Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived.
2. FY24 Approps & NDAA
3. Hearings & Events
4. Media & Reports
5. Members on the Record (Israel/Palestine)
6. Members on the Record (Iran)
7. Members on the Record (other Mideast countries)
(CONFLATING CRITICISM OF ISRAEL/ZIONISM WITH ANTISEMITISM) H. Res. 527: Introduced 6/20/23 by Molinaro (R-NY), Fitzpatrick (R-PA) Moskowitz (D-FL), and Schneider (D-IL), “Condemning the recent rise in antisemitic violence and harassment targeting Jewish Americans, standing in solidarity with those affected by antisemitism, and for other purposes.” While the resolution doesn’t mention the IHRA definition of antisemitism, it does assert that, “a commencement speech delivered by a law school graduate at the City University of New York called for a ‘revolution against Zionism’ and perpetuated antisemitic conspiracies and tropes such as Zionist influence over political world order and control over financial support of the College.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see Molinaro press release
(NO SANCTIONS RELIEF WITHOUT OK FROM CONGRESS) S. 2210(pdf): Introduced 6/22/23 by Hagerty (R-TN) and 33 all-Republican cosponsors, the “Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act” (ISRRA). Per Hagerty’s press release, this is a bill, “to ensure that the President submits any sanctions relief relating to Iran for congressional review. The legislation would provide a backstop if the Executive Branch attempts to evade the legal requirements for congressional review of any agreement related to Iran’s nuclear program contained in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (Public Law 114-17).” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
- Hagerty press release; Hagerty Twitter thread
- NOTE: Hagerty introduced this same legislation in 2021 (S. 488); it was also introduced in the House McCaul (R-TX) in 2021 (HR 1699); an earlier version of the bill (carrying the same name but different text) was introduced in the House by Pittman (R-NC) in 2017 (HR 2185)
- Hagerty on the bill (from his press release): “As Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime continues to pursue nuclear weapons to harm Americans and our regional partners and allies, it is critical to provide insurance if President Biden keeps trying to run around Congress and relieve sanctions on Iran…My legislation will make it abundantly clear to the Biden Administration that any agreement made with Iran that involves sanctions relief must be submitted for Congressional review.”
- Risch (R-ID) on the bill (from Hagerty’s press release): “As the Biden Administration contemplates another enormous cash windfall to the Iranian regime in exchange for dubious non-proliferation promises, it is vitally important that Congress has a voice in any sanctions relief…Iran remains actively engaged in supporting Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, continues to attack our troops and diplomats – most recently killing an American in March, plots assassination attempts against former U.S. officials, and violently quashes protests inside Iran. Congress has an obligation to ensure that sanctions relief does not fund these appalling activities.”
(PERMANENT IRAN SANCTIONS) HR 3033: Introduced in the House 4/28/23 by Steel (R-CA) and 24 cosponsors (of which 8 are Democrats) [and in the Senate as S. 1390 5/2/23 by Scott (R-SC), Hassan (D-NH), Hagerty (R-TN) amd Rosen (D-NV)] “To repeal the sunset provision of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Solidify Iran Sanctions Act.” Referred to the Committees on Foreign Affairs; Financial Services; Judiciary; Ways and Means; and Oversight and Accountability. On 6/21/23, the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussed and passed HR 3033 as part of an en bloc package of legislation, approved by voice vote [Manning, D-NC spoke in support of HR 3033 here). Note that this bill was referred to four other committees – most likely what will come next will be an effort to have those committees waive jurisdiction in order to bring HR 3033 directly to the House floor for a vote – stay tuned!
- Steel (R-CA) tweet 6/21/23: “BREAKING: My bill with@RepMcCaul and @RepSusieLee to permanently sanction Iran and help stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons has unanimously PASSED the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Only strength can show the path to peace.” Lee (D-NV) tweet 6/21/23: “Regardless of political party, Congress must stand firm against the Iranian regime’s brutal repression of its people, its funding of terrorism abroad, and its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons. Proud to join @RepSteel in these efforts – now one step closer to becoming law.“
- House committee advances bipartisan bill to make Iran sanctions permanent (Fox News 6/21/23)
- AIPAC tweet 6/21/23: “Thank you @RepSteel for leading this bipartisan legislation with @RepMcCaul and @RepSusieLee to cement key sanctions on the Iranian regime. America and our allies must fully enforce sanctions and cut off Iran from the international financial and oil markets.“
(TARGETING IRAN FOR PERSECUTION OF BAHA’I) H. Res. 492: Introduced 6/9/23 by Shakowsky (D-IL) and 28 original cosponsors (bipartisan), “Condemning the Government of Iran’s state-sponsored persecution of the Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” On 6/21/23, the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussed and passed H. Res. 3033 as part of an en bloc package of legislation, approved by voice vote. Also see Shakowsky tweet touting committee passage of the resolution.
