Senator Sanders proposes major cuts to Israeli military aid amid human rights concerns

Amid accusations of genocide and widespread human rights abuses, Senator Bernie Sanders champions amendments to halt offensive military funding to Israel, sparking a critical Senate debate.

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The U.S. Senate faces a pivotal decision this week as it considers a House-passed aid package that includes a staggering $17 billion in military aid to Israel. Against this backdrop, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a controversial amendment aiming to slash billions from the package designated for offensive military purposes.

The amendment represents Sanders’ (I-Vt.) response to growing international concerns over Israel’s military actions in Gaza, which have been labeled as genocidal by numerous global observers. Sanders has also proposed a restoration of U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a critical aid organization in Gaza.

The House-approved package, which sailed through the Republican-controlled chamber, allocates unconditional military assistance to the Israeli government—a move that Sanders argues contributes directly to a humanitarian disaster. “Enough is enough. We cannot continue to fund this horrific war,” Sanders stated, echoing the sentiments of many Americans who have expressed increasing dismay over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tactics in Gaza.

Recent weeks have seen a sharp escalation in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where millions are threatened with starvation due to Israel’s comprehensive blockade. Reports indicate that at least 28 children under the age of 12 have died from starvation in recent times—a stark illustration of the dire situation that Sanders’ amendment seeks to mitigate.

The continuation of U.S. military aid to Israel has raised significant legal and ethical questions, particularly concerning American laws that prohibit assistance to foreign governments engaged in systematic human rights violations. An independent report released alongside Sanders’ statement has debunked claims from Israel about UNRWA employees being involved with terrorist organizations, a key reason cited by the U.S. in January for halting aid to the agency.

As the Senate prepares for a vote, procedural rules have curtailed debate to just one hour per senator, setting the stage for a brisk discussion that will likely not extend beyond Tuesday night. This abbreviated debate period is seen by many as insufficient given the complexities and implications of the aid package, which also includes provisions for Ukraine and Taiwan.

Polling indicates a growing faction within the American public that opposes continued unconditional support for Netanyahu’s administration, given the ongoing violence in Gaza that has resulted in the deaths of over 34,000 individuals.

Revealing the potential for further conflict escalation, Al Jazeera has obtained satellite imagery showing significant Israeli military buildup around Gaza. Analysis points to over 800 military vehicles stationed at bases near the enclave, signaling preparations for intensified military operations.

A damning human rights report by the U.S. State Department has acknowledged credible accusations of grave abuses by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank, including extrajudicial killings and torture. Yet, there has been a notable lack of action from the Biden administration to address these findings, drawing sharp criticism from human rights advocates. “The widespread nature of the abuses described in the human rights report is overshadowed by the State Department’s inaction on these same findings,” remarked Raed Jarrar, advocacy director of Democracy for the Arab World Now.

“The Senate should have a chance to debate and vote on the key components of such a massive package,” stated Sanders. “We cannot continue to fund this horrific war without acknowledging the severe consequences it has on the human rights of innocent civilians.”

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Alexis Sterling is a seasoned War and Human Rights Reporter with a passion for reporting the truth in some of the world's most tumultuous regions. With a background in journalism and a keen interest in international affairs, Alexis's reporting is grounded in a commitment to human rights and a deep understanding of the complexities of global conflicts. Her work seeks to give voice to the voiceless and bring to light the human stories behind the headlines. Alexis is dedicated to responsible and engaged journalism, constantly striving to inform and educate the public on critical issues of war and human rights across the globe.

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