Rep. 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 Israeli human 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.
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."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Brett Wilkins.