(DEFENDING TUNISIAN DEMOCRACY) S. 2006 (pdf): Introduced 6/15/23 (not previously reported in the Round-Up) by Risch (R-ID) and Menendez (D-NJ), “A bill to foster Tunisia’s democratic institutions, to limit funds until Tunisia restores checks and balances, and to authorize the creation of a fund to support democratic reforms.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: press release
(DEFENDING TUNISIAN DEMOCRACY) S. Res. 260: Introduced 6/21/23 by Durbin (D-IL) and 3 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A resolution recognizing Tunisia’s leadership in the Arab Spring and expressing support for upholding its democratic principles and norms.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
(EXPANDING AMERICANS’ ABILITY TO SUE FOREIGN GOVTS & ENTITIES IN US COURTS FOR AIDING/ABETTING TERRORISM) S. 2082: Introduced 6/21/23 by Cornyn (R-TX) and 19 bipartisan cosponsors, “A bill to make technical corrections relating to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act,” aka, the “Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
- Cornyn’s press release states: “The Ensuring Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act makes three technical corrections to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) that would: Clarify that injured plaintiffs can sue foreign state defendants for aiding and abetting terrorism and ensure that liability may be asserted as to any person or entity that aids or abets terrorism; Ensure that plaintiffs, if they obtain on a JASTA claim, can collect their judgement; and Clarify that all U.S. citizens injured in their person, business, or property may recover under JASTA.“
(GRANDSTANDING AGAINST PALESTINIANS) Gottheimer-led letter to SecState Blinken: This week, Rep. Gottheimer (D-NJ) was circulating for co-signers a letter addressed to SecState Blinken decrying the killing of Israelis in the West Bank [zero mention of the killing of Palestinians], and recycling the argument that the Palestinian Authority is “incentivizing” such attacks through its social welfare payments to families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel (an argument that appeared out of nowhere some years back and proved to be irresistible to members of Congress eager to go after the PA while simultaneously eager for a pretext to absolve Israel of any/all responsibility for its anti-Palestinian actions and policies). The letter notes that this framing – which effectively suggests that the ONLY REASON for Palestinians to turn to violence against Israelis is for financial benefit [nobody mention decades of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and dignity, ever-expanding occupation/apartheid policies, etc.] – has already succeeded in catalyzing U.S. law that bars any U.S. funding that directly benefits the PA (via the Taylor Force Act), but notes that “U.S.-Palestinian ties have improved in recent years, and the Biden Administration is uniquely positioned to change the status quo.” The letter goes on to “encourage the State Department to update Congress on the status of negotiating an end to the ‘pay for slay’ program, and urge the Administration to continue to raise this issue with Palestinian officials.”
- Also see my (still 100% relevant) analysis from 8/17/23: Cutting Off Payments to Palestinian Families Won’t Stop Terrorism [“[focusing on these payments] further delegitimizes Abbas, whom Danon and others have long rejected as a ‘partner’ for peace. If Abbas refuses to stop the payments, he is painted as supporting terror, despite longstanding security cooperation with Israel and a long record of speaking out and acting forcefully against incitement and armed resistance to the occupation. For this, he has earned harsh criticism from his own people. If Abbas stops the payments, he will be seen domestically as abandoning his people and further weakened. Likewise, this campaign validates the view that there is no cause-effect relationship between Israeli actions and Palestinian violence. It bolsters the argument that, rather than pursuing diplomacy or a two-state solution, Israel must adopt ever-more-uncompromising positions toward the Palestinian leadership and its people. By diverting focus away from Israeli policies that defy international law and contradict any serious intent by Israel to end the conflict—like the continuing blockade on Gaza and the expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—it dovetails with increasingly frequent Israeli denials that there is such a thing as an ‘occupation’ and Israel’s increasingly energetic efforts to erase any distinction between sovereign Israel and settlements. More broadly, by painting Abbas and the PA as supporters of violence—and depicting Palestinians living under occupation as morally bankrupt savages ready to attack Israelis for financial gain—this campaign seeks to turn the clock back to the pre-Oslo era, when the word ‘Palestinian’ was synonymous with ‘terrorist’ and the words ‘two states’ and ‘Palestine’ were anathema.”]
