Legislative Round-Up: June 11, 2021

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. Targeting Ilhan Omar (again)
3. Hearings & Markups
4. On the Record

*Brought to you in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Round-Up was born!

More great FMEP programming over the past week:

Note: The May 28 edition of the Round-Up included details of a House letter to Biden signed by Reps. Gottheimer (D-NY), Luria (D-VA), Manning (D-NC) and Phillips (D-MN) purportedly expressing concerns about antisemitism, but included in those concern was the assertion that  “comments from Members of Congress accusing Israel of being an ‘apartheid state’” – a characterization offered in recent months by Human Rights Watch B’tselem, and Yesh Din’s Michael Sfard — are “antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews. Whether these Democratic House members care or not, on 6/8, Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel – two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa – published an article entitled: “It’s apartheid, say Israeli ambassadors to South Africa [well worth reading in full; for more info see my Twitter thread on the article, including links to other sources writing about the use of the term “apartheid” in the Israel context]. No word yet on whether Gottheimer is planning to lead a letter denouncing these veteran Israeli diplomats as antisemites, too. 

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(PRO-SETTLEMENT RIDER ON CHINA BILL) S. 1260: On 6/8 the Senate passed S. 1260, the “Endless Frontiers Act,” following two weeks of debate and amendments on the Senate floor. While this bill ostensibly has NOTHING to do with Israel/Palestine, an amendment offered by Senator Cruz and adopted in Committee on 5/12 – and which is part of the final version of the bill passed by the full Senate — is ALL about Israel/Palestine (as covered in the May 13th and May 28th editions of the Round-Up). The language in question – added to the “Definitions” section under Title I of the bill, in effect bars the President from designating for in any programs under that provision (which deals with National Science Foundation Technology and Innovation) any country “that take actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.” The provision goes on to state that boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” is under this new bill has the same meaning it was given in the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority law (which became PL 114-26), which reads:

“…the term ‘actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel’ means actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, inter-national organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

The invocation of this 2015 definition discloses that the real objective of Cruz’s language is not to fight Arab League-style state-backed boycotts of the state of Israel (Arab countries don’t really boycott Israel anymore and NO OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD have adopted a boycott of Israel, under any pretext). Rather, the purpose is to coerce other countries into treating “Israeli-controlled territories”- – that is, the West Bank and Israeli settlements in it — as part of Israel. As a reminder, at the time the TPA bill (and its companion legislation, the Customs bill) was being considered by Congress and the Obama Administration, I predicted/warned (repeatedly, urgently) that this definition, once codified into law, would be repurposed and weaponized in precisely the manner that is being seen today in S. 1260. The only question now is: will this cynical effort to hijack this bill to normalize settlements and Greater Israel make it into the final House-Senate consensus version of the bill? Stay tuned.

(SANCTIONING EVERYONE WHO GOES NEAR HAMAS or PIJ) HR 3685: Introduced 6/4 by Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Mast (R-FL), “To impose sanctions with respect to foreign support for terrorist organizations, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Financial Services. As a reminder, on 5/27, Rubio (R-FL) and 15 cosponsors (all Republicans) introduced a Senate version of the bill, in the form of S. 1904, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Note:

  • Both HR 3685 and S. 1904 are listed on AIPAC’s website as part of the current legislative agenda.
  • Mast and Gottheimer introduced a version of this same bill back on 1/11/21 (HR 261), and before that in the previous Congress (HR 1850). HR 1850 was actively supported by AIPAC and drew a total of 44 bipartisan cosponsors; it was passed by the House – after zero discussion of the substance of the bill, either in committee or on the floor – under suspension of the rules and by a voice vote, but never taken up in the Senate.

(F$$K EVERY PALESTINIAN MAN, WOMAN & CHILD IN GAZA) HR 3706: Introduced 6/4 by Guest (R-MS) and 22 all-Republican co-sponsors, “To provide that funding for Gaza shall be made available instead for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system.” Referred to the House Committee on Appropriations. Guest’s press release is here; also see Buchanan (R-FL) tweet. This is the House companion version of S. 1751, introduced 5/20 by Hagery (R-TN) and 5 cosponsors (this provision was also offered as an amendment to S. 1260).

