Benjamin Netanyahu does not deserve to set foot in the US Capitol  

Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be honored for the fourth time with a speech before a joint session of Congress . Billed as a symbolic representation of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, it will serve instead to Palestinians like myself and many others as a shameful reminder of how the United States government has betrayed its own stated values and commitment to human rights for all people. 

Today in Gaza, Palestinians have no right to life or safety. It has become a land of orphans, of widows and of mass graves. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed, including over 16,000 children , by what President Biden described as Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing.”  

Nearly the entire population has been driven from their homes and much of Gaza has been made unlivable. The International Court of Justice and a U.S. federal court have ruled that Israel might be guilty of genocide, and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested a warrant for Netanyahu’s arrest for using starvation as a weapon of war against the whole population of Gaza, deliberately targeting civilians, and “extermination and/or murder.”  

The United States is not a spectator in all this destruction, but in fact its main enabler. Since October, Biden has signed legislation appropriating billions of dollars in weapons to Israel, and continues to send weapons even after Israel crossed his “red line” of invading Rafah . At the United Nations, the Biden administration repeatedly used its Security Council veto authority to block ceasefire resolutions for months, and the House of Representatives passed legislation to inflict harsh sanctions against the ICC after Chief Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan announced his arrest proceedings against Netanyahu.   

For decades Netanyahu has worked to undermine U.S. policy in the region by destroying the possibility of a Palestinian state being created as part of a two-state solution, flouting U.S. policy on settlements , and systematically denying Palestinians our basic human rights, creating the conditions for today’s horrific violence. Before people in Gaza faced Israel’s endless wave of bombs and missiles, they lived under a crippling Israeli blockade and siege for 17 years , unable to travel outside of the tiny strip’s borders or access any items not allowed through Israel’s strict and arbitrary screenings. 

In the West Bank, where I live, Israel has launched a massive wave of repression in recent months while the world is focused on Gaza. More than 500 people have been killed since October and more than 7,000 others imprisoned by Israel’s occupying army . At any point Israeli soldiers can enter my home in Ramallah or any other home in the West Bank, and arrest and imprison us indefinitely without charge or trial . Reported use of torture by Israel has been frequent for decades and has become more so in the last nine months. 

If it were not enough for our life and liberty to be denied, Israel continues to steal our land and destroy our homes as well. In Gaza, almost 2 million people have been violently displaced , many multiple time. According to the United Nations, more than 70 percent of homes in Gaza were destroyed as of March; rebuilding all the homes could take  80 years . It is unfathomable destruction, on a scale the world has barely seen before.  

In the West Bank, Netanyahu’s government has continued to expand settlements relentlessly and recently approved the largest seizure of Palestinian land , more than 3,100 acres , in over 30 years. To add insult to injury, the Israeli Knesset just passed a resolution rejecting Palestinian people’s right to have a state of their own. 

When Netanyahu is honored this week by members of Congress, they will be honoring a man who is responsible for grave war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank and who has worked for decades to undermine and sabotage U.S. policy. 

While many members of Congress and President Biden continue to support Netanyahu and Israel unconditionally, most Americans do not. Polls show that a majority of Americans want the U.S. to be neutral when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. Some 70 percent support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and a majority  support halting weapons to Israel. A majority of Democrats and more than a third of all Americans also believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. 

Etched into the Capitol building where Netanyahu will speak is this quote from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “We defend and we build a way of life, not for America alone, but for all mankind.”  This promise has not yet been extended to many peoples, including the Palestinians. Yet, even in this time of horror and grief, I continue the hope that what has been for decades will not be so eternally into the future.  

It is not too late for members of Congress to send a message to Netanyahu and to the rest of the world that they value the lives and human rights of all peoples, including Palestinians, by boycotting his speech. In doing so, they will be taking a courageous moral stance and standing on the right side of history. 

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is a physician and general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. 

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Tens of thousands plan to march on the Capitol during Netanyahu’s speech

A coalition of advocacy groups will gather Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol to protest the visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Tens of thousands of protestors are expected to converge in D.C. tomorrow for a national mobilization to demand the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu,” an organizer with the group told The Hill. 

Netanyahu will address a Joint Meeting of Congress at 2 p.m.

Dozens of senior Democrats, including Vice President Harris, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Senate Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.), will not attend the speech. Harris will be on a previously scheduled trip to Indiana, while others have chosen to skip the remarks.  

Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) is organizing the protest, which has been sponsored by hundreds of groups from across the nation, according to ANSWER spokesperson Zoe Alexandra. ANSWER was founded in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and helps organize large anti-war protests in the U.S.

The demonstration will begin at 11 a.m. at Third Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Buses will bring protesting groups from as far away as Indiana, Georgia, and Illinois, according to protest organizers.

During the rally outside the Capitol, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, UAW Executive Board member Brandon Mancilla, American Postal Workers Union president Mark Diamonstein, and actress Susan Sarandon will all speak. 

Alongside ANSWER, Jewish Voice for Peace, CodePink, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network,  the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), The People’s Forum, CAIR and more than a dozen other organizations are co-organizing the event. 

“The millions of people who have mobilized in the streets and the voting booth demanding a permanent cease-fire and an end to military funding to Israel have been clear — there is no going back to the status quo,” USCPR Action Executive Director Ahmad Abuznaid released in a statement. 

“The U.S. is the Israeli military’s largest funder and enabler, sending at least $17.9 billion in weapons to Israel in 2024 alone, and has thus become deeply implicated in genocide. If Biden were fit to lead, he would stop funding genocide and turn Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over to the ICC, as the Lemkin Institute has demanded ,” he added. 

The coalition of groups also denounced the U.S. Capitol Police for putting up physical barricades around the Capitol in anticipation of protests. 

“It is shameful that taxpayer money is being used to turn the Capitol Building into Fort Netanyahu. Millions of dollars have been spent to fortify the area so that a genocidal war criminal can feel secure. But we will not be intimidated and are determined to exercise our First Amendment rights,” ANSWER Coalition National Director Brian Becker said in a statement to The Hill.

The Capitol Police has announced a series of related road closures around the Capitol. 

“The USCP anticipates a lot of demonstrators to show up. The Department respects everyone’s First Amendment rights, however all demonstrations must be done peacefully and legally. It is illegal to cross an established police line, such as the bike rack barriers that the USCP uses around Capitol Grounds,” the agency wrote in a statement.

This protest is expected to be the largest anti-Nethanyahu protest as he addresses Congress, but there are others planned across the city as well. 

T’ruah, a rabbinic organization calling for human rights, will hold a Shacharit for Peace & Justice at Union Station Plaza at 10 a.m. Wednesday. 

UnXeptable will host a “Netanyahu Non-Grata” protest outside the U.S. Capitol on Delaware Avenue and First Street NE at noon, and The Peace Bloc will also host a Netanyahu protest at 1 p.m. on Capitol grounds.  

On Tuesday, a group of protestors also occupied the Cannon House Office Building.

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Major labor unions urge Biden to halt military aid to Israel

A group of major labor unions pushed President Biden in a letter Tuesday to stop military aid to Israel as it continues to wage its war on Hama in the Gaza Strip.

“We believe that immediately cutting US military aid to the Israeli government is necessary to bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” the letter reads.

Signatories include the United Auto Workers (UAW), the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), the National Education Association (NEA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and United Electrical Workers (UE). 

In a Tuesday press release, APWU President Mark Dimondstein said the “unions are hearing the cries of humanity as this vicious war continues.”

“Working people and our unions are horrified that our tax dollars are financing this ongoing tragedy,” Dimondstein continued. “We need a ceasefire now, and the best way to secure that is to shut off US military aid to Israel.”

The letter comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins his visit to Washington this week. He is set to give a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday and meet with both President Biden and former President Trump on Thursday.

Netanyahu has faced calls to resign from leading Democrats in Congress over his handling of the war in Gaza and creating the current humanitarian crisis facing some 2 million Palestinians living in the strip. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war.

The letter from unions said Netanyahu was also violating U.S. laws on foreign aid.

“Furthermore, Israel’s refusal to minimize civilian harm and its demonstrated restriction of U.S. humanitarian aid call for a halt to U.S. military aid under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Control Export Act,” the letter from the unions states.

“Mr. President, the time to act decisively to end this war is now,” the letter continues. “Stopping US military aid to Israel is the quickest and most sure way to do so, it is what U.S. law demands, and it will show your commitment to securing a lasting peace in the region.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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US invites warring parties in Sudan to ceasefire talks

The U.S. on Tuesday invited the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) rebel group to ceasefire talks hosted by Saudi Arabia and Switzerland as Washington aims to end the suffering in one of the most deadly wars in the world.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the talks would be mediated by the U.S. and begin on Aug. 14 in Switzerland if both parties accept the invitation. Saudi Arabia will co-host the talks, while the African Union, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations will act as observers, according to Blinken.

