U.S. Congress passes bill to censor Gaza death toll

On the 27th of June, U.S. Congress voted in favour of an amendment that would make the State department unable to cite the Gaza health ministry’s death toll in the enclave, reported Middle East Eye.

The amendment passed by a 269 to 144 vote with 62 Democrats in favour and only 2 Republicans voting against. The vote came as part of the State Department’s annual appropriations bill, which could further silence the discussion within the U.S. government about the lethality of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman to serve in congress, stated in the House of Representatives that the bill was equal to “genocide denial”. On the 26th of January, the International Court of Justice found that there was a plausible case of Israel committing genocide in Gaza. The court also ordered Israel to halt its offensive on Rafah in May, out of fears that the invasion would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis within the enclave.

READ: Diseases spread to displaced populations from Gaza landfills

Tlaib stated on the House floor that, “It’s disgusting that my colleagues would support legislation to prohibit US officials from even citing the Palestinian death toll”. The congresswoman accused those who voted for the amendment of wanting to “erase the Palestinians who are living” and further “erase the Palestinians who are dead”.

The congresswoman from Michigan has repeatedly criticised the U.S. government’s support for Israel’s apartheid policies on Palestinians.

Gaza’s health ministry has regularly been updating the death toll of Palestinians in the enclave since the October 7th attacks. Many international NGOs and the United Nations are reliant on the ministry to fully illustrate the scale of death caused by Israeli forces in the strip.

The record of deaths does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths. Thus, news outlets and other international organisations have resorted to the proportion of women and children killed as a better representation for the civilian death toll. As of May 15th after confirming identities of the deceased, the UN has found that women and children make up 52% of the total deaths in Gaza since the attacks on Israel.

READ: Health worker declares Israel’s war on Gaza “awful for women”

The latest death toll stand at 38,271 with many experts claiming that the true number is much higher due to the amount of civilians trapped under rubble. Health authorities also struggle in gathering accurate information of the deceased due to lack of resources and bombardment of treatment facilities by the IDF.

President Joe Biden previously stated in late October that, “[There is] no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people were killed”. The comments attracted widespread criticism from human rights activists who saw the President’s remarks as dehumanising and questioning Palestinians’ humanity “even in death” according to Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison.

Shortly after Biden’s dismissal of the death toll, reports surfaced that officials within the government had cited the Gaza health ministry’s death count in 20 different situational reports.

Middle East Eye and agencies

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