Legislative Round-Up - December 18, 2020

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Hearings & Markups
3. On the Record

Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

Shameless plugs:

The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism: A Webinar Series from the Foundation for Middle East Peace

Also check out: FMEP Podcast – Occupied Thoughts: A Palestinian View on Antisemitism w/ Peter Beinart, Rashid Khalidi, & Nadia Abu El-Haj (December 16, 2020 – video or audio]

Also, with respect to the new CNAS report/recommendations for the Biden Administration with respect to Israel-Palestine policy, see my 12/18 thread on Twitter, which starts: “I’m struck by fact that responses to CNAS Isr/Pal report (so far) have overlooked extraordinary shift in policy recommended w/ respect to giving US green light to settlements. The idea isn’t new; I challenged the arguments implicit in it here

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(TO ESTABLISH A SPECIAL ENVOY FOR FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM) HR 221: Introduced 1/3/19 by Smith (R-NJ) and having 87 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act.” Passed by the House 1/11/19; amended and passed by the Senate 12/16, sent back to the House (which will need to adopt the text, as amended, and then it can go to the President for signing). Also see – Rosen (D-NV): Rosen-Backed Legislation Passes Senate, Will Strengthen State Department Role in Combating Anti-Semitism


(FACEBOOK: ERADICATE ANTI-MUSLIM CONTENT ON YOUR PLATFORM) Dingell letter to Mark Zuckerberg: On 12/15, Rep. Dingell (D-MI) and 29 House Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Facebook Chairman Mark Zuckerberg expressing “deep concern regarding anti-Muslim bigotry on your platform and the inaction by Facebook in response to the abuse of your platform to dehumanize Muslims and stoke violence and genocide against Muslims around the world.” The letter urges Zuckerberg to “take this problem seriously and take immediate action to eradicate anti-Muslim bigotry from Facebook.” DIngell press release is here.

(ERASE PALESTINIAN REFUGEES & UNRWA BEFORE LEAVING OFFICE) Lamborn letter to Trump: On 12/11, Rep. Lamborn (R-CO) and 22 Republican House colleagues sent a letter to President Trump urging him to “address the so-called ‘Palestinian refugee’ population” before leaving office. Specifically, they urge him to declassify a Congressionally-mandated report that was designed to make the case that most Palestinians who are classified as refugees by the UN should not be considered refugees. The letter makes clear the intent, noting  “Just like your courageous action to bring about unprecedented peace between several gulf states and Israel, it is time to end the fiction of the ‘right of return’ and bring the conflict one step closer conclusion [sic].” For background on the effort to “resolve” the Palestinian refugee issue by literally defining the refugees out of existence, see my January 2018 piece (written when Trump initially went after UNRWA) – Taking Issues “Off the Table”–First Jerusalem, Now Refugees

(DON’T BLAME ISRAEL FOR RAZING PALESTINIAN COMMUNITY) DMFI letter to Congress: On 12/16, Alex Kane, writing at +972 Magazine broke the story that on 12/1, the organization known as “Democratic Majority for Israel” (DMFI) sent a letter to Members of Congress defending Israel’s action taken 11/1 to raze an entire Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley. The letter is framed as a counterpoint to the letter sent by 11/17 from a group of House Democrats to SecState Pompeo raising grave concerns about Israel’s actions. As a reminder, DMFI is by all appearances an arm of AIPAC, branded to appear to represent Democrats (see here for a table laying out their expenditures to defeat progressive Democrats). Notably, in defending Israel, DMFI not only in effect blames the Palestinians for the destruction of their homes by Israel, but includes an image branded as coming from the far right-wing, racist organization Regavim, a group leading efforts to prevent Palestinains from building on their own land, to demolish all Palestinian construction that is not approved by Israel (which rarely grants approvals for Palestinains to build, even on their own land) and to displace Palestinians from entire villages in the West Bank like Sussya and Khan al Ahmar. For more on Regavim, see: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

2. Hearings & Markups



3. On the Record

Members On The Record…

…On Miscellaneous Issues

Loeffler (R-GA) 12/17: Tweet – “.@ReverendWarnock is as anti-Israel as it gets. He compared Israeli settlers “birds of prey.” He called Israel an “apartheid state.” He supports ending ALL military aid to Israel — our closest ally. DANGEROUS & RADICAL.”

Schiff (D-CA) and Chabot (R-OH) 12/16: Statement from Freedom of the Press Caucus Co-Chairs Schiff and Chabot on Reports of 43 Journalists Killed in 2020 – Most Recently, Iranian Journalist Murdered This Weekend for “Fanning Unrest”

Scott (R-FL) 12/16: Tweet – “Iran continues to try to defy US sanctions and support the @NicolasMaduro dictatorship. We will not stand idle while bad actors attempt to prop up a murderous regime in our hemisphere. The US will continue to crackdown on Iran and any other country that does business with VZ!

