Progressive sweetheart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) along with 14 other progressive lawmakers have sent a letter to the Secretary of State demanding a stop to Israeli “war crimes” in the Masafer Yatta area of the West Bank.
In the letter which was obtained by Jewish Currents, AOC and the others urged the administration to “immediately send the strongest diplomatic message possible not to expel the indigenous Palestinian residents,” demanding that the State Department “exert all available diplomatic pressure.”
Israel’s destruction of the villages violates international law, the letter said, citing protections against an occupying power forcibly removing an occupied people from their land or transferring its own civilians into occupied territory. “Forced displacement and transfer by Israel of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta would be a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the lawmakers wrote, “and would amount to a war crime.”
The letter—which was initiated by AOC’s fellow “Squad” member, Rep. Cori Bush. The “Squad” has been known for its anti-Israel and borderline antisemitic stance.
“If Israel proceeds with its plans to forcibly displace the indigenous Palestinian residents,” the lawmakers wrote, “the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Israel should immediately, pursuant to the oversight and accountability required by the Leahy Law and the Arms Export and Controls Act, send observers to document the mass transfer, including details of the military units involved in these operations and the use of any U.S. weapons.”
The lawmakers further urged Blinken to demand Israel end all military exercises and building activities that would compel Masafer Yatta residents to leave their homes.
The demands come weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden’s expected visit to Israel, in what will be his first visit to the Middle East since assuming office.
The letter by the progressive lawmakers represents the latest fissure in the Democratic consensus on Israel. Until recently, the state enjoyed strong support from virtually all members of both parties; Israel receives $3.8 billion a year in US military aid, making it the largest cumulative recipient of such support since 1945.
But in the last year alone, Bush and a handful of her progressive colleagues have taken votes or introduced legislation seeking to curtail the funds that contribute to upholding Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In September, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Mark Pocan led congressional efforts to stop US deliveries of Boeing bombs to Israel, and eight progressives—Reps. Tlaib and Bush, as well as Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Andre Carson, Marie Newman, Raul Grijalva, and Chuy Garcia—voted against giving Israel an extra $1 billion for its Iron Dome missile system.
Back in February, Rep. Jamaal Bowman – another member of the “Squad” — opposed legislation endorsing Israel’s “normalization” of diplomatic ties to Arab states. Just last week, Bowman and 11 other members of Congress urged the Biden administration to oppose new Israeli border policies that will severely restrict diaspora Palestinians’ travel to the West Bank.