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Whitmer declines to call Israel Gaza invasion a “genocide”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday that using words such as “genocide” to describe events in Gaza is meant “to inflame and divide us.”
Rick Pluta
Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday that using words such as “genocide” to describe events in Gaza is meant “to inflame and divide us.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer pointedly declined to use the word “genocide” on a Sunday morning news show to describe the war in Gaza and the massive Palestinian civilian death toll as Israel tries to eliminate Hamas.

The Democratic governor appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press” to talk about the swing state of Michigan and presidential politics. Whitmer is a high-profile supporter of President Joe Biden’s reelection.

The questions turned to the war between Israel and Hamas and its effect in Michigan’s large Middle Eastern communities. Whitmer was pressed by host Kristen Welker on whether Biden’s support for Israel puts him at risk in Michigan.

Whitmer said there are many people on all sides who have close connections and strong feelings about the conflict. Whitmer declined to use the word “genocide” to describe the siege in Gaza.

“I’m not going to weigh in where I know that a lot of these terms are used to inflame and divide us,” she said. “I’m not going to stay focused on doing, on being productive and hoping that we can have some peace very soon.”

Israel says it is acting in self-defense following Hamas’s October attack on Israel. Gaza’s health ministry says tens of thousands innocent Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli forces in the war.

Michigan has one of the nation’s largest Arab-American and Muslim-American populations.

“I’m watching this very closely and doing what I can to support all of these communities here in Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also said “abortion is on the ballot in all 50 states.” The abortion controversy will be a key issue this year as courts and GOP-led legislatures have acted to restrict reproductive rights.
“Abortion is on the ballot in all 50 states,” she said. Whitmer said protecting reproductive rights is motivating voters.

“Because they know that this is a fundamental question of who we are as a society and how we are going to empower Americans to do what they need to do to protect their health, to grow their families, to make their own decisions in their own lives and politicians should get the heck out of the way.”

Michigan voters resoundingly adopted a reproductive rights amendment two years ago. That election also saw Michigan Democrats win decisive victories that put them in charge of state government for the first time in nearly four decades.

Whitmer said voters will remember it was former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court picks who overturned the Roe versus Wade decision and Trump’s earlier comments that abortion should be outlawed nationwide. More recently he has said it should be for every state to decide.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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