Palestinians in Gaza marked Land Day with a peaceful march towards the border with Israel, dubbing it a “March for Return,” symbolically moving towards the original towns and villages they were expelled from in 1948. Israel responded to the peaceful march with live sniper fire, shooting hundreds of Palestinians and killing 17 of them. Video footage emerged showing that Palestinians who clearly posed absolutely no threat were also shot and killed. Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem urged Israeli soldiers to refuse their commanders’ orders to open fire on unarmed civilians, and Human Rights Watch demanded investigation and accountability for the killings, but Israel has refused both. Here at home, there was deafening silence over the killings from both the White House and Congress, with few noteworthy exceptions: Senator Bernie Sanders affirmed Palestinians’ right to protest peacefully without a violent response, describing the killings as tragic.  Congresswoman Betty McCollum said she was horrified by the killings, and demanded that the US do more to resolve the conflict. Senator Patrick Leahy’s office said he will press for an explanation for the killings, and explore whether the incident merits applying his law, which bars aid from going to countries whose forces commit “gross violations of human rights.” While the Leahy Law is rarely applied, as the single largest recipient of U.S. military aid, Israel’s ongoing human rights abuses require greater scrutiny. While our own laws dictate it, we are not optimistic.  

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