‘The American People Have Had Enough’: Bernie Sanders Calls Time On Funding Israel

Europe Americas Mid-East Opinion

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bernie Sanders addressed the Senate to discuss the escalating crisis between Israel and Iran, and its repercussions on Gaza. The senator emphasized the importance of U.S. intervention to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control into a regional war.

Iran’s Drone Attack and Israel’s Response

According to Senator Sanders, Iran recently launched several hundred drones and missiles at Israel, fortunately without resulting in any fatalities. This attack was in retaliation to an Israeli air strike on their consulate in Damascus, which killed seven Iranian officials.

Praise for President Biden

Senator Sanders applauded President Biden’s efforts to manage the conflict, stressing that the President’s actions are crucial to preventing an escalation and a potential disastrous war. However, Sanders pointed out that the focus on the Israeli-Iran crisis should not overshadow the humanitarian disaster currently unfolding in Gaza.

The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

Highlighting the severity of the situation, Sanders reminded the Senate of the ongoing war in Gaza, which started when Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in significant casualties and the capture of over 230 individuals. While he supports Israel’s right to defend itself, he criticized the Netanyahu government for extending the conflict to the entire Palestinian population, which he described as an unacceptable overreach.

Impact of the War on Gaza’s Population

Sanders provided a grim overview of the situation in Gaza:

*About 2.2 million people in Gaza are living in dire conditions, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict.
* Since the conflict’s start, 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, and 77,000 have been wounded.
* Approximately 1.7 million people, or 75% of Gaza’s population, have been displaced.
* The infrastructure in Gaza, including housing, healthcare, and water sanitation, has been severely compromised.
* Complicity and the Need for U.S. Action

Senator Sanders expressed concern over the U.S. complicity due to financial support to Israel, which he argued contributes to the humanitarian disaster. He called for a reevaluation of U.S. aid to Israel, particularly military aid, which he feels should not be unconditional.

International Violations and Calls for Immediate Action

Sanders accused Israel of violating international law by imposing severe restrictions on humanitarian aid. He referenced statements from Israeli leaders confirming the imposition of a total siege, which has drastically hindered relief efforts.

Senator’s Plea for Reassessment

Concluding his address, Sanders urged the U.S. to use its influence to secure an immediate ceasefire and ensure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. He emphasized that the U.S. must hold Israel accountable for its actions and reconsider its financial support unless there is a significant change in its approach to the Palestinian crisis.

Sanders’ call for action reflects growing concerns among Americans regarding the U.S. role in the conflict and its implications for both regional stability and humanitarian law. His strong stance is likely to spark further debate within the Senate and among the public on the appropriate U.S. response to the ongoing crisis.


Senator from Vermont, Mr. Sanders:

“Mr. President, as most everybody knows, Iran recently launched several hundred drones and missiles at Israel. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. This attack was Iran’s response to an Israeli air strike on their consulate in Damascus, Syria, on April 1, an attack which killed seven Iranian officials. I applaud President Biden for doing what he can to make sure that this conflict does not get out of hand, does not escalate, and does not create what would be a disastrous regional war.”

“But while we pay attention to this developing Israeli-Iran crisis, I hope very much that we will not lose sight of the unprecedented humanitarian disaster now taking place in Gaza. We must not lose sight of that disaster.”

“As I’m sure all Americans know, the war in Gaza began October 7, when Hamas, a terrorist organization, invaded Israel, killed some 1200 innocent men, women, and children, and took over 230 people into captivity, many of whom are still being held. It has always been my view that Israel had a right to defend itself, respond to this attack, and to go after Hamas. It is also my view that Israel does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people, which is exactly what the Netanyahu government is doing.”

“Mr. President, let us take a deep breath and understand that what is happening right now in Gaza is horrendous, it is inhumane, and it is in gross violation of American and international law. It is driven by extreme right-wing Israeli government officials and a government which is increasingly dominated by religious fundamentalism. That is who is driving this humanitarian disaster in go-ahead. And Mr. President, what should be most troubling to the American people is that we as Americans are complicit, because it is U.S. taxpayer dollars that have helped create this unprecedented humanitarian disaster.”

“Mr. President, let me briefly describe what is going on in Gaza, because it is so easy in a world full of problems, media focuses on this, focuses on that, Congress focuses on this and that, it is so easy to turn away from the tragedy in Gaza, but we must not do that. There are about 2.2 million people living in Gaza, 2.2 million, mostly poor and struggling people, before the war, before the war, Gaza was a very poor and desperate area. Let us not forget that important fact, that before the war some 70% of the young people in Gaza were unemployed. That was before the war.”

“Since this war began, over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed and 77,000 wounded. Unbelievably, 5% — 5% of the residents — residents of Gaza have been either killed or wounded in a six-month period. 5% of their entire population. Two-thirds of those who have been killed or wounded are women and children.”

