Palestine seems to be an exception in Biden’s so-called human rights centred foreign policy
President Biden has come under criticism for his pro-Israel stance and turning a blind eye to the ongoing Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
The violent raid on the Al Aqsa mosque and deadly Israeli airstrikes on Palestine's civilian neighbourhoods have put the American President on a tightrope with progressives in his Democrat Party who are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of Israel, a nation that enjoys unwavering support across party lines in the US.
25 Democratic Party members of Congress have urged the US government to “exert diplomatic pressure” on Israel to stop its violent attacks on Palestinians as well as the forced displacement of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem.
In the letter, addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and sent on Wednesday, the lawmakers say, more than 5,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished by Israel within the last 50 years.
Hence, the pattern of forced displacement, the letter argues, is “in clear violation” of international laws.
Tensions spiked after an Israeli court last week ordered the eviction of Palestinian residents from the historic Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The move sparked protests. Palestinians argued the evictions are part of a wider ethnic cleansing agenda Israel has been pursuing for decades in order to erase the Palestinian identity in Jerusalem.
The protests soon met with a violent crackdown by Israeli armed forces, who unleashed brute force on Palestinian civilians as well as worshippers at the city’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
The ongoing Israeli airstrikes in the besieged enclave of Gaza have killed at least 83 people, including seven women and 17 children, and injured 388 people, according to the latest statement by the Palestinian Health Ministry.
As the violence against Palestinians rages on, Democratic lawmakers say US Secretary Blinken should send the “strongest possible diplomatic message to Israel” to end forced evictions of Palestinians and the establishment of illegal settlements.
"East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, and, under international law, Israel is in military occupation of this territory," said the letter.
The initiative was led by Representative Marie Newman and Mark Pocan and signed by prominent progressives including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
The side of Occupation
Their call came as President Biden expressed his unconditional support for the Israeli aggression, while completely ignoring the deadly Israeli airstrikes knocking down civilian and public infrastructure in Gaza, including residential buildings. Biden is yet to ask Israel to stop killing Palestinian civilians.
In a phone call with Israel's far-right President Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden repeated Tel Aviv's official line, saying Israel has a “right to defend itself”.
Despite the flat-out support from the Biden administration, the discourse around the Israeli occupation within the Democratic party seems to be shifting, fueled by the increasingly right-wing turn in the Israeli government.
Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly criticised Biden’s extremely soft approach toward Israel.
Ilhan Omar said, in reference to the statement released after Biden’s call with Netanyahu, “no mention of Sheikh Jarrah, no mention of the al-Aqsa raid”. Omar, claiming that Biden doesn’t prioritise Palestinians’ human rights violence, accused Biden of “siding with an oppressive occupation”.
Ocasio-Cortez said, “blanket statements like these with little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence.. dehumanize Palestinians”.
She said Biden’s approach doesn’t have the neutral language the administration claims. “This is not neutral language. It takes a side - the side of occupation”, she said.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden's left-wing rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, said that the United States must "speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists."
Democratic members of Congress also introduced a bill last month that would bar any US aid for supporting annexation, destruction of homes or detention of Palestinian children, including in Jerusalem.
Apart from the lawmakers, a growing number of Democratic voters are also not happy with the pro-Israel stance within the party.
Andrew Yang, a New York City mayoral candidate and one of the prominent figures in the Democratic Party, had to apologise for his pro-Israel tweets which drew a backlash from those who accused him of supporting genocide.