PREPARED REMARKS: Sanders on the Humanitarian Disaster in Gaza and His Intention to Bring 502B(c) Resolution to the Floor Next Week

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate about the horrific humanitarian disaster in Gaza and what Congress should do about it. He also announced his intention to bring his 502B(c) resolution – that would require the State Department to provide any credible information on potential human rights violations in the Israeli campaign – to the floor for a vote next week.

Sanders’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below and can be watched live here:

M. President,

I would like to say a few words on the resolution I have introduced under Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, which I intend to bring to the floor next week. This resolution is privileged, and we will have a floor debate and a recorded vote on the measure.

Let me tell you what this resolution is and what it is not.

Very sensibly, the Foreign Assistance Act requires that, when the United States provides security assistance or arms to any country in the world, that assistance be used in line with internationally recognized human rights. The Act prohibits assistance to any government that engages in a consistent pattern of violations. That is the law of the United States of America.

The Act also provides Congress with several oversight tools to make sure this law is followed. One of these tools is Section 502B(c), which allows Congress to direct the State Department to provide a report on any country receiving U.S. security assistance and that government’s observance of international human rights.

That is what this resolution does – in line with existing law, it directs the State Department to provide any credible information it may have on potential violations of internationally recognized human rights by Israel in its campaign in Gaza. It focuses in particular on the denial of the right to life—a human right enshrined in U.S. and international law—caused by indiscriminate or disproportionate military operations, as well as by the denial of basic humanitarian needs and access. It also asks for additional information on steps the U.S. has taken to limit civilian risk in this war, a certification that the Leahy Laws are being fully applied, and a summary of the arms and munitions provided to Israel since October 7th.

In essence, we will be voting on a very simple question: Do you support asking the State Department whether human rights violations may have occurred using U.S. equipment or assistance in this war? This resolution is not prescriptive—it does not alter aid to Israel in any way. It simply requests that the State Department report on how our aid is being used. The State Department then has 30 days to provide a report responding to the request. I hope it is not controversial to ask how U.S. weapons are being used.

Let me say a bit about why this resolution is necessary.

It’s no secret that we have long been very supportive of Israel, providing billions of dollars a year in military aid for many years. We have also provided a massive influx of arms and munitions since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack.

The Israeli military has made extensive use of these U.S. arms in its campaign, including the widespread use of 2,000-pound bombs, 1,000-pound bombs, and 155mm artillery.

On December 1st, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. has provided at least 15,000 bombs and 57,000 artillery shells to Israel since October 7th, including more than 5,400 huge 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten entire neighborhoods.

The Washington Post reported that, in just six weeks after October 7th, Israel dropped more than 22,000 American-supplied bombs on Gaza. And CNN reported that 40 to 45 percent of the bombs used in Gaza have been unguided “dumb bombs.”

Let me be very clear, this aggressive military campaign has led to massive destruction and widespread civilian harm. There is extensive evidence showing that it has been, far and away, the most intensive bombing campaign of the 21st century.

Independent human rights monitors and the press have extensively documented the use of U.S. arms in strikes leading to large numbers of civilian deaths and injuries.

M. President, the Israeli military campaign is not just something that concerns me and millions of Americans, it is also something that has been troubling to the entire international community. The UN General Assembly and UN Security Council have voted repeatedly and overwhelmingly to try to secure humanitarian access, to stop the bombardment, and to enact a humanitarian ceasefire. The United States has voted against or vetoed most of these efforts.

M. President, we all know that Hamas started this war with its brutal terrorist attack on October 7th. There is no question that Israel has the right to defend itself and respond against the perpetrators of that attack. But while it is clear that Israel has the right to go to war against Hamas. It does not have the right to go to war against the Palestinian people and innocent men, women, and children in Gaza.

Israel has relied on widespread bombardment, including with massive explosive ordinance in densely populated urban areas. This bombardment and the severe humanitarian restrictions have led to a catastrophe that veteran aid workers say goes beyond anything they have ever seen.

And this is what the devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza looks like today.

Up to now, some 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, seventy percent of whom are women and children. More than 58,000 people have been wounded. 146 UN workers have been killed, more than in any previous war.

