Pune, India. 16 June 2021. “We are knowingly transferring weapons to a country that is not only engaged in aggression but also a massive violation of human rights,” says Huwaida Arraf, co-chair of the Palestine subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild and organiser for Palestinian rights in the US. “Our government is enabling Israel, not just with the billions of dollars that we send to Israel, but by shielding Israel from any kind of accountability,” said Arraf.
Continuing with the weapons sale gives the ‘green light’ to Israeli abuses of Palestinians, claim human rights advocates. Pro-Palestinian groups in the United States are calling on President Joe Biden to halt the 735 million USD sale of precision-guided bombs to Israel that the Biden administration has now fast-tracked.
A coalition of more than 100 groups, including Churches for Middle East Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Democratic-leaning political groups Justice Democrats, MoveOn, Indivisible, and the Sunrise Movement, signed an open letter to Biden.
“The planned arms sales to Israel would send a signal of support for Israel’s recent conduct in occupied Gaza and East Jerusalem, which includes likely violations of international humanitarian law,” the groups said in the letter. The Biden administration formally notified Congress of the 735 million USD weapons-sale on May 5, giving legislators 15 days to raise objections. The State Department issued a license on May 21 to manufacturer Boeing Comp to proceed with the sale.
“These weapons sales, they are often rubber-stamped, and there is a real lack of transparency in the way that they work,” said Beth Miller, senior government affairs manager for Jewish Voice for Peace, “We all just saw, over these last couple of weeks, exactly how the Israelis use these weapons,” “They used them on residential apartment buildings, hospitals, to damage COVID centres and to wipe out Palestinian families.”
Over 11 days in May, the Israeli bombing of Gaza killed 253 Palestinians including 66 children and displaced more than 58,000 people from their homes. Twelve people in Israel including two children were killed by rockets fired by Palestinian groups in Gaza.
The US already provides 3.8 billion USD in military aid to Israel annually and Biden also supports the sending of 1 billion USD requested by Israel to replenish its Iron Dome missile defence system.
At the same time, Biden and his administration did work through diplomatic channels to obtain a ceasefire and the US has committed 75 million USD to help rebuild Gaza following the recent Israeli bombardment. Groups that signed on to the letter are hoping Biden, a Democrat, will heed the rising political pressure within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to hold Israel to greater account.
While the weapons sale has now received key State Department approvals and Congress has not acted to stop it, it will be months before the bombs are actually delivered, which is why US groups are demanding Biden halt the transfer through executive action.