Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins have rightly condemned Russian attacks on Ukrainian sovereignty and introduced a bill to document Russian war crimes. Sen. Collins has called out “the abject cruelty of the Russian occupation,” its “brute military force” and the “killing of countless innocent civilians.”

Yet our senators are unwilling to condemn, or even mildly criticize, Israel for engaging in these same human rights abuses committed against Palestinians for decades.

Israel views this silence for what it is: tacit approval. Neither senator has ever condemned Israel’s 144 Jewish-only settlements, built on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a clear violation of international law. Nor have they spoken out publicly against the current ethnic cleansing of one thousand Palestinians from their ancestral villages in Masafer Yatta.

The far-flung illegal Israeli settlements, connected by Jewish-only roads cutting across Palestinian land, which separate one Palestinian town from the next, farmers from their fields and families from one another, have effectively destroyed any possibility of a Palestinian state. Yet Sens. King and Collins continue to blindly express support for a “two-state solution,” which their silence has helped to kill.

Maine’s senators have also pointedly ignored the declaration by Israel’s new extreme right-wing government of its intent to annex the entire West Bank. To quote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “The government will promote … settlement of all parts of … Judea and Samaria.” (Judea and Samaria are Israel’s name for the Palestinian West Bank.) The prime minister has also said he will retroactively legalize dozens of Israeli outposts, considered illegal even by the Israeli government. (Nine settlements were granted retroactive authorization Sunday.) Netanyahu is justifiably confident that American leaders, including Sens. King and Collins, will look the other way.

A year ago, the respected international human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch declared that Israel “imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control” that “amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Their respective reports documented the second-class citizenship suffered by Israeli Arabs and denial of fundamental rights for occupied Palestinians. In response to such international censure, the Israeli government banned key Palestinian civil rights groups – including Defense for Children International – that shine a light on Israeli abuses.


And, yet, not a word from Maine’s senators.

King and Collins have also turned a blind eye to Israel’s use of banned weapons of war against civilians, including white phosphorus and cluster bombs, and the long-term detention of children for “crimes” such as throwing stones at soldiers.

The past year, sadly, was the deadliest year for the Palestinian people in decades, including an unconscionable number of children killed, and the targeted assassination of a Palestinian-American journalist. While Sen. King was one of two dozen senators who signed a letter to President Biden asking the U.S. to investigate the murder of the American journalist, the administration has done nothing, and we’ve heard no more from the senator.

Israeli settler violence has been increasing in frequency and ferocity. Recently, in a single night, there were well over a hundred attacks by settlers, who shot and beat Palestinians, setting fire to homes and businesses and uprooting olive trees, all the while Israeli Defense Forces soldiers stood by or beat and arrested Palestinians who resisted.

The U.S. provides an unconditional $3.8 billion per year ($10.5 million per day) in military aid to Israel. Simply conditioning aid on Israel’s observance of human rights would send a strong message. Yet neither King nor Collins has made any move to do so, much less criticized Israel’s human rights record.

Sens. King and Collins need to end their resounding silence and blatant hypocrisy, and hold Israel to the same standards they demand of Russia.

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