When the deteriorating situation in Israel/Palestine came up during today’s State Department press briefing, Spokesperson Jen Psaki fluently regurgitated the official Israeli line on their escalating air assaults on Gaza: Israel is responding to rocket fire from Gaza; Israel has the right to defense itself; yada yada.
But when confronted by the question of whether Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves, Psaki apparently lost the ability to form a cogent thought. So strange a notion it was to her that anyone would need to defend themselves from Israel, she asked whether there was “a specific event or a specific occurrence” the reporter was referring to. Ultimately, she evaded the question by throwing out the word “terrorist organization” and that “the threat … to civilian populations is of great concern to us.” But really, only if they are Israeli.
Meanwhile, eight children are reported to have been killed tonight in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. How many more will US officials allow to die before they call for a ceasefire?
Read the full exchange below.
QUESTION: But you feel that sort of the Israeli air raids, like maybe hundreds of them so far this day, are proportionate to the rockets?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not – I wouldn’t validate the accuracy of that number, but I would say, Said —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the sorties – there are hundreds of sorties.
MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said, that I don’t think any country would be expected to allow rockets to come in and threaten the lives and health and well-being of the citizens in their country, and Israel has the right to defend themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that the Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves?
MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Said.
QUESTION: I am asking you: Do they have the right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression?
MS. PSAKI: What are you specifically referring to? Is there a specific event or a specific occurrence?
QUESTION: Do they have the right to respond to Israeli rocketing and bombing their homes, their houses, their areas, their schools?
MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about attacks from a terrorist organization, Said. I don’t think you’re —
QUESTION: No, but there is also a population —
MS. PSAKI: — we’re having a conversation about what’s happening here.
QUESTION: I mean, you agree that there is a civilian population in Gaza that is also subject to —
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, and the threat, as I mentioned earlier, to civilian populations is of great concern to us. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so focused on encouraging all sides to de-escalate.