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Dropping Bombs and Bread on Gaza

ColumnMarch 07, 2024
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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Dramatic images of US airdrops of food into the Gaza Strip made headlines in recent days. The US Air Force and the Royal Jordanian Air Force dropped over 70,000 meals in total along the Gaza coastline and in northern Gaza, amounting to a fraction of what is needed on an ongoing basis there. While the US has been airdropping food, it has also been delivering bombs to Israel to be dropped on Gaza as well. The Washington Post revealed this week that the Biden administration has conducted more than 100 separate weapons transfers to Israel over the last five months, with thousands of so-called precision guided munitions, bombs and more–while skirting legally-required reports to Congress.

“It is absurd and hypocritical to publicly profess horror at Netanyahu’s inhumane war,” Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “While…we ship tens of thousands of bombs to his army. It is absurd to criticize Netanyahu’s war in one breath and provide him another $10 billion to continue that war in the next.” Sanders reportedly met privately with President Biden this week.

Individual senators have significant power to delay legislation, including foreign military aid, but only if a senator actually learns about a proposed arms sale in advance. As the Washington Post reported, “in the case of the 100 other transactions, known in government-speak as Foreign Military Sales or FMS, the weapons transfers were processed without any public debate because each fell under a specific dollar amount that requires the executive branch to individually notify Congress.”

Josh Paul knows a lot about U.S. arms sales to Israel. He worked for over 11 years at the State Department, most recently as director in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, overseeing international arms deals. He resigned in October, citing the U.S.’s “blind support” for Israel during its assault on Gaza.

“The President continues to facilitate the flow of arms to Israel, despite a change in tone,” Josh Paul said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “We have certainly heard the administration call for more humanitarian assistance or at least a temporary ceasefire. But at the same time, it continues to provide the arms that enable Israel to continue its operations.”

On February 8th, Biden issued a “National Security Memorandum,” NSM-20, reminding government agencies of their legal requirements regarding these official arms transfers. A new report from Refugees International, titled, “Siege and Starvation: How Israel Obstructs Aid to Gaza,” includes the recommendation,

“Given the widespread indications of systematic Israeli violations of International Humanitarian Law [IHL] (which even the President has characterized as ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘over the top’), the Biden administration should pause further offensive security assistance to Israel pending a thorough review of the credibility of Israel’s adherence to IHL, as mandated by NSM-20.”

Refugees International President Jeremy Konyndyk is a former top USAID official, where he ran the Obama administration’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and coordinated the Biden Administration’s international COVID response. He said this week on social media, “Biden admin has had the reports predicting looming famine for two and a half months. Where was the urgency? What did they do to pressure (not plead with) Bibi to drastically ramp up humanitarian access? Why the change in tone only now? And why, still, no use of US leverage?”

Not only is Israel clearly in violation of international humanitarian law, which alone should be enough to stop the flow of arms and ammunition from the US; Israel has been found to be plausibly responsible for genocide in Gaza, in a preliminary ruling from the International Court of Justice in The Hague. South Africa, which brought the case to the World Court, has just asked the court to take additional emergency measures, stating, “The threat of all-out famine has now materialized. The court needs to act now to stop the imminent tragedy.”

Josh Paul is in touch with State Department staffers who still work on arms transfers to Israel. “I’m still hearing from people… ‘I feel sick to my stomach of being involved in this,’ and ‘I’m trying to make changes, and it’s just not working.’ I think the internal pressure, the internal disgust, frankly, is still there.”

Josh Paul is now working with Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN. In a statement, he said, “No number of airdropped pallets can come close to the relief that Gaza needs most: an end to Israel’s bombardment…conducted with American weapons paid for by American dollars. [T]he U.S. has immense leverage to push Israel to agree to a cease-fire and open wide the gates of Gaza so humanitarian assistance can flow in.”

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