Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) was the only senator in the Democratic caucus to vote against advancing a bill on Thursday that would send $14.1 billion to Israel in order to advance its genocidal military and starvation campaign in Gaza.
The Senate held a procedural vote on a foreign assistance package on Thursday that would send Ukraine $60.1 billion in assistance, fund Israel’s genocide and provide $10 billion in general humanitarian aid for global crises. It would also permanently revoke U.S. funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the primary aid group for Palestinians in Gaza and beyond.
The bill advanced with a 67 to 32 vote, making it probable that it will clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold when it comes to a vote, likely next week. Every Democrat but Sanders voted for the bill, showing the strong consensus among congressional Democrats to support Israel, even as it openly defies international law and imposes the worst conditions humanitarian groups say they’ve ever seen on Palestinians.
In a statement ahead of the vote, Sanders cited the horrors that Israel is inflicting on Gaza as the reason for his “no” vote.
“Over 1.7 million people have been driven from their homes and have no idea as to where they will be in the future. Almost 70 percent of the housing units in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. And today, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children are literally starving to death because Netanyahu’s right-wing government is preventing desperately needed food and water from getting into Gaza,” Sanders said.
“And, to make this unspeakable situation even worse, this bill even prohibits funding for UNRWA, the major humanitarian aid provider in Gaza,” he continued. “This bill provides  billion dollars more in U.S. military aid for the Netanyahu government to continue its horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable.”
Advocacy groups expressed frustration that the Senate was moving to pass the bill. “Just two weeks ago, the ICJ ordered Israel to prevent all acts of genocide against Palestinians. Still, the Senate wants to deepen its complicity in Israel’s crimes,” wrote the Institute for Middle East Understanding on social media. “The US should be working to end Israel’s genocide in Gaza, not aiding and abetting it. Congress and the Senate should be listening to their constituents: ordinary Americans who know it’s past time to demand increased aid to Palestinians and a permanent #CeasefireNow.”
A previous version of the bill, containing the foreign assistance and a large number of cruel measures restricting immigration, failed to advance earlier on Wednesday due to the GOP uniting against it despite the far right nature of the immigration measures. Rather, Republicans appear to be using immigration as a bludgeon to score points against President Joe Biden in the election while also wanting to block measures that achieve the level of depravity they apparently wish to inflict on immigrants because they believe the measures would help Democrats politically.
Sanders has been advocating against sending any additional aid to Israel for months now, saying that the U.S. should not provide another dollar of funding. Though anti-Zionist advocates have been frustrated with his refusal to call for a ceasefire, Sanders is still one of the strongest voices in the Senate against sending military aid to the Netanyahu regime. Last week, he announced that he was planning to introduce an amendment to the foreign aid bill to remove the funding to Israel altogether.
The senator has also called on the U.S. to restore aid to the UNRWA, saying that it is cruel to collectively punish Palestinians due to Israel’s unsubstantiated and politically motivated claims about the agency.
“More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in this war, seventy percent of whom are women and children. Today, hundreds of thousands of children face starvation and disease,” Sanders said in a statement last week. “The U.S. and other countries must restore funding to stave off this humanitarian catastrophe.”
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