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US: Kamala Harris' Gaza ceasefire call slammed as 'not genuine, not enough'

American vice president's call for a six-week ceasefire criticised amid Biden's sinking popularity among Democrats
US Vice President Kamala Harris gestures during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference in southern Germany on 17 February 2024 (Wolfgang Rattay/Pool/AFP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris' comments on Sunday calling for an immediate six-week ceasefire in Gaza, were pulled apart as deceitful by Palestinian Americans, progressive Jewish organisers, and American voters who have been pushing on the administration to put an end to Israel's war.

Harris made her comments in Selma, Alabama, saying that the conditions in Gaza are "inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act".

"Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire," she said, pausing for applause before amending, "for at least the next six weeks".

The vice president's remarks were among the sharpest yet by a senior leader in the Biden administration for Israel to alleviate the conditions in Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 people since 7 October.

However, rights activists, progressive organisers and Arab Americans were quick to criticise the remarks, noting that what Harris was calling for fell short of their demands for a complete end to Israel's offensive in Gaza.

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"Vice President Harris calling for a six-week temporary ceasefire is a very specific amount of time," Abed Ayoub, director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said on X.

"What she asked for isn’t a ceasefire, it’s a pause to the genocide."

'What she asked for isn’t a ceasefire, it’s a pause to the genocide'

- Abed Ayoub, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Harris also said it was the responsibility of Hamas to agree to the terms of the ceasefire. Negotiations are currently ongoing in Cairo with regards to the latest agreement between Hamas and Israel that would see a temporary pause in fighting.

However, after Hamas did not provide a list of hostages who are still alive, Israeli reports stated that Israel did not send its team of negotiators to discuss the agreement.

Jewish Voice for Peace Action, a progressive Jewish organisation, said that Harris' comments showed the power of "sustained pressure from the Palestinian-led anti-war movement".

"But we need a permanent ceasefire and policy change, including halting weapons and ending funding to the Israeli military," the group said.

Eman Abdelhai, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago who studies gender, religion, and Muslims in the US, said the vice president's statement is a direct result of growing pressure from American voters.

"This is not genuine and it is not enough. We need a PERMANENT ceasefire, we needed it months ago," she added in a post on X.

Uncommitted vote

The war in Gaza began on 7 October, when a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel, killed 1,163 people - 767 civilians, 20 hostages and 376 members of the security forces - according to the latest tally from AFP based on official figures. 

In response, Israel launched a full siege on Gaza and an indiscriminate aerial bombing campaign, and several weeks later launched a ground invasion of the enclave.

After five months of the war, Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children.

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Israeli forces have also targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, mosques, and residential buildings. Last week, Israeli forces opened fire on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for food aid, killing more than 100.

The US responded with unequivocal support for Israel, including blocking UN resolutions for a ceasefire and sending military aid to the country.

The US has also seen near-weekly protests across the country demanding an end to Israel's war, an end to the siege on Gaza, and better rights and living conditions for Palestinians both in Gaza and in the occupied West Bank.

One of the main demands from the protests has been a permanent ceasefire. The protests have also translated into grassroots electoral campaigns.

In Michigan, a group called Listen to Michigan organised a voter turnout campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential primary election, calling on voters to cast their ballots as "uncommitted" in protest of President Joe Biden's full support for Israel.

In Michigan's Democratic Party primary, more than 100,000 voters cast an "uncommitted" vote - Biden only won the state by a little more than 150,000 votes in 2020, and former President Donald Trump won the state by only 10,000 votes in 2016.

Biden's backing for Israel with military assistance has also been met with opposition, with a Reuters/Ipsos poll finding that 56 percent of Democrat respondents said they were "less likely to support a candidate who backs military assistance for Israel".

The ADC's Ayoub noted that the six-week ceasefire the Biden administration calls for is  "just enough time to get most of the Democratic Primaries out of the way".

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