Blinken said the “horrific conflict” in Sudan “has pushed millions to the brink of starvation and displaced nearly 10 million people.”

“It continues to cause immeasurable suffering for the Sudanese people. The United States remains committed to working with partners to end this devastating war,” he said in a statement.

The war in Sudan broke out in April 2023 when the RSF and the SAF clashed over control of the country following collaboration between both groups to dissolve a transitional government that had been set up following the 2019 ouster of a longtime authoritarian leader.

The fighting continues to escalate as the RSF takes control of more territory, mostly large swaths of the southeast and southwest, including the region of Darfur, where the international community largely considers a genocide to have taken place against the ethnic non-Arab population in 2003.

Both the RSF and the SAF have been accused of war crimes, with the RSF, which rose out of the Janjaweed Arab militia groups in 2003, accused of possibly repeating the Darfur genocide. Blinken said in a December statement that fighters from both militias have attacked and kidnapped women and abused detainees.

The U.S. tried to broker talks to end the war shortly after it broke out to little success, and efforts in October and December also failed. The Biden administration has also imposed visa restrictions and sanctions on the RSF and SAF.

Blinken said in his Tuesday statement that the talks in Switzerland aim to reach a ceasefire, enable humanitarian access and develop a monitoring and verification mechanism to ensure any agreement can be implemented.

The talks “do not aim to address broader political issues,” Blinken added.

“As the Sudanese people have long demanded, Sudan’s governance must return to civilians and civilians must play the leading role in defining a process to address political issues and restore Sudan’s democratic transition,” he said. “The scale of death, suffering, and destruction in Sudan is devastating. This senseless conflict must end.

“The United States calls upon the SAF and the RSF to attend the talks and approach them constructively, with the imperative to save lives, stop the fighting, and create a path to a negotiated political solution to the conflict,” he added.

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McCaul says he will raise urgency of cease-fire deal with Netanyahu 

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he’ll press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the urgency to secure a cease-fire deal with Hamas to allow for the release of approximately 120 hostages, including eight Americans held for nearly 300 days. 

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) made the remarks during a roundtable with the American families of hostages held by Hamas after one participant said Netanyahu was not showing urgency on the issue.

“I’ll be meeting with the Prime Minister and I’ll certainly bring up this issue,” McCaul said in response to the comments from Daniel Neutra, whose brother Omer Neutra was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7 from the Nova music festival in southern Israel.

Families of the hostages are in Washington pushing for Netanyahu to announce a cease-fire deal, which could free the hostages, during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

They are calling for lawmakers and President Biden to pressure Netanyahu on the issue.

Netanyahu’s office said that he is dispatching his negotiators on Thursday, although a location for talks is not yet public. 

Neutra criticized the prime minister for sending negotiators after his speech to Congress.

“He [Netanyahu] did not answer when we asked him why he’s only sending his negotiators to keep the process going Thursday, instead of days ago. We must continue to put the pressure on all parties involved including Hamas to accept this deal now before more people die in captivity,” Neutra said. 

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that he is not yet scheduled to meet with Netanyahu.

Responding to a question from The Hill on what more pressure can be put on Netanyahu to accept a cease-fire deal, Meeks said he would emphasize the close U.S. and Israel security partnership. 

“We just need to make sure that Prime Minister understands that we will never turn our back on [Israel], but also understand at this particular moment… that we’ve gotta get these hostages home and then, and we’ll stand together, as we did when Iran sent the drones and the rockets over to make sure that Israel is safe.”

U.S. forces helped defend Israel against an unprecedented missile attack launched by Iran on April 13. 

Biden laid out in late May a three-phase ceasefire deal that would halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas for a period of six weeks. Under the deal, Hamas would release hostages in phases while Israel commits to releasing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza is also expected to be scaled up under a cease-fire deal.

The six-week truce is supposed to allow for follow on negotiations to an end to the war and pave the way for a new governing structure in the Gaza Strip, reconstruction and a pathway to a Palestinian state.  

Netanyahu has rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state. 

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