“Since the war began, 1.7 million people, over 75% of the population of Gaza, have been driven from their homes. Let me repeat it. Three-quarters of the population have been driven out of their homes. These people poor, many are children, do not know whether they will ever return. Pushed out, not knowing where they’re going to go, where they’re going to sleep. That’s rights of the people — three-quarters of the people of Gaza. Over 60% of the housing units in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. This housing destruction is unprecedented in the modern history of the world. 60% of the housing units damaged or destroyed.”

“It is not just housing. Israel has systematically destroyed the health care system in Gaza. Gaza had 36 hospitals before the war. Now, just 11 are partially operational, despite the tens of thousands of injuries and hundreds of thousands of ill people. Persistent attacks on health care facilities have killed more than 400 workers. I have spoken with several American doctors who have returned from missions to Gaza. They tell of operating for hours on end, in crowded hospitals, with little electricity or clean water or medical supplies. They have had to perform surgeries, including on children with no anesthesia. They have tried — have to try to sterilize and reuse medical gauze. Thousands of women have had to give birth in these inhumane and dangerous conditions, and health care workers report a major increase in miscarriages. It is a health care nightmare.”

“But it is not just housing and the health care system that is being destroyed by the Netanyahu government. It is the physical civilian infrastructure in Gaza as well. More than half of the water and sanitation systems have been put out of commission. Only one of three water pipelines is operating. Clean drinking water is severely limited. And sewage, raw sewage, is running through the streets of Gaza, spreading disease.”

“As we speak tonight, there is virtually no electricity in Gaza, but it is not just housing and health care and infrastructure that are being destroyed. There are 12 universities in Gaza, 12 universities. Unbelievably, each and every one of them has been either damaged or destroyed, universities. In addition, primary and secondary schools have also been completely disrupted, over 600,000 children have no access to education.”

“And Mr. President, as horrible as all of this is, there is something happening now that is even worse, and that’s what these photographs speak to. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children face starvation. The people of Gaza struggle, are struggling to survive from day to day, foraging for leaves, eating animal feed, or splitting the occasional aid packages amongst their family. Even in Rafah, where aid is consistently distributed, people are desperately short of basic supplies, including food and water. In the north, the situation is far more desperate. At least 28 children have died of malnutrition and dehydration already. 28 children, but the real toll is likely much, much higher. Without food and clean water, with sanitation systems destroyed, and with little health care available, hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are at severe risk of dehydration, infection, and easily preventable diseases.”

“So let me repeat once again, as we speak hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of terrible deaths. Mr. President, let us be very clear — the conditions that the people in Gaza are experiencing today are the direct result of Israel’s arbitrary restrictions on the aid getting into Gaza. This is not a matter of debate. It is an obvious reality that numerous, numerous humanitarian organizations have repeatedly confirmed. Israeli leaders themselves admit it. At the start of this war, the Israeli defense minister declared a total siege, saying, ‘We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel. Everything is closed.’ End quote. Israeli defense minister. In January, Prime Minister Netanyahu said openly that Israel is only allowing in the absolute minimum amount of aid necessary. Tragically, the Israeli government has lived up to those words. For months, thousands of trucks carrying lifesaving supplies have sat just miles away from starving children, prevented from reaching their destination by unreasonable Israeli restrictions and a military campaign conducted with little regard to civilian life. Trucks with food a few miles away from children who are starving. Israel is stopping those trucks.”

“The world saw evidence of that several weeks ago when seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli air strike. But such attacks have been frequent, and Israel has killed more than 200 humanitarian aid workers in six months. Not just the World Central Kitchen. 200 humanitarian aid workers since this war began. Israel’s blockade of humanitarian aid pushed the United States and the international community to extreme measures, including air dropping supplies and the construction of a port in order to get food to starving people. That was our appropriate response.”

“Mr. President, blocking desperately needed U.S. humanitarian aid is obscene and it is unacceptable. It is also a violation of American law. The Foreign Assistance Act is extremely clear. No U.S. assistance may be provided to any country that, quote, ‘prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.’ That is precisely what Israel is doing, and Israel is clearly in violation of the law.”

“Mr. President, following a tense, as I understand it, tense call between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks ago, Israel committed to a number of steps to improve humanitarian conditions and aid access. These conditions include increasing the number of trucks cleared for entry into Gaza, and reopening some bakeries and a water pipeline to supply north end Gaza. Two weeks later, where are we? Well, there has been a slight improvement in the volume of aid getting in to Gaza. Since the beginning of April, an average of 181 aid trucks have crossed into Gaza to date. This is also marginally higher than was the case over the last several months. But far fewer than the 500 trucks per day that went into Gaza before the war and before the devastation of civilian life there. Unbelievably, Israel continues to block many aid convoys from reaching those areas in Gaza that are most desperate. This morning I spoke with the humanitarian aid worker who was in Gaza just last week, and he reported to me that humanitarian organizations continue, continue to face arbitrary Israeli restrictions.”

