US Senate tables resolution to assess Israeli human rights violations

The US Senate voted Tuesday night to table Resolution 504, which requested information on Israel’s human rights practices and the US government’s actions in supporting the Israeli government. 

Senators voted in favor of tabling the resolution 72 to 11. 

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, introduced the resolution last year on Dec. 14. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS and Rep. Rashida Tlaib address a Sanders presidential campaign rally in Detroit in 2019. Last week, Sanders allowed Tlaib to host a ‘Nakba’ event on Capitol Hill (credit: REBECCA COOK/REUTERS)

The resolution called for the secretary of state to submit information on allegations of human rights violations by the Israeli government, including disproportionate operations and the denial of basic humanitarian needs to people in Gaza. 

The resolution asked for information on the US government’s actions to promote the observation of human rights by limiting the risk to civilian life in Gaza and the West Bank and discouraging practices “inimical to internationally recognized human rights.” 

The resolution would require Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to release steps the US took to disassociate itself, publicly or privately, from any Israeli human rights violations. 

A list of US weapons and munitions provided to Israel since Oct. 7 would be requested, according to the resolution. 

Also requested would be an assessment of Israel’s compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law and an assessment of the US’ actions to monitor protocols for weapons sold or transferred to Israel for use in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Senators defend Israel

Before the vote, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham likened the Israelis’ need to ensure unconditional surrender from Hamas to the US decision to use the atomic bomb to force Japan’s surrender in WWII. 

“We’re dealing with one of the most barbaric organizations in the history of the world who are bent on destroying the Jewish people, calling for attacks on the United States, and we have a resolution in front of us asking the Secretary of State to investigate the Government of Israel for war crimes,” Graham said. “You talk about upside down and backward.”

Graham said anything short of destroying Hamas militarily would be a “mistake for the ages.”

“The proper response by Israel is to destroy Hamas. The problem Israel has in that task is Hamas is trying to make sure Israel kills as many innocent people as possible,” Graham said. “Therein lies her dilemma.”

Before the vote, Sanders said what the Senate is voting on is simply a request for information. 

“We will soon be voting on a very simple question,” Sanders said. “Do we support asking the State Department for information on whether human rights violations may have occurred using US assistance in Israel’s military campaign? That’s it. That’s what this resolution is about. It is non-controversial and it should be passed in large numbers.”

Sanders said the resolution is necessary because of the scale of destruction in Gaza, the indiscriminate nature of the military campaign, and the humanitarian catastrophe occurring. 

The extensive use of US weapons in attacks that have killed 1,000s of civilians, 

Sanders also said he was concerned about the extensive use of US weapons in the attacks as well as the implications of extreme statements and unclear intentions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, 

“It has been more than 100 days since this war began with the horrific commerce terrorist attack, which killed 1,200 innocent men, women, and children in Israel, and which took more than 200 hostages, over 100 of whom are still cruelly being held in captivity as of today,” Sanders said. 

“And while there is no question in my mind, that Israel has the right to defend itself and go to war against who started this terrible situation,” Sanders said, “it is Israel that does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people and innocent men, women and children in Gaza. And tragically, that is what we are seeing right now.”

Sanders said the military campaign waged by Netanyahu’s government has been the most intensive bombing campaign of the 21st century. 

The impending risk of famine and danger to children is why the resolution should be passed, Sanders said. 

“We cannot turn away,” Sanders said. “We must act.”

Sanders said this is a tragedy in which the US is complicit in much of what is happening. 

“Whether we like it or not, the United States is complicit in the nightmare that millions of Palestinians are now experiencing,” Sanders said. 

Sanders reiterated the point of the resolution is for information. 

“No matter what your view on this terrible war may be, agree with me you don’t agree with me, we cannot bury our eyes in the sand,” he said. 

Sanders said the Senate has had little meaningful debate on the war since Oct. 7 and only passed symbolic resolutions.  

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) Oregon said he’s still strongly supporting Israel’s right to go after Hamas, but also thinks there is a responsibility to ask questions about how a war is conducted. 

Merkley said there are three reasons why the information requested in the resolution is important as it relates to the potential invalidity of the Israeli government’s strategy that’s targeting Palestinian people in Gaza, displacement, and humanitarian aid. 

According to Merkley, the US supplied Israel with over 10,000 tonnes of military equipment since Oct. 7

“It would be useful to have our own government analyze this and understand why we are resupplying the various weapons that our government has said Israel should quit using into a more targeted campaign,” Merkley said. 

Merkley said the US should never be complicit in a displacement campaign “if that in fact is what’s going on.”

Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said the resolution is the wrong vehicle to deal with this issue.

“I strongly disagree with my colleagues,” Cardin said. “Resolution 502 B was never intended to be used against an ally during a war. It’s never been used for that purpose.”

“Now, this resolution, as I said before, is much more than just requesting information. Its passage would be a gift to Hamas, a gift to Iran,” Cardin said. “It would show a division between Israel and the United States, it’s an indictment against Israel, make no mistake about it.”

Cardin also said the resolution would make ongoing hostage negotiations more challenging.

“Yes, we can and should continue to push Israel towards a targeted prosecution of the war against Hamas and Gaza, but passing this resolution does not do that,” Cardin said. 

Cardin made the motion to table the discharge of the resolution. 

Before the roll call, Sanders repeated the number of Palestinians that died so far in the war and the number of children facing starvation. 

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