The Slaughter and Starvation of Gaza Cannot Continue; US Must Suspend Arms to Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza is estimated to have passed 30,000 – two-thirds of them civilians and more than half of those children – as dozens were shot by Israeli forces or crushed in the chaos of hundreds of desperate civilians surrounding an aid convoy in Gaza City. In response, Center for International Policy (CIP) Executive Vice President Matt Duss issued the following statement:

President Biden must say ‘enough is enough’ and finally end US support for and complicity in the ongoing carnage in Gaza. Importantly, he should suspend transfers to Israel of the arms it is using in Gaza, as he is already obligated to do under US law given the obvious reality – including an open admission by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – that the Israeli government is limiting the amount of humanitarian aid delivered to the territory.

President Biden should also continue his efforts to reach a ceasefire that includes the release of all hostages and a massive emergency surge in humanitarian aid. We regret that both Israel and Hamas have recently failed to reach a ceasefire, but the US approach should not be contingent on the decisions of others. It should be based on our own values and our own laws. Diplomacy must be prioritized not only as a means of reaching peace, but in order to uphold our own principles. The ongoing provision of arms to Israel despite its open hindrance of humanitarian efforts is a clear departure from those principles.

A full ceasefire and massive humanitarian relief effort is not just a moral necessity but a security one. The ongoing war in Gaza has triggered fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as between the United States and Houthi forces in the Red Sea and Yemen – both of which threaten to spread and possibly draw Iran and others in the region into a larger, even more devastating conflict. 

Nearly five months of slaughter and starvation of civilians in Gaza, and the continued holding and abuse of Israeli hostages, must not continue. It is time for President Biden and US partners to finally use their leverage to end this catastrophe.

 

Lawmakers, Progressive Leaders Urge Reorientation of Foreign Policy as a 2024 Imperative

On February 6, Members of Congress and progressive movement leaders gathered at a conference hosted by the Center for International Policy (CIP), demanding changes to US foreign policy decisions as a necessity in a consequential year that will determine the trajectory of the US both at home and globally.

In a keynote address seen by over 60,000 people, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) argued that the concentration of wealth and power foments war, violence and mass insecurity for everyday people globally, benefiting billionaires at the expense of whole families, nations, peoples and regions and declared that, “For many decades we have seen a ‘bipartisan consensus’ on foreign policy—a consensus which, sadly, has almost always been wrong.”

Pointing to the distorting influence of moneyed forces ranging from AIPAC, super PACs, big defense contractors, fossil fuel companies, pharmaceutical companies, oligarchs supporting Putin, Trump and other autocrats, and other multi-billionaires and multinational corporations; as well as the growth of right-wing extremism, tax havens and economic inequality, Senator Sanders declared, “It’s hard to overstate just how fundamentally this broken global financial system undermines faith in democracy and saps our ability to deal with the pressing crises we face today.”

“​​We live in a world where a small number of multi-billionaires and multinational corporations exert enormous economic and political power over virtually every country on earth,” added Sanders. “That reality has a huge impact on all aspects of our foreign policy and whether or not we will be able to effectively address the major crises we face.”

In a “Congress and Progressive Foreign Policy” session, Members of Congress discussed their personal pathways to foreign policy and outlined key challenges and opportunities for a “people-centered national security” that delivers for people in the US and the Global South, recognizes the interdependence of domestic and foreign policy on issues like migration and climate change, and allows the outside world to interact with the US in positive ways like refugee resettlement rather than negative, militarized interactions.

“Nowadays, most people are interacting with the United States through drones, through weapons that are made in the US that are in the hands of dictators, police or their military, or they’re interacting with us in regards to sanctions that are making it hard for them to have necessary medication and food. And that creates a national security problem for us,” said Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

“We’ve spent more on border security since 2013 than was in the immigration reform bill of 2013. And we’ve seen no improvement in anything because we haven’t fundamentally shifted the system. So we have to think about, how do we invest in other countries? Our foreign policy is directly tied to this,” added Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

“What I would like to see is a people-centered security, where the United States can actually engage with people of a nation, and help empower them, help them pursue freedom and dignity on their terms, not necessarily our terms,” concluded Representative Jason Crow (D-CO).

In “Prioritizing a Progressive Foreign Policy Agenda,” regional experts discussed strategies for the US to reorient its relations to better serve the people and address the realities and needs on the ground. Speaking to the pitfalls of Great Power Competition and the Cold War as frameworks for US-China relations, China expert Ali Wyne declared, “Diplomacy is not something that you do out of kindness to competitors. It’s something that you do to advance your own national interest.” “We can’t support a progressive movement in Ukraine if they’re dead,” emphasized Terrell Jermaine Starr. Speaking on Latin America, María José Espinosa Carillo stressed, “We have deep connections with the region, not only through our borders, but also through funding and economic ties. But what’s more important, there is a renewed vision of the region.”

