War on Gaza: House passes bill banning entry of Palestinian Liberation Organisation into US
The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would bar the entry of any individual involved in the 7 October attacks against Israel, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).
The measure passed on Wednesday night by a vote of 422-two, with progressives Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush being the only ones to vote against the measure.
The bill, introduced by Republican Tom McClintock, would bar any non-US citizen who either participated or had any involvement in the 7 October attack, or any "officers, representatives, and spokespersons of the Palestinian Liberation Organization".
"Under this bill, all PLO members are barred from admission into the United States," the bill states.
Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist groups by Washington and Israel, and are already banned from the US.
But the bill's extension of this ban to include the PLO, which currently holds the governing seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, appears to come in contradiction to the Biden administration's messaging that the PA should be the governing body of both the West Bank and Gaza.
"As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution," Biden said in an opinion article in The Washington Post in November.
Tlaib and Bush, who were the only lawmakers to vote against the bill, said the measure was both unnecessary and would only incite hatred against Muslim and Arab communities in the US.
"HR 6679 is unnecessary because it is redundant with already existing federal law. It's just another GOP messaging bill being used to incite anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim hatred that makes communities like ours unsafe," Tlaib said in a statement.
The PLO's relations with the US soured under the Donald Trump administration, with the US then closing the group's office in Washington in 2018. Biden pledged to reopen the PLO office in 2021.
Biden's support for Gaza war
Israel began its war on Gaza in October, in response to the 7 October Hamas-led attacks that killed 1,139 people, including more than 600 Israeli civilians and more than 70 foreign nationals, according to a tally by AFP, citing social security data.
The military campaign on Gaza has so far killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, the majority of them women and children, and throughout the conflict, Israel has repeatedly targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, residences, schools and UN shelters.
The Biden administration responded with full-fledged support for Israel, including diplomatic support and military assistance to the country. That support led to accusations that the US is linked to Israeli war crimes in Gaza, and a US lawsuit was filed against the administration accusing it of complicity in an "unfolding genocide" against Palestinians.
While the lawsuit was dismissed earlier this week, the judge overseeing the case said it was "plausible" Israel was committing genocide in Gaza. The judge called on the US to stop its support for Israel's siege of the Palestinian enclave.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has criticised some members of the Israeli government and introduced an executive order that allows the US to sanction individuals involved in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. After issuing the executive order, the US sanctioned four Israeli settlers who had attacked Palestinians.
However, while the action was announced as an effort to punish Israelis, a senior US official said the measure could also be used against Palestinians.
Palestinian and Arab-American organisers in the US noted that the announcement of the measure came as Biden headed to Michigan, a critical swing state in the upcoming presidential election that is also home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in the country.
Many of the community leaders have said they will not vote for Biden in the upcoming presidential election, citing his support for the war in Gaza.