Some progressive US lawmakers – led by Jamaal Bowman and Bernie Sanders – are leading what activists are calling an unprecedented effort to ask the Biden administration to investigate whether Israel is using American weapons to commit human rights violations. against Palestine.
In a letter drafted to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden, the two lawmakers urged the administration to ensure that US taxpayer money is not being used to support projects in Israel’s illegal settlements.
The letter also asks the administration to determine whether US weapons were used in violation of several American laws: the Arms Export Control Act, Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, or Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act – known as the Leahy too. laws.
If the Biden administration found Israel in violation of Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act — meaning Israel was found to have engaged in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” — it would provide all security assistance to the country . at the end.
The effort by the two lawmakers is one of the strongest congressional actions yet taken against Israel in its history.
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“At this inflection point, we call on your administration to undertake a change in US policy in recognition of the escalating violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights,” read the letter, reported by The Jewish Currents first.
According to Jewish Currents, the letter was written by Bowman and Sanders is making efforts to get support from other senators.
It has already been signed by eight other progressives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Summer Lee; Rashida Tlaib; Cory Bush; Ilhan Omar; Betty McCollum; Andre Carson; and Ayanna Pressley.
The letter was welcomed by Palestinian advocates, who said it could pave the way for a serious examination of the US-Israel relationship, in which Washington has maintained uncritical support for the country for years.
“Until the US holds Israel accountable for its human rights record, it will continue to act with impunity. The US has enormous leverage over Israel, it should start using it. Most would agree Americans with this position (unfortunately, not our elected officials) Kudos to Senator Sanders for leading the way in Congress on this matter,” said Nader Hashemi, associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic politics. at the University of Denver, with Middle East Eye.
Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American human rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University, told MEE that “any call to investigate Israel’s use of weapons is setting a precedent.”
US support for Israel
In addition to the progressive lawmakers who co-sponsored the letter, it also received support from more than 70 progressive Jewish groups and more than 20 civil society groups.
“Representative Bowman and Senator Sanders’ letter is an important call to action,” Jewish Voice for Peace Action political director Beth Miller said in a statement.
“Over 80 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers just since the beginning of 2023, and the Biden administration’s statements of ‘concern’ mean nothing without action and accountability.
“The leaders of Congress who join in this letter are following the demands of a rapidly growing number of Americans – including American Jews – who want the Israeli government to be held accountable for the past years of oppression of the Palestinians,” Miller said.
The letter from the legislators comes at a turbulent time in the US-Israel relationship, as the new far-right Israeli government recently tried to introduce major judicial reforms that were met with massive protests in the country.
Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the plans, which Netanyahu said would not yield to “foreign pressure”.
US lawmakers have previously warned of the proposed judicial changes in Israel. However, Bowman and Sanders’ letter also exposed Biden’s “two-sidedness of the administration” in his approach to the Israelis and Palestinians.
Instead, the letter condemns Israel’s actions against Palestine, including military raids on towns in the occupied West Bank as well as settler attacks that the lawmakers called “horrendous violence”.
He also stated that he is “very concerned” about the Israeli government moving towards “de facto and de jure illegal fishing” of the West Bank, rather than limiting his concerns to narrower cases of house demolitions.
“Only clear steps to change political conditions will pave the way for peace,” the letter said.