APN Legislative Round-Up: December 7, 2016 [Corrected]

1. Bills & Resolutions & Letters
2. New Legislation Sailing Through Congress Equates Criticism of Israel with Anti-Semitism
3. Hearings
4. On the Record

[With apologies for the erratic Round-Up publication schedule.]

 

1. Bills & Resolutions & Letters

(ABSOLUTELY NO UNSC ACTION ON ISRAEL!) H. Con. Res. 165: Introduced 9/28 by Royce (R-CA) and Engel (D-NY), “Expressing the sense of Congress and reaffirming longstanding United States policy in support of a direct bilaterally negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposition to United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing a solution to the conflict.”  Passed 11/29 under suspension of the rules, by a voice vote. ***NOTE: This resolution was a top AIPAC lobby agenda item,  featured (as of this writing, on its page, “Support Direct Negotiations, Not Imposed Solutions”. AIPAC’s press release praising the House for doing what AIPAC has been lobbying it to do on this issue is here.*** Deutch (D-FL) press release touting passage of H. Con. Res. 165 is here.

(EXTEND IRAN SANCTIONS ACT) HR 6297: Introduced 11/14 by Royce (R-CA) and having 10 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Iran Sanctions Extension Act.” Brought to the floor for consideration under Suspension of the Rules 11/15, passed by a vote of 419-1. Brought to a vote in the Senate on 12/1, passed by a vote of 99-0. Awaiting signing by the President as of 12/2.  NOTE: This was a “clean” extension of ISA, making it relatively uncontroversial and allowing it to move quickly and in a bipartisan manner.  As in the House, a huge number of Senators issued statements applauding passage of HR 6297. The Round-Up is not going to even try to include links to every one of those statements. If you are curious about a Senator, check his/her website. ***NOTE: This bill has been a top AIPAC lobby agenda item for more than a year, featured (as of this writing), on its page, “Reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act”. AIPAC’s press release praising Congress for doing what AIPAC called on it to do on this issue is here.***

(ABUSE ANTI-SEMITISM TO QUASH CRITICISM OF ISRAEL ON CAMPUSES) S.10 & HR 6421: Introduced 12/1 in the Senate by Casey (D-PA), Scott (R-SC), Graham (R-SC) and Bennet (D-CO); and in the House Roskam (R-IL), Deutch (D-FL), Lowey (D-NY), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Engel (D-NY), Israel (D-NY), Smith (R-NJ), Granger (R-TX), Sherman (D-CA), and Meng (D-NY), the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016.” Passed by the Senate that same day, without any hearings/consideration of any kind, by Unanimous Consent.  In the House, referred to the Judiciary Committee (odds are good there will be no hearing and this bill, if it moves, will do so under Suspension of the Rules). APN opposes this brazenly unconstitutional bill, which has zero to do with combating anti-Semitism and everything to do with (a) trying to police criticism of Israel on U.S. campuses; and (b) exploiting claims of “anti-Semitism” to delegitimize and quash criticism and activism related to Israel (with the main but not sole focus being the BDS movement on campuses). For further details, see Section 2, below. As of this writing this legislation is not listed as a lobby agenda item on AIPAC’s” Fight the Boycott of Israel” page; smart money is on it showing up there soon.

(NO $$$ FOR THE PALESTINIANS) HR 6389: Introduced 11/18 by Lamborn (R-CO) and no cosponsors, “To condition assistance to the West Bank and Gaza on steps by the Palestinian Authority to end violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. 

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5843: Introduced 7/14 by Langevin (D-RI) and Ratcliffe (R-TX), “To establish a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity.” Passed 11/29 by voice vote.

(MORE US-ISRAEL COOPERATION ON CYBERSECURITY) HR 5877: Introduced 7/14 by Ratcliffe (R-TX) and Langevin (D-RI) “To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 to promote cooperative homeland security research and antiterrorism programs relating to cybersecurity, and for other purposes.” Passed 11/29 by voice vote.