“Since the U.N. warned, since the U.N. warned of imminent famine in early February, more than 40% of all food missions have been denied. Children are starving. More than 40% of food missions have been denied. Last week, again, U.N. reported that 40% of aid conveys to north Gaza were denied access. Mr. President, Israel’s violations of international law are not limited to Gaza. They are also breaking the law in the West Bank. Over the weekend, in response to the tragic death of an Israeli teenager, large groups of armed Israeli settlers rampaged through 17 Palestinian villages over three days. These vigilantes shot dozens of people, killing four and burned numerous homes. Videos taken by human rights groups show Israeli soldiers watching attacks unfold, doing nothing to stop them. To the best of my knowledge, no arrests have been announced as a result of these attacks. While this was a particularly violent weekend, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Israeli soldiers and settlers have now killed more than 460 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7, including more than 100 children. That’s the West Bank.”

“Mr. President, what Israel is doing today in Gaza and the West Bank is a defining moment for Americans because we are deeply complicit in everything that is happening. This is not some far-off situation that we have nothing to do with. We directly complicit. Now the U.S. military is not dropping 2,000-pound bombs on civilian apartment buildings. That’s not what the U.S. military is doing. But we are supplying those bombs to the Israeli air force. The United States is not blocking the border and preventing food, water, and medical supplies from getting to desperate people. That’s not what we are doing. But we have supplied billions of dollars for the Netanyahu government, which is doing just that. The United States is not annexing occupied Palestinian land, but it is providing political protection for the Israeli government as it does so. Despite the massive financial and military support, the United States has provided to Israel for many years, the right-wing extremist government of Netanyahu has ignored increasingly urgent calls from the United States to end the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, to stop settlement expansion in the West Bank, and to lay out initial steps toward a two-state solution. Mr. President, members of Congress may not know it. We live in a somewhat different world, but the American people have had enough. The American people are increasingly fed up with Netanyahu’s war against Palestinians, and they do not want to see their taxpayers, taxpayer dollars spent to support the slaughter of innocent civilians and the starvation of children. That’s not Bernie Sanders speaking. That’s what the American people are saying. A recent Gallup poll showed that just 36% of Americans approve of Israel’s military action, with 55% disapproving. Quinnipiac poll — an early poll showed 52% of Americans said that the United States should halt weapons shipments to Israel until it stops its attacks in Gaza. That is what the American people are saying, and maybe, just maybe the Congress might want to listen to the American people rather than powerful special interests.”

“Mr. President, ‘The New York Times’ is what I would describe is a pillar of the establishment. This is not a fringe organization. This is the establishment. And ‘The New York Times’ just this Sunday had an editorial entitled Military Aid to Israel Cannot Be Unconditional. I’d like to read from it and then ask unanimous consent that the whole editorial be submitted to the record.”

“This is what the ‘New York Times’ said. Quote, the administration, Biden administration tried pressure and admonition, including public statements, reported expressions of frustration and U.N. security resolutions. None of them so far have proved effective with Mr. Netanyahu. Military aid is the one lever Mr. Biden has been reluctant to use, but it is a significant one he has at his disposal. Perhaps the last one, to persuade Israel to open the way for urgent assistance to Gaza. Pausing the flow of weapons to Israel would not be an easy step for Mr. Biden to take because devotion and commitment to the Jewish state go back decades. But the war in Gaza has taken an enormous toll in human lives with a cease-fire still out of reach and many hostages still held captive. Though eroding international support for its military campaign has made Israel more insecure, confronted with that suffering, the United States cannot remain beholden to an Israeli leader fixated on his own survival and the approval of the zealots he harbors. End quote, ‘New York Times’ last Sunday.”

“Mr. President, the United States has offered Israel unconditional financial support for a very, very long time. In recent years that has amounted to $3.8 billion a year, with numerous additional forms of support. Right now against my vote Congress is considering another $14 billion in military aid for Israel, $10 billion of which is completely unrestricted military funding. That unconditional support for the Israeli military must end. Instead of begging Netanyahu’s extremist government to protect innocent lives and obey international law, our new position must be simple and straightforward. Not another nickel for the Netanyahu government if their present policies continue. The United States must use all of its leverage to secure an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and across the region and demand that the massive amount of humanitarian assistance that is needed to prevent famine and widespread humanitarian suffering is able to flow into Gaza.”

“Mr. President, history will judge what we do right now. History will judge whether we stand with starving children, whether we uphold America’s professed values, or whether we continue to blindly finance the war.”