(BLOCK ANY RETURN TO JCPOA) S. 2030: Introduced 6/10 by Johnson (R-WI) and 19 Republican co-sponsors, “A bill to declare that any agreement reached by the President relating to the nuclear program of Iran is deemed a treaty that is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Iran Nuclear Treaty Act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Press releases: Risch (R-ID)

(BLOCK ANY RETURN TO JCPOA) HR xxxx: This week a Dear Colleague began circulating in the House seeking cosponsors on legislation to be introduced by Rep. Clyde (R-GA), entitled “to ensure President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign continues.” Per the Dear Colleague, the bill would prevent the U.S. from re-entering the JCPOA unless the President can certify that Iran has met a laundry list of requirements (essentially a wish list of every possible grievance related to Iran).

(REPEAL IRAQ AUMF) HR 256: Introduced 1/11 by Lee (D-CA) and having 134 cosponsors (125 Democrats and 9 Republicans, “To repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” Passed by HFAC 3/25 by a roll-call vote of 28-19; reported out of HFAC on 6/8 and placed on the Union Calendar.

(INCREASE CYPRUS-GREECE-ISRAEL-US ENGAGEMENT) S. 2000: Introduced 6/9 by Menendez (D-NJ) and Rubio (R-FL), “A bill to promote the United States-Greece defense partnership, and for other purposes.” The press release notes that among those “other purposes” is “fostering increased multilateral engagement among Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the United States” (Section 9 of the bill). Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

(DEFENDING FREE SPEECH*) S. Res. 264: Introduced 6/9 by Blackburn (R-TN) and 5 Republican co-sponsors, “A resolution recognizing the importance of protecting freedom of speech, thought, and expression.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. NOTE: While the examples offered in this resolution make clear that the objective is to highlight what the sponsors feel is an assault on right-wing free speech, the resolution articulates free speech principles in terms that are universal (which is great). These include whereas clauses stating: 

  • Whereas freedom of speech is one of the most basic values of the United States;
  • Whereas the ability of all people of the United States to speak, protest, and express their opinions publicly is central to the democratic process and to a free society;
  • Whereas the principles of the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression are under attack by people with the desire and means to suppress opinions that those people regard as offensive or contrary to prevailing dogmas;
  • Whereas efforts to stifle debate and silence dissenters are compounded by cancel culture, a movement to impose severe social and economic sanctions on those who express unpopular opinions;
  • Whereas the freedom of speech should not be dictated by the majority, nor should it be restricted to the freedom to discuss uncontroversial topics;
  • Whereas the freedom of speech includes the freedom to express views that are unpopular, controversial, and even offensive;
  • Whereas these attacks on the freedom of speech have resulted in a chilling effect on free expression and created fear of social, economic, and deadly retaliation;
  • Whereas the stifling of free expression and the resulting fear has exacerbated social tensions and divided the people of the United States…

[*Do the backers of this resolution apply these lofty free speech principles to free speech, freedom of protest, and freedom of expression when it comes to free speech/activism critical of Israel, settlements, or Zionism (it is not going out on a limb to guess that the answer is a resounding “no,” especially since some of the cosponsors are past cosponsors of legislation targeting free speech critical of Israel.]

Letters

(TARGETING JCPOA RE-ENTRY) Toomey letter to Yellen: On 6/10, Sen. Toomey (R-PA) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Yellen, saying he was “deeply concerned the Biden administration may soon rejoin the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and—to the grave detriment of the national security of the United States and our allies—provide Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, billions of dollars in sanctions relief.”  Toomey goes on to demand from the Biden Administration an extensive fishing list of documents, to be provided before any deal is reached (but no later than June 25, 2021), pertaining to the Administration’s assessments of the national security implications of easing Iran sanctions, and records “sufficient to demonstrate” [to whom?] the Biden Administration’s determination to enforce specific sanctions laws and to reach a “longer and stronger” agreement with Iran. Press release is here.

(FULLY FUND 2022 U.S.-ISRAEL MISSILE DEFENSE COOPERATION): Gillibrand/Rounds et al letter: On 6/10, Sens. Gillibrand (D-NJ) and Rounds (R-SD) led a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Appropriations Commitee’s Defense Subcommittee calling for the committee to provide $500 million to fully fund U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the FY22 Defense Appropriations bill. This letter – which has become an annual exercise in courageously staking out a position in support of something that is unquestionably going to happen anyway – was co-signed by 36 other senators (bipartisan).” Also see: Gillibrand press release (includes letter text); Rubio (R-FL) press release; Jewish Insider report.

