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Five senators call on Israel to vaccinate Palestinians in separate letter

By Ali Harb in Washington: 12 March 2021

Dozen House members slam range of Israeli policies, and five senators call on Israel to vaccinate Palestinians in separate letter

US lawmakers from both chambers of Congress have sent letters to the Biden administration criticising the Israeli government and urging it to vaccinate Palestinians living under its control.

In two separate letters sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday, progressive senators and members of the House of Representatives called on the US administration to resume funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and push to ensure the rights of Palestinians.

An elderly Palestinian protests the demolition of a temporary health clinic by Israeli forces in the West Bank village of al-Mufagara, 27 January (AFP/File photo)

The documents signal the growing willingness to criticise Israel amongst Democrats in Congress, a branch of the US government where unquestioning support for Israel is the norm.

Covid-19: Why Oslo doesn’t absolve Israel of duty to vaccinate Palestinians Read More »

The House letter, signed by 12 legislators and led by Rashida Tlaib and Mark Pocan, said the State Department should investigate and condemn the recent demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank by Israeli forces.

We are greatly heartened that the Biden Administration is opposed to Israeli annexation; however, Israel’s ongoing colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, alongside its demolition of Palestinian homes, is a form of ongoing, de facto annexation which needs to be unequivocally opposed by the United States,” the House members wrote. 

“The message from this Administration must be clear: settler colonialism in any form – including Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – is illegal under international law and will not be tolerated.”

‘Legally obligated’

The Senate letter, which was signed by five lawmakers – Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Carper, Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley – mostly focused on the inoculation of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

“As the occupying power under international law, Israel is legally obligated to provide for the health and well-being of all people under its control,” the senators said.

Israel, whose vaccination campaign for its citizens is leading the world per-capita, cites the Oslo Accords to argue that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health care in the occupied territories.

The senators wrote that Oslo agreement does “not supersede Israel’s responsibilities under the 4th Geneva Convention”. International law states that the occupying power is responsible for the health of the occupied population, including “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”.

‘Israel’s ongoing colonization of the Palestinian West Bank… needs to be unequivocally opposed by the United States’

– Letter by Congress members

Moreover, legal experts say that Israel, which regularly violates the Oslo Accords, controls all the infrastructure needed to import and administer the vaccines in the West Bank and Gaza.

The House letter voiced concerns about a range of Israeli policies that lawmakers said violate Palestinians’ human rights.

“We remain concerned about Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” the lawmakers said. 

“We request that the State Department undertake an investigation into Israel’s possible use of US equipment in these home demolitions and determine whether these materials have been used in violation of the Arms Export Control Act or any US-Israeli end-use agreements. 

“We believe the State Department should condemn Israel’s home demolitions in unequivocal terms and take effective and timely diplomatic action to end this policy.”

Signatories to the letter include freshman Representative Marie Newman who defeated staunchly pro-Israel Dan Lipinski in a Democratic primary last year; Jim McGovern, who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission; Betty McCollum, an outspoken advocate of Palestinian rights; Ilhan Omar; and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

House members also called on President Joe Biden to officially revoke Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, a plan to end the conflict that was overwhelmingly rejected by Palestinians for proposing that Israel keep all of its West Bank settlements and the entire city of Jerusalem.

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“We believe that the Biden Administration should officially take this plan off the table and make clear to Israel and the Palestinian people that no part of it will constitute the basis for any future US-backed plan,” the letter said.

‘Equitable resolution’

For their part, the senators called on the administration to revive hopes of peace and ensure the security and well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.

“The occupation will continue to present problems such as those articulated above, so we urge the administration to work towards an equitable resolution to ensure the rights of all people,” it said. 

“Ultimately these issues will not be fully resolved until both parties agree to a fair solution that ensures full citizenship rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Beth Miller, government affairs manager at JVP Action, a political advocacy group linked to Jewish Voice for Peace, said Friday’s letters “sign that the winds are shifting” in the debate around Israel-Palestine in Washington, underscoring the significance of both documents.‘Sickening’: Palestine advocates slam Biden administration for rebuking ICC

Read More »

“These letters show that the movement that has been pressuring Congress around Palestinian rights is finally breaking through,” she said.

Still, the Biden administration is yet to voice any criticism of Israeli government policies, including on the issues of settlements and vaccination.

Blinken has also rebuked the International Criminal Court for deciding to investigate alleged war crimes committed in Palestine, and the administration regularly condemns the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to pressure Israel to end abuses against Palestinians. 

“The Biden administration’s policy toward Palestine-Israel so far has been incredibly disappointing,” Miller told MEE. 

“They have essentially come out against every possible mode of holding the Israeli government accountable for human rights violations against Palestinians, and they are sending a really clear signal that they don’t intend on making much of a shift from what Trump’s policies were.”

But she added that Friday’s letters demonstrate the difference between progressives in Congress and the administration when it comes to the approach to Palestinians’ human rights.

“And that’s really important because that’s how we build pressure over time to force the White House to take real action,” Miller told MEE. 

“And so, it matters that more and more progressives in Congress are responding to the pressure of the grassroots in their districts who want to see the Israeli government held accountable for human rights violations against Palestinians.”

The Capitol Hill riot was not a coup.

US usually does threaten The rest of the world for peaceful transfer of power. The rest of the world Leaders and officials expressed shock and disappointment as the US Capitol was invaded and congressmen locked up in their chambers.

