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Most Members of Congress Have Been Moral Failures on Gaza

Some Democrats who are said to support a ceasefire have only done so with obstructive caveats and preconditions.

Smoke and flame rises from different parts of Salah al-Din Road following Israeli attacks in Deir Al Balah, Gaza, on January 7, 2024.

The vast majority of members of Congress have refused to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, even after three months of slaughter and destruction by Israel’s military. Capitol Hill remains a friendly place for the Israeli government, which continues to receive massive arms shipments courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

“Israel would not be able to conduct this war without the U.S., which over time has provided Israel with about 80 percent of the country’s weapons imports,” Vox reports. The distance between the Capitol and Gaza can be measured by the vast disconnect between the standard discourse of U.S. politics and the carnage being inflicted on Palestinian people.

The human toll includes upward of 22,000 dead, more than 85 percent of Gaza’s prewar population of 2.2 million displaced, and the emerging lethal combination of hunger and disease that could kill several hundred thousand more.

The impunity enjoyed by Israeli leaders is enabled by President Biden, who clearly does not want a ceasefire. The same can be said of the vast majority of Congress, whose responses range from silences and equivocations to zealous support for the wholesale killing of civilians in the name of Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Members of Congress, who now deploy such easy rhetoric in public statements to justify massive and ongoing U.S. military support to Israel, would likely be far less complacent if they had to dig their own dead children out of rubble.

Seventeen members of the House stepped forward in mid-October to sign on as co-sponsors of the ceasefire resolution introduced by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., “calling for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” But the number of members willing to take such a forthright public stance has not risen during the 11 weeks since then.

What we’ve gotten instead has been the molasses-pace drip of some other members of Congress calling for — or kind of calling for — a ceasefire.

Now in circulation from some antiwar organizations is what’s described as “a growing list of members of Congress who have publicly called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.” But the basis for listing those names — 56 House members and four senators — ranges from solid to flimsy.

A case in point is my congressperson, Rep. Jared Huffman of California, a Democrat whose name is on the list but doesn’t belong there. As ostensible documentation, the list provides a link to a Nov. 19 social media post from Huffman stating that a ceasefire would require “Hamas releases all hostages, disarms & relinquishes control of Gaza” — in other words, demanding a full surrender by Hamas as a prerequisite for ending Israel’s mass killing of civilians there.

Several other listed House Democrats, such as Judy Chu of California, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, have “publicly called for a ceasefire” only with caveats and preconditions — without calling for the U.S.-backed Israeli government to stop killing Palestinian civilians immediately, no matter what.

Many members of Congress, to be sure, have taken far worse positions. But we should not be grading on a curve. Constituents need accurate information — so they won’t be under the false impression that they are represented by an actual supporter of a ceasefire.

Even including the most dubious names that have been classified as ceasefire supporters, the current list comprises just 13 percent of the House and 4 percent of the Senate. That’s a measure of how far we have to go in order to end what amounts to overwhelming congressional support for Israel’s devastating war on Palestinians in Gaza.

Outpourings of protests against U.S. support for that war have included large nonviolent actions at bridges, highways, train stations, airports, college campuses, legislatures and more. Some activists have also confronted members of Congress.

But for the most part, congressional supporters of Israeli impunity have been spared the nonviolent confrontations that they deserve. Such confrontations can occur at their office on Capitol Hill, but traveling to Washington is not necessary. Senators and House members all have offices in their home states and districts, conveniently located for many constituents to visit, express their views and even disrupt with nonviolent protest, making the point that support for the mass murder in Gaza is morally unacceptable.

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