(PAYMENT PLATFORMS DISCRIMINATING AGAINST PALESTINIANS) Pocan letter to Venmo cc’d to PayPal: On 6/8, Rep. Pocan (D-MI) sent a letter to Darell Esch, Venmo’s Senior Vice President and General Manager – with a cc to Dan Schulman, President and CEO of PayPal – “out of concern over reports alleging potential discriminatory security practices against person of Palestinian identity on your platform.” The letter requests answers to 3 questions, to be submitted by June 22, 2021: “1) What economic and trade sanction laws does Venmo believe require it to broadly block and scrutinize transactions with various references to the Palestinian identity? 2) What steps does Venmo take to ensure that its security measures do not discriminate against users by targeting transactions pertaining to Palestine and the Palestinain identity? 3) What measures does Venmo have in place to address claims of discrimination by its users?” Also see: Pocan tweet announcing the letter.

(NO REBUILDING DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH PALESTINIANS) Rubio et al letter to Biden: On 6/7, Sen. Rubio (R-FL) and 16 Senate colleagues (all Republican) sent a letter to President Biden urging against both opening a US consulate in Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians and against any re-opening of the PLO mission in Washington, suggesting (inaccurately) that either move would violate U.S. law. The letter equates rebuilding diplomatic relations with the PA and PLO with providing “rewards and incentives to the Palestinian leadership or Hamas for their abhorrent support of violence and terrorism, their efforts to press the ICC to illegitimately investigate Israel, and other efforts to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel.” The letter goes on to argue that “As long as the Palestinian Authority and Iranian-backed Hamas, or other Palestinian terrorist groups, are not held accountable for their actions [a strange phrase, given the far-reaching sanctions that exist with respect to Hamas and the far-reaching restrictions, conditions, limitations, and oversight imposed on every aspect of the US relationship with the PA and US engagement with Palestinians], the Palestinian people will continue to suffer and there will be no prospects for a long term and peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.” Also see: Press releases: Rubio; Lankford (R-OK); Ernst (R-IA); Free Beacon article (which reads like a press release in support of the letter); article in i24 News.

(RESTORE CROSSBORDER AID TO SYRIA) Bicameral/Bipartisan Foreign Affairs leaders letter to Blinken: On 6/7, Reps. Meeks (D-NY) and McCaul (R-TX), and Sens. Menendez (D-NJ) and Risch (R-ID) sent a letter to SecState Blinken “reaffirming their support for the Biden Administration’s push to restore life-saving humanitarian assistance to millions of innocent Syrians by facilitating its delivery outside of areas controlled by the murderous Assad regime, Join Biden Administration Push to Restore Cross-border Aid Deliveries in Syria” (per their press release). Also see: US Lawmakers Urge Blinken to Implement ‘Caesar Act’ Decisively (Ashaq Al-Awsat)

 

2. Targeting Ilhan Omar (again)

This week saw another round of vicious attacks against Rep. Omar (D-MN). Below is a comprehensive run-down of what happened and what members said/did.

**Omar Tweets About Exchange with Blinken**

The hook for these attacks was a tweet Omar published at 3:34pm (ET) on 6/7. That tweet linked to a video of her posing a question to SecState Blinken during a June 7th hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (see Section 3, below, for details of that hearing). In that exchange, Omar asked about US opposition to the ICC hearing cases related to war crimes and asking Blinken what mechanism there is, in light of this opposition, for victims of war crimes in these contexts to seek justice (a transcript of her full question, and Blinken’s – which was a combination of deflection and word salad – is here). Commenting on the video of her asking her question, Omar wrote:

We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.”

As anyone who follows matters related to the ICC knows, the countries and groups listed in Omar’s tweet correlate to the parties the ICC is seeking to investigate as part of two separate cases, both of which the U.S. is trying to kill. For those who are happy seeing the word “atrocities” applied to Hamas and the Taliban, but object to it being used to describe US or Israeli actions, here’s a reminder of the kind of things this might refer to in the Afghanistan context; for the Israel context, spend some time reading the Israeli press or poking around the website of the world-renowned Israeli human rights group Btselem.

**FoxNews et al, and GOP, Go on the Attack**

It took no time at all for some enterprising attack journalists to pounce on Omar’s tweet – mischaracterizing her words by erasing all context, and accusing Omar of equating the U.S. and Israel with terrorist organizations (see: Ilhan Omar says America, like Hamas and the Taliban, has committed ‘unthinkable atrocities’ (Fox News), as well as reports from outlets like the Washington Examiner and Free Beacon).

Predictably, congressional Republicans quickly jumped on the bandwagon, denouncing Omar for various sins (including alleged sympathy for terrorists and hatred of America) and in many cases arguing that unless Democrats censure their colleague, they share in her guilt. Examples: Womack (R-AR), Babin (R-TX), Foxx (R-NC), Gimenez (R-FL), Biggs (R-AZ), Mullin (R-OK), Buck (R-CO), Stefanik (R-NY), Mace (R-SC), Mast (R-FL), Mast – again (R-FL), Malliotakis (R-NY), Cotton (R-AR), Fischbach (R-MN), Green (R-TN), McHenry (R-NC).

