Israeli waiters union founder demands U.S. cut off military aid
Both the Israeli bartender and the Palestinian activist at the AFT gathering discussing how to achieve peace in the Mideast are leaders of Standing Together, the grassroots Israeli peace and justice organization depicted here. |

WASHINGTON—Alon-Lee Green, the founder of Israel’s first union of waiters and bartenders, is demanding the U.S. cut off all military aid to Israel to force its rabidly right-wing Netanyahu government to end its war on Gaza and its civilian population.

“In America, demand of your politicians ‘No more of a blank check to the Israeli government,’” Green said at an AFT-sponsored March 21 forum on the many decades-long bitter war between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Cutting off aid and maybe even canceling aid could do it,” said Green, co-founder, with Israeli Palestinian Sally Abed of Standing Together, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization dedicated to changing Israeli attitudes towards the Palestinians and their rights. The two toured the country for a week and a half, bringing that message to various groups.

The U.S. has sent billions of dollars in military aid to Israel for years, and stepped up the aid when the Israeli military began bombing, strafing, and invading Gaza, in what it claimed is retaliation for Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

In what much of the world sees as genocide, Israel’s retaliation has killed at least 30,000 Gazans—70% of them women and children—injured double that number, caused widespread famine among 1.1 million Gazan refugees, and wrecked Gaza’s infrastructure. It’s also cut off water, power, and medicine, essentially almost totally destroying Gaza. Killing children and women, of course, is a practice those who carry out genocide employ to accomplish their aim of wiping out an entire people.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law who got billions of dollars from the Saudis as a result of deals made in the first Trump administration, is looking to reap another fortune from the genocide in Gaza. The enclave is essentially all but destroyed, he noted last week, so that “all that remains,” he said, “is for Israel to clean up and then the valuable Gazan seacoast can be developed with luxury hotels for tourists worldwide,” which, of course, Kushner and Trump would benefit from in a second Trump administration.

Doctors Without Borders members operate on children with shrapnel wounds, with no anesthetics available. Some of them say they have witnessed Israeli military helicopters intentionally gunning down children.

And Israel is doing so using U.S. military aid and U.S.-made bombs, guns, and ammo, gained from U.S. dollars, and spent on U.S. military contractors. Despite the horror, the Biden administration wants even more aid, to the tune of $60 million with a ceasefire contingent only on Hamas’s hostage release—and no mention of Hamas military personnel held in Israeli jails.

Abed, who is also Haifa’s first-ever Palestinian city council member, added at the AFT forum that the U.S. must keep the pressure on Netanyahu’s government. “My biggest fear is that the Palestinian movement here” in the U.S. “will vanish” once a ceasefire is reached, Abed said.

“As allies, we have to integrate” the overall Palestinian movement “into the progressive camp both here” in the U.S. “and at home” in Israel, Abed added. Right now the anti-war movement there is growing, but a majority of center-left Israelis—who Abed contends, are still a majority in the country–support Netanyahu’s war.

Potential pool of allies

The biggest potential pool of allies for an aid cutoff, Abed said, are the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who daily jammed the streets, tied up the Ayalon Expressway, and thronged into Rabin Square before the war began. They protested Netanyahu’s moves towards what Abed and Green called “a theocracy” in Israel, dominated by its right-wingers, by stripping checks and balances powers from its Supreme Court.

Green and Abed spoke out the day before Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined the growing group of lawmakers demanding a complete military aid cutoff. In both a House floor speech and follow-up media interviews and social media postings, she ripped the Israeli war on Gaza—including a planned Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah—as “an unfolding genocide” and “a humanitarian catastrophe.

Blasting the idea that a ceasefire be contingent upon Hamas releasing hostages, she declared, “The actions of Hamas should not be tied to whether a three-year-old can eat. The actions of Hamas do not justify forcing thousands, hundreds of thousands of people to eat grass as their bodies consume themselves.

“The Israeli government has a right to go after Hamas, but we are talking about a population of millions of innocent Palestinians. We are talking about collective punishment.”

The Israelis re-imposed that collective punishment on March 24, the UN Relief and Works Agency reported, by restoring its blockade on aid shipments. UNRWA coordinates delivery of the aid.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini reported Netanyahu’s government “will no longer approve any UNRWA food convoys” to northern Gaza, where dozens of people have died of starvation and dehydration in recent weeks. This comes on top of the Biden administration’s support of a bipartisan budget deal that included an end to the funding of the very UN body that provides humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has called the Republicans and Democrats who voted for this cutoff the “starvation caucus” in the U.S Congress.

“This is outrageous and makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man-made famine. By preventing UNRWA from fulfilling its mandate in Gaza, the clock will tick faster towards famine and many more will die of hunger, dehydration, and lack of shelter,” Lazzarini warned. “This cannot happen, it would only stain our collective humanity.”

By demanding a military aid cutoff, Ocasio-Cortez joins a growing protest group of lawmakers and Democratic primary voters. Most are young and progressive voters whom the Biden re-election drive counts on this fall.

A 1961 foreign aid law conditions all U.S. military aid to any ally on whether it follows international law governing war, including taking all possible measures to protect civilians from harm. Netanyahu’s government, dominated by right-wing nationalists, isn’t doing that, Ocasio-Cortez said.

The advocates of the military aid cutoff differ from the larger group, a majority in the Democratic Party, who support a cease-fire and stop with that demand alone. Biden offered a ceasefire-for-hostages trade at the UN General Assembly the day Ocasio-Cortez spoke.

That deal, which was voted down, disregarded the thousands of Hamas and other anti-Israeli Arabs held now in Israeli jails.

Abed pointed out that not only is Netanyahu planning to invade Rafah—the southern Gaza city of refuge the Israeli army drove Palestinians into—but that it has turned its own right-wing settlers loose to attack Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. That action, too, has drawn international outrage, but silence from Biden, even though he now calls Israel’s military response to Hamas “over the top.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.