Brett Wilkins: US Lawmakers Call on Biden to End US Taxpayer Support of Israeli Human Rights Violations
Israeli police officers force Palestinian worshipers to leave the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on April 5, 2023 (Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday published a letter signed by a dozen congressional colleagues and backed by dozens of advocacy groups urging the Biden administration to revisit the billions of dollars in mostly unconditional military aid the United States gives Israel each year in light of “the alarming actions of the new extreme right-wing Israeli government” against Palestinians.
The lawmakers’ letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken expresses “deep concern” over the “rapidly escalating violence” perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces and settler-colonists against Palestinians.
The letter notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government includes people like Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Jewish supremacist security minister who “openly encourages and praises violence against Palestinians,” and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who “responded to the recent Israeli settler attacks on the Palestinian town of Huwara” by calling for the whole town to be “wiped out.”
“We ask your administration to undertake a shift in U.S. policy in recognition of the worsening violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights,” the legislators wrote. “Only by protecting democracy, human rights, and self-determination for all Palestinians and Israelis can we achieve a lasting peace.”
Although the letter does not use the world apartheid like an increasing number of congressional progressives and international and even Israelihuman rights defenders, it details “shocking violence” that is the “bloody reality” for Palestinians living under illegal occupation in the West Bank.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who signed the letter, did use the word “apartheid” in a social media post to describe the situation.
“On February 22, a daytime raid by the Israeli army into the crowded Palestinian city of Nablus killed 11 Palestinians, among them a 72 year-old-man and a 16-year-old child,” the lawmakers wrote. “On February 26, a Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israeli settlers outside of Nablus. Subsequently, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian town of Huwara.”
“The settlers, accompanied by the Israeli army, set fire to homes, schools, vehicles, and businesses, killing one Palestinian and injuring over 300 Palestinians,” the letter continues. “The local Israeli military commander called the attack a ‘pogrom.'”
The lawmakers noted that “this comes amid an already violent year,” as “Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 85 Palestinians in 2023, including 16 children.”
“At least 14 Israelis have been killed, including two children,” they wrote. “The previous year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2004 and included the Israeli military’s killings of two American citizens, Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad.”
The letter urges the Biden administration to:
Ensure U.S. taxpayer funds do not support projects in illegal settlements;
Determine whether U.S.-origin defense articles have been used in violation of existing U.S. laws, including for a purpose not authorized by Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act… or to commit or support gross violations of human rights by the Israeli government; and
Ensure that all future foreign assistance to Israel, including weapons and equipment, is not used in support of gross violations of human rights.
In addition to Bowman, Sanders, and Bush, the following House Democrats signed the letter: André Carson (Ind.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J), Raúl Grijalva (Az.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).
The lawmakers’ letter is supported by dozens of advocacy groups, including Adalah Justice Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, Council on Islamic-American Relations, Human Rights Watch, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Movement for Black Lives, Our Revolution, RootsAction, Sunrise Movement, Win Without War, and Working Families Party.
“Congressman Bowman and Senator Sanders’ letter could not come at a more important moment,” Beth Miller, political director at Jewish Voice for Peace, said in a statement. “The Israeli government is committing brutal atrocities against Palestinians, including attacking worshipers at Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.”
“The Biden administration’s milquetoast statements of concern ring hollow without action and accountability,” she added. “It is time to ensure that no U.S. dollars are supporting the Israeli apartheid government’s human rights violations against Palestinians.”
Yes. I fell in love with Israel, I admired their pluck and their determination to make it work. Visited twice and was impressed. Now it’s all come full circle. Not good. I want Israel back, the beacon in a dark world.
I admire the Israelis who are standing up against the right-wingers who would harm democracy.
Unfortunately, the “beacon” you wish Israel would become again was not a beacon in a dark world, but was a dark world itself. To claim Israel was ever a democracy is to demean the word and concept. Ask any Palestinian who is still living there and you will note that the “democracy” that many Israelis are fighting for was only a “democracy” for Israeli Jews, and never for Palestinians. Democracy can only exist when all are given equal opportunity to live freely and to have a say over their government policies. Instead, Israel has been practicing apartheid for its entire existence with its Arab population subjugated to occupation, military rule, and the complete absence of any form of redress for crimes committed against it and/or the daily increase of land theft by settlers. There are few nations in the world that deny that Israel practices brutality and dictatorship over the Palestinians. The US, with our tax dollars, is one of them. We are on the wrong side of history and human rights and will remain so until we stop funding and even encouraging the illegal Israeli occupation.
I live in Israel and totally support this letter to the Biden Administration. There is no reason on earth for American citizens to pay for Israeli occupation, violence and the abuse of human rights that is the norm here against Palestinians. There are many sides to this situation and there are also solutions – if the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships would sit down and address possibilities. But they don’t. Because violence is always easier than making peace. Why should Americans pay for our inadequacies?