In the wake of growing civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, the Biden administration has distanced itself from a comparison made by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who questioned the U.S. government’s approach to Israel and Russia. As the civilian death toll in Gaza climbs, concerns have been raised about the humanitarian situation and the ongoing conflict.
President Joe Biden has positioned himself as a staunch supporter of Israel since the Hamas attacks began on October 7. He visited Israel after the Hamas attack to underscore the strength of the alliance. However, this support comes with potential risks and challenges as the situation unfolds.
On Sunday night, Representative Jayapal criticized the U.S. for what she termed a “double standard” in its support for Israel’s actions against the Hamas militant group while condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She highlighted the need for consistent and principled approaches to addressing conflicts.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby responded to Jayapal’s comparison by emphasizing that Israel’s actions target Hamas fighters and are not aimed at deliberately killing civilians. The U.S. government continues to urge Israel to minimize the impact on innocent civilians and conduct operations with caution.
Who is Pramila Jayapal?
Jayapal has served as a Democrat member of the United States House of Representatives Washington’s 7th congressional district since January 2017.
She is known for her progressive and liberal political stances and co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is a group of left-leaning members of the House of Representatives who advocate for progressive policies. Earlier this year she apologized after referring to Israel as a “racist state.”
Gaza: The Humanitarian Situation
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has been exacerbated as Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack on October 7 has disrupted the flow of aid to the territory. Initially, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government blocked humanitarian assistance, including food, water, and medical supplies. After international pressure, Israel began allowing aid shipments but with delays due to security inspections.
In contrast, the situation in Ukraine currently involves a broader and more prolonged conflict. According to a Human Rights Watch report, approximately 9,600 civilians have been killed by Russian forces since the war began in February 2022. The conflict in Ukraine raises serious concerns about human rights violations.
One crucial distinction between the two conflicts is that Hamas is holding over 200 civilians hostage, using them as human shields. The militant group is also known to hide among its country’s citizens. While directly targeting civilians is considered a war crime, deliberately hiding among civilians as a combatant is also regarded as a war crime.
Maksym Skrypchenko, president of the Ukrainian think tank Transatlantic Dialogue Center, compared Israel’s situation to Ukraine’s early weeks of combat against Russian troops. He stressed that Israel should be seen as a victim of Hamas’ terror attacks, including missile strikes, hostage-taking, and violence and killings targeting Israeli civilians.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.