Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic U.S. presidential nominee, has reportedly apologized to Muslim-American leaders for questioning the death toll from the recent Israeli-Hamas conflict during a conversation with a group of South Asian activists.
According to the Zakat Foundation of America, an Islamic charitable organization, Biden apologized and sought to clarify “his position that he is pro-Israel but also pro-peace,” the Washington Post reported.
The apology comes after Biden questioned the accuracy of reports that said more than 200 Palestinians were killed in the recent conflict, telling the group of South Asian activists that the estimated death toll was “a bunch of numbers I haven’t seen.”
The apology follows a backlash from Muslim and Arab-American activists who criticized Biden’s comments. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, said Biden’s comments “show a troubling lack of understanding of the scale of Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians.”
The apology also comes amid Biden’s efforts to rebuild the Democratic Party’s relationship with the U.S.’s Muslim-American community, which has been strained in recent years due to the Trump administration’s policies toward Muslims.
Biden has said he will end the Muslim travel ban, which bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., on his first day in office. He has also pledged to create a White House position dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Muslim Americans.