**Democrats Pile On**

Equally predictably, it took only a little time for some Democrats to take the hurrah-another-pretext-to-bash-Omar bait, as previewed midday 6/9 by the JTA (Jewish Democratic lawmakers consider condemning Ilhan Omar for likening Hamas to Israel and US). Shortly thereafter,12 Jewish Democratic House members issued a statement that embraced/validated the FoxNews/GOP lynch mob narrative (further amplified in an even more poisonous statement from Sherman, D-CA, and another by Suozzi, D-NY, who denounced Omar and compared her to Rep. Taylor-Green, R-GA). The Jewish members’ statement read:

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided. Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice. The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the US and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”

**Omar Defends Herself, Clarifies Her Position, & Calls Out Her Critics**

Omar, responded on Twitter to the attack from Democratic colleagues, noting:

“It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for ‘clarification’ and not just call. The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.” 

Omar also issued a clarification – underscoring the self-evident intent/meaning of her words in the context in which they were delivered:

 “On Monday, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about ongoing International Criminal Court investigations. To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

Omar’s office also issued a statement [Rep. Omar Spokesperson Statement on Islamophobic Statement from Democratic Colleagues, Death Threats] pushing back on her attackers in the Democratic party, noting:

“In 2020, the International Criminal Court—the multilateral criminal justice organization that the United States helped found but has not joined—opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed by both the Taliban and the United States in Afghanistan, in addition to allegations in 2021 against Hamas and Israel during the 2014 Gaza conflict. President Donald Trump opposed this investigation and went as far as to sanction individual staff of the court—a blatant interference with the rule of law and international justice. Thankfully, President Biden repealed those sanctions, but has thus far opposed the investigations.  At a committee hearing on Monday, Rep. Omar thanked Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for the Administration’s decision to repeal the sanctions and asked about justice mechanisms for victims of war crimes outside the criminal court. As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation. This has already led to an increase in death threats against her and our staff. And now some of her own Democratic colleagues are ginning up the same Islamophobic hate against her, accusing her of giving ‘cover to terrorist groups’ simply for exercising oversight over a criminal investigation. It is Rep. Omar’s role as a Member of Congress conducting federal oversight to follow the facts, ask questions of the Administration and work to make sure the public understands our government shouldn’t deny any person from seeking justice.”

**AIPAC Ups the Ante**

As this was all going on, AIPAC took to Twitter to applaud members who denounced Omar – escalating the accusations against Omar to characterize her tweet as “an assault on democracy” (I kid you not).

**House Democratic Leadership Weighs In**

Shortly thereafter, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and House Democratic leaders issued a statement that (regardless of intent) was widely seem as both validating the attacks on Omar and as treating her clarification as both an admission of fault and a walking back of the allegedly offensive words (a framing echoed by which some signers of the Jewish members’ letter and by Stevens, D-MI).

**Republicans Double Down**

Unsurprisingly, the Jewish members’ statement and the House leadership statement encouraged more attacks from Republicans, both on Omar and on Democrats in general (for failing to adequately censure Omar). E.g. – McCarthy (R-CA), McCaul (R-TX), House Republican Conference, Cheney (R-WY), Issa (R-CA), Stefanick (R-NY), Bost (R-IL), Kim (R-CA), McClain (R-MI), Scott (R-FL, who for extra credit agued that failure of Democrats to censure Omar is “approval of anti-Semitism” – apparently based on the widely-promoted logic that any criticism of/alleged insult against Israel is ipso facto a form of violence/hatred against Jews and Judaism].

**Omar’s Defenders**

Some Democrats (shockingly few) demonstrated backbone/principles and defended Omar:

