US arms sales to Israel in the spotlight as Gaza conflict escalates, Sanders leads call for embargo

This plea follows closely on the heels of Canada's groundbreaking decision to suspend military equipment sales to Israel, a move that has been hailed by human rights organizations and advocates worldwide.

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The recent call by Senator Bernie Sanders for the United States to halt arms exports to Israel has ignited a fervent debate amidst the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where children are disproportionately suffering. This plea follows closely on the heels of Canada’s groundbreaking decision to suspend military equipment sales to Israel, a move that has been hailed by human rights organizations and advocates worldwide.

Senator Sanders’ emphatic stance came in response to alarming reports of the extensive use of American-supplied weaponry in Gaza by the Israeli military, which has been implicated in the deaths of over 31,800 individuals in less than six months. The majority of these casualties are civilians, many of whom are children, caught in the crossfire of a conflict that shows no signs of abating.

The gravity of the situation was underscored by Canada’s parliamentary vote on Monday, which, through a nonbinding motion, urged the Trudeau government to immediately cease arms transfers to Israel. This decision, according to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, aligns with Canada’s commitment to ensuring compliance with its arms export regime. In the wake of the motion, Joly confirmed the cessation of arms exports to Israel, marking a pivotal moment in international responses to the Gaza conflict.

The U.S., however, remains the largest supplier of military aid and arms to Israel. Since the onset of hostilities on October 7, the Biden administration has approved arms sales to Israel worth billions, despite mounting evidence and widespread condemnation of the Israeli military’s tactics in Gaza, particularly its targeting of civilian infrastructure.

Reports from leading humanitarian organizations such as Oxfam and Human Rights Watch have shed light on the harrowing reality on the ground. Israeli forces are documented to have dropped over 22,000 munitions of U.S. origin on Gaza within the first 45 days of the conflict, many of which are 2,000-pound “dumb bombs” known for their lack of precision and extensive collateral damage.

The Biden administration’s recent policy shift, which prompted Israel’s defense minister to assure the White House of compliance with international law in the use of U.S. weapons, has been met with skepticism. Critics, including experienced advisors to the U.S. State Department, have derided these assurances as insubstantial, pointing to the ongoing blockade and the indiscriminate nature of the bombings as clear violations of humanitarian principles.

As the international community watches in alarm, the stark figures emerging from Gaza paint a harrowing picture of the conflict’s toll on the civilian population, particularly children. According to reports from humanitarian agencies, the relentless bombings have led to an unprecedented number of child casualties, with thousands of young lives lost or irrevocably altered by the violence. The use of U.S.-supplied weapons in these attacks has come under intense scrutiny, raising ethical and legal questions about the implications of such military support.

In a powerful call to action, over 100 Democratic donors and activists, in a letter to President Biden, have starkly highlighted the devastating impact of the ongoing military strategies in Gaza. “Nearly all civil structures in Gaza, including hospitals, schools, mosques, and civilian accommodation are being systematically destroyed,” the letter states, emphasizing the dire situation faced by Gaza’s children. The signers, including notable figures who have significantly contributed to Democratic campaigns, express a deep concern that the administration’s unwavering support for these actions not only exacerbates the humanitarian crisis but also risks alienating crucial segments of the Democratic base, potentially affecting the outcome of upcoming elections.

The signatories of the letter, which includes influential figures who have significantly contributed to Democratic campaigns, have voiced their apprehension that continued support for Israel’s current military strategy may not only exacerbate the tragedy in Gaza but also significantly diminish President Biden’s prospects for reelection. They argue that the disillusionment among key segments of the Democratic base, particularly young voters and voters of color, could lead to a diminished turnout or a pivot towards third-party candidates, thereby paving the way for a potential Trump victory.

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