Sanders Says US Must ‘Take a Hard Look’ at Nearly $4 Billion in Annual Military Aid to Israel

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/05/17/sanders-says-us-must-take-hard-look-nearly-4-billion-annual-military-aid-israel

“It is illegal for U.S. aid to support human rights violations,” said the Vermont senator. by Jake Johnson, staff writer

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said Sunday that lawmakers must “take a hard look” at the nearly $4 billion in military aid the U.S. sends to Israel on an annual basis as the Netanyahu regime continues its devastating assault on Gaza and attempts to forcefully expel Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

“The devastation in Gaza is unconscionable. We must urge an immediate ceasefire,” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, tweeted Sunday. “The killing of Palestinians and Israelis must end. We must also take a hard look at nearly $4 billion a year in military aid to Israel. It is illegal for U.S. aid to support human rights violations.”

“Now is the time to send a clear message to the Israeli government: Not one dollar more of U.S. military aid can be used to demolish Palestinian homes, annex Palestinian lands, and torture or kill Palestinian children.”
—Rep. Betty McCollum

The senator’s call came after Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed 42 Palestinians early Sunday, bringing the death toll since last week closer to 200.

Thanks to a 10-year deal inked during the Obama presidency in 2016, Israel receives roughly $3.8 billion a year in military assistance from the United States. In a budget blueprint released last month, President Joe Biden indicated that he intends to adhere to the terms of the 2016 deal, which sends Israel $3.3 billion in military aid and $500 million for missile defense systems each year.

In the wake of Israeli security forces’ attack on worshipers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound last week, several members of Congress vocally reiterated their support for adding strict human rights conditions to the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to pressure the Israeli government to end its brutal repression of Palestinians.

Under legal provisions known as the Leahy laws, the U.S. government is barred from providing military assistance “to any unit” of a country’s security forces that is committing “a gross violation of human rights”—mandates that have been applied only selectively in practice.

“American taxpayer money is being used to commit human rights violations,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress, tweeted last Monday. “Congress must condition the aid we send to Israel, and end it altogether if those conditions are not followed.”

In a joint statement that same day, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), André Carson (D-Ind.), and Tlaib lamented that “we continue to provide the Israeli government with over $3 billion in military aid every year—with no conditions or accountability for wanton human rights abuses and continuing illegal seizures of Palestinian land.”

Last month, before Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza began, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) introduced legislation that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military aid in the occupied territories for “military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention”; seizing or destroying Palestinian property and homes; or supporting the annexation of Palestinian territory.

The bill currently has just 19 co-sponsors in the House, including Omar, Carson, and Tlaib as well as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Now is the time to send a clear message to the Israeli government: Not one dollar more of U.S. military aid can be used to demolish Palestinian homes, annex Palestinian lands, and torture or kill Palestinian children,” McCollum told The Intercept last week. “Members need to decide if they want to talk peace and perpetuate conflict or if they want to really work toward reducing violence and conflict while actually taking a stand to advance human rights.

Originally published by Common Dreams. Shared under Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Israel/OPT: Pattern of Israeli Attacks on Residential Homes in Gaza Must Be Investigated As War Crimes

WASHINGTON – Israeli forces have displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, said Amnesty International today.

The organization has documented four deadly attacks by Israel launched on residential homes without prior warning and is calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to urgently investigate these attacks. The death toll in Gaza continues to climb with at least 198 Palestinians killed including 58 children and more than 1,220 injured. Ten people in Israel, including two children, have been killed and at least 27 injured by Palestinian attacks.

“There is a horrific pattern emerging of Israel launching air strikes in Gaza targeting residential buildings and family homes – in some cases entire families were buried beneath the rubble when the buildings they lived in collapsed.  In the cases documented below, no prior warning was given to the civilian residents to allow them to escape. Under international humanitarian law, all parties must distinguish between military targets and civilian objects and direct their attacks only at military objectives. When carrying out attacks, parties must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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