At a press conference on Monday, a reporter asked Kirby to respond to accusations from activists that the Biden administration was sanctioning a genocide against the Palestinian people, pointing to protesters’ use of the nickname “Genocide Joe.”
“We’re not worried about nicknames and bumper stickers,” Kirby replied. “I mean, it’s First Amendment free speech. People can say what they want on the sidewalk, and we respect that. That’s what the First Amendment is about. But this word ‘genocide’ is getting thrown around in a pretty inappropriate way by lots of different folks.”
He countered by accusing Hamas of being the ones to openly desire a genocide against Israel.
“What Hamas wants, make no mistake about it, is genocide,” Kirby continued. “They want to wipe Israel off the map. They’ve said so, publicly, more than one occasion, in fact, just recently. And they’ve said that they’re not going to stop: ‘What happened on the 7th of October is going to happen again and again and again.’ And what happened on the 7th of October? Murder, slaughter of innocent people in their homes or at a music festival. That’s genocidal intentions.”
“Israel is not trying to wipe the Palestinian people off the map,” he added. “Israel is not trying to wipe Gaza off the map. Israel is trying to defend itself against a genocidal terrorist threat. So if we’re going to start using that word, fine. Let’s use it appropriately.”
However, he added to his message that there have been “too many civilian casualties in Gaza,” and the United States will continue to pressure Israel to do more to minimize collateral damage.
Genocide is a legal description established after World War II used to describe the purposeful attempted annihilation of a religious, national, racial, or ethnic group. Pro-Palestinian activists claim that Israel is carrying out genocide in Gaza against the Palestinian people, and Israel has countered by accusing Hamas of genocidal actions, citing the Oct. 7 assault.