Legislative Round-Up: October 29, 2021

1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters
2. The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)
3. Hearings & Markups
4. On the Record

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

Special note: On October 22, 2021, the Israeli government declared six Palestinian human rights groups to be “terror organizations” – a designation that effectively outlaws the groups, criminalizes their work under Israeli law and enables Israel to seize assets, arrest staff, prohibit funding, and punish public expressions of support and solidarity. With this terror designation, the Israeli government has escalated its longtime efforts to crush Palestinian organizations that document Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights and seek to hold Israel accountable. FMEP is proud to present a compendium of resources on this issue (which we are adding to every day).

New additions this week:

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

(SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN NGOS) H. Res. 751: Introduced 10/28 by McCollum (D-MN) and 9 cosponsors (all Democrats), “Condemning the repressive designation by the Government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations, and for other purposes.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

  • Original cosponsors: Bush (D-MO), Carson (D-IN), Garcia (D-IL), Grijalva (D-AZ), Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Omar (D-MN), Newman (D-IL), Pressley (D-MA), Tlaib (D-MI). Also see:
  • McCollum press release, Tweet;
  • Progressive Democrats Push Resolution Against Israel’s NGO Terror Designations (Haaretz); Progressive Dems submit motion panning Israel for outlawing Palestinian groups (Times of Israel)
  • Tweet from Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) – “Proud to cosponsor this Resolution. Labeling Palestinian human rights/civil society groups as “terrorist organizations” allows Israeli authorities to close offices, seize assets, and arrest/jail staff of legitimate human rights groups. It has no place in a Democratic society.”
  • Attack on the resolution and its sponsors by AIPAC: Tweet – “Another reflexive attack on our ally Israel by some in Congress. Israeli security experts briefed Admin & Hill officials on how terror groups use these NGOs to funnel money to terrorists. Designating these NGOs wasn’t politically motivated; this Resolution is. #FactsMatter”.

(NO US CONSULATE IN JERUSALEM, EVER) S. 3063 (pdf): Introduced 10/27 by Hagerty (R-TN) and 35 cosponsors (all Republicans, including Risch, R-ID, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), “A bill to prohibit the use of funds for a United States Embassy, Consulate General, Legation, Consular Office, or any other diplomatic facility in Jerusalem other than the United States Embassy to the State of Israel, and for other purposes,” aka, “Upholding the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Law Act of 2021.”  Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: Hagerty press release, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet; tweets from Risch (R-ID), Scott (R-FL), and Hyde-Smith (R-MS) [Hyde-Smith notably goes the extra mile in her tweet to assert that the leadership of the Palestinians “is closely tied to terrorist orgs”; other press releases from Rubio (R-FL), Cassidy (R-LA), Risch (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), Wicker (R-MS), Johnson (R-WI), Marshall (R-KS).   Also see: GOP bill seeks to stop Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians (Jerusalem Post); Senate GOP bill seeks to block Jerusalem consulate reopening (Jewish Insider)

(IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS) H. Res. 744: Introduced 10/25 by Deutch (D-FL) and having 9 bipartisan cosponsors, “Condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affair.

(FY22 SFOPS) S. 3075: Formally introduced 10/26 by Coons (D-DE), “A bill making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, and for other purposes.” Officially the bill was referred to the Committee on Appropriations, but in reality the text that was introduced comes directly from the Appropriations committee (albeit without any public hearings process).  For Middle East-related details of the bill, see last week’s edition of the Round-Up.

(DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION) HR 4305: Word on the Hill is that the Senate is getting set to take up the FY22 Defense Authorization bill as early as next week — in what will (like the House) be another extensive amendment process on the floor (or what I like to call “amendment-palooza”). In preparation for this event, the amendments are already rolling in. The first amendment, as always, is an amendment in the nature of a substitute — i.e., the means by which the Senate deletes the entire House-approved text and replaces it with the text reported out previously (in late September) by the Senate Armed Services Committee (aka, the text of S. 2792). Full details of the Middle East-related elements in that base text, as well as Middle East-related amendments (which are already being introduced) will be included in next week’s Round-Up.

Letters

(OPPOSE E-1 SETTLEMENT CONSTRUCTION) Pocan et al letter: This week Rep. Pocan (D-WI) is seeking cosigners on a letter to SecState Blinken, expressing “immense concern about the Israeli Government’s efforts to approve settlement construction in the 12 square-kilometer E-1 area near Jerusalem in the West Bank.” The letter requests “an update regarding the State Department’s steps to discourage the advancement of settlements in E-1 by December 15, 2021.”

