Legislative Round-Up: August 12, 2021

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

2. On the Record

Of special note: Americans Split on Military Aid to Israel, Say Political Status Quo Unacceptable (Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

 

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(HIZBALLAH SANCTIONS – LATAM EDITION) ​​HR 5039: Introduced 8/13 by Wilson (R-SC) and 2 cosponsors (bipartisan), the “Hizballah in Latin America Accountability Act of 2021,” aka, “To impose certain measures with respect to Hizballah-affected areas in Latin America and the Caribbean and to impose sanctions with respect to senior foreign political figures in Latin America who support Hizballah, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, and the Judiciary. Wilson press release is here.

Letters

(TARGETING BEN & JERRY’S) Scott letter to Secretary of Commerce: On 8/17, Sen. Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo requesting that the Commerce Department’s Office of Antiboycott Compliance launch an investigation into whether Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are in violation of the Export Administration Act (EAA)  for Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop distributing its products in settlements. This letter is an act of shameless alt-fact grandstanding that brazenly misrepresents both the policy adopted by Ben & Jerry’s and US anti-boycott law:

  • The letter factually misrepresents the decision of Ben & Jerry’s to cease distribution in settlements as a boycott of Israel (Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever have both made clear they are not boycotting Israel).
  • The letter factually misrepresents US law, asserting that Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are “in violation of statute” for Ben & Jerry’s principled, independent decision to cease distribution in settlements (they are not).
  • In point of fact, and irrespective of any debate around the use of the term “boycott” with respect to the Ben & Jerry’s policy, the EAA (the relevant section of which is here) has – literally – no bearing on the matter.
  • As a reminder, the EAA was adopted to prevent countries participating in the Arab League boycott of Israel from coercing US companies into also boycotting Israel (by making it a condition for doing business with said country). With this in mind, the EAA bars U.S. companies from complying with “any boycott fostered or imposed by a foreign country against a country which is friendly to the United States and which is not itself the object of any form of boycott pursuant to United States law or regulation,” or refusing to do business “pursuant to an agreement with, a requirement of, or a request from or on behalf of the boycotting country.
  • To be clear: the EAA in no way prevents (or even addresses) a decision by a US company — acting as an expression of its own values/principles and acting independently of coercion from any outside country — to refrain from business with any territory or nation. And to be clear: this is the case with Ben & Jerry’s, which has made clear that its decision reflects, solely, its own values. Indeed, even opponents of the policy have not suggested that Ben & Jerry’s is acting to comply with another country’s boycott (of Israel or of settlements).
  • And to be clear: weaponizing the EAA by reinterpreting (or seeking to amend it) to target US companies for their independent, freely-taken expressions of values/principles would be a textbook violation of the 1st Amendment. This is precisely the reason past efforts in Congress to amend the EAA to target differentiation between Israel and settlements, in the form of the deceptively-named “Israel Anti-Boycott Act”, are opposed by the ACLU and have repeatedly failed.
  • Also see: Florida senator urges Commerce Department to investigate Ben & Jerry’s over Israel boycott (Jewish News Syndicate); Scott’s press release & Tweet

(HUMANITARIAN ACCESS FOR GAZA) Pocan-Dingell et al letter to Blinken: On 8/19, Reps. Pocan (D-WI) and Dingell (D-MI) led a letter, co-signed by a total of 53 House members, calling on SecState Blinken to take action to reopen border crossings in Gaza to allow humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials to reach those in need. Press release is here. Also see Tweets from: Pocan (D-WI), Pocan, Newman (D-IL), and Dingell (D-MI)

(HELP LEBANON/LEBANESE) Dingell et al letter to Blinken: On 8/19, Dingell (D-MI), Crist (D-FL), Issa (R-CA), and LaHood (R-IL) — Co-Chairs of the U.S.-Lebanon Friendship Caucus — led a letter to SecState Blinken and USAID Administrator Power calling for action to address the deteriorating economic and political situation in Lebanon. Press release is here.

(DON’T DEPORT LEBANESE) On 8/23, Al Jazeera reported that Reps. Tlaibe (D-MI) and Dingell (D-MI) “are circulating a letter in Congress, urging the Biden administration “to shield Lebanese people in the United States from deportation on humanitarian grounds given the multifaceted crises unfolding in the Middle Eastern country.” According to the article, the letter “calls for designating Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).”

