Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called upon President Biden to cut proposed aid to Israel by $10.1 billion in a letter that called the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza a “mass atrocity” that the United States is complicit in.
“Israel’s military campaign will be remembered among some of the darkest chapters of our modern history,” Sanders wrote. “And it is being done with bombs and equipment produced and provided by the United States and heavily subsidized by American taxpayers. Tragically, we are complicit in this carnage.”
Sanders sent the letter the same day Biden delivered some of his most critical remarks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s military campaign, telling donors he wanted the nation to stop “indiscriminate bombing.” But the president has also requested Congress send more than $14 billion in funds to Israel to aid the campaign, and so far opposed any talk among Congress’s liberals of conditioning the funds to rein in the staggering civilian death toll in the conflict.
Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel that killed 1,200, mostly civilians, at least 18,412 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The majority are women and children. The vast majority of Gaza’s Palestinians have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations, with disease, hunger and other privations leading to a humanitarian disaster in the region.
In an interview, Sanders said Biden is “deeply concerned” about the civilian death toll — but that concern is not enough.
“We have to convert that concern into reality,” he said. “It would be totally hypocritical for us as a nation to give $10 billion more in unconditional funds to a right-wing, extremist government led by Netanyahu … to continue this war.”
Sanders proposed Biden ask for $4 billion from Congress, which would fund Israel’s Iron Dome and other defensive capabilities.
“I think there are a lot of senators who are prepared to put conditionality on aid to Israel,” Sanders said. “I’m going a little bit further here and saying, yes, I support conditionality and I helped lead the effort on that. But I think at this point what we have to say is, no, you continue this military policy? Zero dollars.”
The funds Biden has requested for Israel, Ukraine and other national security priorities have stalled out in Congress over Republican demands for an immigration overhaul, and Sanders conceded he was not sure when or if this debate would take place.
In his letter, the senator compared the damage being done to Gaza in just two months to that of postwar Dresden, when about half of the German city’s homes were destroyed and 25,000 people died during the Allied bombing, according to one estimate.
“This constitutes not just a humanitarian cataclysm, but a mass atrocity,” Sanders wrote of the conditions in Gaza.
Sanders also asked Biden to support the humanitarian cease-fire resolution the United States recently vetoed in a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The liberal former presidential candidate, who is Jewish and spent time in Israel as a young man, has drawn criticism from some of his former supporters for not calling for a cease-fire in the conflict. But Sanders said that he backs the U.N. resolution because he believes it would be a temporary cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid, not a permanent one.
“Long-term, I don’t know how you can have a permanent cease-fire when Hamas has made it very clear that that’s not what they want or believe in,” Sanders said. “And at the same time you have Netanyahu and his right-wing government wanting to continue the war. So I think it raises false hopes.”