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Senate Tables Resolution Seeking Israel Human Rights Oversight

On Tuesday night, the United States Senate tabled a resolution that would have required the State Department to report to Congress on Israeli human rights violations committed in Gaza involving the use of U.S. arms and equipment. 

Only 11 senators voted in favor of the resolution: nine Democrats [Sens. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.)], one Republican [Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)], and one Independent [Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)].

72 senators voted against advancing the resolution.

“The United States is complicit in the nightmare that millions of Palestinians are now experiencing,” Sanders, who introduced the resolution, said in a floor speech before the vote.

“It shouldn’t be controversial for Congress to ask for information on how U.S. arms are being used in Israel’s military campaign in Palestine,” he added in a post on X, formerly Twitter. 

Sanders made clear that his resolution was “not prescriptive,” and would “not alter aid to Israel in any way,” He wrote last week that It “simply requests that the State Department report on how our aid is being used. … I hope it is not controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are being used.”

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack against Israel, and the ensuing retaliatory military campaign that has devastated Palestinians, the United States government has remained steadfast in its diplomatic and military support of the Israeli government — in spite of growing domestic and international pressure to intervene in the worsening humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.  

In an interview with the Associated Press ahead of the vote, Sanders clarified that “Israel has the absolute right to defend itself from Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attack on October 7, no question about that,” but “what Israel does not have a right to do — using military assistance from the United States — does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people … in my view, that’s what has been happening.”

Earlier this month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, began hearing arguments in a case brought by South Africa against Israel. The South African government charged the Israeli state with having committed “genocidal acts” against Palestinians in Gaza, where more than 24,000 have been killed amid a relentless military operation and a blockade of basic humanitarian resources. If successful, South Africa’s lawsuit could result in a provisional ruling ordering Israel to halt its offensive against the Gaza Strip. 

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Israel has denied the charges, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the case against Israel as “meritless.” According to a report from The Washington Post, however, behind the scenes the U.S. has been warning Israel that the brutal campaign against Gaza is quickly costing them public support, and pressing for efforts to scale down military operations — especially as the conflict threatens to spill over into all-out regional war.  

While U.S. lawmakers and officials continue to balk at the notion of holding their longtime ally to the standards of humanitarian conduct they themselves have agreed to, Israel’s leadership remains committed to exacting punishment on the Palestinian people. 
“We are continuing the war until the end — until total victory,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote Saturday on X. “We will restore security to both the south and the north. Nobody will stop us – not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anybody else.”

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