In the letter, lawmakers asked President Joe Biden to push Israel to follow international law and for the U.S. to help establish a humanitarian corridor as the war escalates. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Top progressive lawmakers are urging President Joe Biden to lean more heavily on Israel as it launches what seems likely to be an aggressive, bloody and lengthy campaign in Gaza.
The leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with dozens more lawmakers wrote the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken a letter on Friday asking them to push Israel to follow international law and for the United States to help establish a humanitarian corridor as the war in the Middle East escalates. Their demands come as Israel has ordered more than 1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to move south, something that the United Nations said is not feasible.
“We are deeply concerned about the order to evacuate over a million civilians out of northern Gaza and the devastating humanitarian consequences that would ensue,” wrote the House members. “As both the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights said, imposing a complete siege on Gaza and depriving 2.3 million Palestinian civilians who have nowhere else to go — half of whom are children — of food, water, and electricity, would be a violation of international humanitarian law.”
The letter marks the most public effort by progressives in Congress to shape the administration’s policy to the region in the wake of Hamas’ attack in Israel, which left more than 1,000 dead and hundreds taken hostage. And it underscores the rapidly shifting nature of the war — and the delicate domestic politics behind America’s response to it.
In the letter, which was first obtained by POLITICO, CPC Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal and others make five primary requests of the president.
The lawmakers said Biden should help reestablish the delivery of food, water and electricity to Gaza, discourage hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims in the U.S., and guarantee any supplemental funding requests made of Congress include humanitarian aid for Palestinians and Israelis. In addition, they ask Biden to make the case that Israel follows international law and instruct the U.S. to work with partners in the region to set up a humanitarian corridor allowing Palestinian civilians to leave Gaza.
The lawmakers also condemn the Hamas’ attack and offer their agreement with Biden that Israel has the right to defend itself. But, they said, that response must be cognizant of Palestinian civilians in Gaza “who themselves are victims of Hamas.”
In order to prevent hate crimes against Jewish and Muslim Americans, the lawmakers urged Biden to communicate “to the American people that Hamas is not the Palestinian people and the Palestinian people are not Hamas.”
Biden has forcefully displayed his support for Israel in the wake of Hamas’ attack, saying in a speech this week that it was “pure, unadulterated evil” and the U.S. “has Israel’s back.” He also said that he has stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the country has to “operate by the rules of war.”
On Friday, John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, was asked about the impending Israel campaign in Gaza.
“We understand what they’re trying to do,” he told CNN. “They’re trying to move civilians out of harm’s way and giving them fair warning. Now, it’s a tall order, it’s a million people and it’s a very urban, dense environment.”
A House Democratic aide said the letter was led by Jayapal and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and includes roughly 40 additional co-sponsors.