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Renowned Canadian poet Rupi Kaur declines White House invitation to Diwali event, citing US support of Israel as bombardment of Gaza continues

Rupi Kaur performs during her World Tour at The Parker on June 28, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale Florida. (Photo: mpi04/MediaPunch/IPx/AP)

(CNN) — Renowned Canadian poet Rupi Kaur said she is declining an invitation from the White House to attend a Diwali event hosted by the vice president, citing the Biden administration’s support of Israel as an intensifying bombardment of Gaza continues.

Kaur criticized the administration for its backing of Israel as it continues a military offensive in the besieged Palestinian enclave, where the death toll has continued to mount.

“I refuse any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population—50% of whom are children,” the “Milk and Honey” author said in a statement, adding that the Biden administration continues to “justify this genocide against Palestinians.”

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its military offensive a month ago, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the strip said Monday. Israel declared war on Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched a brutal attack on October 7, killing 1,400 people in Israel and kidnapping about 240 others. Israel retaliated by launching an air and ground offensive on Gaza, vowing to eliminate the militant group.

Israeli airstrikes have since hit schoolsrefugee camps, and ambulances, sparking outrage from the international community and fueling large protests around the globe. Israel has said it is targeting Hamas operatives and military infrastructure in Gaza, and that the group “intentionally embeds its assets in civilian areas” and uses civilians as human shields.

Kaur, an Indian-born poet who has garnered a strong following on social media, said the Hindu holiday of Diwali is meant to be a “celebration of righteousness over falsehood and knowledge over ignorance.”

“I’m surprised this administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali, when their support of the current atrocities against Palestinians represent the exact opposite of what this holiday means to many of us,” she writes.

For Kaur, Diwali is a time “to reflect on what it means to fight for freedom against oppression,” according to the statement.

“I implore my South Asian community to hold this administration accountable,” Kaur said. “As a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration’s actions.”

Global condemnation of the Israeli offensive has continued to grow as the scale of humanitarian suffering intensifies, with huge crowds of protesters gathering to call for a ceasefire in Washington, DC, and other US cities. President Joe Biden and his top advisers have warned Israel that it will become increasingly difficult for it to pursue its military goals in Gaza. Biden has not called for a ceasefire in Gaza, but has said he supports a humanitarian pause to allow for the release of hostages held there.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, Biden “reiterated his steadfast support for Israel and the protection of Israeli citizens from Hamas and all other threats while also emphasizing the imperative to protect Palestinian civilians and reduce civilian harm in the course of military operations,” according to a White House readout.

CNN’s Nouran Salahieh, Zoe Sottile, Abby Baggini, Donald Judd, Kevin Liptak, MJ Lee, Natasha Bertrand, Priscilla Alvarez and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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