February 13, 2024 - Late last night, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen gave a remarkable speech on the Senate floor, condemning the government of Benjamin Netanyahu for deliberately blocking aid to civilians in Gaza.

Van Hollen said:

“Kids in Gaza are now dying from the deliberate withholding of food. In addition to the horror of that news, one other thing is true: That is a war crime. It is a textbook war crime. And that makes those who orchestrate it war criminals. … Every one of them [officials at humanitarian relief organizations] has stated that their organizations have never experienced a humanitarian disaster as dire and terrible as the world is witnessing in Gaza.”

Let’s be clear. To take a clear moral stand against Netanyahu is not to be pro-Hamas or anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist or antisemitic.

It’s to be pro-human rights.

I’m Jewish. I detest Hamas and what it stands for. I know what it’s like to have members of one’s family brazenly murdered because of their beliefs and ethnicity.

Which is one reason why I take social justice and human rights so seriously. And why I, like tens of millions of others in America and around the world, am committed to a cease fire in — and humanitarian aid to — Gaza.

And why I’m also in favor of a Palestinian state.

As Thomas Friedman wrote yesterday:

If Israel destroys Hamas, and then decides to permanently occupy Gaza and the West Bank, rejecting any form of Palestinian statehood, Israel will become a global pariah for the next generation, and particularly in the Arab world. This will force Israel’s Arab allies to distance themselves from the Jewish state.

And if Israel remains in perpetual conflict with the Palestinians, the entire architecture of America’s Middle East strategy — particularly the crosscutting peace treaties that we’ve forged between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf nations — will come under pressure, complicating our ability to operate in the region and opening it to much more influence by Russia and China. Given the deaths of so many thousands of Gazan civilians, the U.S. is already having some difficulty using its military bases in Arab countries to counter Iran’s malign network of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Shiites militias in Iraq.

Last week, President Biden lamented that Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip “has been over the top” and that “it’s got to stop.”

Biden has said he’s trying to get Israel to agree to a cease-fire, but Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with, according to people familiar with Biden's comments, all of whom asked not to be named.

In response to Biden’s lament, Netanyahu went on ABC’s Sunday morning show to say that despite Biden’s pressure, he’ll still launch an assault on Rafah, the southern Gaza city that is home to some 1.3 million desperate Palestinians who literally have no place else to go to avoid being slaughtered.

Netanyahu said “total victory” was possible in Gaza within months. He vowed to defeat Hamas gunmen hiding in Rafah and ordered Israeli troops to prepare to expand their ground operation.

Why isn’t Biden speaking out more forcefully against Netanyahu’s government — condemning war crimes and crimes against humanity, and threatening to withhold any further aid if Netanyahu continues his rampage?

Why aren’t officials at the State Department enforcing the part of the Foreign Assistance Act that blocks security assistance to countries that hinder the delivery of U.S. humanitarian aid?

Why did a majority of senators vote last night to send some $14 billion to Israel — including almost $10 billion in humanitarian aid to Gaza that won’t help anyone there if Netanyahu won’t let the money in? (Even Chris Van Hollen voted for the measure, arguing that it was linked to aid for Ukraine. But senate Democrats could have blocked the measure and forced the Senate to consider each spending piece — Israel and Ukraine — separately.)

Tens of thousands have been killed, including thousands of children. Many more are starving. American tax payers’ money is partly responsible. Where is the moral clarity? Where is the moral authority? Why aren’t we doing everything possible to stop the deaths?

Robert Reich's writes at robertreich.substack.com. His latest book is “THE SYSTEM: Who Rigged It, How To Fix It.” He is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 17 other books, including the best sellers “Aftershock,””The Work of Nations,” “Beyond Outrage,” and “The Common Good.” He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, founder of Inequality Media, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentaries “Inequality For All,” streaming on YouTube, and “Saving Capitalism,” now streaming on Netflix. www.RobertReich.org