Zeldin (R-NY) 12/16: Tweet – “The Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) included sunset provisions now upon us for many of Iran’s commitments. It would be an extremely wrong headed move for the US to desperately try re-entering the JCPOA as is without changing those sunset dates & addressing several other fatal flaws.

Coons (D-DE) & Tillis (R-NC) 12/16: Sens. Coons, Tillis condemn Iran’s human rights record

Inhofe (R-OK) 12/16: Floor statement, “Western Sahara and Abraham Accords” [“I am so saddened by the betrayal toward the people of Western Sahara for unilaterally recognizing Morocco’s claim. Yet I am seeing the unexpected results from the proclamation.  If highlighting the injustice of these people pushes the rest of the world to finally get them the referendum they deserve, it may be worth it, and that is what I am seeing right now…

Risch (R-ID) 12/14: Chairman Risch: SST Rescission Reflects Changed Sudan, Stronger U.S.-Sudan Relations

Connolly (D-VA) 12/14: Op-ed in the Hill – “The fight for empowerment: Women in the Middle East and North Africa”

Rubio (D-FL) 12/14: Tweet – “Iran kidnapped Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam and executed him. Truly barbaric & again exposes the nature of the regime. Rushing back into flawed #IranDeal would enrich this evil regime. US stand with the Iranian people not their oppressors.

Grijalva (D-AZ) 12/14: Rep. Grijalva Marks Human Rights Day by Urging End to Human Trafficking and Labor Abuses in Gulf Countries

Walker (R-NC) 12/14: Tweet – It’s clear that a potential Biden Administration would be a shift from America First to Israel Last and America Next to Last. Samantha Power should not be running our foreign aid – and we shouldn’t be sending foreign aid to any state that hates America.” [linked to 2015 article, “Samantha Power: US Won’t Commit to Veto of Palestinian State Resolution]

Deutch (D-FL) 12/13: Tweets – “NDAA is now on its way to the President. I am proud to have my legislation codifying the historic 2016 MOU on security assistance between the US & Israel included. We also expand cooperation on a range of non-security issues like energy, water and ag.” and “We’ve included program to increase regional cooperation between Israel, Palestinians and other Arab partners on high tech & to increase cooperation w/ Israel on humanitarian & development assistance in other countries.”

Rosen (D-NV) and Lankford (R-OK) 12/12: Rosen, Lankford Statement Applauding the Council of the EU’s Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism [“We welcome the Council’s recommendation for consistent use of the IHRA Working Definition of anti-Semitism and urge EU members to implement the policies called for in the declaration. We look forward to our continued global partnerships in the mission to clearly define and fight back against anti-Semitism.”]

Wilson (R-SC) 12/11: Tweet – “It’s not surprising that the Iranian regime’s media arm has already begun attacking my Stop the Killing in Syria Act. It is a badge of honor to be called out by the brutal Iranian regime. We won’t stop pushing back against Iran’s support of terrorism and the brutal Assad regime.

Coons (D-DE) & Rubio (R-FL) 12/11: Sens. Coons, Rubio praise passage of their bipartisan bill to strengthen US-Israel strategic alliance (in NDAA)

Carper (D-DE) 12/11: Tweets – “Children should never be causalities of conflict. Ali Abu Alia, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, was reportedly killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank. This is unacceptable.” and “I strongly support providing security assistance to our ally Israel. But we must redouble our efforts to call on Israel to ensure its forces behave in accordance with international law.

….Turkey Sanctions

McCaul (R-TX) and Engel (D-NY) 12/16: McCaul and Engel Statement on Turkey Actions Undermining NATO Alliance

Inhofe (R-OK) 12/16: SASC Chairman Inhofe Statement on Sanctions on Turkey

Van Hollen (D-MD) 12/14: Van Hollen Statement on Administration’s Use of Sanctions Against Turkey

Risch (R-ID) 12/14: Chairman Risch: Sanctions on Turkey are Result of Erdogan’s Decisions

McCaul (R-TX) 12/14: McCaul Supports Sanctioning Turkey for Purchasing Russian Air Defense System

Lankford (R-OK) 12/14: Lankford Successful in Call for Sanctions on Turkey

Graham (R-SC) 12/14: Graham Applauds U.S. Sanctions Against Turkey

Risch (R-ID) 12/11: Chairman Risch Highlights S-400 Sanctions and Expanded Nord Stream 2 Sanctions in FY2021 NDAA Passage

…Saudi Sentencing US Citizen

Deutch (D-FL) 12/13: Tweets – “The sentencing of a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen on charges that included illegally obtaining US citizenship is extremely concerning. I’ve expressed this directly to the Saudis & expect current Admin to do so.” and “I also raised the case of Loujain Al Hathloul, who began a “closed” trial this week in Saudi’s terrorism court. Loujain’s detention has sparked international outrage, and I repeat my calls for her release.”