  • House Progressive Caucus statement – “Rep. Omar is a deeply valued member of the Progressive Caucus. Her voice is critical and necessary, both in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Democratic Caucus as a whole. We cannot ignore a right-wing media echo chamber that has deliberately and routinely attacked a Black, Muslim woman in Congress, distorting her views and intentions, and resulting in threats against Rep. Omar and her staff. We urge our colleagues not to abet or amplify such divisive and bad-faith tactics. Members of the Democratic Caucus owe it to each other to pause, reflect, and engage directly with each other when misunderstandings arise, and stand together against cynical attempts to divide our caucus.
  • Ocasio-Cortez (D-MN) tweet – “Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus. They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.” Also see: AOC rips into fellow Democrats for taking Ilhan Omar’s comments on the US and Israel’s potential war crimes out of context (BusinessInsider)
  • Bush (D-MO) tweet – “Stop attacking @IlhanMN. Stop attacking us. I’m not surprised when Republicans attack Black women for standing up for human rights. But when it’s Democrats, it’s especially hurtful. We’re your colleagues. Talk to us directly. Enough with the anti-Blackness and Islamophobia”.
  • Pressley (D-MA) tweet – “Stop the bad faith attempts to take @IlhanMN’s words out of context. She called a simple question.The ICC exists to investigate and exact recourse when human rights are violated. Imagine if Congress was as outraged by what Palestinians endure daily.”
  • Tlaib (D-MI) tweet – “Freedom of speech doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.”
  • Bowman (D-NY) tweet – “When a woman, person of color or Muslim speaks out against injustice, backlash ensues. When @IlhanMN speaks out, the vitriol is compounded by her being all three. As Democrats, we must recognize the biases that fuel personal attacks and defend our colleagues.
  • Tlaid (D-MI) tweet – “Freedom of speech doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn’t exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.”
  • Jayapal (D-WA) tweet – “Instead of taking on @Ilhan, lawmakers should focus on injustice, human rights abuses, and acts of violence being committed at home and abroad. Furthering peace and diplomacy requires speaking out on complex issues, which Congresswoman Omar consistently does with great courage.”
  • Garcia (D-IL) tweet – I stand with my friend and colleague @Ilhan. Instead of mischaracterizing her comments about the ICC, I invite my colleagues to focus on the work we must do to ensure human rights and dignity are protected—abroad and at home.
  • MCollum (D-MN) reportedly issued this statement as well (not posted on her website or Twitter account)

**The drama continues**

In the wake of Omar’s clarification, the two House Democrats’ statements censuring her, and AIPAC’s clear signal that it is open season to go after Omar, Republicans are — unsurprisingly — upping the ante, demanding that Omar be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee . E.g.: DesJarlais (R-TN,  Tenney (R-NY), Jackson (R-TX, who tweeted “A few Democrats are now acknowledging what Republicans have said all along — Ilhan Omar is a race-baiting anti-Semite.”), Diaz-Balart (R-FL – who approvingly tweeted the Jewish members’ statement as he demanded that Omar be removed from ALL committees), Zeldin (R-NY – who also approvingly tweeted the Jewish members’ statement, demanded Omar be removed from HFAC saying, “She should have never been appointed to this Committee in the first place”)

**Selections from the Media Feeding Frenzy**

Jewish House Dems slam Omar’s comments equating U.S., Israel to Hamas, Taliban; (Jewish Insider)

Jewish Democratic lawmakers may condemn Ilhan Omar for likening Hamas to Israel and US (Jerusalem Post)

Jewish Democrats confront Ilhan Omar for giving ‘cover to terrorist groups’ (Washington Examiner)

Jewwish House Dems condemn Omar war crimes comments (Arutz Sheva)

Rep. Omar says she wasn’t equating US, Israel and terrorists (Breitbart)

Outcry as Muslim American lawmaker equates US and Israel with Taliban  (Breitbart)

Jewish Democrats slam Omar for remarks equating Israel and US to Hamas and Taliban (Jewish News Syndicate)

Ilhan Omar clarifies remarks on Hamas, US and Israel, but not before condemning Jewish lawmakers’ demand for a clarification (JTA)

**Other reports/analysis/commentary of Interest, Lost in Insanity** 

Israel and Iran attack Rep. Omar for the same comments [“Maybe the congresswoman is the key to bringing peace between Iran and Israel. She’s bringing them together in ways no one has before.”] (Responsible Statecraft)

Ilhan Omar Is Right: No One Should Be Trusted to Investigate Their Own War Conduct (Newseek)

Democrats’ attacks on Ilhan Omar are embarrassing for everyone (MIC)

More Bad Faith Attacks On Ilhan Omar (Cutting Through)

Blinken grilled for maintaining Trump’s sanctions on war crimes court (Responsible Statecraft)

Congress loves to work together when attacking Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (The Black Wall Street Times)

 

3. Hearings & Markups

June 23: June 16: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing entitled,COVID-19 in the MENA Region: Addressing the Impacts of the Pandemic and the Road to Recovery. No further details are available as of this writing.

June 17: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, A Review of the FY 2022 Department of Defense Budget Request.

June 16: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, The Biden Administration’s Priorities for Engagement with the United Nations. No further details are available as of this writing.