 

2. On the Record

Mr. Bennett Comes to Washington

McConnell (R-KY) 8/26: Tweet – Good conversation with @IsraeliPM Bennett last night. We discussed shared challenges: Global terrorism, Iran’s dangerous aspirations, anti-Semitism & BDS. Reaffirmed my support for deeper strategic partnership and preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge & freedom of action.

Middle East Monitor 8/26: We will work with the Congress to provide $1bn to Iron Dome , US official says

Times of Israel 8/25: Bennett to US congressmen: Preventing a nuclear Iran is America’s interest

i24 News 8/24: Bennett warns US lawmakers against return to JCPOA ahead of trip

Palestinian Authority Repression of Protest

Arutz Sheva 8/26: Squad Congresswoman persona non grata in Palestinian Authority

Middle East Eye 8/25: Progressive Democrats slam Palestinian Authority over crackdown on protesters

Times of Israel 8/25: Progressive Democrats tear into Palestinians over crackdown on critics

Haaretz 8/25: Progressive Democrats Slam Palestinian Authority for Human Rights Abuses After Protesters’ Arrests

Pocan (D-WI) 8/23: Tweet – “The Palestinian Authority must stop committing human rights abuses and respect the freedom of speech of all Palestinians. Arresting peaceful human rights defenders is never OK. Full stop.” Linked to article, The Palestinian Authority Is Quashing Legal Protests – Again (Haaretz); Re-tweeted by Rep. Garcia (D-IL)

[NOTE: all the tweets below are linked to a tweet from Avaaz  “BREAKING: Avaaz Campaign Director Fadi Quran is among 28 human rights defenders that have been arrested by the Palestinian Authority in a crackdown on peaceful protest. Read more: https://bit.ly/3gJ78iH; also, note that some articles reference a statement by Murphy (D-CT) — which I can’t seem to find anywhere].

Tlaib (D-MI) 8/23: Tweet – “Palestinians face enough danger and oppression without their own government imprisoning them simply for peacefully protesting police brutality. I stand with @Avaaz and others calling for the #PalestinianAuthority to free @fadiquran and other #humanrights activists immediately.”

Bush (D-MO) 8/23: Tweet – “Shame on the Palestinian Authority. Suppressing dissent and criminalizing protest only deepens the violence of Israel’s apartheid system. We stand with Palestinians against the violence of the Palestinian Authority’s authoritarianism. Freedom for political prisoners now.

Schakowsky (D-IL) 8/23: Tweet – “The #PalestinianAuthority must release human rights activist @Fadiquran and his colleagues immediately!

Omar (D-MN) 8/23: Tweet – “Locking up peaceful protesters is a textbook human rights abuse and the hallmark of authoritarian regimes. I urge the Palestinian authority to release these political prisoners and conduct a thorough transparent investigation into Nizar Banat’s killing.”

Egypt

Pocan (D-WI) 8/22: Tweet – “Egypt should reverse this unproductive & ultimately harmful decision. Isolating Gaza won’t lead to lasting peace. I sent a letter w/ 52 of my colleagues urging @SecBlinken to work w/ his counterparts to ensure aid gets into Gaza through Israel & Egypt.” Linked to article, Egypt closes Rafah border crossing to Gaza after Israel-Hamas escalation (Jerusalem Post)

Gosar (R-AZ) 8/14: Tweet – “Gosar Minute For too long, Coptic Christians living in Egypt have been assaulted and even murdered solely for their Christian faith. This is unacceptable. Recently, I co-sponsored H. Res. 117, a bipartisan resolution supporting Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Bilirakis (R-FL) 8/13: Tweets – “The strategic security relationship between the United States & Egypt plays a leading role in counterterrorism, regional security, and efforts to combat the spread of extremism. Next month, U.S. forces will participate with Egyptian armed forces in a joint training exercise.” And “Recently, Egypt helped negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, preventing a wider conflict in the Middle East.”

