A trickle of aid for Palestinians, a torrent of weapons for Israel
Despite the latest round of devastation Israel inflicted upon the two million besieged Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip last month, two powerful Republican members of Congress continue to callously delay badly needed humanitarian aid.
The United Nations deemed the May 10-21 attack as the "gravest escalation in hostilities between Palestinian armed factions and Israel since 2014," resulting in the killing of 256 Palestinians, at least half of whom were civilians, and 13 people in Israel. As in its previous assaults on the Gaza Strip, Israel also targeted civilian infrastructure, destroying or severely damaging more than 2,000 residential and commercial units, and damaging 58 schools and 28 hospitals and medical clinics.
Even before this most recent onslaught, Israel's policies toward the Gaza Strip were largely to blame for making it "unliveable," according to the UN.
Why, despite the acute need, did Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, place a hold on humanitarian aid to Palestinians in April that was passed in a bipartisan 2020 budget bill and even signed into law by former President Donald Trump, the most anti-Palestinian president in US history?
According to them, the Biden administration should have secured unspecified "concessions" from the Palestinian Authority before resuming humanitarian aid. Disregarding Israel's obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide for the welfare of protected people living under military occupation, Risch and McCaul alleged that this type of humanitarian aid is part of a nefarious system in which the "international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people" while the PA "is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists."
In USAID's proposal to spend money on "roads, sidewalks, bus lots, emergency preparedness, adapting to climate change, 'community initiatives' and 'safe spaces to engage in community initiatives,'" according to the Jerusalem Post, Risch and McCaul claim to have uncovered a vast conspiracy on the part of the Biden administration to finance "terrorism."
"Two powerful Republican members of Congress continue to callously delay badly needed humanitarian aid"
Risch's obstinacy in holding up this allocation prompted last week a rare cross-cameral letter signed by two-thirds of the House Democratic caucus to the Senator to lift his hold.
Led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and signed by 145 Democratic representatives, the letter noted that "Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe. Buildings lie in rubble. Access to clean water and electricity is sporadic or nonexistent. Food insecurity is spreading. Covid-19 is running rampant and thousands of people have been displaced and rendered homeless. The magnitude of the crisis is staggering."
Even if Risch were to lift his hold to allow the resumption of US humanitarian funding for the Palestinian people, Israel's latest attack has further deepened bipartisan US complicity in Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people, despite the principled attempts of some progressive Democrats to challenge the unending torrent of US weapons to Israel.
Prior to the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, the Biden administration notified congressional leaders of a potential $735 million weapons sale to Israel, most of which was for the provision of joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), a device designed to turn "dumb" bombs into "smart" GPS-guided bombs.
In the single deadliest incident during last month's attack, Israeli bombing in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City flattened residential buildings, killing 43 civilians, including 22 members of the al-Kawlak family.
According to the AP, "the dead included 89-year-old family patriarch Amin, his son Fawaz, 62, his grandson Sameh, 28, and his great-grandson, six-month-old Qusai. Just a day earlier, Qusai's parents had celebrated a small milestone; his first tooth. Azzam's two younger brothers were killed. Three nieces - five-year-old Rula, 10-year-old Yara and 12-year-old Hala - were found in a tight embrace, their bodies the last to be pulled out, said Azzam's surviving older brother, Awni."
Fragments of munitions collected at the scene provided evidence that Israel utilized JDAMs in the attack.
Concerned by US complicity in financing and arming Israel to commit atrocities and potential war crimes such as the Rimal massacre, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced on May 20 unprecedented joint resolutions to block the proposed sale.
However, the Biden administration provided an export license for the Boeing-made JDAMs over congressional objections before legislators could even consider the resolutions.
And while the United States continues to rearm Israel with these types of offensive weapons, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has also promised to expedite through Congress an impending Israeli request for the US to provide Israel with a supplementary appropriation of $1 billion for Iron Dome anti-missile batteries.
"Palestinians civilians have no protection against the much more deadly and destructive arsenal of US taxpayer-funded missiles Israel repeatedly unleashes in the Gaza Strip"
This earmark would be on top of the regular annual amount of $3.3 billion in taxpayer-funded weapons and $500 million in joint US-Israeli research, development, and procurement of missile defence systems.
The Israeli military claims that Iron Dome is more than 90 percent effective in intercepting rockets launched by armed Palestinian groups, providing Israeli civilians with an effective means of protection.
While the US generously funds this missile defence for Israeli civilians, Palestinian civilians have no protection against the much more deadly and destructive arsenal of US taxpayer-funded missiles Israel repeatedly unleashes in the Gaza Strip.
Were Democrats to succeed in persuading Risch to lift his hold on humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, it would be a welcome development. However, a trickle of US humanitarian funding in no way obviates the need for the US to end the torrent of weapons to Israel that make the US complicit in its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Josh Ruebner is Senior Principal at Progress Up Consulting and is the author of Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? and Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.
Follow him on Twitter: @joshruebner
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.