FEATURED PHOTO: REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ D-NEW YORK SPEAKS AT NEWS CONFERENCE CALLING FOR CEASE FIRE IN GAZA OUTSIDE CAPITOL HILL NOVEMBER 13, 2023
FEATURED PHOTO: REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ D-NEW YORK
TheGazette.com, By Samantha-Jo Roth-WASHINGTON EXAMINER, Posted November 21st 2023
Twenty-four House Democrats sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, urging him to consider an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in an effort to end “grave violations of children’s rights,” the latest group sounding the alarm about growing civilian casualties in the region.
The letter led by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Betty McCollum (D-MN) raise new concerns about the “4,506 children [that] have been killed in the Gaza Strip” and the 1,700 they say are reported missing.
“We write to you to express deep concern about the intensifying war in Gaza, particularly grave violations against children, and our fear that without an immediate cessation of hostilities and the establishment of a robust bilateral ceasefire, this war will lead to a further loss of civilian life and risk dragging the United States into dangerous and unwise conflict with armed groups across the Middle East,” the letter said. “Further, we write urging clarity on your strategic objectives for achieving de-escalation and stability in the region.”
The pressure on Biden is the latest example of divisions among the Democratic Party on how far the United States should go in support of Israel and its war to take out Hamas. Biden traveled to Israel in the days after Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 terrorist attack to reaffirm the U.S.’s unwavering alliance, while members of the progressive “Squad” have been outspoken in criticizing Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza.
The letter comes after the House Foreign Affairs Committee invited lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to view graphic footage of Hamas’s attack. The bipartisan closed-door screening of the footage was supplied by the Israeli Embassy. About 150 lawmakers attended, with some seen leaving the room in tears and visibly shaken, including Ocasio-Cortez, according to reporting from Punchbowl News.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, did not attend the screening but told reporters she wants the White House to consider a ceasefire or, “at a minimum, a cessation of hostilities so that we can start to negotiate how to get the hostages back, how to get humanitarian aid in, and how to have a lasting political situation where Israelis and Palestinians can truly live together.”
Members of the Squad reiterated their calls for a ceasefire in Gaza a day before tens of thousands rallied in Washington at the March for Israel, calling for the release of the hostages and condemning Hamas’s attack.
“We will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced and we will not stop until we save lives,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the only Palestinian American member of Congress, who was recently censured by the House last week over her comments concerning the conflict, at a press conference on Monday. “We will continue to demand a ceasefire.”
The tension among the party’s left flank is clear as some lawmakers are facing mounting criticism from liberal constituents who want to see the Biden administration pursue a ceasefire and more humanitarian relief. The administration is also under increased pressure to exert more influence over Israel’s military operations.
A new Reuters-Ipsos poll found U.S. public support for Israel’s war against Hamas is decreasing and that most people think Israel should agree to a ceasefire. The poll conducted Oct. 12-13 found about 68% of respondents said they agreed with the statement “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”
Progressives in the Senate have not been nearly as outspoken on this front. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has taken a more cautious approach and has not called for a ceasefire because he said he believes Hamas wants “permanent war and destruction of Israel,” according to the Washington Post.
Instead of a ceasefire, the Vermont senator, who is Jewish, said Israel should allow for an extended humanitarian pause. So far, the first Senate Democrat to back a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war is Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate. However, he stipulated that it would need to begin with the release of all the hostages.
Last week, more than two dozen Democratic senators raised concerns to Biden over Israel’s military operations in Gaza that have resulted in a growing death toll for Palestinian civilians. The letter, led by Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee, requested the administration brief them on how Israel was carrying out military operations in an effort to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked an effort by Republicans to force a stand-alone Israel aid bill passed by the House earlier this month, primarily because they want to group the aid with funding for Ukraine and humanitarian assistance.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said she voted against the move because it only accomplished “half our job.”
“We cannot send the message to our allies or to the world that America only stands by some of its allies, that our word is only good some of the time,” Murray said on the Senate floor.
Republican lawmakers are largely united on aiding Israel but are divided over whether to help Ukraine. The Republican who has been outspoken in questioning aid to Israel is GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. The majority continue to denounce calls for a ceasefire.
“As the world seems to cry out for ceasefire for Israel, I’ve been wanting to say when is the world going to call for a ceasefire from Hamas,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), speaking Tuesday to a room of hundreds of family members of those who were abducted and taken hostage by Hamas.
The line was received with a thunderous applause.
“We are going to continue to encourage the American people and members of this administration and our peers to … do what it takes to be able to go after those hostages, to be able to speak for freedom, and to be able to put down the threat of terrorism so that individuals can live every day of their lives in peace,” he said.