(PUSHING PRIVATE SECTOR TO SUPPORT SETTLEMENTS/GREATER ISRAEL) Boozman et al letter to Unilever: On 10/25, Boozman (R-AR) and 6 fellow Republicans (all members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry) sent a letter to Unilever, as parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, urging it to reverse Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer distribute its products in the West Bank — a decision it characterizes as an effort by Ben & Jerry’s “to advance the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.” The letter implies heavily that Unilever has responsibility for Ben & Jerry’s decision, based on the argument that, “…it is our understanding that under Unilever’s acquisition agreement, you are able to override this misguided decision. With a number of states around the country having passed anti-BDS legislation, it has been reported that several states have been moving closer to divesting from Unilever. We strongly urge you to use your authority to reverse Ben & Jerry’s decision,” Press release is here; Twitter thread here; additional tweets here and here. It should be noted that this effort stands in sharp contradiction to the Republican insistence – in other contexts – that the government not meddle in the decisions of the private sector.] Also see: Senate Republicans Ask Unilever to ‘Override’ Ben & Jerry’s ‘Misguided’ West Bank Boycott (The Algemeiner); Senate Republicans urge Unilever CEO to ‘reverse course’ (Jerusalem Post)

(NO F-16s FOR TURKEY) Malliotakis et al letter to Biden: On 10/25, Rep. Malliotakis (R-NY) led a letter to President Biden, cosigned by 11 House colleagues (bipartisan), urging Biden to “act in our national interest and for the sake of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean by refusing to reinforce Turkey’s aging arsenal of fighter jets.” Press release is here.

 

2.The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle (cont.)

This week marked another week in which the supplemental $1 billion for Israel for Iron Dome is still being blocked in the Senate by Rand Paul (R-KY) — and another week in which most voices that were raised in dismay/rage over a handful of House members expressing concerns or objections to the extra $1 billion for Israel (concerns that didn’t prevent the funding being approved within 2 days of the issue being brought up) remain silent about the delay in the Senate.

The one conspicuous exception this week was JINSA’s Michael Makovsky, who published an op-ed in The Hill entitled, “The Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with Iron Dome funding.” But while given the circumstances one might expect this piece to be a denunciation of Rand Paul, that is, of course, not the case. Instead, Makovsky apportions blame equally between Republicans and Democrats for the delay in approving the extra $1 billion for Iron Dome, asserting — inaccurately — that both Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders are “trying to attach unrelated matters to the bill.” In point of fact, Paul is using a demand to attach an unrelated matter to the bill as a weapon to block the bill’s consideration; Sanders, on the other hand, has not sought to attach anything to the bill. What he did was engage Schumer (D-NY), in order to receive a commitment that – separate from consideration of the bill – Schumer would support humanitarian funds for Gaza at some point in the future. Funds that – let’s be honest folks – are 100% certain to be blocked by other Senators. But not satisifed with this false equivalence between Paul and Sanders, Makovsky goes on to also blame Schumer for Iron Dome not being passed — arguing that it is Schumer’s fault because he didn’t simply ignore Senate procedures and proceed with passing the bill over Paul’s objection [an argument that seems to suggest that Makovsky would also support Schumer scrapping the filibuster in order to pass measures that have massive voter support but are being held up by a few recalcitrant senators – but somehow I’d guess that is not the case].

For those who need to catch up on what has happened with respect to the Iron Dome supplemental for Israel BEFORE this week, see:

3.Hearings & Markups

October 27: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The State of the State Department and State Department Authorization.” The sole witness was Brian McKeon Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (statement). Video is here. Notably , Hagerty (R-TN) used the Q&A to grandstand on the issue of Jerusalem (grandstanding related to the bill he introduced this week — see Section 1, above). Their exchange, which starts at 01:33:58 in the video, is transcribed below.

Hagerty: “…As you know, the government of Israel strongly opposes President Biden’s plan to re-open a US Consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem [sic — the consulate that existed until 2018 had jurisdiction over the territorial area including all of Jerusalem and the West Bank, including Israeli citizens of West Jerusalem and settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank] – a controversial plan that would establish a second, competing U.S. mission in Israel’s capital city. The Trump Administration followed the law, namely the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal and undivided capital, that happened in 2017, and then by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018. The Trump Administration also closed the US consulate to the Palestinians [sic] and merged its functions into the US embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Unit, under the Chief of Mission’s authority of the US ambassador to Israel. President Biden’s proposal to open a second U.S. mission in Jerusalem would begin to reverse the recognition of Jerusalem and it would divide Israel’s eternal and undivided capital city. Yesterday, I led a group of 36 senators to introduce a bill that would protect America’s full and faithful implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, and it would ensure that there is only one US mission — a US embassy to Israel — that exists in Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem. Deputy Secretary McKeon, I just want to confirm something on the record: is it your understanding that under U.S. and international law, the government of Israel would have to provide its affirmative consent before the United States could open or re-open the US Consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem? Or does the Biden Administration believe it can move forward to establish a second U.S. mission in the Israel [sic] capital city of Jerusalem without the consent of the government of Israel? “

McKeon: “Senator, that’s my understanding — that we need the consent of the host government to open any diplomatic facility.

