Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Bernie Sanders are circulating a letter this week urging the Biden administration to "undertake a shift in U.S. policy in recognition of the worsening violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights" by Israel.
The letter, which was first obtained and published by Alex Kane at Jewish Currents, was written by Bowman (D-N.Y.) and is being circulated by Sanders (I-Vt.) in order to gain support from other senators. So far, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), André Carson (D-Ind.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have signed it.
In the letter, the lawmakers expressed their "deep concern" over the "rapidly escalating violence" perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces and settler-colonists against Palestinians. It notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government includes people like Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Jewish supremacist security minister who "openly encourages and praises violence against Palestinians," and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who "responded to the recent Israeli settler attacks on the Palestinian town of Huwara" by calling for the whole town to be "wiped out."
The letter—which, unlike various human rights groups, does not use the term apartheid—details "shocking violence" that is the "bloody reality" for Palestinians living under illegal occupation in the West Bank.
"On February 22, a daytime raid by the Israeli army into the crowded Palestinian city of Nablus killed 11 Palestinians, among them a 72 year-old-man and a 16-year-old child," the lawmakers wrote. "On February 26, a Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israeli settlers outside of Nablus. Subsequently, hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian town of Huwara."
"The settlers, accompanied by the Israeli army, set fire to homes, schools, vehicles, and businesses, killing one Palestinian and injuring over 300 Palestinians," the letter continues. "The local Israeli military commander called the attack a 'pogrom.'"
The letter notes:
This comes amid an already violent year. Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 85 Palestinians in 2023, including 16 children. At least 14 Israelis have been killed, including two children. The previous year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2004 and included the Israeli military's killings of two American citizens, Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad...
This Israeli government's anti-democratic mission to dismantle the rule of law is a threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike. In addition to explicitly hateful, anti-Palestinian policies, this government is attempting to destroy the independent Israeli judiciary.
The Israeli government's judiciary reforms—which earlier this week were put on hold amid massive protests—"open the path towards further annexation of Palestinian lands," in "violation of international law," the U.S. legislators noted.
The lawmakers urge the Biden administration to:
Ensure U.S. taxpayer funds do not support projects in illegal settlements;
Determine whether U.S.-origin defense articles have been used in violation of existing
U.S. laws, including for a purpose not authorized by Section 4 of the Arms Export
Control Act... or to commit or support gross violations of human rights
by the Israeli government; and
- Ensure that all future foreign assistance to Israel,
including weapons and equipment, is not used in support of gross violations of human rights.
The lawmakers' push was praised by organizations including the Institute for Policy Studies, Win Without War, and Jewish Voice for Peace, whose political director, Beth Miller, called the letter "an important call to action."
"Over 80 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers just since the beginning of 2023, and the Biden administration's statements of 'concern' mean nothing without action and accountability," Miller said in a statement. "Leaders in Congress who join this letter are following the demands of a rapidly growing number of Americans—including American Jews—who want to see the Israeli government held accountable for its decades of oppression of Palestinians."