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Biden says what’s happening in Gaza is ‘not genocide’

President Joe Biden declared on Monday during a reception in the White House Rose Garden to mark Jewish American Heritage Month that what is happening in Gaza is “not genocide.”

The event comes at a time when the United States’ relationship with Israel is in the spotlight amid the country’s war with Hamas in Gaza.


What you need to know

  • President Joe Biden declared on Monday during a reception in the White House Rose Garden to mark Jewish American Heritage Month that what is happening in Gaza is “not genocide.”
  • Biden also used the reception to condemn the International Criminal Court’s move Monday to issue arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, for war. crimes and crimes against humanity related to the war
  • It comes amid heightened attention on Biden’s relationship with Israel and Netanyahu amid the war in Gaza and in particular over a possible major Israeli ground operation in Rafah – a move the White House has made clear it will not without a plan to protect citizens.
  • The president has come under pressure internationally and from some at home over his continued support for Israel as the Palestinian civilian death toll has risen and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has worsened, while Republicans have accused him of abandoning Israel left.

Biden used the reception to condemn the International Criminal Court’s move Monday to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as for Hamas leaders Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, for war crimes. and crimes against humanity related to the war.

“Let me be clear: we deny the ICC’s request for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders,” Biden said Monday. “Whatever these orders mean, there is no equality between Israel and Hamas.”

“Contrary to the accusations against Israel… what is happening is not genocide,” Biden continued. “We reject that.”

The commander-in-chief then reiterated the United States’ “iron-strong” commitment to Israel’s security. He added that it is “clear” that Israel wants to do “whatever it can” to ensure the protection of civilians, even as the country appears to be escalating its actions in Rafah – the southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians seek shelter.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, also attended the event Monday. Emhoff, the first Jewish wife of any president or vice president in history, used his remarks ahead of the presidential election to speak of an “epidemic of hate, including a crisis of anti-Semitism.”

“I know it’s hard to have hope and be optimistic right now,” Emhoff said. “To be honest, some days it’s really challenging for me to put myself out here and do this work in public, and I know it’s hard for you too.”

“But we keep fighting because we have no choice but to fight,” he continued.

It comes amid heightened attention on Biden’s relationship with Israel and Netanyahu amid the war in Gaza and in particular over a possible major Israeli ground operation in Rafah – a move the White House has made clear it will not without a plan to protect citizens. Israel has pledged that such a move is necessary to defeat Hamas and that it will continue despite US opposition.

The president has come under pressure internationally and from some at home over his continued support for Israel as Palestinian civilian casualties have risen and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has worsened. Protests over Biden and Israel’s handling of the war have overtaken college campuses across the country in recent weeks.

While delivering the speech at Morehouse College on Sunday, Biden told graduates, some of whom wore scarves in support of the Palestinian people, that he had heard them.

“I support peaceful, nonviolent protest,” Biden said. “Your voices need to be heard, and I promise I will hear them.”

“This is one of the most difficult and complicated problems in the world,” the president said of the conflict. “And there’s nothing easy about that. I know it has angered and frustrated many of you, including my family.”

However, Republicans recently accused Biden of abandoning Israel after his administration halted a shipment of bombs to the country over concerns about an attack on Rafah. The president also told CNN that the US would halt future arms shipments to Israel that could be used in a major ground offensive in the city.

In a speech marking the commemorations of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier this month, Biden denounced a “savage” rise in anti-Semitism across the country and around the world. He warned the world not to forget that Hamas fueled the war when it killed about 1,200 Israelis on October 7.

Other guests at Monday’s reception included the president’s son Hunter Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Reps. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla. . and Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., among others. Biden noted that Senate Majority Leader and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in America, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. was also planning to attend.

Justin Tasolides of Spectrum News contributed to this report.