Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., accused the Biden administration of enabling ‘gross human rights violations’ in Gaza by sending military aid to Israel as it seeks to eradicate Hamas.
The progressive lawmaker held a tele-town hall on Monday evening where she fielded multiple questions on the Middle Eastern conflict, including a constituent who said the U.S. should ‘just defund Israel and send funding and aid to Gaza.’
She also encouraged pro-Palestinian activists to keep putting pressure on Democratic lawmakers to support a cease-fire, even as heightened tensions around the issue have led to instances of vandalism and threatening behavior.
‘Forces that are recipients of U.S. military aid cannot be engaging in gross human rights violations,’ Ocasio-Cortez said, citing a set of statutes known as the Leahy law. ‘And if they are engaged in gross human rights violations, then that aid must be either pulled, reconsidered, conditioned, etc.’
The Leahy law stops the government ‘from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights,’ according to the State Department.
‘What we are witnessing is the gross violation of human rights in Gaza, and that is being done with U.S. military assistance,’ Ocasio-Cortez said. ‘I don’t think that the American people want to see our public resources going to finance gross human rights violations.’
At another point, a caller asked what Americans who support a cease-fire should do to keep pressuring lawmakers. Ocasio-Cortez replied, ‘I want to also be clear about how powerful that is, constituent engagement.’
She said the flood of calls and messages from pro-Palestinian activists to pro-Israel Democrats was increasing support for a cease-fire.
‘These are not just progressives,’ she said. ‘We have seen representatives from swing seats, that just barely won their seats, are now starting to come out in favor of a cease-fire. So all of this activism is making this a politically tenable and a politically normalized position. So I want to encourage individuals who are, you know, making that call or perhaps if you haven’t made that call yet, to please do so.’
But some of that pressure has led to heightened security concerns when the activism goes beyond phone calls. Rep. Daniel Goldman, D-N.Y., who is Jewish, saw his Brooklyn office vandalized earlier this month with pro-Palestinian messaging.
And a demonstration outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters grew so heated that one Democratic lawmaker who was inside at the time compared it to the violent Jan. 6, 2021, protest at the U.S. Capitol.