Injured Gazans

Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Kuwait Hospital for treatment following an Israeli attack on a family home in Rafah, Gaza on January 25, 2024.

(Photo: Doaa Albaz/Anadolu via Getty Images)

'The US Is Complicit in the Nightmare' in Gaza, Says Bernie Sanders

"This should not be seen as just a terrible crisis taking place many thousands of miles away from our shores," said the Vermont senator. "Much of what is happening right now is being done with U.S. arms."

Sen. Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to decry U.S. complicity in Gaza's humanitarian disaster, which the Vermont independent blamed on Israel's "extreme right-wing government" and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Netanyahu's right-wing government is starving the Palestinian people on top of its indiscriminate bombardment," Sanders said. "Israel is imposing onerous restrictions that are blocking the delivery of essential humanitarian aid. All of this is unacceptable. We are running out of time as we face one of the most severe humanitarian catastrophes of recent times."

The senator's floor speech came as Israel continued bombarding much of the Gaza Strip, where virtually the entire population is displaced and at risk of famine, with children facing the brunt of the crisis.

The head of the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees said that Wednesday was "another horrific day in Gaza," pointing to the Israeli military's attack on a facility sheltering tens of thousands of displaced people.

"Once again a blatant disregard of basic rules of war," said Philippe Lazzarini.

The attack was carried out using tank rounds that the U.S. has rushed to send the Israeli government in recent weeks, bypassing congressional oversight and ignoring warnings that the shells are indiscriminate and are being used against civilians in violation of international humanitarian law.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Sanders stressed the role that U.S. weaponry has played in fueling Gaza's humanitarian emergency.

"This should not be seen as just a terrible crisis taking place many thousands of miles away from our shores," said Sanders. "This is a tragedy in which we, the United States of America, are complicit. Much of what is happening right now is being done with U.S. arms and military equipment. In other words, whether we like it or not, the U.S. is complicit in the nightmare that millions of Palestinians are now experiencing."

Hours earlier, 16 leading human rights called for an immediate halt to arms transfers to both the Israeli military and Palestinian militants.

Sanders went on to criticize his Senate colleagues for overwhelmingly voting against his resolution that would have required the U.S. State Department to produce a report on Israel's adherence to human rights law. The Biden administration has said repeatedly that it is not formally assessing whether the Israeli government is complying with the laws of war.

"Given the scale of the disaster, how could any member of the Senate tell us that they do not want to know how billions in U.S. military aid is being used? How can we not want to have that very simple information?" Sanders asked. "My colleagues and I will continue to push for this information, which is absolutely necessary for Congress to conduct its oversight duties."

The senator said U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration must use "every tool" at their disposal to force Netanyahu to "change the direction he has taken."

"We must now use our leverage to demand an end to the bombing, a humanitarian cease-fire to allow aid to flow to those who are suffering, and to secure the release of the more than 130 hostages still being held in Gaza," said Sanders, who has previously voiced opposition to calls for a lasting cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

"We must also demand that the Israeli government begin the necessary work to lay the groundwork for a two-state solution," Sanders continued. "There is a horrific catastrophe taking place right now. We cannot continue to ignore it. We must act."

Openly defying calls from the Biden administration, Netanyahu has in recent days made clear that he vehemently opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, a position that has drawn vocal rebukes from lawmakers, human rights groups, and the head of the United Nations.

Nearly every member of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Sanders, has signed onto an amendment led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) expressing support for "a negotiated comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace."

The only Democratic senators who haven't backed the amendment are Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.).

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