Democratic staffers who helped President Joe Biden
win the election
are now speaking out against his State Department's decision to approve a widely criticized $735 million weapon sale to Israel
without congressional review, despite the region's heightened tensions, which have resulted in hundreds of deaths.
The staffers, who are of Palestinian and Israeli descent as well as Jewish faith, said Tuesday that the approval is “undemocratic,” avoids accountability, and is unpopular with many of the Democratic voters
who elected Biden.
“I am outraged by this flagrant denial of even an attempt to ensure human rights
accountability; for the vast majority of Americans, including myself as a young Israeli American Jew, Palestinian rights are no exception and should not be treated as such in our foreign military assistance,” said Matan Arad-Neeman, an organizer in Arizona
and one of the staffers speaking out.
This month, the Israeli government and Hamas
fought for 11 days after the Gaza
militant group fired rockets into Israel, a move that came after Israeli law enforcement attacked Palestinians
in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque
, a holy site in East Jerusalem
. Palestinians were protesting the Israeli government's ongoing efforts to forcibly evict them from East Jerusalem, which has been designated as a PLO territory.
The Israeli airstrikes
on Gaza, which lacks a missile defense system, killed at least 248 Palestinian civilians, including at least 66 children
, and destroyed homes and institutions, displacing tens of thousands.
The staffers' statement on Tuesday was made by co-authors of an open letter sent to the president the day before, urging him to support Palestinians' right to safety, security, and self-determination, as well as to hold the Israeli government accountable for what international and Israeli human rights organizations have determined to be crimes amounting to apartheid.
“The same values that drove us to work
tirelessly to elect you demand that we speak out in the aftermath of the recent explosive violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, which is inextricably linked to the ongoing history of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion. We remain horrified by images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza killed or made homeless
“We thank you for your efforts to bring the most recent round of violence between Israel and Hamas to an end; however, in order to ensure a long-term ceasefire and a future of peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians, we ask that you work to end the underlying conditions of occupation, blockade, and settlement expansion that led to this exceptionally destructive period in a 73-year history of dispossession and ethnic cleansing.
Among the demands in the letter is that the administration ensure that US aid no longer funds the Israeli government's efforts to attack and displace Palestinians while attempting to annex their land, and that the US investigate whether Israel's recent attacks on Gaza violate the Leahy Law, which prohibits US military
aid from funding foreign military units involved in human rights violations.
The Biden administration
pledged more than $5 million on Tuesday to assist in the reconstruction of Gaza following Israel's bombings, which destroyed and damaged medical facilities, homes, newsrooms, and roads, as well as the human toll. However, the humanitarian aid came just days after the State Department bypassed congressional review and opposition, secretly approving the $735 million sale of bombs to Israel, according to Jezebel.
500 Democratic staffers wrote to @JoeBiden to express their support for Palestinian human rights, which are being violated by the same type of bombs sold to Israel in the recent $735 million weapons sale the @StateDept rammed through behind our backs. https://t.co/E2wDLsjBnC
— Emily Curtis (@emcurtiz) May 25, 2021
According to a congressional staffer, the department granted Boeing an export license on May 21 for the sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs, which are the type of laser-guided munitions used by Israel in its bombardment of Gaza.
For decades, the United States
has provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians in order to prevent uprisings that would provoke Israel's government, as well as $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel to help fund its attacks on Palestinians. The Biden administration's decision to sell weapons to Israel is consistent with previous administrations of both parties; however, the Biden administration's decision to sell weapons to Israel is inconsistent with previous administrations of both parties.
“As a former Obama/Biden campaign staffer in 2008, I couldn’t be prouder of those who came together, rooted in human rights and justice, to demand accountability of our own country & the active role we are playing in violating those values by funding the killing of Palestinians,” tweeted Rep. Rashida Tlaib
, the first Palestinian American congresswoman.
As a former Obama/Biden campaign staffer in 2008, I couldn't be more proud of those who came together, rooted in human rights and justice, to demand accountability of our own country & the active role we are playing in violating those values by funding Palestinian killings. https://t.co/LdpFQj3gtx
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) May 24, 2021
The Arms Export Control Act allows Congress to halt a planned arms sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, which is automatically subject to a Senate
vote. While a resolution of disapproval requires only a simple majority to pass, overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
(I-Vt.) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
(D-NY), Tlaib, and Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced resolutions last week to block the weapon sale, arguing that the State Department should have waited for congressional review, even if the department had the authority to proceed with the sale.
According to Jewish Currents and The Wall Street Journal
, Sanders will no longer try to force a Senate vote to stop the weapon sale to Israel after learning on Friday that the State Department had finalized the deal
. Instead, Sanders will respond to the sale by putting a hold on all State Department nominees, preventing Congress from considering them for diplomatic positions.
Sanders lifted the embargo after the Biden administration committed to Palestinian humanitarian aid, but he added that “he and his colleagues would continue to push for greater debate to ensure that US arms sales
do not support human rights abuses.”