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Israel-Palestine war: As Biden follows Israel’s lead, US progressives urgently push for ceasefire

Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush and handful of progressives introduce ceasefire bill, as 400 lawmakers stand with Israel's right to defend itself
Rep. Rashida Tlaib speaks at a news conference outside the US Capitol Building on 19 September 2023 in Washington.
Representative Rashida Tlaib speaks at news conference outside US Capitol Building in Washington DC, on 19 September 2023 (AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

A group of more than a dozen progressive House Democrats, led by Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib, are urging the Biden administration to push for a ceasefire between Israel and armed Palestinian groups based in Gaza.

As of Monday evening GMT, the resolution has also been signed by: Andre Carso; Summer Lee and Delia Ramirez; Jamaal Bowman; Bonnie Watson Coleman; Jesus Garcia; Jonathan Jackson; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Ilhan Omar; Ayanna Pressley; and Nydia Velazquez.

The bill, dubbed the Ceasefire Now resolution, calls on the Biden administration to "immediately call for and facilitate de-escalation and a cease-fire to urgently end the current violence" and also urges the White House to "promptly send and facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance".

"We need legislation that saves as many lives as possible, no matter one's faith or ethnicity. I am proud to join my colleagues and a coalition of human rights advocates in calling for de-escalation, ceasefire, and a strong humanitarian response that prevents more devastating civilian casualties across the region," Tlaib said in a statement.

Congresswoman Bush said she was "grieving for every Palestinian, Israeli, and American life lost to this violence".

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"War and retaliatory violence doesn’t achieve accountability or justice; it only leads to more death and human suffering," she said in a statement.

The resolution has also been endorsed by 50 organisations - a mix of progressive groups, anti-war organisations, and Muslim and Jewish organisations.

In a separate action on Monday, a group of more than 60 faith groups and progressive organisations led by the Friends Committee on National Legislation penned a letter urging Congress and the Biden administration to "publicly call for a ceasefire to prevent the further loss of life".

On 7 October, Hamas, a self-declared Islamic resistance movement, and other Palestinian armed groups, launched an attack on Israel by land, air, and sea. Hamas said the attack was in response to what it called ongoing Israeli crimes targeting Palestinians and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Since Israel declared war on Gaza on 7 October, the Israeli air force has dropped the equivalent of a quarter of a nuclear bomb on the densely populated enclave, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

So far, at least 2,808 people have been killed, including 853 children and 936 women, as of 4pm GMT on Monday. At least 1,200, including 500 children, are missing and believed to be under rubble. 

 Follow our live blog for all the latest on the Israel-Palestine war

Since the start of the war, the Biden administration has thrown its full weight and support behind Israel's military campaign on Gaza. In response to calls last week from progressives for a ceasefire, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the statements "repugnant".

The State Department has meanwhile sent out messaging to high-level US officials not to use the phrases “de-escalation/ceasefire”, “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm”, according to a report by The Huffington Post.

"You all know how the community has felt abandoned. And today, they will hear a different voice from Congress," Tlaib later said during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

'A roster of who stood up against genocide'

During the press conference, Bush said "we know that we will start to see more and more members" sign the resolution.

But as it stands, the resolution is currently supported only by a handful of the 435 members of US Congress and it is unclear how far it would go, as the House of Representatives is also currently without a speaker.

Last week, a bipartisan group of nearly 400 lawmakers led by Congressman Michael McCaul introduced another resolution that stands with Israel during its ongoing bombing campaign and imminent ground invasion of Gaza.

A few days later, more than 50 lawmakers led by Congresswoman and Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal sent a letter to the White House, urging the Biden administration to call on Israel to respect international law amid its military response on Gaza, and urged for the protection of civilians. It made no reference to a ceasefire.

Many lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, are actively beating the drums of war. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the conflict a "religious war" and called to "level the place", in reference to Gaza.

Meanwhile, the liberal J Street organisation, which has described itself as a pro-peace group and has worked to distance itself from the pro-Israel lobbying group Aipac, is threatening its endorsements of members of Congress who don't support the McCaul resolution, according to a report by The Intercept.

J Street's vice president of government affairs Kevin Rachlin told The Intercept it is letting its endorsed candidates know that "signing on to the broad-based congressional resolution that condemns Hamas, and states support for the State and people of Israel, is a deeply important affirmation of one of our core values".

'Members of Congress are about to hear that whether or not they're ready for calling for a ceasefire, their constituents are ready to call for a ceasefire'

- Beth Miller, Jewish Voice for Peace Action

"We are urging our endorsed candidates and all Members of Congress to vote yes on this resolution, if and when it is brought to a vote," Rachlin said.

Still, for some advocates, the resolution serves as a pivotal moment in American history, with many remembering the support that was drummed up in Washington for the Iraq War in 2003.

"The signatory list of the Ceasefire Now resolution will serve history as a roster of who stood up against mass atrocities and genocide against the Palestinian people," said Sandra Tamari, executive director of the Adalah Justice Project, one of the endorsing organisations.

Beth Miller, political director for JVP Action, said that while the number of co-sponsors on Monday's resolution may be small, the bill is going to be a catalyst for a flood of advocates calling on Congress to push for a ceasefire.

"We haven't had anything yet to push for, because the only things that have been coming out of Congress so far have been horrible one-sided resolutions that only value or speak about Israeli life and completely disregard Palestinian life. And now we have this," Miller said.

Miller said that within the past hour, JVP Action has received over 1,800 letters of support, and 300 calls to Congress have been made to call for a ceasefire.

"Members of Congress are about to hear that whether or not they're ready for calling for a ceasefire, their constituents are ready to call for a ceasefire," she said.

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