Dozens of Democrats call on Biden to reconsider Israel support, accusing it of blocking of humanitarian aid to Gaza

Congress members argue US aid to Israel shouldn’t be ‘blank check’

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Saturday 04 May 2024 19:58 BST
Northern Gaza in 'full-blown' famine: Senior UN official

A large group of Congress members is calling on the Biden administration to reconsider its aid to Israel, arguing there’s a credible case that the US partner is deliberately blocking American aid to Palestinian civilians in violation of federal law.

On Friday, a coalition of 88 Democratic members wrote to the White House, arguing that Israel’s “restrictions on US-backed humanitarian aid efforts have contributed to an unprecedented humanitarian disaster for Palestinian civilians and to credible reports of famine in parts of Gaza.”

The letter argues that US support for Israel shouldn’t be a “blank check,” and that federal law under Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the US from giving security assistance to nations directly preventing the delivery of US humanitarian aid.

“Make clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that so long as Israel restricts, directly or indirectly, the facilitation of humanitarian aid delivery into Gaza, the Israeli government is risking its eligibility for further offensive security assistance from the US,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.

Humanitarian officials have been warning for months that restrictions on international aid to the besieged Gaza strip will result in devastating consequences.

"It’s horror," Cindy McCain, the director of the UN World Food Program, told Meet the Press in an interview airing on Sunday. "There is famine — full-blown famine — in the north, and it’s moving its way south."

According to US humanitarian agency USAID, acute malnutrition among children under 5 has multiplied by nearly 30 times since the beginning of the war, and the few remaining medical facilities in Gaza that haven’t been bombed by Israel are filled with children seeking treatment for the condition.

Israel has insisted it is not unduly restricting the flow of aid.

It has also accused the UN of failing to distribute aid effectively and has alleged that Hamas and other militant groups have looted supplies bound for civilians.

“Israel is constantly making significant efforts to find additional solutions to facilitate the flow of aid to the Gaza Strip and in particular to the north,” a government official said Saturday when questioned about Israel’s aid policies.

In Gaza, the movement of people and goods are heavily restricted even outside of wartime, and the war has further disrupted the delivery of key supplies.

For the first three weeks of the Israel-Hamas war, no aid trucks were allowed to enter Gaza, and deliveries still are not even at half of pre-war levels, even as Israel recently re-opened the Erez border crossing, and the US is at work on a new sea aid route slated to open in May.

International observers argue Israel has unduly burdened the delivery of food and other supplies with excessive inspections of aid shipments.

“The main blockers remain arbitrary denials by the government of Israel and lengthy clearance procedures including multiple screenings and narrow opening windows in daylight hours,” British foreign secretary David Cameron wrote in a March letter to UK parliament.

Others have gone further than the US congressional delegation, suggesting Israeli practices constitute war crimes.

“The extent of Israel’s continued restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime,” UN human rights chief Volker Türk said in a statement in March.

Humanitarian access has emerged as a key issue in the Biden administration’s vital support for Israel.

In April, a furious Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the fatal Israeli military strike on seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza was “unacceptable.”

The White House warned future US policy was contingent on Israel announcing “a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers”

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