(STATE AUTH – BARRING AID TO ANY PAY UNITY GOVT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES) S. 1635: Introduced 6/18/15 by Corker (R-TN), the “Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016.” Passed by the Senate 4/28/16; passed by the House (amended) 12/5/16. The Middle East elements in the Senate version were covered in the 5/5 edition of the Round-Up. The House version does not contain those same elements, but adds something new: “Section 10 of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-446, 22 U.S.C. 2378b note) is amended-- (A) by striking subsection (b); and (B) by redesignating subsection (c) as subsection (b).” This amendment would change existing law to remove any possibility of the U.S. providing funding for the Palestinian Authority if Hamas is part of that government, even if the White House can certify that Hamas is not in control of anything and even in the case where Hamas has met the Quartet Conditions and even as an additional condition the PA is basically doing everything else we ask it to do. CORRECTION: This would remove a State Department reporting requirement on creating a peace and reconciliation fund.

(FY17 NDAA) S. 2943: Congress continues to forge ahead on the NDAA. As readers will recall, on 6/14, the Senate passed the first version of S. 2943. Middle East-related details of the base text and proposed amendments were covered in the 6/7 and 6/10 editions of the Round-Up; Middle East elements adopted in the final Senate version of the text were covered in the 6/17 edition. On 7/7, the House voted to delete the entire Senate version of S. 2943 and replace it with the previously adopted House version of the bill (HR 4909). For details of the Middle East elements in the House version of the bill (as adopted), see the 5/20 edition of the Round-Up. The bill then went to conference, where House and Senate conferees hammered out their differences, resulting in a conference report (a consensus version of the bill), published 11/30. The House passed the conference version on 12/2, by a vote of 375-34; the bill is under consideration on the Senate floor as of this writing. Middle East elements in the conference version of the bill [this does not include elements related to Syria, Iraq, or ISIS] are as follows:

Sec. 1225: Modification of Annual Report on Military Power of Iran.
Amends required annual report on Iran’s military power to add reporting about Iran’s cyber capabilities: its “ability to use proxies and other actors to mask its cyber operations”; its “ability to target United States governmental and nongovernmental entities and activities”; and “cooperation with or assistance from state and non-actors in support or enhancement of Iran's cyber capabilities.”

Sec. 1226: Quarterly Report[s] on Confirmed Ballistic Missile Launches from Iran.
Mandates a quarterly report to Congress by the Director of National Intelligence on confirmed launches during the previous calendar year, starting not later than the last day of the first fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act; and a joint quarterly report to Congress by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Treasury on Imposition of Sanctions in connection with launches, starting not later than the last day of the second fiscal year quarter beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act. That report must cover efforts, if any, “to impose unilateral sanctions against appropriate entities or individuals in connection with a confirmed ballistic missile launch from Iran.” It must also cover “diplomatic efforts, if any, to impose multilateral sanctions against appropriate entities or individuals in connection with such a confirmed ballistic missile launch.” It can also cover “Any other matters the Secretaries consider appropriate.” The two reports are to be submitted concurrently, and the requirement for the reports ends (sunsets) on December 31, 2009.

Sec. 1274: Report on the potential for cooperation between the United States and Israel on directed energy capabilities.
Mandates a report, to be delivered to Congress by the Secretary of Defense within 180 days of this bill becoming law, “on the potential for cooperative development by the United States and Israel of a directed energy capability to defeat ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, and improvised explosive devices that threaten the United States, deployed forces of the United States, or Israel.” The report must include “(1) An assessment of the technological maturity of United States and Israeli directed energy capabilities to defeat adversary threat systems. (2) An assessment of the respective military capability gaps of each country that such directed energy developments could address. (3) An assessment of the opportunities for the United States and Israel to cooperate to develop directed energy capabilities to defeat adversary threat systems, including estimated costs of pursuing such opportunities. (4) An assessment of whether such opportunities should be pursued, including any potential risks from the pursuit of such opportunities. (5) Any other matters the Secretary considers appropriate.”

Sec. 1295: Modification and clarification of United States-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation authority.
Increases funding for anti-tunnel cooperation (provided under the 2015 NDAA) from $25 million to $50 million and changes the terms of the funding regarding matching funds by Israel and required use of a portion of the funds for research, development, test, and evaluation activities (RDT&E) in the United States.
 
