According to one congressional Republican, babies in the Gaza Strip should not be considered “innocent Palestinian civilians” during Israel’s ongoing military operations.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) was confronted by activists with Code Pink, a peace group, on Wednesday. Code Pink posted a video of the exchange online:
“You haven’t seen the pictures of all the babies being killed?” one activist asked Mast.
“These are not innocent Palestinian civilians across the world,” Mast replied.
“What about the half-a-million people starving to death?” another asked.
“[They] are people that should go out there and put a government in place that doesn’t go out there and attack Israel on a daily basis,” Mast said.
Mast’s office sent HuffPost an eight-second clip of the congressman telling the Code Pink activists at another point in their exchange that “I would say a 2-year-old Palestinian has to be without sin.” In a statement, Mast said that the original Code Pink video was “clearly doctored, and conveniently cuts out” this portion.
Mast, a U.S. Army veteran who wore an Israeli military uniform to Congress after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel, has downplayed even the existence of innocent Gazans before.
“As a whole, I would encourage the other side to not so lightly throw around the idea of innocent Palestinian civilians, as is frequently said,” Mast said in November. “I don’t think we would so lightly throw around the term ‘innocent Nazi civilians’ during World War II.”
Mast also told the Code Pink activists Wednesday that he supported the defunding of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the main aid agency in Gaza.
The United States and several other countries suspended funds to UNRWA after Israeli intelligence reportedly claimed that at least 12 employees of the agency — out of 12,000 on its payroll in Gaza — had some connection to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
In the wake of the reports, UNRWA said it had fired “several” employees and launched an investigation into Israel’s claims, which UNRWA Chief Philippe Lazzarini called “shocking.” Lazzarini said any employee involved in acts of terror “will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”
On Oct. 7, Hamas militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel and took hundreds of hostages, about half of whom have since been released through prisoner swaps. In response to the October attack, Israel began months of airstrikes and a ground invasion of Gaza. That offensive has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were women and children, according to local health officials.
On Saturday, Lazzarini referred to the defunding of UNRWA as “collective punishment,” warning that “famine looms” in Gaza.