Progressive Democrats call on Pompeo to condemn Israeli demolition of Beduin village
Progressive House Democrats on Tuesday called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to condemn Israel’s demolition of a rural Beduin community, a move that displaced dozens of people, including children, in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank.
In a letter to the secretary, 40 House Democrats called on Pompeo to push the Israeli government to halt any further demolitions and accused Israel of “creeping annexation,” violating international law and a grave humanitarian issue.
“Creeping annexation cannot be a policy that the U.S. government supports if we wish to see peace in the region,” the letter, which was led by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), read.
“It is imperative that in your waning two months in office human rights violations, and violations of international law, continue to be forcefully rejected by the American government. It is the only way that a peaceful, comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be achieved.”
Signatories included CPC co-chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.); Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman of Congress; and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who is running for chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The letter is in response to Israel’s Nov. 3 demolition of nearly all of the structures that made up the Beduin community of Khierbet Humsah, including more than 100 tents and sheds that served as living space, cooking space, storage quarters, livestock pens, water containers and solar panels, according to human rights groups.
The demolition displaced 74 people including 41 children, the rights groups said.
The action drew further outrage from the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said it was the largest single demolition by Israel of the last decade.
Israel has this year demolished nearly 700 hundred structures belonging to Palestinians and Beduins, nomadic Arabs that identify as Palestinian, that officials say are illegally built in Area C of the West Bank, which under the Oslo Accords falls under Israeli civil and military administration. But Palestinians and human rights groups say it is nearly impossible to attain building permits that would legalize such structures and allow them to update, build or expand their homes.
The Israeli government defended its demolition of Khierbet Humsah, describing it as an “enforcement activity” carried out against seven tents and eight animal pens that were illegally constructed in a firing range in the Jordan Valley used by the Israel Defense Forces, the Times of Israel reported.
The letter comes ahead of Pompeo’s trip to Israel this week, where he is expected to visit the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the West Bank, marking the first such visit by a secretary of State to territory considered by the international community as illegally occupied by Israel.
The Trump administration in November 2019 reversed State Department policy that viewed Israeli settlements as illegal.
Pocan, in a statement, called Pompeo’s planned visit to Psagot “unprecedented and disgraceful.”
He further accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau of using the U.S. election to cover up “gross human rights atrocities” and of threatening a two-state solution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. The congressional Democrat alleged the demolition amounted to a “defacto annexation of Palestinian land.”
Netanyhau had agreed to “suspend” plans for annexation in exchange for opening diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and brokered by the U.S. as the Abraham Accords.
“Destroying homes and displacing 41 Palestinian children demonstrates a clear act of aggression by the state of Israel and is intentionally oppositional to securing peace or a two-state solution in the region,” Pocan said in a statement. “There is no excuse for the de facto annexation of Palestinian land, and America cannot remain silent in the face of these human rights abuses any longer.”