June 16: The House Appropriations Committee’s SFOPS subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled, The Biden Administration’s Priorities for Engagement with the United Nations. No details are given at this time but presumably the witness will be Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations.

June 16: The House Committee on Financial Services’s Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy will hold a virtual hearing entitled, Schemes and Subversion: How Bad Actors and Foreign Governments Undermine and Evade Sanctions Regimes. No further details are available as of this writing.

June 10: The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces held a hearing entitled, FY22 Budget Request for Nuclear Forces and Atomic Energy Defense Activities. Witnesses were: Melissa Dalton, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities (testimony – includes section on Iran); Charlie Verdon, Acting Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration (testimony); Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe , Director, Strategic Systems Programs, US Navy (testimony); and Lt Gen James Dawkins, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, US Air Force (testimony). Video is here.

June 9: The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing entitled, Missile defense strategy, policies, and programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program. Witnesses were: Vice Admiral Jon Hill, Director Missile Defense Agency (statement); Lieutenant General Daniel Karbler, Commander US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (statement); General Glen VanHerck, Commander United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (statement); Ms. Leonor Tomero, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy (statement); Mr. Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow Nuclear Policy Program Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (statement); and Dr. Robert Soofer, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy (statement). Video is here.

June 8: The House Appropriations Committee’s SFOPS subcommittee was scheduled to hold a hearing entitled, United Nations (UN) FY22 Budget Request. The sole scheduled witness was to be Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the United Nations. POSTPONED (no new date specified as yet, but given that HFAC is holding a hearing on this same topic on 6/16, it is a good bet the HAC hearing will be rescheduled to align with that hearing).

June 7 & 8: Blinken on the Hill: On June 7 and 8 SecState Blinken appeared in back-to-back hearings in the House ( Foreign Affairs Committee and Appropriations) and in the Senate (Foreign Relations Committee and Appropriations Committee). An extraordinary amount of the Q&A in the hearings focused on issues related to Israel (largely posturing and seeking to elicit positions from the Biden Admin). It is well worth watching/listening to the whole hearing both to understand the tenor of these issues on the Hill and for a solid sense of the Biden Administration’s talking points. Also see:

Blinken’s written statement: here (barely 2.5 pages – text submitted for all 4 hearings is identical except for intros)

Video: HFAC (3.5 hours), HAC (2 hours), SFRC (2 hours), SAC (nearly 3 hours)

Media coverage: 

Members’ statements & press releases: 

“Mr. Secretary, the recent outbreak of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians was, and is, deeply concerning. Thank you for your work in achieving the ceasefire. The last four years have been extremely difficult ones for the Palestinian people. The previous administration’s cruel and irresponsible policy resulted in closed diplomatic missions, the suspension of humanitarian and development aid, and unprecedented levels of mistrust and resentment toward American involvement in the Middle East amongst the Palestinian people – let alone further setting back the cause of a two state solution. I appreciate the President’s commitment to restarting our assistance to the Palestinians and to ‘advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians in tangible ways’. The fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021 enacted SFOPS bills included funds for humanitarian and development programs in the West Bank and Gaza, which were passed without controversy or partisan debate. I am pleased your fiscal year 2022 request proposes $218 million for such assistance, although I believe we can, and should, do more.”

June 7: The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” The sole witness was FBI Director Wray (statement). In his statement Wray talks about Iran; video is here.

4. On the Record

Members On The Record

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/11: Tweet – “Great to meet with members of @AIPAC National Council from NJ to discuss key issues including my bipartisan bill, the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act, the need to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense, and efforts to expand Israel’s normalization.” & “Proud of our work together to strengthen the historic, bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Diaz-Ballart (R-FL) 6/11: Tweet – “After Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hamas launched thousands of rockets against #Israel & at the same time that the terrorist state of Iran is sending warships to prop up Maduro, the Biden Admin has already begun its appeasement policy of unilateral concessions to bolster the mullahs.”

Kustoff (R-TN) 6/10: Tweet – “Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East & we must continue to strengthen the relationship between our two countries. Thank you to @AIPAC National Council Members Pace Cooper of Shelby Co & Jason Reitberger for discussing ways Congress can come together to support Israel.

Risch (R-ID) 6/10: Tweet – “Earlier this year, I led 20 colleagues in warning @SecBlinken about funding #UNRWA without reforms. Now, an EU report proves that UNRWA continues to use textbooks that encourage violence against #Israel & promote anti-Semitic messages.”

