Rep. Ilhan Omar leaves the House chamber

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) leaves the House chamber following a vote on February 2, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Omar Says US Must Not Back Israeli War Crimes With 'Unconditional' Arms Sales

"The solution to this horror, as ever, is a negotiated peace—with Israelis and Palestinians enjoying equal rights and security guarantees," argued Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar on Monday condemned the Israeli government's decision to impose a total blockade on the occupied Gaza Strip as a war crime, decried Israel's ongoing bombing campaign in the densely populated enclave, and called on the Biden administration to stop supporting such unlawful actions with blank-check military assistance.

"Just as we honor the humanity of the hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians and nine Americans who were killed this weekend, we must honor the humanity of the innocent Palestinian civilians who have been killed and whose lives are upended," Omar wrote on social media. "The Israeli defense minister has called Palestinians 'human animals' and promised to cut off all electricity, all food, and all fuel to civilians in Gaza."

"This is collective punishment, a war crime, and the U.S. should oppose any violations of international law if we truly support a rules-based international order," Omar continued. "Instead of continuing unconditional weapons sales and military aid to Israel, I urge the United States at long last to use its diplomatic might to push for peace."

Omar's comments came as two other House progressives—Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—faced backlash from fellow Democrats for similarly demanding an end to U.S. support for the decadeslong Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. The U.S. provides around $3.8 billion in military assistance to Israel per year.

All three lawmakers denounced Hamas' attack on Israel, which has killed at least 900 people. They also argued that Israel's U.S.-backed occupation and brutal apartheid system helped create the conditions for such horrific violence—a sentiment also expressed by some Israeli commentators, left-wing Israeli lawmakers, human rights organizations, and foreign policy experts.

Matt Duss, executive vice president of the Center for International Policy and a former foreign policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told Politico on Monday that the Hamas attack "has destroyed this whole premise that we can just bottle up the Palestinians and it won't matter."

"It has destroyed the premise, once again—and it's not the first time that we've been shaken out of this fantasy—that we can invest in repression, we can invest in relationships with governments that imprison their own people and deliver security and stability," said Duss. "It may work for a little while. But it will not work forever and when it erupts, it's extremely dangerous and tragic. And that is what we've seen here."

Omar argued that Israel's devastating response to the Hamas attack—including the deadly bombardment of crowded civilian areas in Gaza—"will only sow more discord and perpetuate the cycle of violence."

"The solution to this horror, as ever, is a negotiated peace—with Israelis and Palestinians enjoying equal rights and security guarantees," Omar added.

Omar's comments came as U.S. officials confirmed Monday that American weaponry was already "making its way" to Israel, with more expected in the coming weeks as Israel prepares to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, where nearly 190,000 people have been displaced and hundreds have been killed by the latest Israeli bombing campaign.

The Biden administration has thus far declined to push for a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza. In a social media post on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced support for "a cease-fire and the release of all hostages by Hamas immediately."

But the post was quickly deleted and replaced with a message that states, "Israel has the right to defend itself, rescue any hostages, and protect its citizens."

A day earlier, the U.S. State Department's Office of Palestinian Affairs deleted a post that called on "all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks."

Hassan El-Tayyab, legislative director for Middle East policy with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said in a statement Monday that "policymakers in the United States must refrain from further militarizing this conflict through more weapons transfers and work to ensure that U.S. military assistance is never used to violate Palestinian human rights."

"As these horrific events unfold," said El-Tayyab, "we are reminded that only by addressing systemic issues, including the decades of institutionalized oppression and collective punishment of Palestinians through brutal military occupation and a 16-year Gaza blockade, will there be peace."

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