U.S. peacekeepers and pro-Palestinian groups are calling on President Joe Biden to stop the sale of $ 735 million accurately guided bombs to Israel in Israel, which the Biden administration has accelerated.
“We are moving knowingly weapons to a country that is not only involved in aggression, but also in a massive human rights violation,” said Huida Arraf, co-chair of the Palestinian subcommittee of the National Law Guild and organizer of Palestinian rights in the US. .
“Our government is empowering Israel, not only with the billions of dollars we send to Israel, but by protecting Israel from any kind of responsibility,” Arraf told Al Jazeera.
A coalition of more than 100 groups, including churches for peace in the Middle East, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Committee of Friends on National Legislation, and democratically lean political groups Justice Democrats, MoveOn, Indivisible, and Sunrise Movement , signed an open letter to Biden.
“Planned arms sales to Israel would send a signal of support for Israel’s recent conduct in occupied Gaza and East Jerusalem, which includes probable violations of international humanitarian law,” the groups said in the letter.
“We believe that moving forward with these sales would undermine U.S. moral values, national security interests, and support likely violations of international humanitarian law by sending the green light to Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” the groups said.
The Biden administration formally notified Congress on planned arms sale of $ 735 million on May 5, giving lawmakers 15 days to file objections. On May 21, the State Department issued a license to the manufacturer Boeing Comp to proceed with the sale.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders presented resolutions to Congress block the sale under U.S. arms control law.
Those who failed for procedural reasons disappointed opponents in the sale who had hoped to at least try to force a debate and a vote in Congress, advocates said.
“These gun sales are often rubber stamped, and there is a real lack of transparency in their operation,” said Beth Miller, senior manager of government affairs for Jewish Voice for Peace.
“We’ve all just seen, over the last few weeks, exactly how the Israelis are using these weapons,” Miller told Al Jazeera.
“They used them in residential housing buildings, hospitals, to damage COVID centers and kill Palestinian families.”
During 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.
Although the arms sale has now received key approvals from the State Department and Congress has not acted to stop it, it will be months before the bombs are actually delivered and American groups demand that Biden stop. the transfer through executive actions.
The United States already provides $ 3.8 billion military aid to Israel annually and Biden supports shipping $ 1 billion requested by Israel to replace your Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Washington, DC last week to boost Iron Dome funding in a round of high-level meetings.
Biden has been a firm defender of Israel and said repeatedly during the last crisis that the US unequivocally supports Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks.
At the same time, Biden and his administration worked through diplomatic channels to get a ceasefire and the US did so. pledged $ 75 million to help rebuild Gaza after the recent Israeli bombing.
The groups that signed the letter hope that Biden, a Democrat, will consider increasing political pressure within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to give more account to Israel.
Proceeding with the $ 735 million arms sale now sends the wrong signal, said Kyle Cristofalo, senior director of law and government relations at Churches for Middle East Peace, an umbrella group of the United States’ most popular Christian denominations. .
“It simply came to our notice then. It does not help us to try to be a constructive actor, to end this conflict, to promote resolution and justice, the rights of all, “Cristofalo told Al Jazeera.