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Democrats Ask Blinken to Clarify If US Supports Forced Transfer of Palestinians

Biden officials say in public they oppose some Israeli policies — but they still offer full support in practice.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks at a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the U.S. Capitol building on November 13, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

A group of House Democrats is warning Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the U.S.’s continued military support of Israel could send the message that the U.S. is supportive of the forced transfer of Palestinians from Gaza.

In a letter sent to Blinken last week, the Democrats, led by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), say that the Biden administration has sent mixed messages regarding its stance on whether it will allow Israel to depopulate Gaza.

President Joe Biden and his administration officials have said that the administration opposes the forced relocation of Palestinians, with Blinken saying earlier this month: “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow. They cannot, they must not, be pressed to leave Gaza.” But the administration has not widely broadcasted this stance. Meanwhile, Biden officials have continued to pledge diplomatic and financial support of Israel and have not rescinded the White House’s request to send additional military funding to fuel its genocidal assault on Gaza.

“We urge you to continue to reiterate the United States’ firm commitment to this position and ask that you provide clarification regarding certain provisions of the administration’s supplemental humanitarian and security funding request,” the lawmakers wrote. “Any forced expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza would only exacerbate the trauma and pain Palestinian civilians in Gaza are already experiencing as a result of this conflict and cause more regional tension and conflict for decades to come.”

The Democrats highlighted that the White House’s funding request specifies that the funding “address potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries,” which they fear may send the message that the forcible expulsion of Palestinians is an outcome the administration supports. Forced expulsion of civilian populations is a crime against humanity prosecutable by the International Criminal Court.

“In light of the President’s recognition of the importance of preventing Palestinian displacement, we aim to prevent any confusion or misinterpretation that this funding request could in any way signal U.S. support for potential transfer of Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip. We ask for a clarification of the U.S. position on this question and that you continue to make clear American opposition to any forced transfer of population to both the Israeli government and the Palestinian people,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by 57 House lawmakers, including some who have called for a ceasefire. It comes as Israeli officials are escalating their genocidal rhetoric as the country continues its bombardment of Gaza, having killed over 25,000 Palestinians so far and leaving thousands missing under the rubble.

Opponents of Israel’s genocidal campaign say that the Biden administration’s public statements on Israel amount only to lip service paid to advocates for Palestinian rights while maintaining unconditional support for Israel to do whatever it pleases.

Indeed, milquetoast statements by U.S. officials lightly condemning Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign are nearly meaningless in comparison to the amount of military, financial and diplomatic support the U.S. has given to Israel. The Biden administration has spent the last months single-handedly blocking UN ceasefire resolutions, circumventing Congress to send Israel more weapons, and moving to send yet more weapons to aid in Israel’s massacre in complete secrecy — in the face of a deluge of alarming statements by Israeli officials regarding their intentions to indiscriminately kill Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

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