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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the latter's visit to Israel on March 9, 2010 in Jerusalem. (Photo: Avi Oyahon/GOP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on the latter's visit to Israel on March 9, 2010 in Jerusalem. (Photo: Avi Oyahon/GOP via Getty Images)

As Biden Blasted for 'Green Light' to Israel's Gaza Slaughter, House Dems Praised for Urging US Peace Push

"If your response to Israel murdering kids with U.S. weapons is only to express 'hope is that this will be closing down sooner rather than later,' you're telling Israel to keep murdering kids."

Brett Wilkins

As President Joe Biden faced withering criticism on Wednesday from human rights defenders for a sympathetic phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that some called a "green light" to continue Israel's latest deadly assault on Gaza, a group of 25 Democratic U.S. lawmakers was praised for attempting to help save hundreds of families in occupied East Jerusalem from ethnic cleansing.

Reaffirming his decadeslong and essentially unconditional backing of one of the U.S.' closest allies, Biden asserted his "unwavering support" for Israel's "right to defend itself," while condemning rocket attacks by Gaza-based Palestinian militants, according to a White House statement

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said in response to the statement: "You aren't prioritizing human rights. You're siding with an oppressive occupation."

Speaking later on Wednesday during a press conference on the coronavirus pandemic, Biden said he spoke "for a while" with Netanyahu, adding that "my hope is that we'll see this coming to conclusion sooner than later," a reference to the current conflagration. 

Biden's remarks drew intense fire from Palestine advocates, with talk show host and The Grayzone contributor Aaron Maté blasting the phone call as "a green light for Netanyahu to continue massacring Palestinian civilians." 

According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the Palestinian death toll from Israel's Operation Guardian of the Walls assault on Gaza rose to 65 on Wednesday night, including 16 children. Among the latest victims of Israeli aerial bombardment were a pregnant woman and her child, according to Al Jazeera. More than 300 Gazans have also been wounded. 

Hamas resistance fighters retaliated for the Israeli bombing of a third high-rise tower in Gaza—this one housing numerous media outlets in addition to family homes—by launching rocket barrages into Israel, where six people have been killed during the latest eruption of violence, according to Haaretz. 

Among Wednesday's Israeli victims were a father and daughter killed by a rocket strike on their home in Dhamas, near Lod, and a 5-year-old boy who succumbed to shrapnel wounds after a rocket penetrated a home's bomb shelter in Sderot, according to The Times of Israel.

The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with Netanyahu on Wednesday and "expressed his concerns regarding the barrage of rocket attacks on Israel, his condolences for the lives lost as a result, and the United States' strong support for Israel's right to defend itself." 

Blinken was the recipient Wednesday of a letter (pdf) led by Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and signed by 23 other House Democrats urging the Biden administration to pressure Israeli leaders to "desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah," two neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. 

The letter—which was praised by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights—expresses the lawmakers' "deep concern about Israel's imminent plan to forcibly displace nearly 2,000 Palestinians" from those neighborhoods, and calls on the State Department "to exert diplomatic pressure to prevent these acts from taking place."

Along with the Al-Aqsa Mosque—the third-holiest place in Islam and the site of repeated attacks by Israeli forces that have wounded hundreds of Arabs since last week—Sheikh Jarrah is the flashpoint of the deadliest violence between Israelis and Palestinians since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge invasion of Gaza. That assault left more than 2,100 Palestinians—most of them civilians, including over 500 children—and 67 Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and six Israeli civilians dead. 

The lawmakers' letter continues:

According to media reports, the Jerusalem municipality is planning to build a biblical theme park—Gan Hamelech—in Al-Bustan neighborhood near the walls of the Old City after it demolishes 100 properties, which are home to almost 1,550 Palestinians, 63% of whom are children. In the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, 169 residents, including 46 children, from 12 different families have received eviction notices so their homes can be occupied illegally by Israeli settlers.

From 1967 to 2017, Israel demolished an estimated 5,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, according to a report by the Land Research Center. According to B'Tselem... from 2018 to 2020, Israel demolished another 349 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights, during the Six-Day War in 1967, before ethnically cleansing (pdf) hundreds of thousands of Arabs to make way for Jewish people and the construction and expansion of Jews-only settler colonies condemned by Israeli and international human rights defenders as a form of apartheid. 

The lawmakers' letter notes that "East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, and under international law, Israel is in military occupation of this territory, notwithstanding its illegal incorporation of East Jerusalem within the Jerusalem municipality and its subsequent illegal de jure annexation of East Jerusalem."

It also reminds Blinken of Israel's obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to refrain from destroying Palestinian property, while citing Article 8 of the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute, which states that "extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly," is a war crime.


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