Israel ‘has gone to war against the entire Palestinian people’: Sanders

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders repeated his calls on Sunday for the U.S. to cut off military aid to the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as it continues its devastating war on Gaza.

Sanders spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in response to a U.S. State Department report released Friday, which found that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had used U.S. weapons to violate international humanitarian law in Gaza but that the U.S. was “not able to reach definitive conclusions” as to whether U.S. weapons had been used in any specific incidents.

“Any objective observer knows Israel has broken international law, it has broken American law, and, in my view, Israel should not be receiving another nickle in U.S. military aid,” Sanders said.

Friday’s report came in response to National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20), in which President Joe Biden tasked Secretary of State Antony Blinken with obtaining “certain credible and reliable written assurances from foreign governments” that they use U.S. arms in line with international humanitarian law and will not “arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”

The report, made to Congress, was criticized by human rights organizations who said it mischaracterized both the law and the facts in order to avoid imposing consequences on Israel for waging a war on Gaza that the International Court of Justice has determined could plausibly amount to genocide.

“The people of our country do not want to be complicit in the starvation of hundreds of thousands of children.”

Amanda Klasing, Amnesty International USA’s national director of government relations and advocacy, called it the “international version of ‘thoughts and prayers.'” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called it “woefully inadequate” and told reporters, “If this conduct complies with international standards, God help us all.”

Speaking before Sanders on “Meet the Press,” Blinken denied that the report was an attempt to get out of holding Israel accountable.

“What the report concludes is that, based on the totality of the harm that’s been done to children, to women, to men who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’ making, it’s reasonable to conclude that there are instances where Israel has acted in ways that are not consistent with international humanitarian law,” Blinken said.

He added that both Israel and the U.S. would continue to investigate those incidents.

“When we can reach definitive conclusions, we will,” Blinken said, “but it’s very difficult to do that in the midst of a war.”

In response to Blinken’s remarks, Sanders countered that “the facts are quite clear.”

He said that Hamas was a “terrible, disgusting terrorist organization” and blamed it for starting the war. But he argued that Israel’s response had been beyond disproportionate.

“What Israel has done over the last seven months is not just gone to war against Hamas—it has gone to war against the entire Palestinian people, and the results have been absolutely catastrophic,” the senator told NBC.

Sanders went on to outline some of that catastrophe: a death toll that surpassed 35,000 on Sunday, with two-thirds of the dead women and children; the destruction of around 60% of all housing; the devastation of infrastructure such a as water and sewage as well as the healthcare and education systems; and the fact that hundreds of thousands of children are now at risk of starvation.

Sanders referred to Section 6201 of the Foreign Assistance Act: “Any country that blocks U.S. humanitarian aid is in violation of law and should not continue to receive military aid from the United States,” Sanders explained. “That is precisely what Israel has done.”

Sanders’ remarks came as Israel escalated its assault on Gaza over the weekend, issuing new evacuation orders in both Rafah and areas in the north. Biden has said that a major ground invasion into Rafah would be a “red line” and threatened to withhold certain kinds of weapons if Netanyahu ordered such an invasion, but Palestinian and human rights advocates say that Israel’s current actions in Rafah should already count as a major ground operation.

Speaking on “Meet the Press,” Blinken acknowledged that the U.S. had not seen a “credible plan” from Israel to safely evacuate the more than 1.4 million civilians sheltering in Rafah ahead of an invasion.

Sanders told NBC that he thought many Republicans and also some Democrats wanted Israel to invade Rafah, but that this was not an opinion shared by the majority of people in the U.S.

“Poll after poll suggests that the American people want an immediate cease-fire. They want massive humanitarian aid to get in,” Sanders said. “The people of our country do not want to be complicit in the starvation of hundreds of thousands of children.”

From Common Dreams.
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