Members of Congress criticize the United States' support for Israel
Several Democrats have urged the administration to accept responsibility and defend Palestinian rights, while others have expressed unwavering support for Israel amid the Gaza conflict.
Several Democratic members of the House of Representatives have spoken out against the US military support for Israel and called for the protection of Palestinian rights, in contrast to other Democrats and Republicans who have expressed unwavering support for Israel throughout the Gaza Strip's ongoing escalation.
Rashida Tlaib, in an emotional House floor speech, chastised President Joe Biden and other senior officials for making statements that she claimed did not acknowledge "Palestinian humanity."
“To read President [Joe] Biden's, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken's, General [Lloyd] Austin's, and leaders of both parties' statements, one would be hard-pressed to believe Palestinians exist at all,” said Tlaib, the sole Palestinian-American member of the US Congress.
“There has been no acknowledgment of the attack on Palestinian families fleeing their homes at the moment. There is no mention of detained or murdered children. There is no acknowledgment of an ongoing campaign of harassment and terror by Israeli police against worshippers kneeling and praying in one of their holiest places, no mention of Al-Aqsa being surrounded by violence, tear gas, and smoke while people pray.”
Tlaib added, wearing a keffiyeh and fighting back tears at times, "If our own State Department cannot bring itself to acknowledge that the killing of Palestinian children is wrong, then I will speak for the millions of Americans who stand with me in opposing the killing of innocent children, regardless of their ethnic origin or faith."
Israel continued its air raids and artillery shelling of the Gaza Strip on Friday, amassing troops and tanks near the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Since hostilities erupted on Monday, at least 119 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed and over 830 injured. Seven Israelis have also been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian groups in the Strip.
The US administration expressed condolences for all victims but did not single out any group or criticize Israel for its disproportionate use of force.
Biden stated on Wednesday that Israel has the right to self-defense, and in his most recent remarks on Thursday, he reiterated his call for both sides to refrain from firing.
“The issue is how... They reach a point where attacks, particularly rocket attacks launched indiscriminately into population centers, significantly decrease,” he said.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar condemned Israel's policies and attacks against Palestinians during the same House session, branding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "ethno-nationalist leader."
“Consider that 78 percent of their [Palestinian] land has been taken from them,” Omar said, referring to the time period since Israel's establishment in 1948.
“Since then, 5.6 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes on a continuous basis, creating one of the world's largest and longest-lasting refugee crises.”
Omar also criticized Israel's policy of illegally establishing settlements on Palestinian land in order to displace Palestinians.
“It is a conflict in which one country, financed and backed by the US government, maintains an illegal military occupation of another group of people,” she explained.
Congresswoman Cori Bush, a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, paid tribute to Bassem Masri, a Palestinian-American activist who died of a heart attack in 2018.
“Palestinians understand what state violence, militarized policing, and occupation of their communities look like, and they live with the reality of having to pass through checkpoints in order to go about their daily lives,” Bush said.
“We are anti-war, anti-occupation, and anti-apartheid,” she declared, joining several other members of Congress who spoke out in support of Palestinian human rights.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley stated during her speech, "We cannot remain silent while our government provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid that is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children, and displace Palestinian families." A budget is a physical manifestation of our values.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, urged the Biden administration to acknowledge its complicity in Palestinian injustice and human rights violations.
“This is our concern. Because we are a part of it,” the congresswoman stated, before adding, "This is not a two-sided issue. This is about a power imbalance.”
“This week, the president and a number of other prominent figures stated that Israel has a right to self-defense, a sentiment echoed throughout this body,” the congresswoman said. "However, do Palestinians have a right to exist? Do we believe that, and if so, do we share that responsibility?”
Mark Pocan stated that he and his colleagues "stood up because no one should suffer the loss of life, liberty, or dignity suffered by the Palestinian people."
“If you remain neutral in the face of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” he continued.
Debbie Wasserman-Schulz stated her "unflinching and unwavering support for the state of Israel."
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad are solely responsible for the escalation that has resulted in the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians,” she said, referring to the Gaza Strip's ruling group and another Gaza-based faction.
“No nation should be subjected to a barrage of rocket fire directed at a civilian population, as depicted on this easel. Without the Iron Dome air defense system, the death toll would be much higher than it is today.”
Josh Gottheimer, a Democratic Congressman from New Jersey, emphasized that Hamas was a US-designated "terrorist organization."
“No one in this room should justify a terrorist organization. Who will be the next recipient of their pity? What are ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah? 'He stated.
“While we may not always agree with Israel's policies, we must be clear that nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies a terrorist organization firing rockets at our ally.”
Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman referred to Hamas rocket attacks as "war crimes."
“President Biden has stated unequivocally that we support Israel's right to self-defense,” he said.
“We mourn the deaths of all civilians, Israeli and Palestinian. We cannot take reports of Palestinian deaths at face value because they originate with Hamas, a terrorist organization recognized by both the US and the EU.