Soon after the Islamist militant group Hamas launched its attack against Israel, a number of right-wing figures suggested that funding approved by the Biden administration may have played a role in the deadly violence.
The White House National Security Council (NSC) has already dismissed suggestions that the $6 billion in frozen Iranian money which had been freed up in exchange for the release of five American detainees was used by Iran—which supports Hamas—to help plot the attacks that broke out on Saturday.
Republican Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn suggested that a 2021 decision to provide $235 million in aid to the Palestinians may have also helped fund Hamas, a group that is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
In April 2021, the Biden administration approved plans to provide $235 million in aid to Palestinians, which included $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.
The move was a reversal from what occurred in the previous administration when Donald Trump blocked nearly all aid to UNRWA after it severed ties with the Palestinian Authority in 2018.
Blackburn, a loyal Trump supporter, suggested in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, that there was a link between the incursion from Hamas on Saturday and the aid relief promised to Palestine.
“President Trump cut U.S. aid to Palestine. President Biden reversed this decision and sent hundreds of millions of dollars to Palestine,” Blackburn wrote.
“Biden admin officials are now saying they didn’t think pouring millions of dollars into Hamas areas would fuel terrorism,” she said in a subsequent post. “The lies keep piling up.”
Blackburn called for the Biden administration to halt all aid to the Palestinian Authority and the “Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas” in the wake of the attack which has left at least 700 people dead in Israel and a further 400 dead in Gaza, according to the Associated Press, with thousands wounded on each side.
Newsweek reached out to the White House via email for comment.
Republican political consultant Ryan Girdusky also criticized Biden for approving the aid to Palestinians in the first few months of his time in office.
“How is it that Biden thought it was okay to send $235 million to the Palestinian territory but couldn’t even visit Palestine, Ohio?” Girdusky wrote in reference to the location of a chemical spill during a train derailment near the town of East Palestine on February 3.
Austria and Germany confirmed on Monday that they would be suspending aid to Palestinians in response to Hamas’ attack, with the European Union foreign minister set to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss future development assistance.
“EU funding supports most essential services for the Palestinian population and contributes direct financing also to the Palestinian Authority,” an EU Commission spokesperson told reporters on Monday.
In a statement, Trump described the Hamas attacks as a “disgrace” and said that Israel has “every right to defend itself.”
“Sadly, American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks, which many reports are saying came from the Biden administration,” Trump said.
It’s unclear what taxpayer dollars the former president is referring to but other GOP figures, including Blackburn and Trump’s fellow 2024 presidential hopeful Vivek Ranswawarmy, have falsely suggested that the transfer of $6 billion of Iranian oil money from countries such as South Korea and Qatar so American citizens held captive in Iran can be released helped to fund the attacks.
The $6 billion is not taxpayer money, and the White House National Security Council said the money in question hasn’t been accessed by Iran.
“Not a single cent from these funds has been spent, and when it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people,” a spokeswoman for the NSC, Adrienne Watson, said in a statement on Saturday. “These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today, and this is not the time to spread disinformation.”
On Sunday morning, Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed his “deep sympathy” for all those missing, wounded and killed during the “unprecedented and appalling assault by Hamas terrorists.”
“[Biden and Netanyahu] discussed the taking of hostages by Hamas terrorists, including entire families, the elderly, and young children,” the White House said in a readout detailing the conversation. “The President emphasized that there is no justification whatsoever for terrorism, and all countries must stand united in the face of such brutal atrocities.”