A group of 25 House Democrats has urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “exert diplomatic pressure” to stop Israel’s efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
“Even our allies must be held accountable for human rights violations,” said US Rep Marc Pocan.
The lawmakers point to the demolition of more than 5,000 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem within the last 50 years, which are “in clear violation” of international laws governing human rights and war crimes, they say.
A group of 64 members of Congress made similar warnings to the State Department in 2020, with an urgent request to “press the Israeli government to prevent more families from being forcibly transferred and having their homes destroyed,” along with a more recent request in March to investigate the destruction of Palestinian homes.
The latest letter – including signatures from Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal and members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley – calls on Mr Blinken to send “the strongest possible diplomatic message to Israel to desist” evictions and demolitions, and send US observers to document the expulsions if they continue.
Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez also criticised President Joe Biden’s brief remarks on Wednesday in which he said Israel has a right to defend itself.
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner rather than later,” the president told reporters on Wednesday after his conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
She said “blanket statements like these [with] little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence – namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa – dehumanize Palestinians [and] imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong.”
According to a White House readout of the call, Mr Biden “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv” and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”
He also conveyed “encouragement of a pathway toward restoring a sustainable calm,” the White House said.
“By only stepping in to name Hamas’ actions – which are condemnable – [and] refusing to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, Biden reinforces the false idea that Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence,” Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. “This is not neutral language. It takes a side – the side of occupation.”
The neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah has emerged as one of the latest flashpoints in Israel’s efforts to evict Palestinians in occupied territories, as revived violence – including attacks inside the Al Aqsa Mosque – have prompted global protests and escalated attacks between Israel forces and Hamas.
At least 72 people, many of them Palestinian civilians, including at least 16 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks.
Most of the international community has not recognised Israel’s claim over East Jerusalem as legitimate. The Israeli government has dismissed the conflict over the neighbourhood as a private “real estate dispute,” while the Israeli Supreme Court has postponed a legal decision that could decide the fate of its residents.