Rights groups call on Biden to condemn Israeli assault on Gaza

Rights groups call on Biden to condemn Israeli assault on Gaza
A joint statement called on Biden to prevent 'potential war crimes' amid Israel's displacement plans of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
3 min read
15 May, 2021
Washington had simply voiced "concern" over the situation in Jerusalem [Getty]
Some 140 US groups released a joint statement on Friday calling on US President Joe Biden to denounce Israeli efforts to evict Palestinian families in Jerusalem in the last week, and "exert the utmost diplomatic pressure to prevent these potential war crimes from taking place".

Several prominent advocacy groups, including MoveOn, the Working Families Party, the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, signed the statement, which referenced the United Nations' assessment that Israel's displacement campaign in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood may constitute a war crime.

"This takes place in the broader context of Israel's ongoing policy to forcibly remove Palestinians from their homes through eviction, home demolition, and displacement, with the express intent of pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority and supremacy in the city," the statement said.

"Over the past week, residents and activists leading sit-ins, vigils, and protests against the forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah have been met with overwhelming violence and force from Israeli police and settlers, including a police officer kneeling on a protestor's neck while he shouts that he is being suffocated, and attacking worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque , Islam’s third holiest site."

Rather than directly calling on Israel to immediately stop its displacement campaign and assaults on Palestinians, Washington simply voiced "concern" over the escalating  situation and called on all sides to adopt "restraint". 

Amid deadly Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, Biden and other senior US officials have said they support "Israel's right to defend itself", adding the indiscriminate bombardment was not a "significant over-reaction" to rocket attacks by Hamas.

"We are horrified by Israel's use of disproportionate and deadly force against Palestinians in Gaza, which have already resulted in the killings of dozens of Palestinians, including children," the advocacy groups' statement said.

"This comes within the context of Israel's 14-year illegal blockade on Gaza which has created an open air prison with severe shortages of life-saving medicines, food, electricity, and clean water, making life unsafe and unbearable. 

"We call on the Biden administration to condemn this violence and address its root causes: Israeli blockade and occupation."

Progressive Democrats of America, Jewish Voice for Peace, Win Without War, Our Revolution, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church also co-signed the statement. 

The organisations urged Biden to follow his own promises to promote global human rights.

"The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it intends to center its foreign policy around respect for human rights and international law," they said in the statement. 

"We therefore call on the administration to uphold international law and act in accordance with the urgency of the moment to prevent the Israeli government’s forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians."

Several other independent progressive groups this week also condemned Israel’s escalations in their own statements and called on the Biden administration to take firmer action.

"The struggles Palestinians face are deeply tied to racial and housing justice, and movements for Indigenous sovereignty," the Sunrise Movement, an environmentalist group, posted on Twitter earlier this week.

"Fighting against settler-colonial violence and ethnic cleansing shouldn’t be controversial. The only option is doing what’s right."

Last week, several US Democratic lawmakers denounced Israel’s actions in Jerusalem, defying Washington’s tradition of unconditional support for Israel.

They called on the Biden administration to pressure the Israeli government to halt its actions.

Among those voicing their denunciations of Israel’s actions were Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy.

Several members of Congress Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Andy Levin, and Pramila Jayapal also condemned Israel's actions.

US Representative Ilhan Omar also slammed the White House over a statement about a call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Omar tweeted a list of Israeli violations against Palestinians in recent days, noting these went without reference in the Wednesday release.

She said: "No mention of Sheikh Jarra[h]. No mention of the al-Aqsa raid."

The Congresswoman argued: "You aren't prioritising human rights. You're siding with an oppressive occupation."

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