US officials and international groups mount pressure on Biden over Gaza ceasefire

US officials and international groups mount pressure on Biden over Gaza ceasefire
This week could be one of the biggest tests of Biden's re-election bid: a letter from elected officials, a lawsuit, a senate resolution, and a demonstration.
4 min read
Washington, DC
12 January, 2024
Biden is facing mounting pressure to push Israel on a ceasefire in Gaza. [Getty]

Around 200 local and state elected officials in the US have signed a letter to US President Joe Biden urging for a ceasefire in Israel's war in Gaza. Also this week, South Africa began presenting a case accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

Just two weeks ago, dozens of international groups came together for a lawsuit against the administration to "prevent an unfolding genocide" in Gaza. 

This round of high-profile pressure on the US administration comes as the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 23,000 in less than four months of fighting. On Thursday, the US and several allies bombed Houthi targets in the Gulf, raising concerns of a wider regional conflict. 

"Our constituents – many of whom fear for their loved ones – have made very clear that they want to see an end to this violence. They want the US to immediately demand a ceasefire, and we share and echo their calls," reads the letter, which was released by Jewish Voice for Peace-Action.

"We cannot bomb our way to peace. We must demand a ceasefire now and then work to build a future without Israeli military occupation and siege. A future in which all Palestinians and Israelis can live in freedom and dignity," the letter concludes.

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This week could be one of the biggest tests of Biden's re-election bid, as high-profile discontent with his policy in Israel has reached a point that will be difficult for him to ignore, with his approval rating continuing to hover in the 30s among an electorate that largely favours a ceasefire, around 68 per cent according to a November poll by Reuters/Ipsos.

"We have an obligation to represent our constituents, and so does the president," Colorado State Representative Iman Jodeh, a signatory to the letter, told The New Arab. She is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants originally from the Jerusalem area and internally displaced to the West Bank.

Until Israel's war in Gaza, she had taken the position that foreign affairs shouldn't play a role in American state politics. However, seeing the continuing violence in Gaza, along with her constituents' response to the war with weekly demonstrations, she doesn't know how the two can be disconnected.

Now, she says when people ask for her endorsement, one of the questions she asks is about their position on a ceasefire, causing her to decline some endorsements.

"Human rights shouldn't be granted with prejudice," she said. "We took an oath. We Americans need to make sure we believe in these values across the globe."

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One of the leaders of the letter, Madinah Wilson-Anton, a state representative from Delaware, Biden's home state, also emphasised the importance of listening to constituents and using her platform to press for a ceasefire.

"We've been trying everything, to use our platform and status as elected officials to bring about a ceasefire," she told The New Arab, noting that all who signed the letter are Democrats.

"These are folks who would normally get the president elected," she said. "I'll have a primary, and I'll be super active. But I will not be speaking about Biden. It's important to underscore that we don't want Trump elected, but we don't want a president who supports genocide."

She sees Biden's lack of response to her and other elected Muslim officials as a sign that he doesn't value their perspectives.

"They're sending a strong message that they do not value us, our perspectives or our lived experiences," she said. "We plan to get more signatures."

Also this week, on Wednesday, US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke on the Senate floor on the humanitarian situation in Gaza related to an upcoming resolution he would be introducing on arms transfers and foreign assistance. The law referenced in the resolution, the Foreign Assistance Act, requires that the assistance be in line with internationally recognised human rights and allows for oversight by Congress.

"Do you support, as a member of the Senate, asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using United States equipment or assistance in this war?" said Sanders, as the question being posed in the resolution that would require the State Department to report on how US aid is being used.

Wrapping up this week of high-profile pressure on the US administration for a ceasefire in Gaza will be a major demonstration on Saturday in Washington, DC. Several hundred thousand are expected to attend.