Mast (R-FL) 6/9: Tweet – “The Biden Administration is sending your taxpayer dollars to a government funding terrorism. This is against U.S. law, and it cannot be allowed to continue!” Linked to article, Palestinian Government Pays $42,000 to Family of Terrorist Who Killed Israelis (Free Beacon)

Grothman (R-WI) 6/9: Tweet – I had a productive meeting with @AIPAC to discuss the importance of our continued support for our ally Israel.”

Rubio (R-FL) 6/9: Tweet – “Senator Rubio met with Prince @PahlaviReza to discuss U.S. policy towards #Iran as well as the ongoing and egregious human rights violations committed by the regime in Tehran.

Garabino (R-NY) 6/9: Tweet – I recently met w/ @AIPAC to discuss the vital US-Israel relationship & expressed support for efforts to expand upon the Abraham Accords, to provide Israel funding for security assistance & to tighten sanctions on Hamas terrorists. I will continue to stand by our ally.

Tenney (R-NY) 6/9: Tweet – “Iran lied for years about its nuclear program – even under the JCPOA. The latest @IAEA report confirms Iran is enriching at 60% and is closer to a bomb. The JCPOA failed to permanently stop Iran’s path to a weapon. That’s why we need a new, stronger deal.” Linked to article, Satellite images of Iran nuclear site raise alarms as IAEA meets in Vienna (Fox News)

Cruz (R-TX) 6/9: Tweet – “The Biden administration’s most serious foreign policy blunders: – Undermining our friend and ally Israel – Sending millions to the Palestinian Authority – Waiving #NordStream2 sanctions”

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/9: Tweet – “I was thrilled to join so many from across North Jersey in Teaneck in an incredible show of support for Israel, the democracy in the region, and a vital ally that is key to America’s national security. North Jersey is proud to stand with Israel!” Linked to article, A demonstration of unity in Teaneck, amid an uptick of antisemitic attacks (NorthJersey.com)

Risch (R-ID) 6/8: Tweet – “Congratulations to our close ally #Israel on being elected to the @UNECOSOC for the first time. I’m glad countries around the world recognize the contributions Israel has made in the fields of innovation and creativity.

Hagerty (R-TN) 6/8: Tweet – “Israel’s Iron Dome defense saved not only Israeli lives, but Palestinian lives. The small, very vocal minority in the Democrat Party may make a lot of noise, but the American public and Tennesseans stand with Israel. Watch my conversation last week with  @HarrisFaulkner.

Miller-Meeks (R-IA) 6/8: Tweet – “I had the chance to meet with @AIPAC today. We discussed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and what we can do to continue to support them. #IA02”

Hill (R-AR) 6/8: Tweets – “Iran is the biggest impediment to peace in Israel and across the Middle East. Rejoining the failed nuclear deal with the Iranian mullahs who violate agreements would be foolish @POTUS” and “It doesn’t come as a surprise that Iran is blatantly ignoring nuclear inspectors and, once again, cheating nuclear production agreements.” Linked to article,  Nuclear watchdog says Iran drags feet (Arkansas Online)

Fischer (R-NE) 6/8: Tweet – “After the recent attacks against Israel, it is very concerning to hear the Biden admin is working to reopen the Mission of the #PLO & the U.S. consulate general. This is not the time to reward the Palestinian leadership.” Linked to article, Reopening Palestinian Missions Would Violate Law, Senators Say (Free Beacon)

Cruz (R-TX) 6/7: Tweet – “Peace was flowering in the Middle East but that changed once Joe Biden decided to: Undermine our ally Israel, Send millions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority, Promise billions of dollars to the Ayatollah Khamenei”. Linked to Fox News interview.

Tenney (R-NY) 6/7: Tweet – “We cannot allow Iran to target Americans in Iraq without cost or consequence. This approach only invites greater instability & fuels even more terrorism. President Biden must approach the regime in Iran with strength and resolve.” Linked to article, Iran’s Proxies in Iraq Threaten U.S. With More Sophisticated Weapons (New York Times)

Hagerty (R-TN) 6/7: Tweet – “At the root of all of this is the Biden administration’s stated movement back toward the flawed Iran deal that will put millions of dollars back in the hands of Iran and embolden our enemies.” Linked to article, Hagerty: Biden Admin Awarding Hamas with U.S. Taxpayer Dollars (Free Beacon)

Cruz (R-TX) 6/7: Tweet – “This is who Joe Biden has sent $250m to—a corrupt govt that pays REWARDS to terrorists for killing innocents. The 2 murdered men together had EIGHT children. What would Biden say to these 8 children? Why are US tax $$ rewarding their fathers’ murderer?” Linked to article, Palestinian Authority pays $42,000 to family of terrorist who killed 2 Israelis (Times of Israel)

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/6: Tweet – “Proud to join the Bergen County Unite for Israel Parade in Teaneck to show North Jersey’s strong support for our historic ally Israel!

