Rights groups slam Trump’s use of ‘Palestinian’ as racial slur

Former president Donald Trump gestures during the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, Ga on Thursday, June 27, 2024. [Getty]

Human rights groups have criticised former President Donald Trump’s comments about Palestinians during Thursday’s presidential debate with President Joe Biden as racist and offensive.

During a controversial moment in the debate, the two presidential candidates briefly discussed the Gaza conflict, where Israel has killed over 37,000 Palestinians and triggered a dire humanitarian crisis.

“The only one who wants the war to continue is Hamas,” Biden said, to which Trump retorted that the incumbent president had become “like a Palestinian”.

“Actually, Israel is the one [that wants to keep going], and you should let them go and let them finish the job. He [Biden] doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian but they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one,” Trump said.

On Friday, Trump repeated his use of “Palestinian” as an insult at a rally while referring to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish.

“He’s become a Palestinian because they have a couple more votes or something,” he added.

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) had since issued a statement slamming Trump’s comments, as well as Biden’s claim that Israel wants to stop the war.

“Former President Trump’s use of ‘Palestinian’ as an insult was racist. President Biden’s touting of his military support for the Israeli government’s genocide in Gaza was callous,” Corey Saylor, research and advocacy director at CAIR, said. 

Amnesty International also weighed in on the former president’s comments.

“To insinuate that being Palestinian is somehow a bad thing, as former President Trump did when he called President Biden Palestinian, reeks of racism and anti-Arab hatred,” Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told news agency Reuters.

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) also urged an end to the use of racist and dehumanising language in political debates and discourse.

“This rhetoric represents a disgraceful effort to belittle an entire population fighting to end a genocide perpetrated by the very administration he references,” the group said in a statement.

Across social media, Trump’s remarks also sparked strong condemnation among journalists and activists.

“According to Trump, Biden isn’t genocidal enough. And also he’s a “bad Palestinian”. Truly, you’re both just bad human beings. America is screwed,” Palestinian-American imam and civil rights activist Omar Suleiman wrote in a post on X.

“Violent and dehumanizing anti-Palestinian racism has hit a new low,” Palestinian journalist and foreign policy analyst Rula Jebreal said on X.

“Trump calls us ‘bad Palestinians’ for objecting to [37,834] mass murders, 2 million bombed and starved; 20,000 missing kids; and widespread ethnic cleansing… All committed by Israel/Netanyahu’s far-right segregationist [government].”

Human rights groups have reported a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US amid the months-long war in Gaza.

In October, six-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed to death and his mother wounded in an attack by their landlord in the US state of Illinois.

Police say Joseph Czuba, 71, targeted them because of their religion and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas.

In May, Texas police arrested a woman after she allegedly attempted to drown a two Palestinian children at a swimming pool.

Elizabeth Wolf, 42, was charged with attempted murder for the attacks against the three and six-year-old children.

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