(NO CODIFICATION OF IHRA DEFINITION) Schakowsky-led letter to UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: This week, Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) was circulating for co-signers a letter addressed to UN Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, and cc’d to the State Department’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt. The letter commends the Biden Administration for its new national strategy to counter antisemitism and applauds the administration’s for its “decision not to codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in this strategy and to instead look to several definitions of antisemitism.” The letter explains: “Together, these definitions serve as a valuable tool to raise awareness and increase understanding of antisemitism. We believe the U.S. National Strategy properly uses all tools at the Administration’s disposal while maintaining a focus on specific and direct actions to counter antisemitism. We hope this inclusive and effective model to counter antisemitism will be used across the globe. The gold standard set by the National Strategy should set the tone for the United States’ policies abroad and, as the United Nations develops its own plan to combat antisemitism, we urge you to push for the UN to implement a similar comprehensive, nuanced and action-based approach.”
(VISA WAIVERS PROGRAM FOR ISRAEL NOW!) Scott-Rosen et al letter to Blinken & Mayorkas: On 6/21/23 Sens. Scott (R-FL) and Rosen (D-NV) led a letter, co-signed by 63 Senate colleagues (bipartisan), to SecState Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, encouraging the Biden Administration to “to prioritize finalizing Israel’s accession this year” to the Visa Waiver Program. The letter goes on: “We recognize that there are still outstanding issues that must be addressed before Israel’s participation in the program can be finalized, and we urge both sides to continue working toward addressing these issues – including the reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens – to ensure Israel’s compliance with all program requirements before the deadline of September 30, 2023.”
- Press releases – Rosen & Scott
- 65 senators urge Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program by end of September (JTA 6/21/23)
- Rosen tweet – “Israel is our critical ally. With nearly half a million people traveling from Israel to the U.S. every year, it’s time they be included in the Visa Waiver Program. I’m helping lead a bipartisan push urging the Administration to prioritize including Israel in the program.“
- AIPAC longform tweet 6/22/23: “In a powerful bipartisan pro-Israel statement, nearly two-thirds of the Senate, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, reaffirmed strong support for Israel’s admittance into the Visa Waiver Program. AIPAC applauds the 65 senators who signed a letter led by @SenRickScott and @SenJackyRosen backing Israel’s entry into the program…“
- The letter’s text – “we urge both sides to continue working toward addressing these issues – including the reciprocal treatment of U.S. citizens” is likely a reference to an ongoing effort by Israel to develop new, special requirements for the entry of Palestinian Americans (which by definition mean that Israel will continue to profile and discriminate against some Americans based on their ethnicity), and for the US to accept these new requirements as somehow satisfying US reciprocity rules in the context of granting Israel entry into the VWP as part of a “pilot” program. Details here.
- FMEP’s Lara Friedman on the “pilot” program: “This pilot program appears to be an effort by the Biden Administration to bring Israel into the Visa Waiver Program without requiring it to end its systematic profiling and discrimination against Palestinian Americans…This effort strips the term ‘reciprocity’ of all meaning, gives a U.S. kosher stamp to foreign governments engaging in blatant racism against Americans, and demonstrates yet again that the rule of U.S.-Israel relations – regardless of which party is in the White House, and even when talking about the welfare and rights of American citizens – is zero accountability.”
UPDATE (NO IRAN DIPLOMATIC AGREEMENT & GET READY FOR SNAPBACK) Gillibrand/Lankford-led letter to POTUS (final/signed version): On 6/16/23, this letter was sent to President Biden, with 26 bipartisan Senate signers. As discussed in detail in the 6/9/23 edition of the Round-Up, this letter was one of the key asks during AIPAC’s recent lobby days in Washington. It is an anti-Iran-diplomacy, pro-snapback letter, led by Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lankford (R-OK). The letter argues: “It is crucial for your administration to remain aligned with Congressional efforts related to Iran’s nuclear program and not agree to a pact that fails to achieve our nation’s critical interests.” It goes on to encourage President Biden to “secure the commitment of our allies to implement the snapback mechanism embedded in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 should Iran advance its program past the weapons-grade threshold. Such a move would squeeze Iran’s revenue sources and serve notice that Iran cannot continue to reap the benefits of international sanctions relief while progressing towards the development of a nuclear weapon.”
