Democratic Rep. Becca Balint of Vermont has become the first Jewish member of Congress to call for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
"I do not claim to know how to solve every aspect of this decades-long conflict," Balint wrote in a recent opinion piece for VTDigger, a local news site in Vermont. "But what I do know is that killing civilians, and killing children, is an abomination and categorically unacceptable — no matter who the civilians are, and no matter who the children are."
Balint previously said in a statement that she supported Israel's "right to defend itself after the unprecedented surprise attack against them," though she urged its leadership to avoid the "collective punishment" of innocent Palestinians. In the opinion piece, she said she changed her perspective after witnessing the suffering of Gazan civilians over the past several weeks.
Over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, including more than 4,500 children, though the death toll has not been updated in over a week due to communications blackouts imposed by Israel. Israel has cut off Gaza's access to food, water, fuel, electricity, and telecommunications against international law. They have also refused to let in emergency fuel, rendering every hospital in Gaza City nonoperational.
Israel escalates amid calls for ceasefire
Balint wrote that she believes a "lasting" ceasefire "can only work if Hamas does not continue to rule in Gaza." Still, she noted that the "extremist" Israeli government has a responsibility not to endanger civilians, regardless of Hamas' perceived presence in certain areas.
"Even with Hamas operations intentionally embedded among civilians, Israel cannot bomb targets in densely populated areas. The United States must demand it," she wrote.
Balint joins 24 members of the Senate and House of Representatives, who issued an open letter to President Joe Biden urging him to support a ceasefire to prevent more deaths, as well as to honor the will of his voters. A recent poll from Data for Progress found that 66 percent of Americans support a ceasefire across party lines. Despite this, the White House has not yet used the term, instead calling for "humanitarian pauses."
In her recent statement, Balint did not shy away from the term, concluding: "What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated ceasefire. One in which both sides stop the bloodshed, allow critical access to humanitarian aid and move towards negotiating a sustainable and lasting peace. One that stops the deaths of innocent Gazans and leads to a near future where Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have true self-governance and economic security."
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