Rep. Delia Ramirez Backs Gaza Ceasefire Resolution in Congress: We Need Diplomacy, Not More Bombings
Written by GRB on 31/10/2023
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
Israeli tanks have reached the outskirts of Gaza City after Israel carried out its most intense bombardment of the besieged Palestinian territory since October 7th. Gaza’s Health Ministry says Israeli attacks have killed more than 8,300 Palestinians, including nearly 3,500 children. According to Save the Children, that’s more children than have been killed in armed conflicts globally over the course of a whole year. The U.N. agency for Palestine refugees, known as UNRWA, says desperate families broke into U.N. warehouses Sunday, removing wheat and other humanitarian aid. UNRWA says the incident showed people in Gaza have reached a breaking point. The U.N. agency serving Palestinians says Gazans have reached their breaking point after more than three weeks of bombardments and total siege. Israeli strikes have killed at least 59 UNRWA employees, with many more believed to be trapped under the rubble.
On Friday, the U.N. General Assembly voted 120 to 14 in favor of a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce and for aid access to Gaza. Israel and the U.S. voted against the resolution, which also calls for the release of captive civilians. Israel believes Hamas and other groups are holding over 220 hostages seized on October 7th during the Hamas attack that Israel says killed 1,400 people.
We’re joined now by two guests. Lara Friedman is with us. She’s president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, a former Foreign Service officer who served in Jerusalem, Tunis and Beirut. She has worked on Israel-Palestine and the broader region for over 30 years. We’re also joined by Congressmember Delia Ramirez, who is a congressmember from Chicago. She’s one of 18 members of the House of Representatives who have signed a resolution calling for an immediate deescalation and ceasefire in Israel and Palestine.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Congressmember Ramirez, let’s begin with you in Chicago. Can you explain why you supported this ceasefire resolution?
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Look, I want to see safety, and I want to see hostages released. There are 500 Americans and their families in Gaza right now, and I want to make sure that everyone is safe and that we are using our power to be able to deescalate the situation. Bombing ourselves through it is not going to bring the hostages back safely. Bombing us through it is not going to bring 500 Americans back. I really believe — you just talked about it — 8,000 Palestinians have died. The only way we are going to get to long-lasting peace is a ceasefire, is deescalating and using diplomacy.
AMY GOODMAN: How did this resolution come about, Congressmember Ramirez?
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Look, we were already two weeks into this conflict. We have not seen any form of deescalation, quite the contrary. And we have seen people starving to death in Palestine, in Gaza at this moment. And so, for a number of us, we understand that if our outcome is peace in the region, that the only way we can get closer to that, where hostages are released, is deescalation and ceasefire. We have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent a regional war. And the only way you get there is ensuring that the safety of innocent civilians is our absolute priority. You won’t get that through bombing.
We understood, and a number of us co-led the resolution, and more members of Congress in the coming days have also joined the resolution, recognizing that what we’re currently doing now is escalating the situation, not deescalating, and the only way we move forward is deescalating and ceasing fire. That’s the way that you’re going to be able to keep people from dying, protect innocent civilians, 1.2 million children right now in Gaza. The ceasefire is our only way of diplomacy and being able to get to a place of peace.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of response are you getting in support of this resolution? In an earlier interview, you said, “If you ask, ‘What about the Palestinians?’ it’s almost as if there’s an assumption that you’re saying you don’t announce Hamas.” Can you talk about this? And do you feel that that is changing?
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: I think it’s slowly changing. And what I say to people is that I came to Congress to uplift shared humanity. I can denounce Hamas. I can call for the release of hostages. And I could also ask, “What about the Palestinian children?” Right now we have children under rubble. The number that we’re seeing is 8,000, but that is not the accurate, most accurate number. There are people that we have not found. There are families in Chicago and all over the world who have not been able to connect with their family in Gaza. And the reality is that if we care about Israelis, if we care about the Jewish community and their safety, we have to understand that it’s interconnected with the safety and the freedom of Palestinians.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of aid do you think should go to Gaza? And what about funding for Israel?
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Look, Amy, when hundreds of thousands of people have lost their home, thousands of people have died, their communities have completely been destroyed, the question is: What will we do to ensure that people are able to come back to home when they have no home? When we’re talking about substantial humanitarian aid, I don’t mean 30, 40 trucks a day. I mean substantial, billions of dollars of responsibility that we, as the U.S., who has given military aid for such a long time, is responsible to give to help restore a place that has been, in many cases, in many parts of it, burned down to rubble. So, we need to be able to do that.
And I think, secondary, for me to be able to say that I want more money for bombs, it begs the question. Bombs are going to kill people. And in this case, it is killing thousands of civilians. We’ve seen it already in the last three weeks. We have to do everything we can to ensure that we’re honoring international law, that the money we’re sending isn’t killing children, that we are uplifting the humanity of people of Israel and people in Gaza, but, Amy, people in the West Bank. Right now settlers are killing people in the West Bank, and the Israeli government is enabling it. It is letting it happen. The aid that we send cannot be used to kill innocent lives. It’s unacceptable, it’s not moral, and I can’t stand behind that.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m wondering what you think would be a more just U.S. foreign policy. I mean, you, Congressmember Ramirez, are Guatemalan American. We know the history of Guatemala and U.S. aid for the successive military regimes that were responsible for the death of so many hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans in the 1980s and beyond. If you could comment on putting this in a larger context?
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Look, we have to ask ourselves: What is the outcome here? Is it a two-state solution? Is it to be able to bring peace to the region, long-lasting peace? Because if that is the case, we, as the U.S., have to think about the role we have played for the last few decades. We are not at peace. We have seen occupation all over the region. And we have to ask ourselves, if what we want is long-lasting peace, every single resolution, every single bill and every single dollar that we send over, we must ask ourselves: Will this get us to peace? Will this get us closer to a two-state solution? Will this create the kind of policy that will get us to a place where Palestinians and Israelis are safe and free? And if the answer is no, then we need to reassess how we move and the kind of policy that we have had in the region for the last decades.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you spoken to President Biden or his inner circle? At the beginning, he was very clear in saying he told Netanyahu he did not say use restraint. But now the White House is putting out statements that they are, in fact, behind the scenes saying that restraint must be used.
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: I’ve not talked to the president directly. I certainly have been talking to the State Department on a regular basis. And what I have said is, words matter. What we are saying to the American people, what the American people are seeing has a direct impact even for us here. I mean, look, when you see Netanyahu and his own leadership, his own IDF leadership, calling people less than human, animals, that has consequences. We have seen the impact and the growth, increase of hate crime all over the world, antisemitism and Islamophobia. A 6-year-old boy, 30 minutes from my district, was stabbed 26 times because his landlord saw this 6-year-old little boy as a threat to our society, and nearly killed his mother. We have to understand that what we are saying to the people in this moment has real consequences. And we have a moral responsibility to lead from a place of diplomacy, seeking peace at all times and holding accountable the Israeli government for the ways that it is violating international law, for the ways that this ground incursion in this moment is killing innocent lives. We all want hostages out. We also want the 500 Americans and their families out. How we’re moving in this moment is not making anyone more safe.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Delia Ramirez.