Progressives in Congress delivered powerful speeches on the House floor on Thursday condemning the violence being wrought by the Israeli government against Palestinians and urging their colleagues in Washington to end U.S. support for Israel’s “apartheid government.”
“I am a reminder that Palestinians do, indeed, exist. That we are human, that we are allowed to exist,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) in the House. Tlaib is the only Palestinian American in Congress. “Colleagues, Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government.”
“If we are to make good on our promises to support equal human rights for all, it is our duty to end the apartheid system that for decades has subjected Palestinians to inhumane treatment and racism, reducing Palestinians to live in utter fear and terror of losing a child, being indefinitely detained or killed because of who they are, and the unequal rights and protections they have under Israeli law,” Tlaib continued. “It must end.”
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Tlaib spoke during a special order hour for members of Congress to speak about the apartheid. It was organized by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Marie Newman (D-Illinois), who also helped lead a letter sent to the Biden administration on Wednesday urging the Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use his diplomatic power to urge Israel to stop evicting Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Israel has been stepping up violence and attacks on Palestinians in Gaza over the past few days. Israeli forces have killed over 100 people in Gaza since attacks began on Monday. That death toll includes at least 31 children, adding to the over 3,000 Palestinian children who have been killed by Israel over the past two decades.
“The Palestinian story is that of being made a refugee on the lands you called home. We cannot have an honest conversation about U.S. military support for the Israeli government today without acknowledging that, for Palestinians, the catastrophe of displacement and dehumanization in their homeland has been ongoing since 1948,” said Tlaib.
Funding from the U.S. has helped make possible Israel’s many raids and attacks on Palestinians. The U.S. sends Israel $3.8 billion a year — money which is often used to commit human rights violations and further oppress Palestinians in the area.
President Joe Biden has not followed lawmakers left on the issue of Israeli apartheid and said earlier this week that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” while saying nothing of the historical horrors wrought upon Palestinians by the Israeli government. Meanwhile, he’s said that he believes that Israel’s devastating airstrikes that have killed dozens and leveled entire buildings over the past days aren’t a “significant overreaction.”
The left has criticized the Biden administration for such comments defending Israel. In response to a State Department representative saying that Israel was right in retaliating brutally against rockets fired by Hamas, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) pointed out on Twitter that “This unsurprising response is devoid of empathy and concern for human suffering. He can’t even condemn the killing of children.”
In her time speaking on Thursday, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) spoke on the parallels between police brutality faced by Black people in the U.S. and brutality faced by Palestinians and condemned the U.S.’s funding of Israeli forces.
“I remember learning that the same equipment that [U.S. police] used to brutalize us is the same equipment that we send to the Israeli military to police and brutalize Palestinians,” said Bush. “That harassment, that extortion, that brutalization by a heavily armed militarized presence in our community — that’s what we fund when our government sends our tax dollars to the Israeli military.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) also likened the Israeli violence on Palestinians to police brutality in the U.S. when speaking on the House floor. “Palestinians are being told the same thing as Black folks in America: There is no acceptable form of resistance,” Pressley said.
“We cannot remain silent when our government sends $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children and displace Palestinian families. A budget is a reflection of our values,” Pressley continued. “The question at hand is, should our taxpayer dollars create conditions for justice, healing and repair? Or should those dollars create conditions for oppression and apartheid?”