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Rep. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, attends a markup in the Rayburn Building

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, attends a markup in the Rayburn Building on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Coalition Pressures Key Democrat Gregory Meeks to Back Resolution Blocking Arms Sale to Israel

If Meeks refuses to allow a vote, the groups said, "he's actively working against freedom of the press, democracy, and human rights around the globe."

A coalition of press freedom and human rights organizations on Friday implored Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks—the chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee—to support a resolution aimed at blocking the Biden administration's proposed sale of $735 million in advanced U.S. weaponry to Israel.

"The U.S. government should not be selling weapons to a government that has shown repeatedly it will use them to attack media outlets and journalists."
—Coalition

In a joint statement, Fight for the Future, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, MediaJustice, MPower Change, and National Lawyers Guild pointed to the Israeli military's recent bombing of buildings in Gaza that housed the offices of international and local news outlets, including prominent publications such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

"Freedom of the press is an essential human right," the groups said. "The Israeli military's bombing of international press offices actively interfered with the ability of journalists to document the situation on the ground in Gaza, including their ability to document human rights abuses and potential war crimes. Especially in light of numerous reports of social media censorship targeting Palestinians, it's crucial that reporters in Gaza are able to do their jobs safely and without military interference."

"The U.S. government should not be selling weapons to a government that has shown repeatedly it will use them to attack media outlets and journalists," the statement continued.

The coalition is calling on Meeks to allow a committee vote on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) resolution of disapproval against the proposed arms sale, which the Biden administration revealed to Congress just days before Israel launched its latest deadly assault on the occupied Gaza Strip.

If Meeks refuses to allow a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee—which has jurisdiction over arms sales—"he's actively working against freedom of the press, democracy, and human rights around the globe," the groups said.

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, Meeks capitulated to pressure from the Biden administration and abruptly dropped his demand for a postponement of the sale, which would send Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs to the government of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Wednesday, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) joined Ocasio-Cortez in introducing a House resolution to block the agreement.

"For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights," Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. "In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement, and disenfranchisement of millions."

"By planning to supply hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Israel, the United States government stands to help carry out war crimes and kill or injure more people with U.S.-made precision guided missiles." 
—Amnesty International USA

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) then introduced a Senate resolution against the weapons sale on Thursday, declaring that "we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate."

The two resolutions, which came shortly before Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, require simple-majority support to pass. But even if both chambers of Congress approve the measures, Biden could still use his veto power to force the weapons agreement through.

Amnesty International USA, a human rights advocacy group, issued a statement Friday endorsing the House and Senate resolutions and slamming Israel for carrying out "airstrikes in Gaza targeting residential buildings and family homes, in some cases killing entire families."

"By planning to supply hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Israel, the United States government stands to help carry out war crimes and kill or injure more people with U.S.-made precision guided missiles," Amnesty said. "The U.S. must halt this arms sale, as well as commit to reviewing Israeli forces' use of U.S.-manufactured weapons and other aid to commit human rights violations."


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