A Palestinian woman walks in Turmus Ayya after Israeli settlers attack.

A Palestinian woman walks outside her house, which was set on fire by Israeli settlers the day before, in Turmus Ayya near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on June 22, 2023.

(Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Rights Groups Urge Biden to 'Take Decisive Action' After Latest Israeli Attacks

Over 70 organizations are imploring the Biden administration to ensure that "not a single dollar of U.S. military aid to Israel" is used to fund human rights crimes against Palestinians.

As the West Bank reels from the latest attacks by Israeli soldiers and settlers, more than 70 U.S.-based advocacy groups on Wednesday implored the Biden administration to take immediateaction.

The organizations called for protecting Palestinians—including many American citizens—in the illegally occupied territory, holding Israel's government accountable for its crimes, and ensuring that none of the nearly $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel is used to violate Palestinians' human rights.

"During the past two weeks, dozens of Israeli settlers, some of whom may also be American citizens, recently carried out violent attacks on the Palestinian villages of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, and Turmus Ayya in the occupied West Bank," the groups wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"These attacks involved the destruction of property, including arson and stone-throwing, resulting in damage to cars, homes, and businesses. Disturbingly, numerous Palestinians sustained injuries from live fire, either from settlers or soldiers," the letter continues.

"We urge your administration to prioritize the protection of Palestinians, including American Palestinians, in the West Bank and Gaza and address the injustices they face," the signers wrote.

On June 21, hundreds of masked Israeli settler-colonists stormed Turmus Ayya after Palestinian militants killed four Israelis near Eli, an illegal Jewish-only settler colony built partly on land stolen from residents of the Palestinian village of Qaryut. The attackers shot and killed one Palestinian and burned many homes, vehicles, and businesses.

"This situation is deeply troubling as it indicates a gross failure on the part of Israeli authorities to protect Palestinian lives and property," the groups' letter asserts. "It is important to note that many of the Palestinian civilians targeted in the town of Turmus Ayya are American citizens, heightening the urgency of this matter."

"These incidents bear an uncanny resemblance to wanton violent riots carried out by Israeli settlers targeting local Palestinians in the town of Huwara earlier this year," the letter adds, referring to the deadly February settler assault on the West Bank town that was condemned as a "pogrom" by Palestinian leaders, members of U.S. Congress, Israeli human rights groups—and even Israel's top general. The term originally referred to the organized mob attacks on Jewish people in Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century that drove many Jews to emigrate to and colonize Palestine.

After the Huwara attack, U.S. Jewish groups led calls for Israeli Finance Minister Belazel Smotrich—who said the town should be "wiped out" by Israel—to be banned from entering the United States. Smotrich was issued a visa and visited the U.S. in March on official business.

Wednesday's letter stresses that Israeli military and police were present throughout the settler attacks, but "they did not intervene to stop the violence."

"Instead," the signers noted, "they protected the settlers, allowing them to act with impunity."

"This failure to address settler violence effectively sends a clear message that the monopoly over power lies in the hands of the settlers, thus perpetuating a cycle of violence and injustice," the letter states.

Meanwhile, "Israel has been launching large-scale military campaigns in the occupied West Bank cities of Jenin, Nablus, and other cities, conducting air strikes on several buildings as armored vehicles advanced through civilian neighborhoods, many innocent people including children and women have been killed," the letter continues. "In the city of Jenin, the Israeli army has targeted apartment buildings, medics, ambulances, journalists, and media centers. Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 163 Palestinians this year, including 27 children."

"We strongly urge your administration to take decisive action by holding Israel accountable and enforcing the Leahy Law, ensuring that not a single dollar of U.S. military aid to Israel is used for purposes such as the military detention of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian territories," the signers wrote.

The Leahy Law—named after former U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the legislation's primary sponsor—is actually a pair of statutory provisions barring the federal government from funding foreign forces credibly accused of perpetrating "gross violations of human rights."

Israel—which has been illegally occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Syria's Golan Heights since 1967—has been credibly accused of crimes including indiscriminate and intentional killing of civilians, torture of adults and children, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid.

Progressive and other Democratic U.S. lawmakers in recent years have called for the application of the Leahy Law toward Israel.

Earlier this week, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress—led renewed calls for Congress to cut off the nearly $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid to the "violent Israeli apartheid regime."

Like most of his predecessors, Biden has at once nominally condemned Israeli crimes against Palestinians while also continuing to stand as the strategic country's number one ally and benefactor.

Earlier this week, the Israeli Defense Ministry said it would use American aid to purchase a third squadron of 25 F-35 fighter jets at an estimated cost of around $3 billion, or about nine months' worth of U.S. assistance.

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