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Lawmakers urge Biden to probe Israel’s use of US arms against Palestinians

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli troops patrol in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara, on March 26, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Two American lawmakers are leading a push for the administration of President Joe Biden to investigate if Israel is using US weapons to commit human rights violations against Palestinians.

In a letter drafted to Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman and Senator Bernie Sanders called on Washington to determine whether there have been any breaches of the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibit American weapons from being used for rights abuses.

The Biden administration, they said, should ensure that US taxpayer funds are not supporting “projects in illegal settlements” and that all future assistance to Israel will not be used “in support of gross violations of human rights.”

They also asked the Biden administration “to undertake a shift in US policy in recognition of the worsening violence, further annexation of land, and denial of Palestinian rights” by the Tel Aviv regime.

The lawmakers expressed deep concerns regarding “the rapidly escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the alarming actions of the new extreme right-wing Israeli” administration.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition includes “far-right, anti-Palestinian individuals and parties,” who are “pushing repressive, anti-democratic policies and escalating violence towards the Palestinian population,” they added.

The letter comes as Netanyahu is facing protests over his now-delayed plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary, which undermines the Supreme Court, weakens judicial oversight over policymaking, and gives the party in power – currently Likud – greater authority.

The Israeli regime’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. This move would threaten the rights of all citizens of Israel, enable more corruption by prime ministers, and open the path towards further annexation of Palestinian lands,” it read.

The Israeli regime’s “actions are in clear violation of international law and commitments made to the US; its agenda will further devastate Palestinian communities and heighten tension.”

The letter has already been signed by eight other lawmakers and received the support of over 70 progressive Jewish groups as well as more than 20 civil society groups.

Jewish Voice for Peace Action political director, Beth Miller, described the US lawmakers’ letter as “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.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian advocates said the letter could pave the way for a serious examination of the US-Israel relationship.

“Until the US holds Israel accountable for its human rights records, it will continue to act with impunity. The US has huge leverage over Israel, it should start using it. Most Americans would agree with this position (sadly, not our elected officials). Kudos to Senator Sanders for leading the way in Congress on this topic,” Nader Hashemi, associate professor of Middle East and Islamic politics at the University of Denver, told the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal.

Noura Erakat, a Palestinian-American rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University, told MEE that “any call to investigate Israel’s use of weapons is precedent-setting.”

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