May 18, 2021
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is among the chorus of lawmakers and advocacy groups warning that U.S. President Joe Biden's effort to sell $735 million in munitions to the Israeli government is a "green light for continued escalation" in the occupied Gaza Strip, where the Netanyahu regime is carrying out a devastating air and artillery assault that has killed more than 200 people.
"It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians," Omar (D-Minn.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus whip, said in a statement Monday.
"By supplying weapons that could be used to commit war crimes, the U.S. government is taking the risk of further fueling attacks against civilians and seeing more people killed or injured by U.S.-made weapons."
--Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International
If the proposed sale of Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions goes through, Omar warned, the deal "will undercut any attempts at brokering a cease-fire," a solution Biden said he supports in a Monday call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights--holding all state and non-state actors accountable for their crimes and using every tool at our disposal to end the violence and bring about peace," Omar said. "We should be affirming the right of all people, regardless of their faith, to have self-determination and equal rights. That includes both Israelis and Palestinians because, yes, Palestinian lives matter."
The Biden administration first notified Congress of the proposed $735 million weapons sale on May 5, just days before the latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza began.
Over the past week, Israeli war planes have obliterated residential buildings in Gaza, crippled several of the territory's key medical facilities, and killed dozens of children--in some cases using U.S.-made aircraft and bombs manufactured by U.S.-based military contractors such as Boeing and General Dynamics.
Philippe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, warned in a statement Monday that Biden's push to sell additional weaponry to the Israeli government "directly undermines his commitment to upholding human rights around the world."
"By supplying weapons that could be used to commit war crimes, the U.S. government is taking the risk of further fueling attacks against civilians and seeing more people killed or injured by U.S.-made weapons," said Nassif. "The Biden administration must reconsider its decision to send more weapons into a situation in which human rights and international humanitarian law are violated every day, and if necessary, Congress must oppose this sale."
During a virtual meeting with Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)--the chair of the panel--said he was caught off guard by the Biden administration's proposed sale and announced plans to request a delay in order to more closely review the details.
(Update: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that Meeks will not seek to delay approval of the weapons sale.)
\u201cThis is the right decision. \n\nOver 200 Palestinians are dead\u2014including 61 children.\n\n10 people in Israel\u20142 kids\u2014are dead.\n\nHomes, roads & news offices have been destroyed in Gaza.\n\nAnother blank check for Israel is not going to end this violence.\n\nThe US must demand a cease-fire.\u201d— Rep. Mark Pocan (@Rep. Mark Pocan) 1621304648
A simple-majority vote in both chambers is required to pass a resolution of disapproval against the proposed weapons sale--something Congress did several times during former President Donald Trump's tenure--but it's not yet clear whether Democratic leaders will pursue that route.
Citing an anonymous source familiar with the process, CNNreported Monday that "the sale is unlikely to be stopped by Congress... because this particular sale, like all sales to Israel, is going through an expedited congressional review process, which gives Congress a 15-day window to take action to stop it instead of the usual 30-day review period."
"With just four days left in the review process, and a requirement for the committees of jurisdiction to act to block the bill, there's virtually no chance of that happening, according to the source," CNN noted.
In a tweet on Monday, Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pressed lawmakers to urgently step in and block the agreement.
"Congress must intervene and stop the sale of these weapons," wrote Omar.
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