US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) Executive Director Yousef Munayyer speaks to The Nation about efforts to move the US to hold Israel accountable for its excessive use of force and targeting of Palestinian demonstrators participating in the Great Return March.
“The United States could send a very strong message to the Israelis about the unacceptability of these human-rights abuses by simply making it clear that there’s no blank check when it comes to military support if they engage in behavior like this,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
The US Campaign is among the chief groups calling for accountability and has been encouraging activists to contact members of Congress and call for “an investigation to hold Israel accountable for violating” laws that prohibit US-manufactured arms from being used to violate human rights.
Amnesty and the US Campaign have focused their calls around two laws in particular: the Foreign Assistance Act, which prohibits US assistance to countries that consistently violate human rights, and the Leahy Law, a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits the United States from sending arms to individual units of foreign security forces that commit gross human-rights violations.
As for Congress, only a handful of members have criticized Israel’s actions. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment from The Nation on whether it was concerned about Israel firing on unarmed civilians in Gaza, in possible violation of US law.
“That sends a message to the Israelis that the United States is fully behind the use of lethal force on protesters. That is dangerous,” said Munayyer, the head of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “That the American administration is shielding an Israeli military engaged in those kinds of brutally repressive acts is a new low.”
Still, Munayyer told The Nation it remained important to press the United States to enforce its arms-export laws as they apply to Israel.
“This is an opportunity for people to communicate with their representatives and demand action on this front, because it is a question of whether or not US law has been violated,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for accountability.”