Jewish Democrat in House spearheads push to get GOP senator to lift hold on aid to Palestinians


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; he is planning to send it Thursday.

Risch reportedly is behind a hold on $75 million in congressionally approved aid President Joe Biden wants to send to NGOs administering humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip and the 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 by press time.

Under U.S. law, recipients of U.S. assistance must show that their money does not benefit Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip. 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 circulated by Raskin 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.”

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