- Gillibrand (D-NY) press release
- Tweets/Press releases: Lankford (R-OK), Kennedy (R-LA),
- AIPAC tweet praising the letter and thanking Gillibrand & Lankford; AIPAC tweet touting the letter
- Bipartisan group of senators urges Biden to ‘strengthen efforts to deter’ Iranian nuclear program (Jewish Insider 6/20/23)
FY24 NDAA – House
This week the House Armed Services completed its consideration/amendment process of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act, aka, the NDAA. Next up: consideration/amendments on the House floor (in the annual exercise I call “amendments-palooza”). For details of Middle East/Israel-related amendments adopted by the HAC, see: House approves bipartisan Middle East policy amendments in NDAA markup (Jewish Insider 6/22/23). These amendments included (as reported by JI):
- An amendment offered by Rep. Banks (R-IN) to “require the military to conduct biannual exercises with Israel, including simulating large-scale and long-range strike missions and aerial refueling of Israeli aircraft by the U.S.“
- An amendment offered by Rep. Waltz (R-FL) “incorporated a long-gestating program creating a grant program to fund U.S.-Israel collaboration on post traumatic stress disorder research into the NDAA.”
- An amendment led by Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), “requiring the Defense Department to create a plan to enable Israel to gain observer status in the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program — a U.S.-based multinational flight training program for NATO combat pilots.”
- Amendments that would require the defense officials to
- “brief Congress on cooperation among Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates;
- “provide a review of ‘efforts to increase Israel’s participation in multinational organizations and military task forces’;
- “report to Congress on how Iranian-Chinese technology-sharing has assisted Iran’s missile programs;
- “brief Congress on Iranian efforts to harden its nuclear facilities, the U.S. and its partners’ abilities to strike these facilities and nuclear cooperation between Iran and Russia; and
- “report to Congress on the national security implications of Middle East partners deploying 5G communications networks — a trend which has raised concerns about the security of U.S. military technology from Chinese spying.”
- An amendment to “expand existing Defense Department reports to Congress on Iranian military capabilities to include unconventional and paramilitary forces, Iranian space launch capabilities, Iranian drone forces and Iranian collaboration with its regional proxies and with China.”
- An amendment offered by Rep. Jacobs (D-CA) to require “the department to report to Congress on former military officers who are employed by foreign governments, and regulations surrounding such employment. The amendment cites Washington Post reporting that highlighted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states’ employment of former officers in military-related roles.”
Jewish Insider also notes:
- “Some expected amendments on Middle East policy failed to materialize during the markup. One would have incorporated the MARITIME Act, advancing Middle East naval cooperation, into the NDAA; it is now likely to be introduced when the NDAA comes to the House floor, according to a spokesperson for Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). Another would have expedited training for Israeli forces on the KC-46 refueling aircraft and positioned a U.S.-owned KC-46 in Israel.”
- “The base House NDAA bill already included some priority provisions for pro-Israel advocates, such as $50 million for a new fund supporting U.S.-Israel cooperation in advanced defense technologies and a report on the status of U.S. stockpiles of precision-guided munitions in Israel.”
FY24 NDAA – Senate
This week the Senate Armed Services Committtee held a series of CLOSED markups of its version of the FY24 NDAA, culminating in a full committee markup 6/22-6/23. As of this writing, Senate text is not available. Notably, Jewish Insider reported 6/23/23 that the MARITIME Act — HR 2973/S. 1334 — (which as noted above did not make it into the House bill, coming out of Committee), will be included in the Senate version. Stay tuned for more details.
