‘Unfathomable’: Activists renew call to end US aid to Israel | Human Rights News

Washington DC – Palestinian rights activists in the United States have condemned a recent visit to the US capital by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, renewing their calls for an end to unconditional US military aid to Israel.

US Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters last week that Israel would ask for $ 1 billion to “replenish” its Iron Dome missile interception system, as well as to purchase ammunition for the Israeli Air Force, in the aftermath of 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli bombardment of besieged Palestinian territory killed 235 Palestinians, including 67 children, and displaced at least 58,000 Palestinians. Twelve people in Israel, including two children, were killed by rockets fired by Palestinian groups in Gaza.

“The State Department is already trying to rush $ 735 million in additional arms sales on top of the annual $ 3.8 billion US taxpayers provide to Israel each year,” Mohamad Habehh told Al Jazeera , national development coordinator with American Muslims for Palestine.

“To come to the United States and ask for an additional $ 1 billion after the mass destruction of Gaza, after the murder of over 60 children, is unfathomable. “

“Military advantage”

Reports of a meeting between Gantz and US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday morning did not indicate whether Israel’s expected request for $ 1 billion in military aid was formalized.

Gantz tweeted that he discussed “protecting Israel’s QME” with Sullivan. QME stands for “qualitative military advantage,” denoting Israel’s technological and military superiority that the United States has helped fund for decades through generous aid that critics say encourages the Israeli government to act with confidence. impunity in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“American tax money shouldn’t be spent on funding apartheid and ethnic cleansing, especially when there is so much need here in the United States,” Habehh said.

The National Security Council said in a statement that during the meeting, Sullivan underscored the “Biden administration’s commitment to strengthen all aspects of the US-Israel security partnership, including support for the Iron system. Dome”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) meets with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on June 3 [Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via AFP]

“Mr. Sullivan stressed the importance of ensuring that immediate humanitarian aid can reach the people of Gaza,” the statement also read. On May 25, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the United States United would provide $ 38 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

But for some defenders of Palestinian rights, the gesture seems empty.

“So you give a few million dollars to the Palestinians for humanitarian aid, but then you sell hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to the country that oppresses them?” said Laura Albast, a US-Palestinian activist from the Palestinian Youth Movement who attended a small protest outside the White House against Gantz’s visit and the expected request for help Thursday afternoon.

“Biden said he was going to stand up for human rights. We took to the streets to march by the tens of thousands, we signed petitions, we raised our voices against the Israeli crimes of apartheid. But it’s clear that Joe Biden doesn’t care about us or the human rights of Palestinians, ”Albast told Al Jazeera.

She added that she has relatives in Gaza whose home was destroyed in an Israeli bombardment last month. “They are all safe and sound, thank goodness,” she said. “But their house is totally destroyed. Where will they go now?

Israel’s 11-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed 235 Palestinians, injured many more and destroyed buildings and critical infrastructure throughout [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

American aid to Israel

U.S. military aid to Israel has long been seen as a cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy, and the substantial political influence of pro-Israel groups has helped create a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of the billions of dollars Washington is sending. to Israel every year.

But Palestinian pressure groups say they are seeing a shift in discourse around Israel-Palestine in the United States, and public opinion is shifting among Democratic Party voters – though that shift has yet to. reached the leaders of the party establishment.

Nonetheless, progressive members of the Democratic Party are increasingly openly critical of military aid. When the Biden administration announced its intention to sell Israel an additional $ 735 million in ammunition – a revelation that was first reported during the Israeli assault on Gaza – several progressive members of Congress attempted to block it. .

A bill was also introduced by Representative Betty McCollum that seeks to ensure that US aid money is not used to facilitate Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, the detention of Palestinian children and the confiscation of Palestinian homes. Palestinian lands, among other actions.

“My colleagues are rushing to give the IDF another billion dollars to fund apartheid, while our education system, our healthcare system, our housing system all remain underfunded,” the Democratic MP said. Cori Bush in a recent press release. Tweeter, in reference to Gantz’s visit. “Our communities need this billion dollars. Send it to us instead.

Meanwhile, on May 23, more than 500 Democratic staff and others who worked on Biden’s presidential campaign signed a letter calling on his administration to take a stronger stand against Israel and do more to defend Palestinian rights. “As you tweeted last month, ‘No responsible US president can remain silent when basic human rights are violated.’ We could not agree more, which is why we call on you to unequivocally condemn Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians, ”the letter reads.

For US-Palestinian activists, such signs are an encouraging indication that their years of organizing are starting to bear fruit. “Things are starting to change,” Habehh said. “For so long, US aid to Israel has been a total blank check with no strings attached, and when it does, why would Israel change its behavior?

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