Our citizen-legislators will be meeting again in Santa Fe for a short 30-day session beginning next Tuesday. They are called “citizen” legislators because they don’t make a living as full-time lawmakers (like those in California for example) and so they are either retired, dependent on a spouse for support, or working a job that allows them the flexibility to serve in the New Mexico Legislature.
These citizen-legislators should be commended for the work they do for very little pay and lots of headaches. Instead, one legislator from Alamogordo is asking her colleagues to commend the state of Israel. I kid you not. Her resolution is reprinted here.
Representative Yvette Herrell (R) didn’t come up with this idea on her own. Nearly identical resolutions have been introduced in Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Texas plus Oklahoma, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, and Utah.
My hunch is that these resolutions are AIPAC’s (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) PR strategy to build support for Israel among Americans in order to keep members of Congress in tow. AIPAC’s influence in Congress is legendary. Check out this 2006 piece in The Nation if you’re not familiar with the Israel Lobby.
So why is Representative Herrell’s HR1 problematic (to put it kindly)?
Let me count the ways:
1) State legislators should not be opining on foreign policy matters. The Middle East is a hotbed of contested claims and accusations, much of it originating from the creation of Israel in 1948 and the occupation of the Palestinians since 1967. The community of nations stands united (with the exception of the U.S., Canada and Australia) in condemning Israel’s flagrant violation of international laws pertaining to its brutal occupation. HR1 conveniently cherry-picks this history to avoid the harsh, cold reality that Israel is an occupying force on lands that international law recognizes as belonging to the indigenous population. Would it be appropriate for state Legislators to discuss and debate a resolution supporting the rights of Palestinians? I think not. Neither should they be spending time on HR1.
2) State legislators should be focused on the needs of New Mexicans. In a short 30-day session, our lawmakers will be scrambling to pass a budget that addresses our critical needs. Think jobs, education, renewable energy ….. but not platitudes commending foreign nations. Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino hits the nail on the head in this piece.
My very first job after finishing law school was serving as an analyst for the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee. I know the hectic pace, the long hours, and how hasty decision-making occurs when the clock ticks down to the close of the session. Distractions from the business at hand hurts all New Mexicans. HR1 is one humongous, gigantic distraction.
3) State legislators need an education on the Middle East. All Americans need a good wake-up call about how our tax dollars are being used in the Middle East. Should we be supporting Israel’s military to the tune of $3+ billion each year? Are we fostering a peaceful resolution to the conflict or subsidizing a brutal military occupation? Although resolutions have some educational value, HR1 is filled with misleading and inaccurate information designed to sway public opinion (also known as hasbara in Israel), not to educate. Maybe an educational event about Israel and Palestine could be organized AFTER the legislative session concludes.
If you want to know what really goes on at the Roundhouse (New Mexico’s Legislature) pick up a copy of Senator Dede Feldman’s new book “Inside the New Mexico Senate: Boots, Suits and Citizens.” Dede will be talking about her book at BookWorks in Albuquerque on Feb. 4th at 7 pm.
And take 5 minutes to shoot an email to a New Mexico State Legislator about what you think about HR1 – A RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE STATE OF ISRAEL FOR ITS CORDIAL AND MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNITED STATES AND WITH THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO. Names and contact information are available here.