Bacon (R-NE) 6/5: Tweet – “I support the U.S. military partnership with Israel and helped make it stronger when I was in uniform. We worked closely with #Israel to develop the #IronDome defense system and we must continue to stand with Israel to ensure its security. #StandWithIsrael” Linked to article, Bipartisan House lawmakers urge US to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system (Fox News)

Hagerty (R-TN) 6/5: Tweet – “The far-left’s anti-Israel sentiment–which is not the heart and mind of the American people–is why it was all the more important that I go and show Israel that America stands unequivocally behind them in unwavering support.” Linked to Fox News interview.

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/5: Tweet – “Pleased to see that @POTUS supports the critical move to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome. My colleagues and I will continue to speak up & express our unwavering support for our key ally.” Linked to article, Biden administration supports replenishing Iron Dome after Gaza conflict (JTA)

McCarthy (R-CA) 6/5: Tweet – “Rewarding people NOT to work, Emboldening our adversaries in Russia and Iran, Eliminating tens of thousands of good-paying energy jobs with the stroke of a pen. This is President Biden’s record, and it’s only been 5 months.”

Cruz (R-TX) 6/5: Tweet – “Israel has the absolute right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens. The United States will continue to stand unequivocally with Israel.”

Hagerty (R-TN) 6/4: Tweet – “When Hamas launched 4,000 rockets into Israel, the Iron Dome defense mechanism saved not only Israeli lives, but Palestinian lives. We can’t listen to the small, vocal minority in the Democrat party. The U.S. must continue to stand with Israel and replenish its defenses.” Linked to Fox News interview.

Gottheimer (D-NJ) 6/4: Tweet – “The United States must remain clear eyed about the threats Israel faces and ensure that Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor stockpile never depletes. The stakes are too high to disregard this urgent need for our ally.” Linked to article, Bipartisan House group to express support for supplemental aid to Israel (Jewish Insider)

Rogers (R-AL) 6/4: Tweet – “Completely agree with @coachbrucepearl. Israel has the absolute right to defend itself against Hamas and other terrorists.” Linked to tweet from Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Auburn University (linked to Free Beacon article): “Hamas and Iran’s leadership hate us! They do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Two million plus Israeli Arabs, counties like Egypt, Jordan, UAE and Abraham Accords nations do! Let’s support our ally’s who want peace and defund our enemies!”

Media & Other Reports

Jewish Insider 6/11: Ben Ray Luján affirms support for Israel amid mounting Democratic tensions

Israeli Ambassador to US 6/10: Tweet – “I had an important meeting with @SenatorMenendez , Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We discussed Israel’s security challenges and strengthening the alliance between our two countries. Senator, thank you for your friendship & support!

J Street 6/10: How Right-Wing Lawmakers are Delaying $75 million Aid to Palestinians

Times of Israel 6/9: ‘Obama 2.0’: Israel pleased with Biden handling of Gaza war, but alarmed by Dems

Haaretz 6/9: Basking in the Spotlight on Israel, GOP Hopefuls Storm the Holy Land

Jewish Insider 6/9: For GOP hopefuls, Israel is the new Iowa

The Daily Signal 6/8: Sen. Ted Cruz Shares Firsthand Observations of Israel-Hamas Situation

Jewish News Syndicate 6/8: Pro-Israel America announces 30 bipartisan congressional endorsements for 2022

Jewish Insider 6/8: Senate antisemitism task force relaunches with 56 members [“In a statement on the caucus’ relaunch, Rosen highlighted the recent surge in global antisemitism in the wake of the conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza.”]

The National Interest (FDD): Why Cutting off Aid to Hamas Is Insufficient [targeting UNRWA]

The Hill 6/8 (JINSA): Pledges to restore Israel’s defenses must go beyond the Iron Dome [calling for provision of PGMs to Israel]

The Daily Signal 6/8: Sen. Ted Cruz Shares Firsthand Observations of Israel-Hamas Situation

Fox News  6/7:  Ilhan Omar says America, like Hamas and the Taliban, has committed ‘unthinkable atrocities’

Haaretz 6/7: How a West Bank Trip Turned This Congressman Into One of Israel’s Strongest Critics

Jewish Insider 6/7: Reps. Bacon, Luria debate GOP procedural moves linked to Israel attack ads

Free Beacon 6/3: Hagerty: Biden Admin Awarding Hamas with U.S. Taxpayer Dollars