Sec. 1302: Funding Allocations.
This section earmarks $4 million from DOD’s Cooperative Threat Reduction funding for “monitoring the ‘proliferation pathways’ under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” [i.e., the Iran nuclear agreement].

Sec. 1690: Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and Israeli cooperative missile defense program codevelopment and coproduction.
This section earmarks and sets out conditions related to $332 million in DOD funding for Israel.  This appears to be in addition to funding not explicitly earmarked in the bill text: In his 11/30 press release touting the Conference Report, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman McCain (R-AZ), states that the conference version “Adds an additional $455 million to the $146 million requested by the President to modernize Israeli’s layered missile defense system.” Combing through the actual conference report, there is no indication where these additional funds may be (and all the funding for Israel in the NDAA is in addition to the regular $3.1 billion in FMF provided in the annual Foreign Operation Appropriations bill, under the current MOU). The funding actually earmarked in the final version of the FY16 NDAA is as follows:

  • $62 million for the procurement of Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system through coproduction of such interceptors in the United States by industry of the United States.
  • $150 million for the procurement of the David's Sling Weapon System, including for coproduction of parts and components in the United States by United States industry;
  • $120 million for the procurement of the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program, including for coproduction of parts and components in the United States by United States industry.

 

Letters

(DENYING OBAMA’S RIGHT TO GOVERN AS PRESIDENT DURING LAME DUCK PERIOD, ESPECIALLY WITH RESPECT TO IRAN POLICY) Ryan-McCarthy-Royce letter to Obama: On 11/30, House Speaker Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader McCarthy (R-CA), and HFAC Chair Royce (R-CA) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to do NOTHING AT ALL related to Iran during his final days in office except what GOP members of Congress tell him today (which they make clear starts and ends with signing into law the bill extending the Iran Sanctions Act). Press release is here.

 

2. New Bill Sailing Through Congress Equates Criticism of Israel with Anti-Semitism

On 12/1, new legislation was introduced in both the Senate and House, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016” (S.10 & HR 6421). In both chambers, the measure was introduced with heavy-hitting bipartisan support (and in the House, heavy-hitting Jewish support). Senate sponsors’ press release on the bill is here; House sponsors’ press release is here. The measure was passed by the Senate the same day it was introduced, without any hearings/consideration of any kind, by Unanimous Consent.  In the House, it was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where the odds are good that there will be no hearing and the bill will be brought to the floor under Suspension of the Rules.

Given the title of this legislation, the public could be forgiven for assuming this must be a response to the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping the nation – exemplified by the recent meeting in downtown Washington, DC where “alt-Right” attendees spewed neo-Nazi talking points and gave Nazi salutes; the nationwide surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, including swastikas and hate graffiti on walls of schools, playgrounds, and cemeteries ; and the a torrent of anti-Semitic speech and imagery now being mainstreamed across all social media platforms.  The public might even take heart in believing that when it comes to standing up to this anti-Semitic surge, Democrats and Republicans appear read to work in a bipartisan manner.

Sadly, the public would be wrong. This legislation has nothing to do with combating anti-Semitism. Indeed, as of this writing it is worth noting that no legislation has been introduced in either the House or Senate even acknowledging this surge in anti-Semitism across the country, let alone challenging it. What this legislation actually demonstrates is that, both before and after this election, one of the few things on which Democrats and Republicans agree is that they are ready to do almost anything, including shredding the Constitution, to pander to those who believe that criticism of Israel, and activism focused on Israel, needs to be shut down.

Which leads us directly to the Orwellian-named “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016.” This legislation has zero to do with raising awareness about or combating actual anti-Semitism. Rather, it is an effort to trying to police criticism of Israel on U.S. campuses by exploiting claims of “anti-Semitism” – all in order to delegitimize and quash criticism of and activism related to Israel (with the main but not sole focus being the BDS movement on campuses).