McCaul (R-TX) & Engel (D-NY) 12/12: McCaul, Engel Statement on Dr. Walid Fitaihi [“We are very disturbed by the latest news out of Saudi Arabia about the conviction of Dr. Walid Fitaihi, an American citizen, on specious charges. We have long called for Dr. Fitaihi and his family to be permitted to leave Saudi Arabia and ask Secretary Pompeo to engage with the Saudi government to ensure this conviction is overturned and Dr. Fitaihi and his family are allowed to return safely to the United States.”]

Warren (D-MA) 12/12: Tweet – “The Saudi authorities unjustly sentenced Saudi-American Dr. Walid Fitaihi to 6 years in prison. I am deeply concerned by this and the Saudis should drop the charges, immediately release Dr. Fitaihi, and lift the travel ban on his family.

….Celebrating Trump’s Policies/Accomplishments

McConnell (R-KY) 12/15: McConnell Applauds President Trump & Congratulates President-Elect Biden [“…Speaking of the Middle East, President Trump wasted little time pulling back from the prior administration’s disastrous ‘Iran deal.’ His team eliminated daylight between us and Israel and repaired our relationships with Arab partners. And he aligned these relationships around our common shared interests — countering threats like radical Islamic terrorists and Iranian aggression. Under President Trump’s command, our forces took terrorist leaders like Al-Baghdadi and Soleimani off the battlefield. The physical caliphate that ISIS established on the previous president’s watch was destroyed. All this paved the way for the Abraham Accords — the historic normalization of relationships between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and most recently Morocco, with the potential for more on the horizon.”]

Wicker (R-MS) 12/14: Wicker Celebrates Recent Foreign Policy Achievements [“President Trump made the right call to withdraw from President Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal, which Congress never approved….Our position in the Middle East has been further strengthened by the decisions to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. These bold steps have encouraged Arab countries to make peace with the Jewish state. This year, three Middle Eastern nations have signed historic peace agreements with Israel…”]

Inhofe (R-OK) 12/11: Inhofe Speaks on the Senate Floor Showing Support for President Trump’s Accomplishments [“In terms of illegal immigration, I know this became very controversial. The wall—people didn’t like the idea of the wall. I can remember a conversation I had with Netanyahu when I was in Israel once and he said he didn’t understand how a modern state can have borders that are not secure. He said you can’t do that, it doesn’t work. Well, he’s now got that done against a lot of opposition. We all know that. And Israel, how many presidents—every president I can think of in my career here in Washington had said we need to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but they don’t do it. And so, this president just went ahead and did it. He’s a little abrupt and we understand that, but he got these things done.”]

Articles and Reports Related to the Hill

News – General

Jewish news Syndicate: Congress votes to maintain security assistance to Israel

Elections/Campaigns – general

Jewish Insider 12/18:  The California Lt. Gov who could soon end up in the U.S. Senate [“Kounalakis’s view of antisemitism extends to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which she found to be more widespread on college campuses in California than she had anticipated. ‘I do see a strong antisemitic component of the BDS movement,’ she said, ‘and I know not everybody does, but I see it when I talk to people, and I’m concerned about it.’ The movement, she said, worries her because she believes it couches antisemitic tropes within a foreign policy argument that ignores other issues. ‘If a labor organization that is fighting for the BDS movement in California isn’t talking about China, isn’t talking about Russia,’ she added, ‘I don’t think that they have a very valid case here that this is outrage over foreign policy.’”]

Jewish News Syndicate 12/16: ‘We will stand very firm with Israel,’ says incoming Alabama Rep. Jerry Carl [“We have so much in common. BDS is just horrible. What we’re talking about over there as far as the bias against the Israeli country. That will affect us in the Christian community as much as it will affect the Jewish community. I don’t feel like the Jewish community quite understands that. I was raised in a very small town in South Alabama, and we have one Jewish family that lived in town, and we were all taught that the Jews were G-d’s chosen people and we’ve got to stand firm with them. We have a lot in common. But the way things are going in Israel right now is good; I just hope we can continue for it to happen that way.” and “Q: What’s your reaction to the rise in anti-Semitism at home and abroad? A: I think so much of that has been driven by the Arab community. It’s almost like a cancer. Although it is part of this country to have free thinking and free speech, I think we as legislators need to start pushing back on that. Start calling it what it is. Q: You mention anti-Semitism from Arabs. Do you also see anti-Semitism as a problem from the far-left and the far-right? A: I think that’s fair. I think you have extremes on both sides. There’s certainly more on the left than on the right.”]