Several Democratic members of the House of Representatives spoke out against US military support for Israel and called for the protection of Palestinian rights, unlike other Democrats and Republicans who expressed their full support for Israel during of the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip.
In a moving speech to the House, Rashida Tlaib criticized President Joe Biden and other senior officials for making statements which she said failed to recognize “Palestinian humanity.”
“To read the President’s statements [Joe] Biden, secretary [of State Antony] Flashing, general [Lloyd] Austin and the leaders of both parties, you wouldn’t know at all that the Palestinians existed, ”said Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of the US Congress.
“There has been no recognition of the attack on Palestinian families uprooted from their homes at this time. No mention of children detained or murdered. No recognition of a sustained campaign of harassment and terror by the Israeli police against worshipers kneeling, praying and celebrating the holiest days in one of their holiest places, no mention of Al-Aqsa being surrounded by violence, tear gas, smoke, while people pray. “
“The Palestinians are not going anywhere.”
Representative @Sexyworld struggled to hold back tears in Congress as she questioned the US government’s “unconditional support” for Israel.
Other Democrats have given their “unwavering” support to Israel. pic.twitter.com/dwjRi4HFzN
– Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 14, 2021
Wearing a keffiyeh and sometimes trying to hold back tears, Tlaib added: “If our own State Department can’t even bring itself to admit that the murder of Palestinian children is wrong, well, I’ll say it for the millions. Americans who stand with me against the killing of innocent children, regardless of their ethnicity or faith, ”she added.
Israel continued to bomb the Gaza Strip with air raids and artillery shells on Friday and amassed troops and tanks near the besieged Palestinian enclave.
At least 119 Palestinians, including 31 children, have been killed and more than 830 injured since hostilities broke out on Monday. Rockets fired by Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip also killed seven people in Israel.
The US administration has expressed sympathy for all the victims, but has neither identified any side nor criticized Israel for the disproportionate use of force.
Biden said on Wednesday Israel has the right to defend itself, while in his final comments Thursday he reiterated a call for both sides to hold fire.
“The question is how… they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, especially rocket attacks that are fired indiscriminately at population centers,” he said.
Speaking at the same session of the House, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar condemned Israel’s policies and attacks on the Palestinians and called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “ethno-nationalist leader”.
“Consider that 78% of their [Palestinians’] the land has been taken from them, ”Omar said, referring to the time that has passed since the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948.
Today is Eid, one of the happiest days in the Muslim calendar.
Although I prefer to spend it with my family, I have an obligation to stand up for families whose children have been taken from them because of the violence in Palestine.
My remarks to the House tonight pic.twitter.com/MSnNpuZuit
– Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) May 13, 2021
“Since then, 5.6 million Palestinians have been continuously displaced from their homes in one of the largest and longest lasting refugee crises in human history.”
Omar also criticized Israel’s policy of establishing illegal settlements on Palestinian soil to displace Palestinians.
“This is a conflict where one country, funded and supported by the United States government, pursues illegal military occupation on another group of people,” she said.
Congresswoman Cori Bush, a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, paid tribute to Bassem Masri, a Palestinian-American who supported the movement and died of a heart attack in 2018.
“Palestinians know what state violence, militarized police and occupation of their communities look like, and they experience this reality of having to go through checkpoints while trying to live their lives,” Bush said.
“We are anti-war, we are anti-occupation and we are anti-apartheid,” she said, in addition to several other members of the US Congress who have spoken in support of Palestinian human rights.
During her speech, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said, “We cannot remain silent when our government sends $ 3.8 billion in military aid to Israel which is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison children. Palestinians and displace Palestinian families. A budget reflects our values. “
Powerful words from @AyannaPressley: “We cannot remain silent when our government sends $ 3.8 billion in military aid to Israel which is used to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children and displace Palestinian families. A budget reflects our values.” pic.twitter.com/R8twLfyIpS
– Waleed Shahid (@waleedshahid) May 13, 2021
For her part, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on the Biden administration to recognize its role in the injustice and human rights violations suffered by Palestinians.
“It’s our business. Because we play a role in it, ”said the congresswoman, adding,“ It’s not about both sides. It is an imbalance of power. “
“The president and many other prominent figures have said this week that Israel has the right to defend itself and that is a sentiment that reverberates throughout this body,” the congresswoman said. “But do the Palestinians have the right to survive? Do we believe this and if so, we are responsible for it as well. “
Mark Pocan said he and his colleagues “stood up because no one should suffer the loss of life, freedom or dignity that the Palestinian people have suffered.”
He added: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Conversely, several House Democrats have also visited the House to express their full support for Israel.
Debbie Wasserman-Schulz expressed her “unwavering and unwavering support for the State of Israel”.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad alone are responsible for the escalation which has led to the bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians,” she said, referring to the group leading the gang and to a another faction based in Gaza.
“No nation should be subjected to a barrage of rocket fire like what we see on this easel on a civilian population. Without the Iron Dome air defense system, the loss of life would be worse than the nightmare that awaits us today. “
Josh Gottheimer, a member of the Democratic Congress from New Jersey, pointed out that Hamas was a “terrorist organization” designated by the United States.
“No one here should make excuses for a terrorist organization. What is the next target of their sympathy? ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah? ” he said.
“Even if we do not always agree on Israel’s policy, we must be very clear that nothing, nothing justifies a terrorist organization firing rockets at our ally.”
Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman called the rockets fired by Hamas “war crimes.”
“President Biden has declared wholeheartedly our support for Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.
“We mourn every civilian, Israeli and Palestinian death. We cannot take the reports of Palestinian deaths at face value because they come from Hamas, a terrorist organization recognized as such by the United States and the EU. “