Senator Lindsey Graham slams Palestinians as ‘radicalised’ in social post

US lawmakers have leaned into anti-Palestinian rhetoric as Israel’s war in Gaza continues and the death toll rises.

US Senator Lindsey Graham
US Senator Lindsey Graham has been accused of making 'warmongering' statements amid Israel's war in Gaza [File: Alina Smutko/Reuters]

United States Senator Lindsey Graham has sparked anger after he responded to protests outside his home in Seneca, South Carolina, with anti-Palestinian remarks on social media.

“The Palestinians in Gaza are the most radicalized population on the planet who are taught to hate Jews from birth. It will take years to fix this problem,” Graham said in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“When I hear ‘from the river to the sea,’ it reminds me of ‘the Final Solution.’ The Hamas terrorists are the SS on steroids,” he added, drawing a comparison to a Nazi paramilitary organisation, the Schutzstaffel (SS).

As part of the post, Graham shared a video of a small line of protesters — about 20 in total — who held up a large Palestinian flag on the road outside his home and chanted, “Lindsey Graham, we’re not done. Intifada’s just begun.”

Thursday’s remarks fell on the July 4 holiday, when the US celebrates its Declaration of Independence, and Graham used his post to denounce the protest as disruptive.

“While I respect the right to peacefully protest, I apologize to my neighbors and their families for the disruption on the Fourth of July caused by this pro-Palestinian group,” he wrote.

“Events like this make me more determined than ever to stand with Israel, de-radicalize the Palestinian people, and march toward a better and more stable world.”

The comments are the latest in a string of anti-Palestinian remarks from the Republican senator, who previously suggested that Israel would be justified in using nuclear weapons in Gaza, where it has led a deadly military campaign since October.

“Listen, here’s what I would say about fighting an enemy who wants to kill you and your family. Why did we drop two bombs — nuclear bombs — on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? To end a war that we couldn’t afford to lose,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press in May. “You don’t understand, apparently, what Israel is facing.”

Those televised comments, in part, sparked the protest outside Graham’s home on Thursday.

A group called the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) organised the demonstration to respond to his “hawkish stance” on Israel. In a statement released to local media, it warned Graham’s “warmongering rhetoric has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.

“I’m Palestinian, and I have friends and family in Palestine,” Rose Hassouneh, a PSL member, told a local ABC news affiliate. “I am taking part in this campaign to support their struggle for liberation, and because we must end all US support for the Israeli apartheid regime.”

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its war on October 7, following an attack by the Palestinian group Hamas that killed 1,139 people.

The military offensive and siege have spurred fears of genocide in the Palestinian enclave, and the United Nations and human rights groups have warned of a high risk of famine.

In response to Thursday’s social media post, Claudia De la Cruz, the PSL’s presidential candidate, compared Graham to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s clear from Lindsey Graham’s comments that he considers the entire Palestinian population to be ‘the enemy’, making his genocidal intent as clear as Netanyahu’s. He should be held to account for aiding and abetting war crimes,” De la Cruz said in a statement posted online.

A majority of Americans likewise disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza: The survey agency Gallup found in March that 55 percent oppose the military offensive, and approval dropped to 36 percent.

But the US has continued to send weapons and aid to Israel despite the outcry, particularly from Arab, Muslim and progressive groups in the country. The US contributes $3.8bn in military aid to Israel each year, and it has committed billions of dollars in additional funds and supplies during the war.

Graham is among the bipartisan majority in Congress who supports robust US assistance for Israel.

Both Democrats and Republicans have resisted calls to place conditions on that aid in order to push for humanitarian safeguards.

The administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has likewise remained steadfast in its “ironclad” support of Israel during the war, despite some criticism of the war’s humanitarian toll.

In early May, for instance, Biden announced he had suspended a single shipment of heavy-duty bombs to Israel, citing concerns about their use in Israel’s assault on Rafah, a city in southern Gaza.

But the US continued other weapons shipments to Israel, and last month, US and Israeli media reported that Biden is expected to release the paused shipment soon, amid criticism over his decision.

Graham is not the only member of the US Congress to face outcry over anti-Palestinian remarks.

In February, Republican Representative Andy Ogles was filmed walking through the halls of Congress, telling antiwar protesters, “I think we should kill them all.”

“Hamas and Palestinians have been attacking Israel for 20 years, and it’s time to pay the piper,” he added.

Biden himself stirred anger when he questioned the rapidly rising Palestinian death toll in October.

“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” Biden said in a press conference.

Advocates have said such remarks contribute to anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic and anti-Arab hate. In April, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had received 8,061 reports of anti-Muslim hate in 2023, half of which came after the start of the war in Gaza.

There have also been high-profile attacks on Palestinian Americans since the war began.

In October, a six-year-old Palestinian American boy named Wadea al-Fayoume was stabbed to death by his neighbour, who allegedly yelled, “You Muslims must die!” Al-Fayoume’s mother was also injured in the attack.

And in June, a woman in Euless, Texas, was charged with attempted murder for allegedly trying to drown a three-year-old Palestinian American girl in her apartment complex’s pool.

Still, critics have accused Washington of downplaying the hate that Palestinian, Arab and Muslim groups have faced since the war began.

They also accuse politicians of misrepresenting the goals of pro-Palestinian protesters as anti-Semitic: Rather, many of the protests have called for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment from firms linked to Israeli human rights abuses.

Last week, for example, the House of Representatives last week voted to advance a bill barring the US State Department from referencing statistics about the Palestinian death toll from the Gaza Health Ministry.

The statistics, however, are widely viewed as reliable by international organisations and independent observers.

“Six children, Mr Speaker, six are killed in Gaza every single hour. But Palestinians are not just numbers. Behind these numbers are real people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters who have had their lives stolen from them and their families torn apart, and we should not be trying to hide it,” Palestinian American Representative Rashida Tlaib said on the floor of the House of Representatives.⁠

“There is so much anti-Palestinian racism in this chamber that my colleagues don’t even want to acknowledge that Palestinians exist at all, not when they’re alive and now not even when they’re dead.”

Source: Al Jazeera