Progressive groups call for Biden to denounce evictions of Palestinians as ‘war crimes’
About 140 progressive groups on Thursday released a joint statement calling on the Biden administration to condemn the Israeli government over a host of policies they say amount to war crimes against Palestinians.
The statement comes as violence in the region continues to spiral and the Biden administration is coming under pressure from all sides over its response to the conflict.
The statement was signed by prominent progressive groups like MoveOn, Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, to name a few, that have maintained focus on the potential forced evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem and criticized claims by Jewish groups seeking legal justification to reclaim ownership.
Actress Susan Sarandon also signed onto the statement.
While the Israeli government says the evictions are a real estate dispute that is being settled in the courts, the policy of evictions has drawn scrutiny from the United Nations and concern from the European Union.
Palestinians hope to establish a capital of a future independent state in east Jerusalem but criticize the Israeli government as instituting policies that promote Jewish settlement, and discriminate against and force out Palestinian residents.
The crisis over evictions has become embroiled in the most recent outbreak of military conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing civilians, and Israeli retaliatory airstrikes have killed scores of Palestinians.
Rioting within Israel and clashes between mobs of Jews and Arabs has deteriorated the situation further.
The Biden administration, while engaging in efforts to achieve a cease-fire and call for calm on both sides, has expressed concern about the evictions.
Officials have refrained from criticizing the Israeli government outright and instead welcomed the move by the Israeli Supreme Court to delay a hearing over whether to enforce at least one eviction of a Palestinian family in east Jerusalem.
But the statement by progressive groups calls for the administration to go farther by denouncing the evictions in total, and echoes a letter sent Wednesday by 25 progressive lawmakers to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging diplomatic pressure to prevent any evictions.
“More members of Congress than ever in history are scrutinizing the United States’ relationship with Israel. This is unprecedented,” said Yasmine Taeb, a human rights lawyer, progressive activist and one of the organizers of the group statement.
“Twenty-five members of Congress have joined over a hundred organizations today in calling on the Biden administration to respond to the horrific human rights abuses we’re seeing by upholding the dignity and human rights of the Palestinian people. The Biden administration has said that it’s going to respect human rights around the world and Israel should be no exception,” she added.
Sandra Tamari, executive director of the Adalah Justice Project and one of the signatories to the statement, said, “The world is watching in real time what Palestinians have endured for decades: forcible dispossession at the hands of Israeli forces and settlers. This statement to the Biden administration imploring Israel to halt its plans to forcibly dispossess Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah is supported by a broad list of progressive organizations that believe that Palestinians should be free to live in their homes with dignity.”
The statement by progressive groups calls on the administration to “immediately send the strongest possible diplomatic message to Israel to desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah,” two neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
They also call for the U.S. to publicly reiterate that U.S. policy opposes Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem and that east Jerusalem is occupied under international law.
The administration acknowledges the West Bank as occupied by Israel, but has said the final status of Jerusalem is to be decided through diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The progressive groups also call for the State Department to review whether Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes violates the Arms Export Control Act if it is found to use resources funded by U.S. taxpayers.
Finally, the group calls on the U.S. embassy to send observers to document any evictions that take place, “including details on the military units involved in these operations and the usage of any U.S. weapons for purposes of oversight and accountability” under federal law.
Successive presidential administrations have defended that U.S. military aid to Israel, which totals more than $3.3 billion annually, complies with all federal oversight rules.
Read the final statement below.
Updated: May 16, 11:38 a.m.