VP Harris Sunday speech, in which she demanded an 'immediate ceasefire' in Gaza, reportedly edited to strip out 'harsher language' critical of Israel

 March 6, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a speech on Sunday in which she called for an "immediate ceasefire" in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, and used the remarks to stridently call out both sides of the combat for their perceived violations.

According to one report, however, Harris' prepared remarks were heavily edited ahead of time by the National Security Council to strip out and tone down "harsher language toward Israel on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza," the Daily Caller reported.

Such language, had it been left in the original draft of the speech, likely would have been intended to appeal to the Biden administration's anti-Israel critics on its far-left flank, but also likely would have resulted in potentially severe damage to the already strained relations between the U.S. and the embattled Jewish nation that is its most important ally in the Middle East.

Calling out Israel

On Sunday, VP Harris traveled to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 59th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when civil rights activists were brutally attacked by law enforcement while attempting to march across a bridge.

At the outset of her remarks, however, Harris first addressed "the humanitarian crisis in Gaza," which she said was "devastating" and a "horrific tragedy" as "innocent Palestinians" reportedly faced starvation and insufficient aid in worsening conditions that she described as "inhumane."

She then turned her attention to Israel and, to great applause from the audience, critically said, "And the Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses. They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites, and convoys are not targeted. And they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water, and fuel can reach those in need."

Calling out Hamas

To be sure, Harris was also sharply critical of Hamas, which has "shown no regard for innocent life, including for the people of Gaza, who have suffered under its rule for almost two decades." She further called out the "brutal terrorist organization" for its Oct. 7 atrocities that sparked the current conflict, including the taking of Israeli and American hostages, and asserted that it must be "eliminated" as a threat toward Israel.

"I will repeat: The threat of -- Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated. And given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire -- for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table," the vice president stated. "This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid in. This would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is more secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination."

"Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal," Harris added. "Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza."

Harris' speech reworked and "toned down" by the NSC

According to NBC News, which cited at least four anonymous current and former U.S. officials, Vice President Harris' speech was "watered down" with adjustments to her tone and criticisms of Israel by the National Security Council before she was permitted to deliver it -- an allegation that the VP's team thoroughly denied.

"The original draft of Harris’ speech, when it was sent to the National Security Council for review, was harsher on Israel about the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the need for more aid than were the remarks she ultimately delivered," the anonymously-sourced report stated. "Two of the U.S. officials said the initial draft specifically called out Israel more directly about the need to immediately allow additional aid trucks in. One of them described Harris’ original language as strong but not controversial."

For what it is worth, a spokesperson for Harris said the NBC report was "inaccurate" about changes made to the VP's speech, and further claimed that "The Vice President felt it was important to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, given recent developments, and to reiterate our Administration’s call on Hamas to accept the terms of the hostage dea."

The tentative potential deal that hasn't yet been agreed upon

As for the potential ceasefire deal VP Harris pushed in her speech, The Washington Post reported Monday that it is being negotiated by Egypt, Qatar, and the U.S., and while both Israel and Hamas have supposedly agreed to the general framework of the deal that will hopefully be in place when Ramadan begins -- a pause in the fighting. increased humanitarian aid for Gaza, and a swap of Palestinian prisoners for some of Hamas' hostages -- both sides remain hung up on some of the particular details and have made demands that are unlikely to be met.

Israel has been reluctant to negotiate until Hamas provides definitive information on the number and status of the hostages it still holds, which Hamas has thus far refused to do. Meanwhile, Hamas has insisted that it will only release its hostages in exchange for prisoners held by Israel once Israel completely withdraws all its troops from Gaza, but Israel has refused to pull out until Hamas has been destroyed as a viable threat and effective fighting force.

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