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Reps. Escobar, Castro Lead Letter on NSM20 and U.S. Origin Weapons in Israel

Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) and Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) led 24 of their colleagues in sending a letter to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Hanes expressing concerns over the methodology used in National Security Memorandum (NSM) 20 to ensure Israel is following national security guidelines and not disrupting the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

The National Security Memorandum (NSM) 20 is the recently released White House policy memorandum that requires recipients of U.S. assistance to provide written assurances that they will use assistance in compliance with international law and facilitate and not restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid, and it establishes new reporting requirements to Congress on these provisions. 

The lawmakers wrote: “We write to express our deep concern regarding the U.S. Department of State’s recent comments regarding assurances from the Israeli government, under National Security Memorandum (NSM) 20, that the Israeli government is using U.S-origin weapons in full compliance with relevant U.S. and international law and is not restricting the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In the face of mounting credible and deeply troubling reports and allegations that Israel has used U.S arms in ways that violate U.S. and international law, including international humanitarian law as it relates to civilian protections and aid flow, we believe a failure to question, at minimum, the Netanyahu government’s assurances, violates the very spirit of the NSM-20 process. 

“For months, elected representatives, intergovernmental bodies, international courts, Israeli and global human rights observers – along with government officials themselves – have persistently expressed grave concerns regarding the actions of the Netanyahu government,” the lawmakers continued. “These include its conduct throughout the war in Gaza, its policies regarding civilian harm and military targeting, unauthorized expansion of settlements and settler violence in the West Bank and potential use of U.S. arms by settlers in additional to limitations on humanitarian aid supported by the US. We are concerned that some of Israel's actions may not be consistent with international humanitarian law, which the United States has an interest in consistently upholding. 

“We remain concerned by the stark differences and gaps in the statements being made by the State Department and White House on how Israel has not been found to be in violation of international humanitarian law, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or when it comes to the provision of humanitarian assistance, which are contradictory to those made by prominent experts and global institutions. Given the dire and catastrophic nature of this war, it is critical to ensure that the U.S. government is fully utilizing the expertise of State Department and DoD officials and legal experts, accounting important intelligence community assessments and data, in thoroughly assessing Israel’s actions in Gaza. Non- political experts’ substantive analysis is vital to ensuring the accuracy and credibility of any and all of the assessments under NSM-20, as well as in the arms transfer review process and security assistance obligation process.” 

The Members sent this letter ahead of the NSM-20 report that is due to Congress on May 8th and was signed by Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, André Carson, Greg Casar, Sean Casten, Madeleine Dean, Mark DeSaulnier, Lloyd Doggett, Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Jesús “Chuy” García, Pramila Jayapal, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Stephen Lynch, James McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Delia Ramirez, Rashida Tlaib, Jill Tokuda, and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Endorsing organizations include Amnesty International, JStreet, Win Without War, Americans for Peace Now, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), Center for International Policy, Center for Victims of Torture, Indivisible, Institute for Middle East Understanding Policy Project, WorldBEYOND War,

Full text of the letter can be found here.

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