In Gaza, 1.9 million people have been displaced by the bombing and the fighting, more than 85 percent of the population. Many of these people are homeless, and some 1.4 million are crowded into UN facilities. More than 100 of these UN facilities have been damaged in Israeli attacks. Tens of thousands of others are sleeping out in the cold as winter sets in.

M. President, what is absolutely unbelievable is that over 70 percent of the housing units in Gaza have now been damaged or destroyed. Let me repeat that rather incredible fact: in three months of war, over 70 percent of the housing units in Gaza have now been damaged or destroyed.

Unbelievably, according to a study by Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, that means the destruction of Gaza after three months of war has surpassed the destruction of Dresden, where two years of bombing during World War II destroyed half of the homes in that city.

All of us who know a little bit about history, when we hear the name Dresden, know that it is synonymous with the destruction of WWII. But that destruction happened over two years. Gaza matched this in two months.

And now, M. President, let me talk about another horrific reality that is taking place today in Gaza. One of the outrages of the Israeli military campaign has not only been the bombing, not just the displacement, but the fact that Israel has made it extremely difficult for food water medical supplies and equipment to come into Gaza.

Starvation is now a reality in Gaza. The UN reports that more than ninety percent of the population faces “acute food insecurity,” and virtually every household is skipping meals many days. Gaza is at risk of widespread famine in the coming weeks and months. Hundreds of thousands of children go to sleep hungry each night, and desperate Gazans are mobbing the few UN relief trucks that can reach beyond the border crossing.

Gaza’s healthcare system has collapsed, with little electricity, water, medicine, or fuel. Only 11 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are able to function at all, and those that remain open can barely care for all the patients. The lack of sanitation is leading to disease, and in overcrowded UN facilities thousands of people must share a single shower, with more than 220 people for each toilet.

That is just a small piece of the horrible reality in Gaza.

Some may say: well, this is war. There’s always collateral damage. But this is not just another war – this is wholesale destruction. And it is clear that Netanyahu’s right-wing, extremist government is waging this war in a deeply reckless and immoral way.

Many senior figures in Netanyahu’s government have said things that only deepen the profound concern we all should feel about this war. Several have talked about re-establishing Israeli settlements in Gaza. The current intelligence minister – among other senior officials – openly talks of permanently displacing Palestinians from Gaza. The Defense Minister declared a “total siege” at the start of the war. The Heritage Minister posted a picture of the devastation, saying Gaza was “more beautiful than ever, bombing and flattening everything.” Another Israeli lawmaker said “the Gaza Strip should be flattened, and there should be one sentence for everyone there – death. We have to wipe the Gaza Strip off the map. There are no innocents there.” I could go on.

Given all of this, the scale of the destruction, and the extensive use of U.S. arms in this campaign, including thousands of massive 2,000-pound bombs, Congress must act to conduct real oversight.

That is why we must pass this 502B resolution. We are deeply complicit in what is going on, and we have to ensure the U.S. aid is being used in line with international human rights and our own laws.

M. President, I have supported Israel for many years. My colleagues here have as well. We all believe Israel has a right to live in peace and security, as do the Palestinians. But we’re not doing Israel any favors by ignoring this destruction. Friends have to be prepared to tell friends the truth, and the truth is that Israel is being ostracized by the world because of their actions in Gaza.

The United States government has urged Israel to change its tactics to be more targeted and protect civilians. We have asked again and again. But the Netanyahu government has not listened, and has continued their military approach. In my view, that approach is immoral and is in violation of international law. In my view, the United States must end our complicity in those actions.

But you don’t have to agree with me to support this important resolution, which simply asks for more information from which Congress can debate its views. This is information Congress should have and, whatever your views on this war, this resolution should be something you can support. If you believe that the campaign has been indiscriminate, as I do, then we have a responsibility to ask this question. If you believe Israel has done nothing wrong, then this information should support that belief.

We aren’t likely to all agree on Israel-Palestine anytime soon. We will have more chances to debate these issues if and when we consider a foreign aid supplemental bill. But asking for more information on how U.S. arms and security assistance are being used – particularly amid this level of death and destruction – should not be controversial. In fact, it’s our job.