Hagerty: “That’s my understanding as well, yet I don’t understand that as the intention of this Administration so I appreciate you being on the record clarifying that that’s a requirement. I know this isn’t necessarily your decision – you’d be an implementer here – but the State Department should know that Congress has enacted laws that mandate that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and that it shall take all diplomatic steps to effectuate this recognition. Opening a second U.S. mission in Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem will start to reverse this process. 

McKeon: “What I’d like to say briefly Senator is there is no intention to move the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem.

Hagerty: “I want to make certain that’s the case. We voted 97-3 to make certain that that was the case.”

Also see:

Commentary/Analysis: The fact that some people seem to have believed that the US could establish a diplomatic mission in any other country without the explicit consent of that country suggests that people don’t understand how diplomacy works, and how it relates to the issue of sovereignty. This is actually not complicated at all. A diplomatic mission operates as, literally, an island of foreign sovereignty within the territory of the host country, staffed by foreign diplomats who (for the most part) enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of the host government. This is why people fleeing persecution from a country’s authorities sometimes seek refuge in foreign embassies; to forcibly enter those embassies would be tantamount to an attack on the country itself. And to be clear: no nation can simply rent/buy a property in a foreign country and declare it, unilaterally, under their own country’s sovereignty. The host country must consent to giving up its sovereignty to a foreign nation (and this includes countries having the authority to veto locations where they don’t want foreign missions – say, for their own security reasons). Likewise, only a host country can decide whether to issue diplomatic visas to people sent by a foreign country — and without such visas there is no diplomatic immunity for diplomats (and the U.S. will not send diplomats abroad in such a situation).

 

4. On the Record

Defending Human Rights NGOs Under Attack

Tlaib (D-MI) 10/25: Twitter thread – #ICYMI: Labeling human rights defenders as terrorists is straight out of the authoritarians play book. Is this what democracy looks like? Crushing Palestinian civil society is a blatant extension of Israeli government apartheid.If @StateDept & @SecBlinken are actually serious about human rights they will demand Israel reverse course and respect human rights defenders. These orgs document violations & defend the rights of all people in the area, regardless of who they are or who committed the violation. I am proud to stand in solidarity with anyone who fights for the #humanrights of all people, especially when the powerful slander them, invent lies, and criminalize dissent. We will never be quiet in the face of this racist hate.” Linked to statement, Israel/OPT: Designation of Palestinian civil society groups as terrorists a brazen attack on human rights (Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch)

Bowman (D-NY) 10/25: Tweet – “Human rights groups should not be designated as ‘terrorist groups.’ This is absolutely undemocratic and repressive. Secretary Blinken must call for the Israeli government to reverse this decision.” Linked to statement from J Street.

Pressley (D-MA) 10/25: Tweet – “The Israeli government’s decision to criminalize 6 prominent Palestinian human rights orgs is an affront to our shared human rights. @SecBlinken must push back on this decision & protect Palestinian human rights organizations from further repression.” Linked to article, Israel labels Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organisations (The Guardian)

Middle East Eye 10/23: Progressive US lawmakers slam Israel’s move to label Palestinian NGOs as ‘terrorist’ groups

Grandstanding in Support of Attacks on Human Rights NGOs

Cruz (R-TX) 10/25: press release – Sen. Cruz Slams Biden-Harris for ‘Reflexive Antipathy’ Toward Israel After State Dept. Criticism of Anti-Terrorism Action [“This unwarranted and false criticism yet again highlights the reflexive antipathy that President Biden’s State Department and Biden-Harris officials have for our Israeli allies. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is an Iran-backed terrorist organization that uses non-governmental organizations like these six groups to fundraise and launder money for its murderous activities. When an American ally blacklists groups facilitating terrorism against its citizens, the only appropriate response from American diplomats should be congratulations and support. It’s unacceptable but unfortunately completely believable that the Biden-Harris administration would use this incident as a pretext for criticizing Israel.”

 

Other Israel-Related Matters

Breaking the Silence 10/28: Tweet –”We’ve just finished an excellent meeting with @Ilhan and her staffers. We spoke about the ever-increasing entrenchment of the occupation, the six Palestinian human rights NGOs who were disgracefully outlawed last week, and the surge in settler violence against Palestinians.” [with pic]

Arutz Sheva 10/28: ‘Breaking the Silence’ meets with Ilhan Omar, discusses ‘settler violence’

