Biden under pressure to act amid fresh fears of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Gaza | Israel’s war against Gaza News

Rights advocates in the United States are urging President Joe Biden to end his administration’s “complicity” in Israeli rights abuses after key members of Israel’s government backed the idea of ​​expelling Palestinians from Loop.

Far-right Israeli ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich said this week that Israel should “encourage emigration” from the coastal enclave, home to approximately 2.3 million Palestinians.

Israel has been carrying out a military offensive in Gaza since October 7, resulting in approximately 1.9 million Palestinians being internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

“If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million Arabs, the whole discussion of the day after [the war ends] It will be totally different,” Smotrich said Sunday, calling for “voluntary migration” of Palestinians.

A day later, Ben-Gvir, who oversees national security, made a similar call, saying it was “a correct, fair, moral and humane solution,” Israeli media reported.

His comments are the latest from Israeli officials to allude to the prospect of resettling Palestinians out of Gaza. Legal and human rights experts have warned that forced displacement constitutes a war crime under international law and could lead to ethnic cleansing.

“It’s not really ‘voluntary’ when you bomb houses and starve the entire population,” said Rasha Mubarak, a Palestinian-American organizer.

Mubarak told Al Jazeera that the Biden administration has not only failed to condemn Israeli officials’ push to remove Palestinians from Gaza, but has also contributed to the war by providing Israel with military aid and continued diplomatic support.

“They have played an immense role in this genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Biden ‘a helper and a better’

Over the past few weeks, as Israel has continued its bombing campaign, senior U.S. officials have said they do not support efforts to force Palestinians out of the enclave.

“The United States remains strongly opposed to any forced or sustained displacement of Palestinians from Gaza,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Jazeera in an email on Monday afternoon, without commenting specifically on the latest comments from Israeli ministers. .

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington “rejects” Ben-Gvir and Smotrich’s comments.

“This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible. The Government of Israel, including the Prime Minister, has repeatedly and consistently told us that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli Government. They should stop immediately,” Miller said.

But human rights advocates say the United States’ unwavering support for Israel’s war, which to date has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza, is leaving the door open to more atrocities and violations of international law.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, civilians cannot be deported or forcibly transferred from a territory unless such movement is necessary for “the safety of the civilians involved or for compelling military reasons.” The International Criminal Court (ICC) also states that the forcible displacement of civilians is a war crime unless justified by “military necessity” or civilian security.

Kenneth Roth, former director of Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera in a television interview on Monday that “the idea of ​​mass ethnic cleansing – the war crime of forced displacement – ​​remains largely an idea” within the government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Critics fear, however, that there is growing pressure to make that idea a reality in Gaza. Ben-Gvir and Smotrich’s comments are just the latest in a series of comments that have raised concerns since the war began.

In late October, for example, the media outlet +972 Magazine reported that the Israeli Intelligence Ministry had recommended the forcible transfer of the population of Gaza to the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, also wrote in The Jerusalem Post in November that the international community should “help the people of Gaza build new lives” elsewhere.

Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN and another Likud lawmaker, has also promoted the idea of ​​”voluntary migration.” In a November Wall Street Journal op-ed, Danon and Yesh Atid party lawmaker Ram Ben-Barak urged “a handful of the world’s nations to share responsibility for hosting Gaza residents.”

However, while the United States has pressed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, Roth said “Biden so far refuses to use the influence he has” to pressure Israel.

The country receives $3.8 billion in US military aid annually. Additionally, late last week, the Biden administration bypassed Congress to authorize the transfer of about $147 million in artillery ammunition, saying “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of the weapons to Israel. .

“It would have been very easy to say, ‘Do you want these weapons?’ Let the help come in. Do you want these weapons? Stop killing so many civilians.” [Biden] I didn’t do that,” Roth said.

“He left it completely unconditional, giving up the influence that he had and, in a sense, making him complicit in what is happening – in fact, a collaborator and abettor of those war crimes.”

Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also told Al Jazeera that the Biden administration could be doing more to discourage any attempts at forced displacement.

Israel’s military offensive, he explained, “has made Gaza not only uninhabitable but has put the lives of the 2.3 million Palestinians there at risk.”

Israel, as the occupying power, has an obligation to ensure that the basic needs of Gaza’s Palestinians are met, Hassan said. But instead, the ongoing Israeli bombardment has destroyed critical infrastructure in Gaza and its siege is severely limiting access to food, water and other much-needed supplies.

“So to come now and say that Palestinians in Gaza, if they wish, would be welcomed by Israel is a really cynical understanding of its obligations. They haven’t really created options right now for the Palestinians. Apparently they are trying to force them to flee and force them to seek safety and survival elsewhere,” he said.

Hassan also called Netanyahu’s comments about taking control of the border zone between Egypt and Gaza, an area known as the Philadelphia Corridor, as deeply worrying.

“This would allow them to execute any plan they have to expel Palestinians from Gaza under the pretext that it is voluntary.”

While officials have said the Biden administration does not support forced displacement, “we have not seen much American action to prevent all the different ways that Israel is making displacement inevitable,” Hassan said.

“We have not heard American officials say that it is absolutely illegitimate and illegal to starve a population, deny them food, water, electricity and utilities and supplies,” he said.

“The United States has a lot of influence over Israel. So far he has been unwilling to do more than hold calm talks with Israel behind the scenes about what he expects. “He has made some public statements lately, but we have not seen him use his influence as necessary.”

However, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s statements have renewed pressure for the United States to act.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), issued a statement on Sunday calling on the Biden administration to “repudiate” Smotrich’s words.

He added that American leaders “must finally acknowledge what has long been known and demonstrated daily by Israel’s genocidal actions: that Israel’s racist government seeks to ethnically cleanse Gaza.”

“The Israeli government’s plan has always been to ethnically cleanse Gaza,” he wrote. “Smotrich just made it official.”

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