In “The Political Necessity of a New Foreign Policy,” movement leaders from MoveOn, Center for American Progress, AFL-CIO and Win Without War explored the intersection of domestic and foreign affairs, offering their analysis of policy tradeoffs and highlighting how they see these issues moving the progressive base.

“That [progressive foreign policy] actually is not just a morally and ethical position, but it is an electorally salient one, one that is a winning position in elections,” declared MoveOn executive director Rahna Epting. “With Biden, he campaigned in 2020 promising to end endless wars, and that helped him win. That was one of the reasons I believe helped him win in that election cycle. And now we see Donald Trump poised to exploit the current situation in Israel Gaza and how that’s going to show up in November.” 

Center for American Progress president and CEO Patrick Gaspard described the threat of antidemocratic forces at home and abroad, and said, “We’re now in a place of the world where you win votes by arguing that you build a moat around yourselves and pull up the drawbridge, our progressive transnationalism, internationalism is not actually ascendant. We should recognize that and we should fight fiercely.”

This fight for democracy at home and abroad takes place not just at the ballot box but in workplaces too. Cathy Feingold, International Director for the AFL-CIO, argued we must recast our priorities in favor of “ worker-centered security,” explaining, It sends a very specific message to people in this country and around the world who are working day in and day out and want to make sure that they can live with dignity. I have found that workers here and workers around the world are interconnected.”

Win Without War executive director Sara Haghdoosti added, “We talk about foreign policy like there are not people in this country who have family connections, and deep commitment to what happens around the world. And it’s just not okay. That’s not how people work.”

View all the key moments from the conference on YouTube here and read opening remarks from CIP president and CEO Nancy Okail here.

National Coalition Urges President Biden to Restore UNRWA Funding to Aid Palestinians

Nearly four months of conflict have devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and dangerously reduced essential supplies like food, water, and medicine. Hundreds of thousands of civilians—the vast majority of them children and women—are now displaced and at grave risk of starvation and deadly disease.

This week, a coalition of more than 50 national organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging him to support the protection of civilians in the conflict in the Occupied Gaza Strip by restoring funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The letter was organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Center for International Policy. Over 50 national groups representing millions of Americans signed it, including Americans for Peace Now, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Humanity & Inclusion, MADRE, Amnesty International USA, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, Demand Progress Education Fund, National Council of Churches, and Win Without War.

 


Mr. President:

We are non-governmental organizations supporting the protection of civilians in the conflict in the Occupied Gaza Strip and writing to urge you to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

After nearly four months of conflict which has devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and dangerously reduced essential supplies, hundreds of thousands of civilians – the vast majority of them children and women – are displaced and at grave risk of starvation and deadly disease. UNRWA is the most significant direct provider of humanitarian aid in the territory, with more than two million Palestinian civilians relying on it for critical necessities and services. UNRWA and its staff have gone to heroic lengths to continue aid operations even after catastrophic damage to many of its facilities and the death of more than 150 of their colleagues since the start of the current hostilities.

Twelve individuals among the 13,000 people UNRWA employed in the territory at the start of the current fighting are accused of taking part in Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attack on Israel. UNRWA, which has categorically and repeatedly condemned the attack, swiftly terminated the contracts of those accused. UNRWA’s Commissioner-General has requested the investigation of these employees be overseen by the highest investigative authority at the UN, while the UN Secretary General made it clear the Secretariat will cooperate with a competent authority to prosecute the individuals. This is in addition to UNRWA’s January 17, 2024 announcement that it is commissioning an independent review of staff guidelines and procedures to ensure that all staff adhere to humanitarian principles.

Continuing to suspend assistance to UNRWA for the alleged actions of individuals that UNRWA itself condemns and has pledged to help investigate is not only unjust, but detrimental to your administration’s goal of ending the current humanitarian crisis. Denying resources to UNRWA will only deepen the deprivation faced by civilians in Gaza, helping to spread rather than fight starvation and disease.

We therefore urge you to immediately restore US funding to UNRWA and to work with it and other aid agencies to urgently end the growing humanitarian catastrophe in the territory.