Tlaib (D-MI) 10/28: Floor statement honoring the memory of Alex Odeh [Included here in full because few non-Palestinian Americans know anything about this — “Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the memory of Alex Odeh, a peace activist who worked to promote civil liberties for Arab Americans in the United States and civil and human rights around the world. A Palestinian immigrant, a published poet, lecturer of Arabic language and Middle East history at Coastline College, Alex was someone who embodied the best America has to offer. Through his work with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, he dedicated his life to achieving true equality and equity for all.  And for daring to push for a better tomorrow, Alex was murdered on October 11, 1985, when a pipe bomb exploded as he entered his ADC office in Santa Ana, California. This horrific act of domestic terrorism targeting Arab Americans was not new, and I am proud to say it has failed to achieve its objectives. Arab Americans and Palestinian Americans are still here, loud and proud, speaking truth to power, and carrying on Alex’s fight in his memory.  Our politics of love are the only response. Those who support oppressive policies in Palestine that murdered Alex and those who continue to fearmonger and whip up hate against us to this day will not win.  We will never give up, Alex. I am proud to be here because of you.”]

Levin (D-MI) 10/27: Tweet – “Bennett’s Israel is expanding settlements in the West Bank & settler violence has far surpassed #s from the last 2 years. I’m glad to see the U.S. condemn expansion but we need more action. My Two-State Solution Act will accelerate progress towards peace in Israel & Palestine.” Linked to article, Israel Advances Plan for New Settlements, in First for Bennett Era (New York Times)

Bass (D-CA) 10/27: Tweet (in long thread listing examples of antisemitism) “May 18th, 2021: Diners outside a sushi restaurant just north of my district were attacked by people shouting slogans against Israel. The incident was being investigated by Los Angeles police as an anti-Semitic hate crime. 6/”

Rosen (D-NV) 10/25: Tweet – “Thankful for partnerships like those with @Israel_Cyber that provide the U.S. with cybersecurity solutions that enhance our homeland security. My bipartisan legislation would establish a @DHSgov grant program to support U.S.-Israel cybersecurity initiatives.

Risch (R-ID) 10/24: Tweet – “On this #UNDay, we thank all American UN employees for their service to improve the @UN. Additionally, we continue to push for reforms to UN entities such as the @UNHRC, which remains a flawed body with a disproportionate focus on our ally #Israel.”

Hagerty (R-TN) 10/23: Tweet – “One year ago today, Sudan became the 3rd nation to normalize relations with Israel as part of the the #AbrahamAccords. It is an honor to commemorate the historic accomplishment that charted a path for peace and stability in the region.

Still Scoring Points re: Sunrise Movement

Mast (R-FL) 10/27: Tweet – “Apparently anti-Semitism is more important than the environment to the Sunrise Movement.” Linked to article, Will the Sun Ever Set on Anti-Semitism? (Wall Street Journal)

Random Sh*t

Sherman (D-CA) 10/27: Tweet – “For the record: I no longer bother to correct the record when right-wing or anti-Israel media misquotes me or mischaracterizes my statements. Happens too often. I have a lot to do. 1/2“ & “For the record: Sometimes I list options the U.S. could take, or should consider, or could threaten to take under certain circumstances. That is not the same as calling for each listed action to be taken immediately. (2/2)

Gaetz (R-FL) 10/26: Tweet – “Jake Novak, the Media Relations Director at ⁦@IsraelinNewYork⁩, is about to be in the news again soon for his role in the extortion plot against my family. Israel has condemned his conduct already, but many more details to come. Backstory here:” Linked to podcast, “Episode 8: Criminal Consulates – Firebrand with Matt Gaetz

Media

Haaretz 10/27: Retiring Democratic Lawmaker (Price, NC): When AIPAC Told Us to Jump, the Party Used to Ask ‘How High?’ [also see tweet from Price]

Jewish Insider 10/27:     DMFI PAC hits Omari Hardy on BDS in FL-20 race

Jewish Insider 10/26:     Open Maryland congressional seat could see crowded Democratic primary

Jewish Insider 10/23:     Alcee Hastings II weighs in on the race to succeed his dad [“Alcee “Jody” Hastings II, the son of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), said in an interview on Tuesday that his father would be “highly disappointed at several of the candidates” now vying to succeed the former longtime dean of Florida’s congressional delegation in next week’s crowded special House primary. But he singled out only one candidate by name. ‘Most importantly, the young man Omari Hardy, absolutely,’ Hastings II told Jewish Insider…Hastings took particular issue with Hardy’s critical stance on Israel, which includes his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state. Hardy also favors withholding U.S. military assistance to Israel and stated his opposition to recent legislation that would provide Israel with $1 billion in supplemental aid for its Iron Dome missile-defense system.”]

Jerusalem Post 10/22: Ilhan Omar slams Star Tribune op-ed for ‘Islamophobia’ [“The main issue that the letter discussed regarding the piece was the headline. In the New York Times piece, the headline was ‘A Foul Play by Progressives Over Israel’s Iron Dome,’ but the Star Tribune changed the headline to ‘Omar, ‘Squad’ Launch Another Anti-Israel Strike’ and accompanied it with a photo of Hamas rockets launched at Israel.”]