Tag Archives: S. 1697

Two lives, two deaths, highlight Congress’ willful blindness

Taylor Force

Taylor Force

Taylor Force, 28 and a first-year student at Vanderbilt, was stabbed to death while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016.  He was with 29 students and four staff members from the university who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship.

Rachel Corrie, 23 and a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March 2003. She was standing with other ISM volunteers in front of a Palestinian home slated for destruction by Israel, along with other homes in the neighborhood.

Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie

 

The similarities in their deaths are striking.

Both Taylor and Rachel were Americans. Both were victims of deliberate attacks. Both were young, intelligent and, by all accounts, had tremendous gifts to give the world.  Both were unarmed and engaged in peaceful activities — Taylor was studying and Rachel was exercising Gandhian nonviolence resistance.

Taylor was killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian in the heart of Israel. Rachel was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer in the occupied Palestinian territory outside of Israel.

Both families grieved their inexplicable losses, and sought some measure of justice.

This week, (March 2018) Congress will pass S.1697 and H.R.1164 — the Taylor Force Act. The bill ends $300 million in direct US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt payments to the families of “terrorists” who are either in jail or were killed carrying out their crimes.

In March 2003, Rachel’s parents asked Congress to help them get a full, fair and expeditious investigation into their daughter’s death, but Congress took no action on H.Con.Res.111. They also sued Caterpillar, Inc. alleging liability for Rachel’s death because the company supplied bulldozers to Israel knowing that they would be used in contravention of international law. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit in 2009 based on the political question doctrine.

In 2005, the Corrie family also filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel. The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death, contending that she had either been intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect. They sued for a symbolic one US dollar in damages.

In August 2012, an Israeli court rejected their suit and ruled that the Israeli government was not responsible for Corrie’s death. Former U.S. President Carter and some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticized the ruling. 

I met Rachel’s parents in Gaza in November 2012 and asked if they were going to file an appeal. They both looked weary and said they didn’t know because of the costs and emotional toll it might entail. However, they did appeal and learned in February 2014 that it had been rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel.

The Corrie family established The Rachel Corrie Foundation to honor her memory, and to spread the values that their daughter embodied in her short life. In 2006, Alan Rickman’s play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” debuted in New York City. And every year, Palestinians remember Rachel and honor her as a martyr.

Congress continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence and trauma in Israel-Palestine that ultimately ended the young lives of Taylor Force and Rachel Corrie.*

They can’t stand back and view Israel-Palestine objectively, primarily because of the outrageous influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington (AIPAC). This is not in the best interests of the U.S., and I wonder how many more Americans, not to mention innocent Palestinians and Israelis, will pay the ultimate price by Congress’s willful blindness.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

* Enacting Israel’s legislative agenda, funding Israel’s military to the tune of $3 billion+ each year, parroting Israel’s framing of the occupation which is contrary to international humanitarian law, and

 

 

 

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

AIPAC’s agenda

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

AIPAC — America’s Pro-Israel lobby — is as powerful (if not more powerful) in the halls of Congress as the NRA.  A 2016 article in the Foreign Policy Journal noted:

The AIPAC-led pro-Israel lobby is probably the strongest, best organized and most effective lobby network in Washington DC. For the 2015-2016 election cycle, the pro-Israel network has already dispensed $4,255,136 in contributions. The largest single amount ($259,688) went to Senator Charles Schumer of New York.

Among interest groups that lobby on behalf of a foreign government, none ranks higher in contributions to members of Congress than the pro-Israel lobby.

So it should come to no one’s surprise that most members of Congress on both sides of the aisle carry water for AIPAC. We can find AIPAC’s fingerprints on many pieces of legislation.

  • Opposition to Iran – Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Economic Exclusion Act (H.R. 5132)—authored by Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
  • The Taylor Force Act (S. 1697 and H.R. 1164) cuts funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a result of the PA’s practice of paying families of Palestinian fighters who have died or been imprisoned.
  • The United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5141 and S. 2497)—authored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL). Includes $3.3 billion in military assistance to Israel and an additional $500 million in missile defense funding.
  • The House of Representatives and Senate both introduced bipartisan resolutions — H. Res. 11 and S. Res. 6, respectively — reaffirming this principle and opposing efforts at the United Nations to impose a solution on the conflict. The House overwhelmingly adopted H. Res. 11 on Jan. 5.
  • The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720 and H.R.1697) and the Combating BDS Act of 2017 (S.170 and H.R. 2856).
  • The Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 (S.1595 and H.R. 3329)—that would impose additional sanctions on the terrorist organization and those that support it.

U.S. politicians are proud of confirming their support for Israel and boasting that there’s no daylight between Israel’s interests and America’s interests.

I’d feel a whole lot more confident of our “special relationship” with Israel if I knew that my elected officials were putting U.S. interests ahead of their allegiance to Israel.

Unfortunately, this is a good example of the tail (Israel) wagging the dog (U.S.) — with AIPAC establishing U.S. foreign policy by very clever messaging and lobbying tactics that sometimes borders on bullying.

If Congress was not tied to AIPAC at the hip, the 6 legislative priorities above might be recast as follows:

  • Iran is a growing power in the region with which diplomacy and negotiation is in our (the U.S.) best interest. Preventing a new nuclear power in the region is good for the community of nations and the U.S. There needs to be transparency and honesty in addressing Israel’s nuclear weapons too.
  • Payment to the families of soldiers in uniform is standard practice in the U.S. and Israel, there’s no reason why payment to Palestinian fighters should be treated any differently. Consistent treatment in our foreign policy enhances U.S. credibility.
  • Is it in the best interests of the U.S. to pay $3.3 billion+ annually to Israel? This represents by far the largest contribution to a foreign government at a time when the U.S. is running the largest deficit in its history and Congress is considering cut backs to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  At a minimum, there should be a public discussion about the pros and cons of U.S. financial support to Israel.
  • Resolutions are non-binding and some may think these resolutions condemning the United Nations are unimportant. However, Americans need to know that the U.S. (and particularly the U.S. Congress) stands apart from the vast majority of nations vis-à-vis criticism of Israel and its violations of international law. To rectify this criticism, the U.S. should be using carrots and sticks to convince Israel to comply with international law, not throwing its weight around with AIPAC-written resolutions.
  • AIPAC wants Congress to criminalize political speech that targets Israel. I’ve written about it here and here. While the NRA focuses on the Second Amendment, it appears AIPAC has set its target on the First Amendment. It will be interesting to see how members of Congress on both sides of the aisle justify this blatant attempt to undermine Americans’ right to express their political beliefs peacefully and nonviolently.
  • AIPAC wants Congress to sanction Hizballah in Lebanon. Yes, Hizballah may be a military mini-threat to Israel (“mini” — considering the disparity in the weapons between Israel and Hizballah) but the real threat to peace in the Middle East is the precarious situation Lebanon finds itself today.  “The problem for Lebanon, the world’s third most-indebted country, is that it’s starting to look more like Greece financially. And if Greece’s survival as part of the euro was crucial to the European project, Lebanon is key to keeping what’s left of peace in the Middle East.” So the U.S. Congress should be discussing ways to support Lebanon, not jumping on AIPAC’s wagon which will likely destablize Lebanon even further.

Is AIPAC’s agenda consistent with our best interests at home and abroad? I don’t think so, but at least Americans deserve an open and transparent discussion on the floor of the House and Senate before our elected members of Congress vote on these AIPAC-sponsored bills. They need to hear from intelligent, opposing viewpoints instead of marching lockstep down AIPAC’s misbegotten path.

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