Sen. Marsha Blackburn: ‘I stand with Israel’

Published 2:15 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

BY SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN

Babies beheaded. Girls raped next to their dead friends. Jews burned alive. An elderly Holocaust survivor dragged away to Gaza by terrorists. More than 260 innocent people massacred at a music festival intended to promote peace. These are the scenes of pure evil that Hamas, a genocidal Palestinian terrorist organization, inflicted on innocent Israelis. 

On October 7th, Israel experienced the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. At last count, over 1,400 people in Israel, including at least 30 Americans, have been murdered in cold blood, most of whom were innocent civilians. At least 199 hostages were taken into Gaza. This is not a time for any of us to stay silent, and despite what some Democrats believe, it is not the time for Israel to back down. They must do what is necessary to protect and defend their homeland, and the U.S. must support them every step of the way.

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Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists in Gaza must be utterly obliterated. That is why I immediately sent a letter, along with nearly the entire Tennessee Congressional Delegation, urging President Biden to support Israel in any way possible, but especially by providing them with all necessary military equipment to defeat these terrorists. 

The United States should not be sending our tax dollars to prop up terrorism. Under President Trump, the United States cut aid to the Palestinians for a reason: the Palestinian Authority uses that money to reward terrorism. Despite the warning that greenlighting this funding could benefit Hamas, President Biden sent $235 million in aid to the Palestinians in 2021. 

This administration must also begin treating Iran like the dangerous state sponsor of terror it is. The Iranian regime bankrolls Hamas, and some reports indicate they were directly involved in the planning of this attack. Just weeks ago, the Biden administration gifted Iran a $6 billion ransom payment. Giving Tehran $6 billion — even if for humanitarian aid — allows them to reallocate other funds to supporting terrorism. In light of Iran’s involvement in the terrorist attack on Israel, I led 19 Senate Republicans in calling on President Biden to freeze that payment. To stand by and allow Iran access to these funds as Hamas infiltrates Israel and murders, rapes, and mutilates countless innocents is unconscionable. 

Biden’s position on Iran, dating back to the Obama administration, has been appeasement. He has chosen not to enforce many of the oil sanctions the U.S. previously imposed on Iran, freeing up cash for Iran to fund its terrorist proxies. As a result, Iranian oil production has increased substantially, and they are on track to produce the most oil since President Trump introduced sanctions in 2018. Meanwhile, Biden has been desperate to negotiate another nuclear deal with Iran despite the fact that Tehran has been trying to assassinate former Trump administration officials. Incredibly, despite these threats, the Biden administration is still willing to negotiate. The Biden administration has also looked the other way while Iran continues to enrich uranium to levels that would allow it to build five nuclear bombs.

America is better than a feckless foreign policy that emboldens terrorists and rogue regimes. We have been gravely misled by “experts” who have been dead wrong, especially on Middle East policy. Just eight days before Hamas launched their violent surprise attack against Israel, President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated, “the Middle East is quieter today than it has been in two decades.” This is the same official who pushed for a dangerous Iran nuclear deal in 2015 and played a monumental role in the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021. Leaving Jake Sullivan in his current post hinders the national security posture of not only Israel, but the United States. His removal must be a part of the Biden administration’s response in the coming days. 

Finally, as we watch terrorists inflict horrific violence upon the people of Israel, Americans should be extremely concerned about our own vulnerabilities resulting from President Biden’s open border policies. In fiscal year 2019, there were zero known encounters with suspected terrorists at the southern border between ports of entry, and in FY23, there were 151 encounters. As long as the Biden administration allows this unprecedented pattern to escalate, an attack on our own soil isn’t a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. Securing our border and protecting our homeland is paramount.

While Israel faces an existential threat from Iran and its proxies, it is also confronting a less conspicuous but growing threat from countries in the West – antisemitism. We have seen the age-old hatred rear its ugly head on college campuses and from organizations like Black Lives Matter Grassroots. Protecting Israel and the Jewish community is critical. We must formally state with conviction, Never Again.

(Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)