Washington, DC – Progressive legislators in the United States have introduced a congressional resolution urging “an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine”.
Monday’s measure — backed by more than a dozen Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Summer Lee, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar — highlighted growing calls in Washington for a ceasefire in Gaza.
list of 3 itemsend of list
“All human life is precious, and the targeting of civilians, no matter their faith or ethnicity, is a violation of international humanitarian law,” the proposed resolution reads.
Despite overwhelming support for Israel in Congress, Bush told reporters during an online briefing that the resolution is an urgent push Americans can rally around.
“Leaders lead from the front, and we move with the call of the people,” Bush said. “Our constituents around the country are going to begin calling our colleagues to join us.”
“The only way to move legislation is to first of all introduce them,” Bush added.
The war erupted on October 7 when the Palestinian group Hamas launched a highly coordinated attack against Israel from the besieged Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of people and taking dozens captive.
Israel responded with a relentless bombing campaign that has killed more than 2,800 Palestinians, including hundreds of children in Gaza. The World Health Organization has also documented dozens of attacks on medical facilities in Gaza, which have killed at least 12 health workers.
Moreover, Israeli authorities announced a total blockade on Gaza, preventing fuel and other basic supplies from entering the territory. More than 1 million people, including hospital patients, have been ordered by Israel to leave northern Gaza, a demand the United Nations has characterised as “impossible”.
Progressive legislators and advocates stressed on Monday that the US has the power to push for an end to the fighting.
With a land invasion of Gaza imminent, Bush said that “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives hang in the balance”.
“And it’s not only happening right before our eyes. It’s happening with the support and the power of the United States government, and it is shameful,” she said.
Despite the growing crisis, the administration of US President Joe Biden has avoided calling for calm in Gaza.
In fact, the news outlet HuffPost reported last week that the State Department circulated a memo to its diplomats warning them against using the phrases “de-escalation/ceasefire”, “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel on Monday, once again voicing the White House’s unwavering support for the US ally.
“You know our deep commitment to Israel’s right — indeed its obligation — to defend itself and to defend its people,” Blinken said in an appearance alongside Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.
In an interview with CBS that aired on Sunday, Biden called for eliminating Hamas. When asked whether it was time to call for a ceasefire, Biden responded instead that Israel has to “go after” the Palestinian group.
“I’m confident that Israel is going to act under the rules of war,” Biden said.
In Monday’s online briefing, however, Tlaib — the only Palestinian-American member of Congress — described the horrific humanitarian situation in Gaza, home to 2.2 million people.
“Entire families are being wiped out, all while President Biden and Secretary Blinken and the majority of Congress failed to even hint to the need to de-escalate or facilitate a ceasefire. And that to me is a failure,” the congresswoman said.
Tlaib stressed that the collective punishment of Palestinians is a war crime. “See what’s happening. Don’t turn away. All they need to do is see Palestinians as human to see again that these are war crimes,” she said.
Monday’s resolution marks a small but significant break in the near-unanimous support for Israel’s war effort in Washington.
“We must do everything in our power to end this ongoing violence,” Congressman Jamaal Bowman, another co-sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement.
“Our actions should proceed on the basis of recognising our shared humanity, including rejecting violence in all forms and pursuing an urgent ceasefire and de-escalation so we can save civilian lives.”
‘Now we have this’
Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute think tank, said the resolution is important because of the role the US plays in the conflict.
The US provides Israel with at least $3.8bn in military assistance annually, despite human rights groups like Amnesty International accusing the country of imposing apartheid on Palestinians.
That sum is likely to increase this year with US officials pledging to back Israel with more weapons and ammunition for the ongoing war.
Washington also regularly uses its veto power at the UN Security Council to shield Israel from criticism over violations of international law.
“We are not a benign observer in this conflict,” Berry told Al Jazeera, referring to the US. “We’ve enabled the occupation for years and are currently enabling the attacks taking place now. So I think it’s important for Congress to take their job seriously.”
Beth Miller, the political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, also underscored the significance of Monday’s proposed resolution, saying that it gives rights advocates a solid demand they can take to their lawmakers.
“We haven’t had anything yet to push for because the only things that have been coming out of Congress so far have been horrible one-sided resolutions that only value or speak about Israeli life and completely disregard Palestinian life,” Miller told reporters. “And now we have this.”
Source: Al Jazeera