J Street welcomes urgent letters, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen in the Senate and by Reps. Chellie Pingree and David Price in the House, which call on the Trump administration to provide medicine, medical equipment and other necessary humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as they seek to combat and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate letter was joined by Senators Sherrod Brown, Tom Carper, Patrick Leahy, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Tom Udall, while the House letter was joined by thirteen representatives.
The lawmakers warn that Gaza in particular was already facing a humanitarian crisis and inadequate health infrastructure even before the virus began to spread there, making its 1.8 million residents extremely vulnerable. They note that, since 2018, the Trump administration has frozen virtually all US aid to the Palestinian people and to UNRWA, the UN agency mandated to provide health care and other critical support to millions of Palestinian refugees — and has so far refused to disburse any of the aid appropriated by Congress for Palestinian assistance in 2020.
The lawmakers observe that preventing a devastating outbreak in the Palestinian Territory is critically important for the interests of the US and Israel — the latter of which already faces over 3,000 confirmed cases of its own — as well as those of the Palestinian people. The senate letter notes that “Given the spread of the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza, the extreme vulnerability of the health system in Gaza, and the continued withholding of U.S. aid to the Palestinian people, we are concerned that the Administration is failing to take every reasonable step to help combat this public health emergency in the Palestinian Territories.”
At a time when this unprecedented crisis threatens the health and safety of Americans, Israelis, Palestinians and people all over the world, J Street will continue to stand with principled lawmakers calling for the US government to do everything within its power to assist the most vulnerable populations both at home and abroad. This pandemic has taught us the importance of acting quickly and decisively, before the situation is allowed to worsen. There is no time to waste.