As boycott grows, Ocasio-Cortez says Netanyahu invitation ‘should be revoked’

AOC is urging Democratic and Republican leaders to withdraw their invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at a joint meeting of Congress next month.

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Image Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on Democratic and Republican leaders to withdraw their invitation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at a joint meeting of Congress next month after he released a video attacking the Biden administration for “withholding” weapons from Israel’s military.

“This man should not be addressing Congress. He is a war criminal,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) stated on social media. “And he certainly has no regard for U.S. law, which is explicitly designed to prevent U.S. weapons from facilitating human rights abuses. His invitation should be revoked. It should’ve never been sent in the first place.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting last month. This invitation came roughly two weeks after the Biden administration acknowledged that Israeli forces had used American weaponry to commit war crimes in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, this occurred two months after Schumer criticized Netanyahu on the Senate floor, accusing the prime minister of being “too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza” and calling for new leadership in Israel.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address Congress on July 24 while facing a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court. In his video remarks, Netanyahu claimed the Biden administration “has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel” over “the past few months.” The Israeli prime minister was referring to the administration’s decision to pause a shipment that includes 2,000-pound bombs. Despite this pause, the administration is moving ahead with other weapons deals with Israel, including an $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets and Joint Direct Attack Munition kits.

Ocasio-Cortez’s call for the cancellation of Netanyahu’s scheduled address came as the number of Democrats planning to boycott the Israeli prime minister’s speech continued to grow. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently announced their decisions to skip the joint meeting. Warren stated, “Benjamin Netanyahu has created a humanitarian disaster. The United States needs to be using its leverage, including restrictions on arms sales, as a way to advance a push toward peace in the Middle East.”

Warren further emphasized the need for a cease-fire, massive humanitarian relief, the return of hostages, and a breakthrough in negotiations. She added, “Giving more arms to Israel is not pushing in the right direction.”

In addition to boycotting Netanyahu’s scheduled speech, some congressional Democrats are reportedly discussing “counter-programming” plans focused on peace, bringing the hostages home, and ending the conflict. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is among the lawmakers pledging to boycott the Israeli prime minister’s speech, expressed his disapproval, stating, “It is absurd that Netanyahu has been invited to address Congress. We should not be honoring people who use the starvation of children as a weapon of war.”

The progressive group Justice Democrats urged its supporters to demand that their elected representatives either boycott or disrupt Netanyahu’s July 24 address. The group noted that the Israeli prime minister and his government “are still actively carrying out what historian Robert Pape has called ‘one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.'”

Justice Democrats emphasized the need for leaders in Washington to stop using taxpayer dollars to send billions in weapons and bombs to Israel and instead demand a permanent cease-fire and the release of all hostages. “We need our leaders in Washington to stop using our taxpayer dollars to send billions in weapons and bombs to Israel, and demand a permanent cease-fire and the release of all hostages—not roll out the red carpet for Netanyahu,” the group stated.

As the debate over Netanyahu’s invitation continues, the U.S. government faces increasing pressure to reconsider its stance on arms sales and support for Israel amidst ongoing humanitarian concerns. The invitation has sparked a significant response from progressive lawmakers and advocacy groups, highlighting the deep divisions within the U.S. political landscape regarding foreign policy and human rights.

“We should not be honoring people who use the starvation of children as a weapon of war,” Sanders reiterated, emphasizing the urgent need for ethical considerations in U.S. foreign policy decisions.

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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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