United States President Joe Biden has joined world leaders in expressing “outrage” over a strike at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, which has been under non-stop bombing by Israel for the past 12 days.
“The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy,” Biden posted on X, formerly Twitter, before landing in Israel on Wednesday morning.
At a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Biden reiterated continued US support to Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, despite the horrific bombing of the hospital. The Israeli bombardment that has killed more than 3,300 Palestinians came in response to a deadly attack by the Hamas group on October 7.
So what has been Biden’s stance on the Israel-Palestine war so far?
What did Biden say in Israel?
Biden told Netanyahu that the al-Ahli Arab Hospital bombing appears to have been committed by the “other team, not you”, implying Palestinian armed factions were behind it. Biden did not provide any evidence to back up his assessment.
Israel has blamed a misfired rocket launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an allegation that the group has denied.
Palestinian officials have said the bombing was carried out by Israel, and initial estimates point out that 500 people have been killed there.
I am outraged and deeply saddened by the explosion at the Al Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza, and the terrible loss of life that resulted. Immediately upon hearing this news, I spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and have directed my national…
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 17, 2023
“When the Americans said that their national security team would investigate the cause of the Gaza hospital explosion on Tuesday night, many thought there will be an extensive inquiry,” Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Tel Aviv, said.
“But it appears that President Biden has already decided who is behind the deadly attack.”
Biden did express deep outrage at what occurred.
The US president said on Wednesday that Washington would provide Israel with everything it needed to defend itself amid the continuing war in Gaza, adding that 31 Americans were among the more than 1,400 people killed inside Israel in the Hamas attack.
“This visit is a significant display of support for the Israelis. By asserting that a misfiring rocket caused the hospital carnage, Biden has effectively given Israel the green light to act as it sees fit,” Al Jazeera’s Fisher said.
What has been Biden’s stance on Israel?
Since the October 7 Hamas attack, the US president’s rhetoric has been focused on supporting Israel.
During his first speech on the day of the incident, and in numerous talks and statements that have followed, Biden has first and foremost focused on Israel’s “right to defend itself” against Hamas, which is designated as a “terrorist” group by Israel and its Western allies.
“Let me be crystal clear, the United States stands with Israel,” Biden said on October 7. “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.” He has repeated his unqualified support for Israel several times since.
On October 10, Biden signed a joint statement with his top European counterparts to condemn the killing of civilians and taking of captives by Hamas.
“We make clear that the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justifications, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned,” the joint statement said.
“All of us recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” it said, without calling for a ceasefire in Gaza where nearly 800 people were killed by then.
Has Biden called for a ceasefire?
Not really. He has stayed away from seeking accountability from the Israelis regarding the indiscriminate bombardments of civilians, hospitals and schools.
And instead, has continued to focus on Israel’s security. His administration has already sent weapons and navy carriers in support of Israel. The US fears regional armed groups such Iran-backed Hezbollah might open a second front for Israeli on the Israel-Lebanon border.
Biden has also avoided talking about the massive humanitarian toll of Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza, which the United Nations and rights groups have expressed serious concern about.
The US president has also been silent on Israel cutting off water, electricity and internet in the besieged enclave of 2.3 million people. The Israeli order for 1.1 million Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza to make room for a looming ground offensive has also failed to draw Biden’s attention.
Did the US president call for humanitarian aid?
But in the past week, his rhetoric has expanded to include the humanitarian aspect without explicitly discussing Israel’s role.
“The US is working with the governments of Israel, Egypt, Jordan — and with the UN — to surge support to ease the humanitarian consequences of Hamas’s attack, create conditions needed to resume the flow of assistance, and advocate for the upholding of the law of war,” his account wrote on X on October 14.
But the explosion at the hospital has already had diplomatic consequences for Biden. Jordan, which was also supposed to host Biden for a summit with the country’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has called off the meetings. Biden is no longer welcome in Amman at the moment.
Biden’s comments on October 11 that he saw images of babies that were beheaded by Hamas during its assault, was walked back by the White House a day later. The unfounded story of “beheaded babies” was widely circulated on social media and some US networks fuelling anti-Muslim sentiments.
Has Biden spoken out against Islamophobia?
Earlier this week, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death by his landlord, a 71-year-old man, in what is being seen as a hate crime.
Biden condemned the killing. “As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate,” he posted on X.
The US leader has repeatedly said that “there is no place for hate in America” amid reports of increasing hate crimes in the US based on religion. He has condemned both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiments rising on the back of the conflict.
“History has taught us again and again that antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all hate are connected,” Biden tweeted before his trip to the US.
“We have to reject hate in every form.”