WASHINGTON (JTA) — Citing a “desperate” need in the wake of the recent Israel-Hamas war, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Jewish Democrat, is spearheading a letter to a top Senate Republican asking him to stop blocking aid to the Palestinians.
“We write with a great sense of urgency to respectfully request that you release your hold on tens of millions of dollars in appropriated humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands civilians suffering in Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the horrific violence that took place in the last several weeks,” says the letter to Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Raskin circulated the letter among his Democratic House colleagues on Wednesday and was planning to send it Thursday.
Risch reportedly is behind the holdup of $75 million in congressionally approved aid that President Joe Biden wants to send to NGOs administering humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Risch wants assurances that the NGOs will be properly vetted and that the aid will not reach terrorists. Risch’s office did not return a request for comment.
Under U.S. law, recipients of U.S. assistance must show that the money does not benefit Hamas, the ruling political party in Gaza that has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and others. Additionally, the Palestinian Authority is forbidden from receiving assistance as long as it subsidizes the families of terrorists who have killed Israeli and U.S. citizens.
“Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe,” the letter says. “Buildings lie in rubble. Access to clean water and electricity is sporadic or nonexistent. Food insecurity is spreading. COVID-19 is running rampant and thousands of people have been displaced and rendered homeless. The magnitude of the crisis is staggering.”