Issa (R-CA) 8/13: Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record – “Bringing Attention to the Israel-Gaza Ceasefire” [CNN op-ed by Egyptian Ambassador to the US, Let This Be the Last Israel-Gaza Ceasefire]

Barr (R-KY) 8/13: Tweet – “The United States and Egypt have a longstanding relationship going back over 40 years. Our partnership fosters peace and stability in the region, ranging from Red Sea to Suez Canal to Sinai security.” And “I am glad to see the United States and Egyptian navies working together in order to keep our international waters secure, especially at a time when shipping vessels face increasing security challenges.

Iran

Tenney (R-NY) 8/23: Tweet – “I’m committed to holding the regime in #Iran accountable. I want to assure Iranians that while the Biden Administration may not be up to this challenge, Republicans in Congress are very much in the fight.” Linked to article, EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Claudia Tenney to Oppressed Iranians: GOP Won’t Allow Biden Administration to Sell You Out (Breitbart)

McClain (R-MI) 8/20: Tweet – “#China, #Iran and #Russia are wasting no time advancing their own interests by seizing on President Biden’s massive failures. America is worse off, not back!”

Blackburn (R-TN) 8/18: Tweet – “Back in May, I questioned Secretary David Helvey on China and Iran’s potential involvement in a post U.S.-occupied Afghanistan. Today, it’s clear: the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is our loss and China and Iran’s gain.”

Deutch (D-FL) 8/18: Tweet – “Iran has blown through its JCPOA commitment and increased its level of uranium enrichment near weapons-grade. Iran’s new leader continues to refuse diplomatic negotiations. This is a dangerous escalation by Iran.” Linked to article, Iran accelerates enrichment of uranium to near weapons-grade, IAEA says (Reuters)

Blackburn (R-TN) 8/17: Tweet – “Biden’s weak decisions have propelled China, Russia, and Iran to work directly with the Taliban while the U.S. practices strategic patience. Shameful.” Linked to article, Taliban Conquest of Afghanistan Scrambles the Diplomatic Map  (Wall Street Journal)

Cramer (R-ND) 8/16: Tweet – “Nord Stream 2. Inflation. Southern border crisis. Economic ruin for US oil & gas. Weak responses to Iran and China. Now the Taliban takes Afghanistan. So much for ‘the adults are back in charge’ under President Biden.” Linked to Cramer press release, Sen. Cramer Statement on Afghanistan: President Biden is Responsible

Tenney (R-NY) 8/15: Tweet – “Under President Biden, the United States is now basically arming the terrorist regime in Iran. This is just one of the many dangerous consequences of Biden’s disastrous #Afghanistan policy.”

Scott (R-FL) 8/15: Tweet – “Iran President Ebrahim Raisi has made clear he is not only anti-America and anti-freedom, but a strong supporter of terrorism. It’s shocking & dangerous that the Biden administration would even think to return to the failed Iran nuclear deal.” Linked to article, Iran’s Raisi taps minister wanted for role in Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing (Times of Israel)

Steil (R-WI) 8/13: Tweet – “Sanctions are needed to end Iran’s ability to fund terrorism and develop a nuclear weapon. The Biden Administration is moving in the wrong direction. Read more from my Op-Ed in @Newsweek”. Linked to Steil op-ed in Newsweek – Biden is Giving Up Powerful U.S. Financial Sanctions on Iran

Murphy (D-CT) 8/13: Press release – US should rejoin Iran deal, decrease ‘militaristic footprint’ in Middle East, says senator

Abraham Accords

Roy (R-TX) 8/13: Tweets – “Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the Trump administration’s historic Abraham Accords. Signed by Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, they showed the world the possibility of a new era of peace — something once thought impossible. (1/2)” and “This historical advancement in Middle East peace was made possible by President Trump’s unequivocal pro-Israel policies, and it serves as an important reminder of the prosperity possible through robust U.S. support of our great friend & ally, the State of Israel. (2/2)

Lamborn (R-CO) 8/13: Tweet – “One year ago, the historic Abraham Accords were announced, normalizing the relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It is becoming increasingly clear, peace through strength works, and Donald Trump was the peace president. #AbrahamAccords

Deutch (D-FL) 8/14: Tweet – “Yesterday marked one year since the historic announcement of normalization between Israel and the UAE! I am proud to see how ties have progressed this past year, and look forward to the forging of new relationships in the future.