Reports suggest president Trump orchestrated law enforcement’s tepid response at the Capitol, though details are so far scant. That would add an alarming element of conspiracy to his seditious pre-riot pep speech. (The son of Donald posted a video how Trump and his “family, including Ivanka, was following how the insurgency was progressing second by second and even expressing his pleasure)

Funny. US “experts” are struggling how to describe the insurrection on the Capitol, and using dictionaries too, for the definitive term. Sedition? Were they protestors, a mob, extremists, or representative of the outlaw groupuscules? 

Extreme far-right parties emerge forcefully as the economy falters for a few successive years: Those who believed they have an “entitled right to a substantial share of the State wealth” are losing the expectation for this financial easy flow.

Azad Essa January 7, 2021 

On Wednesday, hundreds of President Donald Trump supporters forced their way into buildings on Capitol Hill, the seat of the US government and bastion of American democracy, to try and stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidency.

On their way, the armed militia shattered windows and vandalised lawmakers’ offices. 

Five people died, including one woman who died from a gunshot wound in circumstances still unclear; 52 were arrested for offences including possession of unlicensed weapons and unlawful entry. 

Outside the buildings on Capitol Hill, protesters who had come to show their support for their commander-in-chief carried American and Confederate flags; they shouted slogans and held banners calling November’s election results fraudulent as directed by Trump.

Three hours later, the standoff on Capitol Hill was eventually put to rest. Fearing further trouble, Washington DC was placed on a 12-hour city-wide curfew.

‘Un-American’

While the incident made headlines around the globe, drawing alarm as well as comic relief from those used to being lectured on democracy and the rule of law by American politicians, much of the outrage in the US – led by President-elect Joe Biden – appeared to hinge on how “un-American” the episode had been.

The storming of Capitol Hill demonstrated how white America remains so entitled and so protected

It was a lament repeated from pretty much all sides of the political establishment, the media and the pundit class. “Imagine what this looks like to the rest of the world,” wrote Ben Rhodes, former aide to President Barack Obama. “This isn’t Kabul, this is America,” an ABC correspondent said during a live report.

But the incident was the most fundamental attestation of America’s soul. 

It demonstrated, without any equivocation, how white America remains so entitled, so protected, that they could literally march fully armed into the house of government, break down doors, torment government officials and be treated as disturbed patriots rather than criminals.

Reports suggest that the police attempted to block their paths, including using teargas

Other reports indicate that the police didn’t try hard enough. Multiple sources show the police took selfies with the militia.

‘Myth of America’

It also provided a snapshot of the undying myth that is America.

“This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic,” former US President George W Bush said in response to Wednesday’s incident.

That Bush, a member of America’s premier US political dynasty and responsible for US-led state terrorism in Iraq, would insinuate that an election dispute “belongs someplace else” (and gets to be quoted seriously on the matter) is an absurdity in itself.

The US-invasion led to at least 500,000 deaths. (Not counting millions of displaced Iraqis and babies being born handicapped and disfigured).

The American empire is falling apart. But things can always get worse Read More »

In their attempts to explain the tumultuous turn of events on the Hill, the “Banana Republic” trope would be repeated endlessly by the American media, showcasing how historical amnesia has come to be a permanent American condition.

For anyone in policy or the media world to express disbelief that the storming of Capitol Hill could happen in America is odd, given how much the same America tramples on its most disenfranchised communities every day. 

It is this same America that sustains the gun lobby, the Christian right and Israeli lobby.

It is the same America that peddles in antisemitism and Islamophobia that has led to a rise in hate crimes in the country. 

It is the same America that allows corporations to run riot over people’s health and livelihoods. 

Under Trump, the Covid-19 virus has killed more than 357,000 people, mostly Black and brown people, many of whom were working-class or essential workers – erased by their ethnicity and poverty.

And there is still no plausible relief for those left behind.

Why then is it especially embarrassing or egregious that a group of white supremacists would march into government given they are the government? 

In truth, this was not an attempted coup as some have described it. They hadn’t come to threaten the moral basis of America; they had come to preserve it. By all accounts, as terrifying as they may have been, they were little more than peons of the white supremacist state itself. 

Why else would they not be subject to disproportionate use of force as we see in protests against racism? They walked past the police on their way out.

‘Stop looking away’

“This is not America. No, it is not. It’s the United States’ history of slavery, mass incarceration, immigrant detention and exploitation, white supremacy and patriarchy, voter suppression and disenfranchisement,” Melissa Castillo Planas, an assistant professor in English at Lehman College in New York City, wrote.

Getting rid of Trump won’t accelerate the return to an America everyone fondly remembers

“Stop looking away. We are not a democracy and never have been,” Planas added.

On Wednesday evening, Democrat lawmakers said it was time to ensure that Trump was impeached and ousted immediately.

Representative Ilhan Omar said it was “a matter of preserving the republic”.

Omar has been at the receiving end of vile and life-threatening attacks from Trump and his supporters. However, violence against lawmakers – even presidents – didn’t begin with Trump. This is a republic founded on violence.

Even at this stage, to pin the woes of the republic on Trump is to hanker once again for the American dream, a dream that is manufactured in the exact halls that were raided on Wednesday.

It is to imagine, again, that Trump and his supporters are an aberration, a blip in the system.

Getting rid of Trump won’t accelerate the return to an America everyone fondly remembers.

Because that America does not exist.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. Azad Essa |

Senior Reporter, Azad Essa is a senior reporter for Middle East Eye based in New York City. He worked for Al Jazeera English between 2010-2018 covering southern and central Africa for the network. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming (Harper Collins India) and Zuma’s Bastard (Two Dogs Books).


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