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April 14, 2023 12:30 pm
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Progressive Democrats Demand Biden Conditions Aid to Israel

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaking at a July 2020 meeting in New York City commemorating the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly

14 progressive Democrats on Thursday sent a letter to the Biden administration condemning the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanding that the Biden administration draft a plan to ensure that US aid to Israel is not used for human rights abuses.

The letter, organized by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), calls on Biden to “undertake a shift in US policy” towards Israel in light of the policies of the Israeli government and the ongoing surge of violence in the West Bank.

“Israeli forces and settlers have killed over 85 Palestinians in 2023, including 16 children,” the letter says. “At least 14 Israelis have been killed, including two children. The previous year was the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2004 and included the Israeli military’s killings of two American citizens, Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad. This Israeli government’s anti-democratic mission to dismantle the rule of law is a threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike. In addition to explicitly hateful, anti-Palestinian policies, this government is attempting to destroy the independent Israeli judiciary. This move would threaten the rights of all citizens of Israel, enable more corruption by Prime Ministers, and open the path towards further annexation of Palestinian lands.”

The letter does not mention that the tally of Palestinians killed includes members of militant organizations who died in shootouts with the IDF, or that Palestinian militant organizations like Lions’ Den recruit teenagers.

Written in March and released shortly after the conclusion of Passover, the letter does also not include the most recent violence emanating from the West Bank, including the murder of a British-Israeli mother and her two children, or the cross-border attacks on Israel from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Syria.

While the Biden administration has not yet publicly responded to the letter, President Biden has also called for Israel’s judicial reforms to be halted in an ongoing war of words between the two allies.

“I’m concerned that they get this straight: They cannot continue down this road,” Biden said of the judicial reforms in March. “And I sort of made that clear. Hopefully, the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen.”

Additional signatories to Thursday’s letter include all but one of Bowman’s fellow members of the so-called “Squad” of left-wing Congressional democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush.

One of the signatories and a new member of the Squad, Summer Lee (D-PA) was a focus for AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, in both the primary and general election as a potentially vehement Israel critic in the new Congress.

AIPAC took to social media on Friday to promote an open letter signed by 13 rabbis from Bowman’s district condemning his letter as “scathing” and “one-sided.”

“Congressman Jamaal Bowman is cementing his place among the members of Congress most hostile to Israel,” the rabbis’ letter opens. “Congressman Bowman is no longer merely an accessory to anti-Israel rhetoric in Washington. He is now leading the effort to erode support for Israel on Capitol Hill and within the Democratic Party.”

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