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Jewish Democrat spearheads push to expedite aid to Palestinians

Congressman Jamie Raskin seeks to press Republica Senator Jim Risch to release $75 million; Risch is said to want to ensure it won’t go to Hamas

Rep. Jamie Raskin attends a listening session with staff members at Mary's Center, a community health clinic, in Silver Spring, Maryland., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
Rep. Jamie Raskin attends a listening session with staff members at Mary's Center, a community health clinic, in Silver Spring, Maryland., Tuesday, March 30, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Citing a “desperate” need in the wake of the recent Israel-Hamas war, Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Jewish Democrat, is spearheading a letter to a top Senate Republican asking him to stop blocking aid to the Palestinians.

“We write with a great sense of urgency to respectfully request that you release your hold on tens of millions of dollars in appropriated humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of civilians suffering in Gaza and the West Bank in the wake of the horrific violence that took place in the last several weeks,” says the letter to Senator Jim Risch, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Raskin circulated the letter among his Democratic House colleagues on Wednesday; he is planning to send it Thursday.

Risch reportedly is behind a hold on $75 million in congressionally approved aid President Joe Biden wants to send to NGOs administering humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Risch wants assurances that the NGOs will be properly vetted and that the aid will not reach terrorists. Risch’s office did not return a request for comment by press time.

Neighbors gather in a clearing strewn with debris from an airstrike during an 11-day war between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel, in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, May 26, 2021. (John Minchillo/AP)

Under US law, recipients of US assistance must show that their money does not benefit Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip. Additionally, the Palestinian Authority is forbidden from receiving assistance as long as it subsidizes the families of terrorists who have killed Israeli and US citizens.

“Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe,” the letter circulated by Raskin says. “Buildings lie in rubble. Access to clean water and electricity is sporadic or nonexistent. Food insecurity is spreading. COVID-19 is running rampant and thousands of people have been displaced and rendered homeless. The magnitude of the crisis is staggering.”

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