Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland

“If Not Now” US activist group holds demonstrations against Israeli violations 

By Shirin Zarqa- Washington/PNN/

Despite the American involvement after alleged chemical attacks in Syria, Americans are not deterred from exposing Israel’s unjust treatment of Palestinians and their insistence that Israel be held accountable for their accounts.

30 members of the “If Not Now” group demonstrated again this week  at the office of Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has remained silent about the use of deadly force on protesters at the Gaza border.

The group has held demonstrations all over the country encouraging legislators to condemn Israel’s blatant violation of universal human rights.  By the end of the week over a dozen members of the American-Jewish organization were arrested for protesting.  Their calls for condemnation are beginning to get a response. 

Democratic Senator, Diane Feinstein of California, later that afternoon tweeted that the killing of peaceful protesters is “exceptionally destructive for both the Palestinians and the state of Israel. It must end. Violence is not the pathway to reconciliation.”

An additional five Democratic members of Congress released a joint statement calling on the Israeli military “to exercise utmost restraint in the use of deadly force and to fully comply with international law” in its response to the Gaza protest. The Congressional members, Mark Pocan from Wisconsin, ParmilaJayapal from Washington, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, Barbara Lee from California and Henry Johnson from Georgia, also showed their support for Gazan’s “right to assembly nonviolently,” including that they “strongly reject the dangerous contention made on April 8 by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that ‘there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip.'” In addition, the press release also stated that the Congressional members “applaud” Israeli human rights groups for “urging IDF forces to fully comply with international law and exercise utmost restraint in their use of deadly force. Such measures must only be used as a last resort to stop an imminent threat to life.”

The most prominent voice in the US Senate by far has been Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who immediately expressed his concern for the unarmed civilian protesters at the Gaza border, stating, “the killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response.” Senator Sanders had also initiated a letter that has been circulating in the US Congress and his colleagues in the US Senate in which he proposes that the Trump administration “play more of a positive role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all.” In the letter the Senator reminded US legislative leaders of Gaza’s “lack of power, clean water, adequate medical care and other necessities,” which he stated “exacerbates the hardships faced by Gaza’s population.”  Senator Sanders also included portions of the United Nations report of 2012, which determined that “if current trends continued, Gaza would become unlivable,” and an additional 2017 report which stated that “water pollution is among the factors causing a dramatic increase in kidney problems among Gaza’s population.” Sanders even called out Saudi Arabia for its lack of support for Palestinians. At a conference last week, the senator addressed his comments directly to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, suggesting that the prince, “stop just talking about the poverty and distress in Gaza, do something meaningful about it.” 

The senator also added, “I heard the other day that the Saudi king pledged $50 million to UNRWA, the UN agency that works with Palestinian refugees. Fifty million dollars is not a small sum of money, but let us not forget that it is ten percent of what the crown prince paid for a yacht.”

Senator Sanders reiterated his position on the Israeli reaction to protestors at the Gaza borders, stating that Israel “massively overreacted” adding that the presence of Hamas members at protests does not justify killing unarmed civilians. He emphasized his statement stating, “Frankly it’s amazing to me that anyone would find that point controversial.”

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