TORONTO — Canadian poet Rupi Kaur has declined an invitation to a Diwali celebration at the White House in protest of the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war.
In a post on social media, Kaur said she refuses “any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment” of civilians.
She also called on other South Asians to hold the US government accountable. The Diwali event is due to take place on Nov. 8.
It will be hosted by Vice-President Kamala Harris, who has yet to comments on the remarks.
Kaur, the India-born poet behind the critically-acclaimed book Milk and Honey, said she is “surprised this administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali” — the Hindu festival of lights — as it is “a celebration of righteousness over falsehood and knowledge over ignorance”.
She accused the US government of justifying “genocide against Palestinians”.
The war began on Oct.7 after Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in more than 1,400 people being killed, according to Israeli authorities. Some 240 others are being held hostage in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza has said that more than 10,300 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s retaliatory attacks on the enclave, including more than 4,100 children.
An Israeli siege on the enclave has also severely restricted access to food, water and fuel for the 2.2 million people living in Gaza.
Kaur also criticized President Joe Biden’s refusal to support a humanitarian ceasefire, which is backed by the UN.
“As a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration’s actions,” Kaur said.
Biden has instead advocated for a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting, as have Canada and the EU.
The president reiterated his support for Israel on a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, according to a White House readout.
Biden also emphasized “the imperative to protect Palestinian civilians and reduce civilian harm in the course of military operations”, it said.
The administration has called on Congress to provide more than $14bn (£11.4bn) in aid to Israel, and has previously announced $100m in aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. — BBC