December 06, 2023

Senator Warren Delivers Floor Speech on Israel, Gaza and Conditioning Aid

“Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing war cabinet have created a humanitarian catastrophe, killing thousands of Palestinian civilians and risking a wider conflict in the Middle East.”

Floor Remarks (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding Israel’s war against Hamas, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, rising hate at home, and the need to condition U.S. military assistance to protect civilians.

Remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren
Remarks as prepared for delivery
December 6, 2023

Nearly two months after Hamas launched brutal terrorist attacks on Israel, we continue to grieve for those killed. We also pray for the return of loved ones taken hostage. And for those who have been injured, for rape victims, and for those who survived by hiding themselves among dead and dying friends, we offer love and support.

October 7th was the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. I’ve seen video of Hamas’s attacks and these terrorists’ contempt for Israeli lives.

As I have said before, Israel has both a right to defend its citizens from Hamas’s terrorist attacks and an obligation under the laws of war to protect innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Palestinians are not Hamas, and they should not be punished for Hamas's terrorism.

I want to be clear about how I see the war that Israel is currently waging in Gaza. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing war cabinet have created a humanitarian catastrophe, killing thousands of Palestinian civilians and risking a wider conflict in the Middle East. The Gaza Health Ministry estimates that more than 15,000 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 40,000 injured. The vast majority of those killed and injured have been Palestinian civilians, many of them women and children. This level of civilian harm is a moral failure. It is why - for weeks - I have called on Israel to stop bombing Gaza.

A seven-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas gave hope that more hostages would return to their loved ones, gave hope that a massive amount of humanitarian aid would reach innocent Palestinians in need of food and water, and gave hope that negotiations would continue as the parties worked toward an enduring end to this fighting. 

I applauded this cease-fire and urged its extension so that the parties could secure a lasting peace. 

When the ceasefire lapsed, I urged the parties to get back to the negotiating table and build on the prior agreement so the ceasefire could resume.  But instead, the fighting ramps up.

So I will say it again:  Hamas must release the hostages and stop firing rockets at civilians in Israel. The Israeli government must stop the bombing in Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid. And all of us must do everything possible to resume the cease-fire and extend it for as long as possible. 

The long-term goal must be peace. Two states for two peoples.

Today, the Senate will vote on legislation to provide military funding to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. I will support this legislation because Ukraine is on the front lines fighting back a brutal Russian invasion that would destroy its existence as an independent nation. A few months ago, I visited Ukraine and saw firsthand the courage of the Ukrainian people, who are literally putting their lives on the line to keep democracy alive. 

This legislation also contains $10 billion in humanitarian aid for families around the globe, including in Gaza. It also provides emergency shelter funds for migrants who are newly arrived in the United States. And it includes money for mosques and synagogues that are dealing with threats here at home. 

I strongly support those provisions. In fact, I fought hard for those provisions. But I want to be clear that when it comes to U.S. military aid to Israel, American support cannot be a blank check to a right-wing government that has demonstrated a gross disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. U.S. military aid always includes conditions, and there is no exception, even for our allies. 

The United States regularly conditions military aid on compliance with U.S. law and international humanitarian law. And, in the case of Israel, I have long argued that the United States should use all the tools at its disposal – including placing conditions on U.S. military assistance – to move the parties closer to permanent peace and a two-state solution. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actions are not moving closer to a two-state solution. Instead, his actions set the conditions for endless violence.  

Since October 7, extremist settlers in the West Bank have deliberately hunted down and killed Palestinians, and, according to the United Nations, displaced more than 1,000 people. In Gaza, Israeli forces have struck hospitals and refugee camps, killing scores of civilians in pursuit of its military targets. Israel has ordered Palestinians to evacuate for safety and then bombed the safe zones

The videos from Gaza of dead children and wailing parents are shattering. They document the current Israeli government’s continued moral and humanitarian failures. And now it appears that Israel is prepared to impose in southern Gaza the same staggering level of civilian death that it carried out in the north. That is wrong.

I lay these actions at the feet of Prime Minister Netanyahu. If the Prime Minister insists on conducting military operations with little regard for civilian life and in a manner that moves the region deeper into perpetual war, then he does not deserve America’s blanket financial support. I understand the desire to help Israel and the people of Israel, but given the actions of the Prime Minister, Congress should condition any military funding on an agreement that civilian lives will be protected, that Palestinians will receive the humanitarian aid they need, and that international law will be fully respected.

Over the past two months, I’ve had many conversations with people across Massachusetts about the path forward. This conflict is horrific--and it is deeply personal. 

I’ve talked to Israelis who have lost beloved friends and family. I’ve held parents who have had children violently taken as hostages. I’ve talked to Palestinians who have had family members killed. I’ve held hands with people conducting a desperate, long-distance search for missing loved ones. And I’ve joined the sometimes frantic efforts to help Palestinians who are desperately trying to get out of Gaza, but can’t. 

The pain runs deep for all of them.  

This conflict has also sparked a wave of hate here in the United States. The Center for American-Islamic Relations in Massachusetts has received a record number of calls reporting vandalism, violence, and retaliation against Palestinians. A man in Boston was arrested for attacking the Holocaust memorial and synagogues in Attleboro are receiving bomb threats

I’ve had Muslim and Palestinian constituents talk to me about being pulled over for extra screening at the airport, while their white travel companions sailed right on through. I’ve heard stories of how hard it can be to land a small business loan or get a credit card application approved even when they meet all of the criteria. 

Anti-Palestinian hate is endangering our neighbors. Three college students in Burlington were shot on their way to dinner. I’ve had moms tell me they are now afraid to say that they are Palestinian, and they are now afraid for their children to leave the house. 

Antisemitism is endangering our neighbors. Hillel leaders tell me they are afraid to walk alone on campus or speak up in classes. Mothers say they worry about bringing their toddlers to activities at their synagogue because it could be the target of an attack.

But in these moments, each of us has an obligation to speak out clearly and loudly against hate. Each of us has an obligation to actively oppose hate in all its forms. Antisemitism must be rejected. Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinianism must be cast off. We should make our intentions clear. We should work toward those goals until they are finally true: No one should be afraid. No one should feel unsafe. It is on our shoulders to build an America where there is no place for hate. 

But there’s more for us to do: We cannot give up on peace. Hamas leaders make clear their goals: perpetual war and death. But, as I said earlier, Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas. In the midst of the chaos and pain of this terrible war, I hold fast to the possibility that people of good will—both Palestinians and Israelis—can build a lasting peace.

I have long believed that a two-state solution is the best path—the only path—for Israel's long-term security and the only way to ensure that Palestinians have the rights, the freedom, and the self-determination they need to build a secure future for themselves and their children.

In the short term, the needed work is obvious: resume the ceasefire, accelerate humanitarian aid, protect innocent civilians, and release the hostages. And in the long term, the hard labor—the labor that ensures that we won’t be here again and again and again to mourn the deaths of the people we love and have lost to an endless cycle of war—the hard labor is to drive toward a just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.