Tenney (R-NY) 8/13: Tweet – “One year ago today, the United States brokered an historic peace agreement between Israel and the UAE! Today that peace continues to flourish across the region, showing exactly what happens when America leads boldly. Congratulations to Israel and the UAE!”

Lamborn (R-CO) 8/13: Tweet – “One year ago, the historic Abraham Accords were announced, normalizing the relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It is becoming increasingly clear, peace through strength works, and Donald Trump was the peace president. #AbrahamAccords

Recess Meetings

Garbarino (R-NY) 8/26: Tweet – Held a productive meeting with @AIPAC leadership and members of the pro-Israel community on Long Island this week. I promise to always stand with our friend and ally Israel and look forward to working together to continue to strengthen our partnership with the Jewish State.

Latta (R-OH) 8/24: Tweet – “Recently, I sat down with members of @JewishToledo. We discussed security at places of worship and the rise of anti-Semitic violence. We also talked about rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas in May. It’s critical we stand with Israel in the face of these threats.

Katko (R-NY) 8/23: Tweet – “Great discussion with @AIPAC members in Syracuse. Israel continues to be our strongest ally in the Middle East. A strong US-Israeli partnership is vital to preserving our mutual defense & shared values.” Also see tweet from AIPAC official – “Deep dive into US-Israel policy with @RepJohnKatko and the @AIPAC leadership here in #Syracuse discussing security assistance, Iran and expanding the #AbrahamAccords.”

Thompson (D-CA) 8/21: Tweet – “Good to meet with San Francisco Bay Area representatives of @jstreetdotorg to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict and the importance of finding a diplomatic solution for a sustainable peace between the countries.”

Cheney (R-WY) 8/20: Tweet – “The need for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is always important — regardless of which party is in power. It was wonderful to be back with Joan Goldfarb & other local AIPAC members at the Jackson Hole Jewish Community Center last week. Thank you all for the work you do!”

Tunisia

Cardin (D-MD) 8/24: Tweet – “Alarmed by the news that Pres. Kais Saied of Tunisia today extended the suspension of parliament until further notice. I urge Mr. Saied to adhere to the principles of democracy and a swift return to Tunisia’s parliamentary democracy.” Linked to article, Tunisia’s President Kais Saied extends suspension of parliament (Al Jazeera)

Murphy (D-CT) 8/24: Murphy Statement on Tunisian President’s Extension of State of Emergency

Yemen

Espaillat (D-NY) 8/13: Tweet – “The people of Yemen desperately need humanitarian assistance and relief. In the face of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, ensuring access through the Sana’a airport will help to provide access to health care and food for thousands.” Linked to Norwegian Refugee Council analysis, Five reasons why Yemen’s Sana’a airport must reopen

Other stuff

Jewish Insider 8/27: Bernie Moreno’s sales pitch [“To me, somebody who’s a serious candidate for the United States Senate who has not visited Israel is a disqualifying factor for that person. I can’t even imagine you having the audacity to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to represent Ohio in the United States Senate, I haven’t even taken the time in my life to ever visit our most important ally in the Middle East.’ To me that’s totally disqualifying.”]

Haaretz 8/26: Why Israel’s Best Friend in Congress Doesn’t Think His Party Has an ‘Israel Problem’

Jewish Insider 8/26: Pro-Israel America announces new round of congressional endorsements

The MediaLine 8/24: Man Who Took Iron Dome Out of Dustbin Running for Congress

Jewish Insider 8/19:     Morgan Harper’s entry into Ohio Senate race shakes up Democratic primary

Mondoweiss 8/19: The dangerous targeting of Rashida Tlaib over an absurd accusation of antisemitic ‘dogwhistling’

Times of Israel 8/13: Ilhan Omar’s spokesman says AIPAC ‘putting her life at risk’ with latest ads

Al Monitor 8/13: AIPAC doubles down on ad about US Rep. Omar

Jewish News Syndicate (EMET) 8/13: Time for senators to pick a side [in support of treating settlements as part of Israel]