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Biden pushes back against ICC allegations against Israel: ‘What’s happening is not genocide’

President Joe Biden said the administration does not view the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza as genocide during a celebration for Jewish American Heritage Month at the White House on Monday evening. 

The president’s comments come after he criticized a decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to file arrest warrant applications for senior Israeli officials such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense chief, and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes. 

“Whatever these warrants may imply, there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. It’s clear that Israel wants to do all it can to ensure civilian protection,” Biden said. “Let me be clear: Contrary to allegations against Israel made by the International Court of Justice, what is happening is not genocide. We reject that.”

The ICC announced early Monday it was pursuing warrants for the arrests of Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as the following senior Hamas leaders: Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, the head of the military, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of its political bureau.

Last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan also emphasized that the administration does not view Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocidal. 

“We do not believe what is happening in Gaza is a genocide. We have been firmly on record rejecting that proposition,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House last Monday.

The war between Israel and Hamas has created different fault lines of division within the Democratic Party. While most Republicans and some more centrist Democrats are siding with Israel’s actions in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, left-liberals have condemned Israel’s retaliation and have called for an immediate ceasefire.  

Biden, appearing alongside Doug Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, reiterated the White House’s push to address the rise of antisemitism. The Anti-Defamation League issued a report earlier this year that included nearly 3,300 antisemitic instances in the final three months of last year, including 56 physical assaults, 554 incidents of vandalism, 1,347 examples of verbal or written harassment, and 1,307 rallies on college campuses that involved antisemitic rhetoric.

“Nobody should fear going into a synagogue or school or walking down the street wearing a symbol of your faith. That’s wrong, simply wrong,” Biden said. “That’s why long before Oct. 7,  I launched the nation’s first national strategy to counter antisemitism, mobilizing the full force of the federal government to crack down on antisemitism wherever we find it.”

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Biden also acknowledged Rachel Goldberg-Polin and Jon Polin in the crowd, the parents of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, one of the hostages still being held in Gaza. Hamas recently released a video of the Israeli American hostage as proof-of-life documentation. 

“Their love, strength, and compassion inspire the entire world. I pledge to both of you, and I mean it — I know you know, Mom — I will not rest until I bring your loved one home,” Biden said. “We have got to bring them home.”

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