Senate votes to continue no-strings-attached military aid to Israel
A woman holds up a stick with a shirt attached as a white flag to prevent being shot, as Palestinians flee Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah-al-Din street Bureij, Nov. 7, 2023. The couple and their child went South where Gazans are now under Israeli assault there also. The comfortable U.S. senators play politics with their resolutions while grief and despair grip the people of Gaza. | Mohammed Dahman/AP

WASHINGTON—With all their talk about how horrified they are with Israel’s destruction of Gaza and killing of 30,000 civilians there, many Democrats had no problem getting together with Republicans to allow an amendment filed on Feb.12 by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., to die. The amendment would have cut off U.S. military aid to Israel.

After his amendment died, Sanders ended up voting against military aid to both Israel and Ukraine.

The failure of the senators to back a meaningful stop to the genocide carried out by Israel happened during an all-night session on the $95 billion aid bill, now stripped of right-wing Republican demands for a harsh crackdown, even on asylum seekers, at the U.S.-Mexico border. Of that money, $15 billion is for Israel, with no strings attached.

Lawmakers finally passed the bill 70-29, at 6:30 a.m. February 13, on a bipartisan vote. Sanders and Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., voted “no,” as did 26 Republicans. The rest of the Senate, from both parties plus two independents, voted “yes.”

The bulk of the measure’s military aid goes to Ukraine  to continue a war there where the U.S. has, as with the attack on Gaza, also failed to call for a ceasefire and negotiations. U.S.-supplied weapons have fueled and continue to fuel that war since it began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine two years ago. Time and again, the U.S. and the UK have de-railed attempts by the parties or by other countries to start negotiations. The U.S. scoffed at a peace plan introduced by China in the early days of the war.

Campaign contributions from arm makers

Many of the senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted for the money for the war in Ukraine, unlike Sanders, Merkley and Welch, receive campaign contributions from the armaments industry which is making profits hand over fist from the Ukraine war. Many also get contributions from the fossil fuel companies that are raking in profits now from selling fracked gas produced in the U.S. to the European countries that can no longer purchase gas from Russia. Early in the war Biden said the pipelines bringing oil from Russia to Europe would be “taken care of.” It is widely believed now that the U.S. was behind the blowing up of those pipelines which forced Europe to purchase from U.S. companies.

A Congress that is anxious to investigate and impeach on no grounds whatsoever never bothered to call for a probe of the blowing up of the pipelines.

The senators, by killing the Sanders amendment, disregarded rising popular support, especially in the U.S., for a cease fire in Gaza, opening it to humanitarian aid, and negotiations to end Israel’s war on Gaza.

Calls for allowing humanitarian aid to get into Gaza are hypocritical when U.S. lawmakers say nothing about Biden’s cutting off of funds for the UN agency that has been providing all that aid. Because of the alleged actions of 11 UN employees during the Hamas attack in Israel, the U.S. has cut off the needed funds, resulting in untold misery for hundreds of thousands in Gaza. Starvation and disease are rampant. How can the actions of 11 people out of the 13,000 workforce at the UN agency be used to excuse such a crime against humanity?

Cease fire supporters now include the AFL-CIO, the Teachers (AFT), National Nurses United, the Service Employees, the Auto Workers, the Postal Workers, the United Electrical Workers, the National Writers Union, union locals, thousands of individual unionists and a rapidly growing list of cities, led by the nation’s third largest, Chicago.

Some of the locals, many individuals and Auto Workers District 9 have gone farther. Like Sanders, they demand a U.S. military aid cutoff to Israel.

Israel’s extensive war against Gaza has turned 2.2 million Gazans into refugees in their own homeland. In addition to the 30,000 Gazans killed, 67,000 have been injured. The deaths and injuries understate the carnage Israel’s military has caused.

All its hospitals have been bombed, and 85% of homes and apartments are damaged or destroyed. Thousands of Gazan refugees are living in tents. Even more were sent to supposed “safe havens” near the Egypt-Gaza border crossing at Rafah—and Israel has been bombing the havens, too.

And all of this, Sanders said, has been done using U.S.-made munitions, purchased with U.S.-provided military aid.

That, he told his colleagues, makes the U.S. complicit with the destruction rained down upon innocent Palestinians by right-wing nationalist-influenced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s armed forces.

Sanders couldn’t eliminate Israeli military aid because Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., tried but failed to get agreement on which of the 80 proposed amendments to the aid bill would get debate and votes. Schumer needed bipartisan agreement to OK an “amendment tree.” Republicans objected.

So Schumer decided to ban all amendments, including Sanders’ Israeli aid cut.

Began with Vietnam war

Sanders, whose initial anti-war activism was against the Vietnam War 60 years ago, spoke separately from the talkathon.

“This is really quite unbelievable. Does the United States Congress really want to provide more military aid to Netanyahu so he can annihilate thousands and thousands more innocent men, women, and children?”

“Do we really want to reward Netanyahu, even while he ignores virtually everything the President of the United States is asking him to do?

“Do we want to give even more support to the leader of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, a man who has dedicated his political career to killing the prospects of a two-state solution?” asked Sanders, the sole senator who ever lived in Israel, on a kibbutz for a year in the mid-1960s—long before Netanyahu’s reign.

The refugees in Rafah, now some 1.4 million out of a total Gazan population of 2.2 million, may not be able to stay, Sanders warned. Netanyahu plans “a major offensive there.

The prime minister “will soon be forcing hundreds of thousands of desperate people to evacuate yet again. In other words, exhausted, traumatized, and hungry families will be driven onto the road, with no plan for where they will go, how they will receive essential supplies, or for their physical safety.” They’re short of food and water.

Even Biden now publicly criticizes Netanyahu, Sanders noted.

“He (Biden) said that Israel’s response in Gaza ‘has been over the top’ and added that ‘There are a lot of innocent people who are starving. There are a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it’s got to stop.’”

Sanders also noted Netanyahu is ignoring Biden and has “no plan” for Gaza except total conquest.

So far, Biden’s statements have not resulted in any change of policy. Half the electorate believes Israel has overreacted, and only a third approve of Biden’s response. The negativity is even lower among young voters, a key constituency Biden is again courting.

The bill finally passed in the Senate faces an uncertain future in the narrowly Republican House, where Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., a Donald Trump disciple, won’t accept the legislation unless their draconian—even racist—anti-migrant measures are attached. He says the GOP is now crafting its own stand-alone anti-migrant bill.

“As I have said many times,” Sanders said, “Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’ terrorism, but it does not have the right to obliterate an entire people.”

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.