Former President Barack Obama said, "What's happening to Palestinians is unbearable."
The comment came in an interview with Pod Save America, an excerpt of which was published Saturday.
Obama also spoke about the "madness of antisemitism" and how "TikTok activism" harms discourse.
Hamas's October 7 killing spree in southern Israel was "horrific" and unjustifiable, but what is "also true is that the occupation and what's happening to Palestinians is unbearable," former President Barack Obama said in comments published Saturday.
The remarks come after Obama earlier warned that an Israeli ground operation in Gaza could "backfire," arguing that while Israel had the right to defend itself, any civilian death would increase support for extremism and harm the country's long-term security.
In his latest intervention, the former president argued for all sides of the debate over Israel and Palestine to acknowledge the "complexity" of the conflict and all parties' valid grievances.
"There is a history of the Jewish people that may be dismissed unless your grandparents or your great grandparents or your uncle or your aunt tell you stories about the madness of antisemitism," Obama said. "And what is true is that there are people right now who are dying who have nothing to do with what Hamas did."
The comments came in an interview with Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by several of Obama's former White House aides, an excerpt of which was published Saturday. They are the latest indication of discomfort among current and former US officials with the mounting death toll from Israel's military operations in Gaza, which is nearing 10,000, according to the territory's Hamas-run health ministry.
Even as he acknowledged the death of innocent Palestinians, Obama cautioned against embracing what he derided as one-sided narratives online that favor slogans over nuance.
"The problem with the social media and trying to TikTok activism — and trying to debate this on that — is you can't speak the truth," Obama said. "You can pretend to speak the truth. You can speak one side of the truth, and in some cases, you can try to maintain your moral innocence. But that won't solve the problem."
If you want to solve the problem, Obama continued, "then you have to take in the whole truth and you then have to admit nobody's hands are clean — that all of us are complicit to some degree."
'Was there something else I could have done?'
In office, Obama supported peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at securing a two-state solution. In a 2013 speech, he also urged Israelis to consider the perspective of Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank.
"Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes," Obama said at the time. "It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day."
But Obama also supported Israeli military actions in Gaza, including "Operation Protective Edge," a bombardment that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them civilians. And, like every other US president, he failed to secure a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
In the interview published Saturday, Obama reflected on his time in office in light of this latest flare-up in the Middle East.
"I look at this and I think back, 'What could I have done during my presidency to move this forward?' As hard as I tried — I've got the scars to prove it — but there's a part of me that's still saying, 'Well, was there something else I could have done?' That's the conversation we should be having, not just looking backwards, but looking forward."
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