3rd Thursday Action Alert – Urge Senators to hold all recipients of U.S. assistance (including Israel) accountable to human rights standards
As the Israeli government’s bombing and related military activity continues in Gaza, several Senators have introduced legislation requiring reports from the Administration about accountability for the use of U.S. military assistance.
These initiatives demonstrate growing frustration among elected officials with Israel’s devastating conduct in Gaza which President Biden, a strong supporter of their actions, recently has characterized as “indiscriminate bombing”.
On December 7, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and a dozen other senators introduced an amendment “ … to require that the weapons received by any country under the proposed national security supplemental [request] are used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.” The measure also requires that the president report to the Congress on the matter as well as strengthen “…current law that prohibits U.S. security assistance to any country that prevents or restricts U.S. humanitarian assistance to those in need …”
While the legislation directed against any U.S. weapons receiver, Senator Elizabeth Warren made clear at its introduction that one in her mind was Israel: “When it comes to U.S. military aid to Israel, American support cannot be a blank check to a right-wing Netanyahu government that has demonstrated a gross disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians.” She and several other senators in the group have also called for accountability for U.S. assistance to Saudi Arabia.
On December 15, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a resolution “… to force a debate on the indiscriminate bombing [of Gaza by Israel] .…” Sanders cited the “… nearly 19,000 people killed and more than 50,000 wounded in Gaza since October 7 – seventy percent of whom are women and children …” as a reason for requesting information on Israel’s human rights practices as a recipient of U.S. assistance. Sanders explained that “… such requests are privileged, allowing the sponsor to force a floor vote on the requesting resolution. If the resolution passes, the Department of State must submit the requested report within 30 days, or all security assistance to the country in question is cut off. After the report is received, Congress may then enact changes to condition, reduce, or terminate the security assistance in question. Both the initial vote to request the information and any subsequent votes to alter security assistance are privileged and require a simple majority for passage.” In effect, Sanders could call for a debate and floor consideration as soon as Christmas, but the Senate is scheduled to recess the week before so action is expected early in the new year.
These two initiatives provide new opportunities for Senators to hold Israel accountable for its actions in Gaza. Churches have called for such accountability for more than a decade. In this season of hope and peace, urge your Senator to co-sponsor the Van Hollen amendment (or if they already have, thank them) and to co-sponsor the Sanders resolution, S. Res. 504.