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An article by Jake Johnson on October 20, 2023 in Common Dreams (licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Most members of the U.S. Congress have thus far refused to support a cease-fire in Gaza as Israel's siege and airstrikes inflict horrific damage on the occupied territory.
But according to a Data for Progress survey released Friday, the tiny fraction of Congress that has backed a cease-fire is more in line with the views of U.S. voters than the overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate—and President Joe Biden.
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The poll shows that 66% of likely voters agree that "the U.S. should call for a cease-fire and deescalation of violence in Gaza" and "leverage its close diplomatic relationship with Israel to prevent further violence and civilian deaths."
IfNotNow, a Jewish-American group that has helped organize major demonstrations in support of a cease-fire this week, said in response to the survey that "it's past time for our political leaders to listen to their constituents and put a stop to this violence.
On Monday, a group of 13 House progressives led by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) introduced a resolution urging the Biden administration to support a cease-fire in order to "save Israeli and Palestinian lives."
Several additional Democrats, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), have signed onto the resolution since its introduction, bringing the total number of backers to 18.
But support for a cease-fire remains marginal in Congress, something that activists and a growing number of Capitol Hill staffers are working to change. More than 400 Muslim, Jewish, and allied congressional staffers have signed an open letter calling on their bosses to "join calls for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas."
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On Thursday, more than 260 former staffers from Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) 2020 presidential campaign released an open letter imploring the senator to "demand an immediate cease-fire in Palestine and the return of Israeli hostages, and take concrete steps to end Israeli occupation."
"In its attacks against Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has demonstrated a brazen disregard for human life—with some officials going as far as to make their genocidal intent public—and has broken international law repeatedly," the letter reads. "Major humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree: the two million people in Gaza—half of whom are children—are experiencing collective punishment, and all people of conscience must call loudly and vociferously for a ceasefire."
"Our government enabling this violence and these blatant war crimes is a failure."
As of this writing, just one U.S. senator has publicly expressed support for a cease-fire and some, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), have dismissed the idea outright. Schumer pledged Friday to "move expeditiously" to approve Biden's request for $14 billion in additional military aid for Israel.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate's leading progressive, has accused Israel of violating international law and urged the country's military to exercise "restraint" in Gaza. In a statement on Tuesday, Sanders said that "the bombs and missiles from both sides must end, massive humanitarian aid must be rushed to Gaza, and the hostages must be returned to their families."
Sanders also joined his Senate colleagues on Thursday in unanimously approving a resolution that affirms the chamber's readiness to "assist Israel with emergency resupply or other security, diplomatic, and intelligence support needs, both during the immediate crisis and in the near future, including by accelerating delivery of defense articles and systems."
The resolution does not mention the catastrophic impact that Israel's assault has had on civilians in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 4,000 people in just two weeks. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said Thursday that "over a quarter of the area of Gaza City and northern Gaza has been affected by the destruction" and "20% of the houses there are no longer fit for habitation."
In a statement to The Hill on Friday, Bush said that she is "disturbed by our government's willingness to immediately cave to calls for unconditional support and write a blank check for the Israeli military while blatantly ignoring the violence and dehumanization of Palestinian civilians"
"Our government enabling this violence and these blatant war crimes is a failure," said Bush.