Skeptical that this is really the case? Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the ACLU: Commenting on the bill, the head of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative office warned that it “opens the door to considering anti-Israel political statements and activities as possible grounds for civil rights investigations.” Or take the word of the Anti-Defamation League (one of the groups prominently supporting/claiming credit for the legislation) in how it describes the bill: ADL’s Dec 2 tweet -  “When do on campus expressions of anti-#Israel beliefs cross the line? This Act will help students know --> http://bit.ly/2gJ6q4c “; and ADL’s Dec 6 tweet - “New bill clarifies when campus anti-Israel speech is FA protected and when it’s unlawful discrimination. Take action:http://ow.ly/AsEJ306Sjp2 “.

What else do you need to know about this legislation?

  • It is brazenly unconstitutional, seeking to limit free speech in a manner that represents a clear violation of First Amendment rights on campus. On 12/6, the Los Angeles Times editorial board published an oped noting that this legislation is not really about fighting anti-Semitism, but rather: “This legislation is really about something else entirely: Israel. What it does is to endorse an expansive definition of anti-Semitism that was adopted by the State Department in 2010 as a benchmark for diplomats. The problem with the definition is that it unfairly conflates anti-Israel speech with anti-Semitic speech, in a way that, if enforced, would violate the free speech rights of students and professors.”
  • It is also categorically the wrong way to fight actual anti-Semitism on campuses – as argued powerfully in this June 2015 oped by Kenneth Stern, Executive Director of Justus & Karin Rosenberg  Foundation and the lead author of the definition of “anti-Semitism” being exploited for the purposes of the legislation (an oped published when University of California’s Board of Regents were being pressed to adopt a policy almost identical to the current legislation). Stern warned that the approach was unconstitutional, misguided, and self-defeating – a position he reiterated strongly in the context of this new legislative effort, in a letter to House members he sent 12/6. Stern argues, (among other things) that incorporating the definition of anti-Semitism he drafted (for another purpose) into law (for this new purpose) “is both unconstitutional and unwise. If the definition is so enshrined, it will actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.”
  • For those who have memories reaching back a long way – say, less than 2 years – might recall that back when he was the director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman (who has since changed his tune) argued along similar lines in his own March 2015 oped, in which he stated:

“Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down. A decision by a private body to boycott Israel, as despicable as it may be, is protected by our Constitution. Perhaps in Europe, where hate speech laws exist and are acceptable within their own legal frameworks, such bills could be sustained. But not here in America. Moreover, in light of such legislation, BDS campaigners would undoubtedly portray themselves as victims of efforts to stifle their free expression which would likely win them more sympathy and support from students — even those who are not inclined to be hostile to Israel.”

Indeed, as pointed out in this oped by Peter Beinart, “According to the Senate’s new Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, Henrietta Szold, Hannah Arendt and Martin Buber could also be defined as Jew-haters.” And as Beinart correctly concludes:

It’s an old story: When people in power fear a debate, they try to criminalize it. It won’t work. If Zionism means permanent control of millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights, Zionists will gradually lose the contest of ideas in the United States. And the American Jewish establishment – which chose silencing Zionism’s opponents over fighting for a Zionism they could honestly defend – will bear some of the blame.” 

 

3. Hearings

12/6: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Defeating the Iranian Threat Network: Options for Countering Iranian Proxies.” Witnesses were J. Matthew McInnis, AEI (testimony) and Melissa Dalton, CSIS (testimony). Video of the hearing is here.

 

4. On the Record

Rubio (R-FL) 11/23: Rubio Welcomes President-Elect Trump's Selection of Nikki Haley for U.S. Ambassador to U.N. [“I have led efforts in the Senate to reform the U.N. and ensure that U.S. support is conditioned on a cessation of anti-Israel rhetoric and U.N. organizations no longer funding terrorist entities. I look forward to working with Governor Haley on these and other issues once she assumes her new role.‎"]

Graham (R-SC) 11/23: Graham on Governor Haley Nomination as United States Ambassador to the United Nations [highlighting that “Governor Haley is a strong supporter of the State of Israel. Her presence as Ambassador will be reassuring to all those who are concerned about the increasing hostility of the United Nations toward Israel.]

 

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