Skip to content
View Featured Image

Sending Weapons To Israel Illegal, US Lawmakers Say

Above photo: Trucks carrying humanitarian aid line up at the Rafah Border Crossing, Egypt, on the way to Gaza, November 19, 2023. AP/Amr Nabil, File.

Democratic lawmakers warned President Biden.

The Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act prohibits sending offensive weapons to a government restricting humanitarian aid.

US Democratic lawmakers are warning President Joe Biden that providing weapons to Israel is illegal under existing US law because Israel is withholding US humanitarian aid from Gaza as famine looms.

Haaretz reported on 24 March that the group of prominent lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden stating that “so long as Israel continues to restrict the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, the continued provision of US security assistance to Israel would constitute a violation of existing US law and must be restricted.”

The letter added, “Given the catastrophic and devolving humanitarian situation in Gaza, we urge you to enforce the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act.”

The 1994 law states that the US may provide no military aid to any country “when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.” However, the president is empowered under the law to issue a waiver to allow weapons shipments to continue.

The letter stated further that Israel’s restriction on the delivery of humanitarian aid has made Israel “ineligible to receive continued US weapons under Section 620I.”

The law was passed in response to Turkiye’s blocking of US humanitarian aid to Armenia in the 1990s.

It does not prohibit sending weapons viewed as defensive in nature, such as interceptors for Israel’s Iron Dome system. But it does make it illegal to send offensive weapons such as hundreds of the US-supplied 2,000 lb bombs Israel has used to wipe out large swathes of Gaza’s cities.

“Thirty years ago, a bipartisan majority in Congress came together to pass the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act and prohibit US foreign assistance from going to countries that block US humanitarian aid. As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, Congress and the White House need to make clear to Israel that we will enforce US law to protect Palestinian children from starvation in Gaza,” one of the letter’s signers, Congressman Joaquin Castro, told Haaretz.

Recently, eight senators also cited this same law in a letter to Biden, warning that he must require Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to stop restricting humanitarian aid access or forfeit US military aid to Israel.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, visited the Gaza border in January, where he said he saw clear evidence that Israeli actions violated the law.

He told NPR, “We saw miles of trucks backed up at the border crossing and the very cumbersome and arbitrary inspection process. So, for example, we visited a warehouse full of goods that had been rejected. These included maternity kits and water purification systems. Allegedly, these were somehow dual-use items, but no reasonable person could conclude that.”

He explained further that the law is “clearly triggered by the facts on the ground in Gaza, where we now have kids who have literally died of starvation, and hundreds of thousands of people on the verge of starvation, with 4 out of the 5 hungriest people in the world today in Gaza.”

President Biden and his aides have publicly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for killing enormous numbers of Palestinian civilians and for enforcing a siege on Gaza that has led to Palestinians dying of starvation.

However, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have insisted on sending additional weapons to Tel Aviv.

Israeli commentators have suggested that the public dispute between Biden and Netanyahu is not real, but rather an effort to increase both leaders’ popularity among their domestic supporters.

Biden needs to be seen by his Democratic constituents as making an effort to reign in Netanyahu as he carries out genocide in Gaza ahead of the presidential elections this fall.

Netanyahu has to be seen by his Likud and other far-right Israeli supporters as standing up to Biden to “complete the job” of destroying Gaza. Netanyahu is seeking to undercut calls for early elections in Israel that would see him facing a stiff challenge from opposition leader Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet established after 7 October.

Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.