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Letters to Kaine, Warner call for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war

2023127_GAZA_SA
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Community members delivered signed letters urging Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict on Thursday, December 7, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia.

Twenty-five organizations representing hundreds of people from across Virginia signed the petitions.

Dozens of protestors chanted outside the Richmond offices of Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Thursday as they delivered letters demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

“We are outraged and heartbroken that the United States government is supporting and funding this horrific violence and ethnic cleansing with our tax dollars,” read the letter, signed by 25 Virginia “organizations and 682 individuals.”

According to The Associated Press, more than 17,000 people have been killed during Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, when the militant group Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took roughly 240 hostages. The AP reported an estimated 138 hostages remain in Gaza after a recent exchange between Hamas and Israel.

Lucy Parks, a member of the LGBTQ+ organization Southerners on New Ground, said their group coordinated the letter signing and the Virginia Student Power Network organized the rally.

“We don't just advocate around LGBTQ issues, we advocate around liberation for everybody,” Parks said. ”And at this moment, a big pressing part of that is liberation for people in Palestine.”

Warner told journalists on a Thursday press call that he supported a humanitarian pause — but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

“I'd love to see a resumption of the pause with hostage exchange and cessation of violence. I do think we need to make sure we get those numbers on humanitarian trucks back up towards 200 trucks a day,” said Warner, who is chairperson of the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence. “I also think we need to keep more pressure on the Israeli government.”

2023127_GAZA_SA
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Community members delivered signed letters urging Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict on Thursday, December 7, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia.

Protestors outside his office chanted “No Justice, no peace,” a phrase commonly used during the 2020 racial justice protests. They also chanted “Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire now.”

Kaine, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, and 11 other senators announced an amendment Thursday requiring weapons sent to the Israeli military in "the proposed national security supplemental are used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.”

“This global amendment reaffirms the need to protect innocent civilians caught in conflict zones and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations,” Kaine said in the press release.

Most American military aid to Israel comes in the form of Foreign Military Financing; in FY 2023, Israel received $3.3 billion in aid. Other “Conventional Arms Transfers” cannot be authorized if it is “more likely than not” that a recipient will use weapons in attacks “intentionally directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such,” according to a Biden administration memo from February.

Josh Paul, a former a state department official, resigned earlier this year over U.S. military assistance to Israel in the war being contrary to policy goals. Paul agreed when asked if the country was “exceeding the boundaries of international law and that the U.S. is turning a blind eye to that.”

Andrea Jackson also delivered a letter to the senators Thursday on behalf of The Friendly City for Palestine, an organization in Harrisonburg. Jackson said she wanted to offer the perspective of rural people as well.

“Everybody in Virginia is really in support a ceasefire, and for trying to stop our tax money to going to funding a genocide,” she said.

A YouGov poll from November said 65% of Americans support a ceasefire in the war.

Despite being an international conflict, American politicians from the state and local levels have issued statements on the war, and expressed concern about anti-Palestinian and antisemitic rhetoric and violence.

Recently, a public menorah lighting ceremony in Williamsburg was canceled over concerns the organizers had about showing support for a single side in the Israel-Hamas war.

Hanukkah begins Thursday night.

Jahd Khalil covers local government, the economy and labor issues for VPM News. Previously, he covered state government for RadioIQ and was a freelance journalist based in Egypt.