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Former US president Donald Trump waves at a campaign rally in Virginia on June 28. Photo: AP

Trump slammed for racist ‘Palestinian’ insult in US presidential debate with Biden

  • ‘To insinuate that being Palestinian is somehow a bad thing, as former president Trump did when he called President Biden Palestinian, reeks of racism,’ Amnesty said
Human rights advocates on Friday condemned former president Donald Trump’s references to Palestinians, and immigrants allegedly taking black American jobs, during Thursday’s debate with President Joe Biden, calling the remarks racist or insulting.

Biden and Trump had a brief exchange on the war in Gaza but did not have a substantive discussion on how to end the conflict which has killed 38,000 in the enclave, according to the Gaza health ministry, and caused a massive humanitarian crisis with widespread hunger.

The war began when Palestinian Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others, according to Israeli tallies.

“The only one who wants the war to continue is Hamas,” Biden said. Trump responded by saying Biden has “become like a Palestinian,” which rights advocates said came across as a slur.

“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 again used the term “Palestinian” in a similar way, this time saying in a rally that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish, was Palestinian. “He’s become a Palestinian because they have a couple more votes or something,” he added.

The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group said Biden was wrong to claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the war to end, while adding it viewed Trump’s Palestinian comment in the debate as a racist insult.

“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 in a statement. Israel denies allegations of genocide.

“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, said.


US presidential debate: Biden and Trump spar over economy, war in Ukraine

US presidential debate: Biden and Trump spar over economy, war in Ukraine

Human rights advocates have reported a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the latest eruption of conflict in the Middle East. The war in Gaza and Washington’s support for Israel has also led to months of protests across the United States calling for an end to the conflict.

Trump also faced criticism for using the term “black jobs” and “Hispanic jobs” while claiming immigrants who were coming into the US from its border with Mexico were taking away those employment opportunities.

The Trump campaign did not have an immediate comment to the criticism.

Immigration is a key election issue and Trump has claimed Biden has failed to secure the southern US border, ushering in scores of criminals. Studies show immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans.

“The fact is that his (Biden’s) big kill on the black people is the millions of people that he’s allowed to come in through the border,” Trump said during the debate. “They’re taking black jobs, and they’re taking Hispanic jobs.”

Civil rights organisation NAACP wrote on X: “What exactly are black and Hispanic jobs!?!”. It added: “There is no such thing as a black job.”

Amnesty International’s O’Brien said that Trump’s comments on immigration were grounded in white supremacy.

“It is disheartening that false narratives grounded in white supremacy and racism about people seeking asylum at the border and immigrant communities in the United States continue to permeate our national discourse,” he added.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, an organisation that works to mobilise black voters, said Trump’s remarks were not true and that Biden should have pushed back harder on such false claims.

“That there are specific black jobs for black people that immigrants are coming to take. Utter nonsense,” Shropshire said.

Trump’s campaign has made an effort to court black voters, with the former president visiting Detroit and Philadelphia in recent weeks. Some polls have shown a downtick in support for Biden among black voters, who historically have been among the Democratic Party’s most loyal voting blocs.