Matthew Miller, U.S. State Department spokesman, began Foggy Bottom’s press briefing on July 10 by noting it was the 500th day of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“For 500 days, the Ukrainian people have endured the Russian government’s relentless attacks against homes, schools, hospitals, playgrounds, nuclear facilities, shopping malls, restaurants and other infrastructure,” Miller said. “Members of Russian forces and their proxies have committed international crimes.”
“For 500 days, we have stood firmly united with Ukraine, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes,” he added.
Some 20 minutes later, it was Said Arikat’s turn to ask a question. “I have a couple questions on Jenin. But since you mentioned a milestone of 500 days, I want to ask you: Do you know how many days has it been since the Palestinians have been occupied by Israel?” Arikat, Washington bureau chief of Al-Quds, asked Miller.
Miller said he did not.
“Well, not including today, 20,475. Not including today,” Arikat said. “Facing a very brutal occupation. Unlike the Ukrainians, they’re not–the Palestinians are not afforded the right to self-defense, facing against Apache helicopters, American-supplied weapons and so on. Kids throwing stones at these weapons that you supply so generously to Israel and so on.”
“Do you believe that the Palestinian people in Jenin have a right to defend themselves?” he asked.
Miller rejected Arikat’s analogy in toto.
“Let me just say first of all with respect to the comparison to Ukraine, the United States does not believe these two situations are comparable,” he said. “I’m not going to litigate all the differences here at the podium, but in no way do we believe there is a comparison to be drawn here.”
Over the course of several soliloquies from Arikat, Miller said, “You and I have engaged in this conversation before,” and, apparently exasperated, “Let me finish. I’ve let you talk for a while.”
“We support Israel’s security and the right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups,” Miller said. “At the same time, it is imperative to take all possible steps to protect civilians from harm and facilitate humanitarian and reconstruction supplies for the benefit of the people, of the people of Jenin, like restoring electricity and water services.”
Another reporter asked for the State Department to comment on Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s reaction to a statement from U.S. President Joe Biden. Ben-Gvir said that Israel is not a star on the U.S. flag.
“That’s a statement of fact. Israel is an independent country,” Miller said. “At the same time, when we have concerns, we will continue to express them, just as countries express their concerns about actions the United States takes, and we view that as constructive and healthy.”