Human rights advocates are warning that U.S. President Joe Biden’s new supplemental funding request could — under the guise of humanitarian aid — bolster, or even help finance, the far-right Israeli government’s plans for ethnic cleansing in the Gaza Strip.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) raised alarm on Monday over language in Biden’s request that says resources from the supplemental package “would support displaced and conflict-affected civilians, including Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, and to address potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.”
The White House request adds that “this crisis could well result in displacement across [the] border and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving programming requirements outside of Gaza.”
DAWN said that “any authorization for funding activities, infrastructure, or aid outside of Israel and Palestine” should be opposed “because they effectively facilitate, fund, and reward the forced transfer of Palestinians.”
Days after the Biden White House sent its request to Congress, an Israeli newspaper reported on a leaked document from Israel’s Intelligence Ministry that proposes the forcible and permanent transfer of all of Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinian residents to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A full English translation of the document was published Monday by +972 Magazine.
The Israeli government has already ordered the entire population of northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern half of the strip as Israel’s military decimates the north with airstrikes and expands its ground operations there.
The internal document states that the “evacuation of the civilian population from Gaza to Sinai” would “yield positive, long-term strategic outcomes for Israel” and “is an executable option” that is preferable to alternatives, such as “the population remaining in Gaza along with the emergence of a local Arab authority” following Israel’s devastating assault on the territory.
The policy paper adds that the Israeli government’s efforts to “bring about a significant change in the civilian reality in the Gaza Strip” would require “intensive action to harness the United States and other countries to support this goal.”
DAWN expressed grave concern Monday that, if approved by Congress, Biden’s supplemental funding proposal would provide critical support for the Israeli government’s plans for forcible transfer, which is a violation of international law.
“The Biden administration isn’t just giving a green light for ethnic cleansing — it’s bankrolling it,” said DAWN executive director Sarah Leah Whitson. “Gaslighting Americans into facilitating long-held Israeli plans to depopulate Gaza under the cover of ‘humanitarian aid’ is a cruel and grotesque hoax.”
DAWN urged Congress to vote against any supplemental funding legislation that includes humanitarian aid language mirroring the White House’s request, which also includes $14 billion in military aid for Israel on top of weaponry that the U.S. has already sent to Israel in recent weeks.
“Supporting Israeli efforts to forcibly transfer Palestinians to Egypt would make U.S. officials liable for complicity in war crimes,” the group said.
Former Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth echoed DAWN:
The US government should not fund another Nakba. No US funds should be used to forcibly displace Palestinian civilians from Gaza to neighboring countries, given the history (from 1948) of such “temporary” departures becoming permanent. https://t.co/HIz6XxFGxS
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) October 31, 2023
House Republicans introduced legislation on Monday that includes mostly military assistance for Israel — omitting Ukraine funding, disaster relief, and humanitarian aid that the Biden administration requested. The GOP bill is likely a non-starter in the U.S. Senate, where Democratic lawmakers objected to the inclusion of Internal Revenue Service cuts.
“Both by word and by deed, Israeli officials are pursuing a broader strategy to permanently remove Palestinians from their native lands, and counting on the U.S. to pay for it,” said Whitson. “Congress should vote against any aid package that could support these acts, which amount to violations of human rights and grave breaches of the laws of war.”
+972 Magazine reported Monday that the Israeli Intelligence Ministry document “proposes promoting a campaign targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza that will ‘motivate them to accept this plan’ and lead them to give up their land.”
“The messages should revolve around the loss of land, making it clear that there is no hope of returning to the territories Israel will soon occupy, whether or not that is true,” the document states. “The image needs to be, ‘Allah made sure you lose this land because of Hamas’ leadership — there is no choice but to move to another place with the assistance of your Muslim brothers.”
A similar plan has been outlined by an Israeli think tank with ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As his government continues its bombardment of Gaza and ramps up its ground attack, Netanyahu has reportedly lobbied European leaders to pressure Egypt to accept refugees from Gaza. More than a million Gazans have been internally displaced since October 7, when Israel launched its latest assault on the Palestinian territory in the wake of a deadly Hamas attack.
An unnamed Western diplomat told the Financial Times that Netanyahu “pushed quite hard that the solution was for Egyptians to take Gazans at least during the conflict.”
“But we didn’t take it very seriously,” the diplomat added, “because the Egyptian position is and has always been very clear and they just won’t do it.”
The Israeli government’s actions and rhetoric since October 7 have sparked international warnings that Palestinians are “in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing,” as United Nations expert Francesca Albanese put it earlier this month.
“What we are witnessing may be a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, and the 1967 Naksa, yet on a larger scale,” Albanese said. “The international community must do everything to stop this from happening again.”
Israel’s attack on Gaza has killed more than 8,000 people — including more than 3,400 children — in just over three weeks. The Israeli military’s bombing campaign has destroyed or damaged at least 45% of Gaza’s housing units.
Around 40% of Gaza’s schools have also been damaged by Israeli bombs, according to the United Nations.
“The best way to protect Palestinian civilians from the wrath of war is to announce and enforce a cease-fire,” Raed Jarrar, DAWN’s advocacy director, said Monday. “Rather than pushing Palestinians to Egypt, Israel should allow Palestinian civilians to cross the apartheid fence into Israel. Maybe Palestinians can set up tent cities in the same towns and villages they were displaced from during the first Nakba 75 years ago.”
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