, as the Palestinian death toll climbed to more than 35,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and Israel's siege has created dire humanitarian conditions in the territory. 

However, the US President on Sunday acknowledged the pro-Palestinian protests across several US universities against Israel's war in Gaza, saying he shared the concerns of students over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and was continuing to push for a deal to pause the conflict in exchange for the release of hostages. He said leadership can be "hard and lonely" and said frustration and anger about the conflict permeated his own family.

He also called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as some of the students he was addressing wore keffiyehs - the black-and-white head scarf that has become an emblem of solidarity with the Palestinian cause - around their gown, while a handful turned their backs to Biden in silent protest. 

Biden's chances against Trump

Several top White House aides say they are confident protests across US college campuses against Israel's offensive in Gaza will not translate into significantly fewer votes in the November election, despite polls showing many Democrats are deeply unhappy about the president's policy on the war. Some Democrat strategists and youth organisers have warned that misjudging the situation could cost Biden votes in a tight race against the Republican candidate and former US President Donald Trump.

In Washington, most officials Reuters spoke to said they believe housing costs and inflation were the top issues for young voters, not the war in Gaza, pointing to a recent Harvard poll that ranks Israel/Palestine 15th on a list of issues, after taxes, gun violence and jobs. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found Democrats deeply divided over Biden's handling of both the war in Gaza and the US campus protests against it, with 44 per cent of registered Democrats disapproving of Biden's handling of the crisis and 51 per cent of his handling of the protests.

Two White House officials emphasized Biden's support among young voters is not where it was in 2020 and told Reuters they worry the administration is not taking the drop seriously enough. "There is almost a level of defiance when it comes to some of the president's closest advisers on this issue," said a senior White House official with direct knowledge of the matter, who did not want to be named. "They think the best approach is to simply steer clear and let it pass."

(with inputs from Reuters)

ALSO READ | ICC seeks arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders for war crimes, Netanyahu reacts



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