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Outrage: Netanyahu ‘should be arrested on the spot’

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Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to address a joint session of Congress, prompting actress and activist Cynthia Nixon to suggest that, ‘Perhaps,’ the Israeli prime minister ‘can be arrested for his war crimes on the Senate floor’. – Picture: Ronen Zvulun / POOL / AFP / Taken on January 7, 2024

By Jon Queally

“This is shameful, Senator Schumer.”

That was the reaction of progressive activist Cynthia Nixon on Friday after the Democratic majority leader in the US Senate co-signed a formal letter — alongside Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (Louisiana), Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky), and House minority leader Jakeem Jeffries (Democrat, New York) — inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.

With global outrage over Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza at new heights and the International Criminal Court considering an arrest warrant application for the Israeli prime minister over the military campaign that many experts and humanitarians have deemed “genocidal”, Nixon suggested that “[p]erhaps Netanyahu can be arrested for his war crimes on the Senate floor”.

Nixon was far from alone in reacting with disgust to the decision by Schumer, who faced considerable pressure not to go through with the invitation that has been under consideration for many weeks.

Schumer, Johnson, Jeffries, and McConnell, said the Jewish-led human rights group IfNotNow, “will forever be remembered as the leaders who invited the war criminal Netanyahu to give a speech to Congress in the middle of Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, days after he crossed President Biden’s ‘red line’ on an invasion of Rafah”.

Asked about the possibility of Netanyahu addressing Congress under the current circumstances, Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) said last month he would boycott the event if the invite was issued. “It’s a terrible idea. No, I won’t go,” Sanders said. “You have a Prime Minister who has created the worst humanitarian disaster in modern history.

“Five percent of the population is now dead or wounded,” Sanders said, “and 60 percent of them are women and children. Some 200,000 housing units have been completely destroyed. Every university in Gaza has been bombed.

“There is now imminent starvation taking place. So why you would invite somebody who has done such horrific things to the Palestinian people is something that I think is a very bad idea.”

In March, Schumer vocally criticised the Netanyahu government over its treatment of Gaza in the wake of the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants.

Last month, the Forward’s Jacob Kornbluh explained how the potential invite of Netanyahu “divided Democrats even when it was just a rumour”. He wrote:

On the left flank of the party, critics of Israel don’t want Congress to give a platform to the prime minister, who is widely reviled for embracing right-wing extremists within his government and prosecuting a war in Gaza that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.

But mainstream pro-Israel Democrats don’t necessarily want to welcome him either. Many of them are also frustrated by Netanyahu but prefer to avoid the inevitable calls to boycott the democratically elected leader of a country they otherwise support.

“I understand why Mike Johnson, Mitch McConnell and Benjamin Netanyahu badly want this to happen,” commented MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Friday after the invitation was made official. “I cannot for the life of me understand why Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer think it’s a good idea.”

Jon Queally is managing editor of Common Dreams