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Sanders Calls Out US Hypocrisy on Human Rights as Senators Unveil Aid Bill

The White House urges Congress to immediately pass the legislation, which would give Israel more than $14 billion.

Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on unions on November 14, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that the U.S. must stop fueling the Netanyahu government’s assault on the Gaza Strip as senators unveiled legislation that would provide more than $14 billion in aid to Israel, which has waged its monthslong war on the Palestinian territory with massive American-made bombs, artillery shells, and other destructive munitions.

“This is not JUST about 27,000 Palestinians killed and 67,000 wounded — two-thirds of whom are women and children,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. “This is not JUST about 70% of the housing units in Gaza being destroyed or damaged. This is not JUST about 1.7 million people driven from their homes. This is not JUST about hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children starving to death. This is also about our credibility in the international community and what this country stands for.”

“This is also about our credibility in the international community and what this country stands for,” the senator continued. “If we continue to fund [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s indiscriminate war, how can we, with a straight face, criticize [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine as a war crime? How can we criticize China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries for their many violations of human rights? Who in the world will not see through the hypocrisy?”

Sanders issued his statement shortly before the Senate’s top appropriator released the text of a bipartisan, $118 billion security supplemental that includes $14.1 billion in aid to Israel, just over $60 billion for Ukraine, and $2.4 billion to bolster U.S. military operations in the Red Sea that have not been authorized by Congress.

The bill contains language that would allow the Biden administration to waive “any congressional notification requirement” for $3.5 billion in military financing funds for Israel “if the secretary of state determines that to do so is in the national security interest of the United States.”

The White House is urging Congress to “immediately pass” the legislation.

The U.S. has provided Israel with more than 10,000 tons of military equipment in less than four months, aiding a government that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found may be committing genocide in Gaza with its large-scale bombing campaign and suffocating blockade that have left much of the enclave’s population at risk of starvation and disease.

“Israel is erasing generations in Gaza, and its soldiers are killing children in numbers competing with the cruelest of wars.”

Sanders, who has faced progressive backlash for refusing to call for a permanent cease-fire, said Sunday that “for the sake of the Palestinian people and our own standing in the world, we must not provide another dollar for the Netanyahu war machine.”

Late last week, Sanders announced that he would introduce an amendment to remove all offensive military aid from the security supplemental, pointing to the war’s mounting toll on Gaza’s children.

Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist and columnist for Haaretz, wrote Sunday that “Israel is erasing generations in Gaza, and its soldiers are killing children in numbers competing with the cruelest of wars.”

“This will not and cannot be forgotten,” Levy added. “How can a people ever forget those who killed its children in such a manner? How can people of conscience around the world remain silent over such mass killing of children?”

Since the ICJ’s interim ruling last month, Israel has continued “killing civilians at the same rate as before the ruling, as well as starving them, denying aid supplies, and depriving them of their most basic human rights; destroying their property to make it impossible for them to return to their homes; forcibly arresting them; and torturing them,” the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said Sunday.

Facing accusations of complicity in Israeli war crimes, the Biden administration has refused to formally assess whether the Netanyahu government is complying with international humanitarian law. In mid-January, the U.S. Senate killed a Sanders-led resolution that would have required the State Department to produce a report on Israel’s human rights practices in Gaza and the role that American weaponry has played in the war.

Now Senate leaders are looking to move ahead with a bill that would provide Israel with billions of dollars in additional no-strings-attached military assistance — though it’s unclear whether the measure will have enough support to pass, as some Republicans revolt over what they view as the legislation’s inadequate attack on immigration and asylum rights.

The Republican-controlled House, for its part, is planning to vote this week on a standalone measure with nearly $18 billion in military aid for Israel.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, argued that the U.S. must “end its military support for Israel” to comply with the ICJ’s legally binding order.

“The U.S. has been complicit in every genocidal action that Israel has taken in Gaza, continuing to provide it with military equipment and political protection even after months of horrific evidence of its crimes in Gaza,” said Whitson. “Suspending military aid may at least protect the U.S. from itself being found liable for complicity in Israel’s genocide.”

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