At a press conference in Washington D.C. on Friday, Arab, Muslim and Palestinian rights groups denounced the U.S. government’s unconditional backing of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Speakers accused American media and politicians of dehumanizing Palestinians amid the conflict.
The advocates also warned of potential hate crimes targeting Arab and Muslim Americans as tensions escalate.
CAIR Head Slams Biden Over Gaza Response
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), criticized President Joe Biden for failing to acknowledge Palestinian humanity.
“You are not helping. You are, in fact, giving the green light for Israel to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Awad stated, addressing Biden directly.
Awad accused Biden of enabling atrocities through U.S. support for Israel. The president describes himself as a Zionist and has consistently voiced backing for Israel.
Earlier this week, Biden pledged to ensure Israel has military resources to “defend itself”, while barely mentioning Palestinians under bombardment. Over 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 500 children, according to health officials.
“We call on you, Mr. President, to put an end to this violence. You have the ability to prevent mass crime and genocide,” implored Awad.
Advocates Highlight History of Palestinian Oppression
Awad, a Palestinian American, underscored the need to view the conflict in historical context. Leading human rights organizations have concluded Israel imposes apartheid on Palestinians.
“History did not start on October 7,” Awad said, referencing the date fighting began. He labeled Gaza an “open-air prison”, reflecting criticism of Israel’s blockade restricting travel and trade.
Palestinians have endured “violence, discrimination, ethnic cleansing” for decades, Awad stated. He cited Israel’s killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and elderly Palestinian American Omar Assad last year as examples of Palestinian lives being devalued.
“As Muslims, Palestinians and Americans, we believe every human life is valuable and must be protected,” emphasized Awad.
Speakers Demand De-Escalation, Condemn Violent Rhetoric
Chris Habiby of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the U.S. should be urging immediate de-escalation instead of echoing “Israeli lies” and advocating Gaza’s destruction.
Some U.S. politicians have called for unrestrained violence. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox News, “I am with Israel. Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place.”
Habiby warned such rhetoric stokes fear in Arab American communities and cited attacks on pro-Palestinian demonstrators. He referenced the Jewish Defense League, deemed a terrorist group, waving flags in New York City.
“We need leaders who remember Palestinian humanity. This is not one-sided,” Habiby said. “We must do better.”
Ayah Ziyadeh of American Muslims for Palestine accused officials of dehumanizing Palestinians to enable Israeli crimes. She argued the core issue is “decades of occupation and apartheid with U.S. complicity”.
Rights Groups Document Alleged Israeli War Crimes
The recent clashes erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian group Hamas launched strikes from Gaza. Israel retaliated with a bombing campaign that has leveled residential areas and crippled infrastructure.
Authorities also imposed a total blockade on the densely populated strip. Human Rights Watch said Israel illegally used white phosphorous munitions in civilian zones.
On Friday, Israel ordered over 1 million Gazans to evacuate south within 24 hours, prompting outrage. Critics say the order is impossible to fulfill.
At the D.C. press conference, advocates stressed addressing root causes. They maintain the status quo subjugates Palestinians through discriminatory policies akin to apartheid.
Speakers said Palestinian lives are undervalued, citing killing of Americans Abu Akleh and Assad last year with impunity. They demanded all human lives be equally protected.
Advocates urged immediate de-escalation and condemned violent rhetoric dehumanizing Palestinians. They accused Washington of enabling Israeli actions through unconditional support, regardless of potential war crimes.
With tensions rising, speakers warned of threats to Arab and Muslim American safety. They demanded leaders calm rhetoric and acknowledge Palestinian humanity on both sides.
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