Signed,

Action Corps
Alliance of Baptists
American Friends Service Committee
Americans for Peace Now
Amnesty International USA
Brooklyn For Peace
Carolina Peace Center
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Center for Economic and Policy Research
Center for International Policy
Center for Jewish Nonviolence
Center for Victims of Torture
Charity & Security Network
Church World Service
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)
CommonDefense.us
Demand Progress Education Fund
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Extend
Freedom Forward
Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disicples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Grassroots International
Humanity & Inclusion
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ)
Just Foreign Policy
MADRE
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Centeral Committee U.S.
Middle East Democracy Center (MEDC)
Migrant Roots Media
Minnesota Peace Project
MPower Change
National Council of Churches
National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
New Hampshire Peace Action
Nonviolent Peaceforce
Peace Action
Presbyterian Church (USA), Office of Public Witness
RootsAction.org
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team
Sojourners
The Episcopal Church
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
Truman Center for National Policy
Unitarian Universalist Association
United for Peace and Justice
UNRWA USA National Committee
Win Without War
Women for Weapons Trade Transparency
World BEYOND War
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation
Zomia Center

Senate Emergency Appropriations Bill Would Harm US Interests and Values, Human Security in the Middle East

The Center for International Policy commends efforts by Senators supporting vitally important aid to Ukraine to construct a viable legislative vehicle in a Congress rendered increasingly dysfunctional by rising rightwing extremism in its ranks. With Ukraine’s financial and military resources rapidly dwindling as it struggles to repel Russia’s illegal invasion, assistance from the United States is critical. We also commend lawmakers seeking to include more than $10 billion to address dire humanitarian crises around the world. 

We therefore regret that, despite the good faith efforts of many lawmakers, the bill as currently written is nonetheless unacceptably unbalanced by provisions that are deeply harmful to US interests and values, as well as human security in the Middle East.

In contrast to Ukraine’s demonstrated need for funds and arms to counter Russia’s expansionist military assault and occupation, the bill’s $14 billion in further US taxpayer funding for weapons for Israel to use in its devastating campaign in Gaza is neither financially, militarily nor morally justified.

With a per capita GDP greater than that of the UK, Canada and Japan – and more than twelve times that of Ukraine — Israel has not made the case to Congress or American taxpayers that it will be unable to carry out essential, legitimate defense activities without such financial assistance. Such extraordinary additional aid the Israeli government is especially inappropriate in light of its ministers continuing to spend Israel’s own funds on projects in illegal West Bank settlements, while urging Israel’s financial institutions to defy new US anti-terrorism sanctions.

While Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its people and take military action in response to Hamas’ horrific October 7, 2023 attack, Israel’s campaign in Gaza is failing to achieve its own stated objectives of rescuing the Israelis taken hostage or “eliminating” Hamas from the territory. Instead, Israel’s disproportionate bombardment and near-total siege of the territory with US weapons has resulted in approximately 27,000 deaths – two-thirds of which Israel itself estimates are civilians – including more than 11,000 children, as multiple Israeli ministers call for the mass forced displacement of Gaza’s residents.

Despite calls by lawmakers for conditions on further military assistance to prevent Israel’s continued use of US arms in a manner that President Biden himself has twice called “indiscriminate,” the proposed bill not only fails to include any such safeguards, but would reduce already insufficient opportunities for Congressional oversight of weapons sales to Israel under federal law. The new White House National Security Memorandum requiring foreign military aid recipients like Israel to adhere to international humanitarian and relevant US law is a step in the right direction, but not a sufficient replacement for durable, statutorily binding safeguards – especially in light of the Biden administration’s repeated resistance to enforcing existing human rights and arms control laws with regard to Israel.

Additionally, as Gaza’s civilian population faces a crisis of starvation and disease, the legislation unconscionably prohibits any of the humanitarian aid it allocates, as well as any previously appropriated aid funding, from being used for contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – the main provider of lifesaving aid and services in the territory. Far from addressing the growing threat to US and regional security that the war and humanitarian crisis in Gaza represents, this bill would cruelly exacerbate it, while increasing the prospects of the United States being drawn into another costly and avoidable quagmire in the region.

​​Time and again we have seen the folly of pursuing military measures without transparency or accountability mechanisms and without due attention to civilian well-being. We urge lawmakers to redress these deficiencies in the bill, so that its other components vital to global human security can move forward.

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Following Yemen Strikes, Biden Must Change Course in the Middle East

Center for International Policy President and CEO Nancy Okail released the following statement.

CIP Renews Call for Ceasefire after Deadly 60 Days of War in Israel-Palestine

Center for International Policy President and CEO Nancy Okail released the following statement.