Human rights group says Biden must also hold Israel accountable for ‘apartheid’ war crimes
Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations are calling on the Biden-Harris Administration to condemn both Israel and Hamas for war crimes after President Joe Biden and some congressional members have only denounced the Palestinian militant group.
Ahmed Benchemsi, Human Rights Watch communications director for the Middle East and North Africa, told theGrio that the White House should do more to crack down on Israel and stop “blindly” supporting the Middle Eastern nation.
“We would like [the Biden-Harris administration] to pressure Israel to abide by its legal responsibilities. To not violate the laws of war. To not commit war crimes. To not bomb the civilian areas indiscriminately. To care for civilian lives,” he said.
“In an ideal world, the U.S. should be pressuring Israel to respect the laws of war, and it should be pressuring all its allies to support — but it’s not.”
Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian militant group attacked the Middle Eastern nation, killing hundreds of civilians and taking others hostage.
Hamas called its operation against Israel “Al-Aqsa Storm” and said that the group attacked Israel for many reasons, including war crimes against Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank and to free Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Following the war announcement, President Biden said, “There are moments in this life – and I mean this literally – when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world.”
“The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend. The bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas – a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews,” he said.
“This was an act of sheer evil,” he continued.
In recent days, congressional members have followed the president’s lead and pledged their support for Israel and their disdain for Hamas’ actions.
Houses Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., released a statement following Israel’s war declaration on Hamas, stating, “America stands firmly and unequivocally with Israel.”
“I strongly condemn the violent and ghastly attack by the terrorist organization Hamas on the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he wrote. “The loss of life in Israel as a result of the violent, calculated and unprovoked attack by Hamas is heartbreaking.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, who was in Israel during the time of the attack, took to X to share his thoughts.
“My team and I are now safe, but like many we are shaken, angered, and heartbroken by the hundreds killed, the thousands injured, those taken hostage, and all who are directly affected by these sickening terrorist attacks,” he wrote.
“After this experience, more than ever, I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Senate to continue supporting Israel’s security and ensuring stability in the region — and I hope one day soon, a long-term and just peace in the region,” Booker added.
Benchemsi told theGrio that war crimes have been committed at the hands of both Israel and Hamas, and they both need to be held accountable.
“First, when Hamas attacked civilians, killed civilians and abducted them and to make hostages of them [over the weekend],” he said.
“On the other end, when Israel announced brazenly and openly that they’re cutting food, water, supplies, electricity, everything basically from Gaza, which is a very crowded enclave, two million persons. This is called collective punishment,” he said. “It’s called starving the population as a means of warfare.”
Earlier this week, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., took to X and wrote, “Reminder, Gaza doesn’t have shelters or an iron dome and to please pray for them.”
“Palestinians are human beings who have been…besieged and are deserving of protection from the international community,” she continued.
Benchemsi told theGrio the recent war comes as no surprise and that, in 2021, the Human Rights Watch “issued a report stating that Israel is committing apartheid against Palestinians,” thus invoking the current war.
“There are two sets of laws in Israel, one that applies to Israeli Jews and another one that applies to Palestinians,” he said.
“Depending on your ethnicity and your religion, you are governed by a different set of laws. This is the very definition of apartheid, and apartheid is a crime against humanity,” he continued. “Apartheid is being applied by the Israeli government to Palestinians.”
Benchemsi told theGrio that the U.S. should stop “blindly following Israel” and hold its ally responsible for its actions.
TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!