The White House Silence on Gaza Speaks Volumes

Illustration for article titled The White House Silence on Gaza Speaks Volumes
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Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 17 people and wounded nearly 800 more when they opened fire on a Palestinian protest near the border of the occupied territory of Gaza last Friday. Videos have been released showing unarmed Palestinians shot while rolling tires away from the border and praying. Human rights groups have roundly condemned Israel’s actions. Clearly, this is a mounting international issue.


But it would seem to be a major international issue that we are not going to hear Donald Trump discuss. Nor does it seem that anyone is going to raise it with him.

I don’t raise this question because I am surprised—almost no American politicians have commented on the latest incident in Gaza, and the U.S. blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for an investigation into the killings—or because I think Trump would have anything good to say about it. He definitely wouldn’t. He has pursued perhaps the most radically one-sided policy on Israel of any president in living memory. But it is nevertheless noteworthy what he chooses to talk about and what people choose to ask him about.


The White House has issued no public statements on Gaza, and, unless I missed it, no members of the White House press corps—who usually trumpet any news tidbit, including a “no comment” from the administration—have asked White House spokespeople to comment on the killings, either. (It is of course possible that there have been private conversations between reporters and the White House, but if there have been, nobody’s publicly mentioned them.) The White House hasn’t been particularly silent over the past few days, issuing comments on loads of other topics, both in official statements and by directly reaching out to reporters. But Gaza clearly does not matter enough to merit similar action. It didn’t even come up in conversations where you’d think it might have at least been mentioned, like Trump’s recent chat with the king of Saudi Arabia.

The State Department did put out one statement, but everyone knows what it means when the State Department says something and the White House does not—that the White House doesn’t think the issue at hand is important enough to weigh in on itself.


Reporters have also had multiple, though admittedly brief, chances to ask Trump about Gaza—at the White House Easter Egg Roll, for instance, where he was asked about DACA; or during an impromptu mini-press conference on Tuesday, where he was asked about Scott Pruitt, Amazon, and Russia; or at his press conference with Baltic leaders. It’s true that there are lots of other things going on in the world. But there are always lots of things going on in the world. Evidently, the killing of nearly 20 protesters and the shooting of hundreds more by America’s closest ally and the biggest recipient of American foreign military aid on the planet is not one of the things we can expect to hear the president of the United States talk about any time soon. But it should be.

I have reached out to the White House to ask if it had any official statement on Gaza, and will update this post if I hear back.


Note: this post was updated at 5:52 pm to reflect that the U.S. blocked a UN Security Council statement on Gaza.

Deputy Editor, Splinter

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