FY24 Defense Appropriations – House
On 6/14/23, the House Appropriations Committee released the base text of the FY24 Defense Appropriations bill (press release/text). The base bill earmarks $500 million for “the Israeli Cooperative Programs,” sub-earmarked as follows:
- $80 million for the procurement of the Iron Dome defense system
- $127 million for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program, “including cruise missile defense research and development under the SRBMD program”
- $40 million for “co-production activities of SRBMD systems in the United States and in Israel”
- $80 million for an upper-tier component to the Israeli Missile Defense Architecture, of which $80 million is for “co-production activities of Arrow 3 Upper Tier systems in the United States and in Israel”
- $173 million is “for the Arrow System Improvement Program including development of a long range, ground and airborne, detection suite”
The bill also includes earmarks
- $397.95 million for the ‘‘Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund’’ (with lots of conditions/restriction)
- (Section 8108) $410 million “to reimburse Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman under section 1226 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (221 U.S.C. 2151 note), for enhanced border security, of which not less than $150,000,000 shall be for Jordan“.
- (Section 8122) Up to $500 millions “may be used to provide assistance to the Government of Jordan to support the armed forces of Jordan and to enhance security along its borders.”
The Report that accompanied the bill included:
- REFUELING CAPABILITIES FOR ISRAEL: The Committee understands the Government of Israel intends to recapitalize its tanker aircraft fleet with the KC–46, with deliveries planned for 2025. Due to increased hostilities in the region, it is important that Israeli operators are expeditiously trained to use these new aircraft prior to their delivery. The Committee urges the Secretary of the Air Force to consider the training and operational benefits of deploying KC–46s to Israel to help train Israeli operators, support United States Central Command operations, and deter Iran’s malign activities in the region.”
On 6/22/23, the Approps Committee marked up the FY24 Defense Approps bill (video). The committee voted on a consensus managers’ package of amendments that has as yet not been made public. However, this 6/21/23 Tweet from AIPAC suggests that this package included a provision “directing funding for U.S.-Israel cybersecurity and homeland security cooperation.”
Next up: FY24 Defense Approps on the House floor, and the amendment-palooza that will go with it.
FY24 SFOPS – House
On 6/22/23, the House Appropriations Committee released the base text of the FY24 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The bill was marked up in the full Appropriations Committtee on 6/23/23 (VIDEO). Stay tuned for next week’s Round-Up for full Middle East-related details of that bill as it comes out of committee. Also see remarks in the full committee markup of the base SFOPS text, from Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Granger (R-TX).
Notably, in his opening statement in the mark-up, Diaz-Balart focuses – right at the outset – on Israel and the Middle East, making clear that supporting Israel (including treating criticism of Israel as a form of antisemitism and punishing it accordingly) is a top priority in the bill, and including defunding the UN budget completely:
If you’ve read the bill, you know it reflects a significantly different approach than previous bills, but it is pretty straightforward. If you are a friend or an ally of the United States, this bill supports you. If you are an adversary or are cozying up to our adversaries, frankly, then you will not like this bill. Organizations that advance freedom and deliver results favorable to America are supported. Organizations that elevate human rights abusers, conspire with autocrats, reject transparency, and tolerate anti-Semitic sentiment do not merit support.
I want to mention a few key allies. The bill provides unwavering support of our democratic ally, Israel, and fully funds the United States-Israel Memorandum of Understanding by providing $3.3 billion in security assistance.
It also takes bold, new action to definitively address the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and anti-Israel actions at the International Court of Justice.
The bill recognizes two other vital security partners in the region by providing full support to Egypt and Jordan. It also includes a new prohibition on funding for any nuclear agreement with Iran until such an agreement is submitted to Congress and ratified by the Senate.
Before discussing funding for the United Nations, let’s consider who’s running the show—
- Russia was Chair of the UN Security Council during the month of April;
- Iran will be the next Vice President of the UN General Assembly;
- China, where a genocide against the Uighurs (WEE-GURS) is raging, and Cuba, one of the world’s oldest brutal dictatorships, sit on the UN Human Rights Council; and
- North Korea is the newest member of the World Health Organization.
It would be hard to even make this up, but remarkably, it’s true. This is taking place while Israel is routinely attacked and undermined across the entire UN system, while the world’s worst human rights abusers remain relatively untouched.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that no funds are included in this bill for the UN regular budget. The ineffectiveness and egregious failures of the United Nations and UN bodies do not merit support based on the goals and priorities of this bill, and of the American people.
June 22, 2023: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations held a farce of a hearing entitled, “Responding to Anti-Semitism [sic] and Anti-Israel Bias in the UN, Palestinian Authority, and NGO Community.” The witness list made 100% clear in advance that this hearing had nothing to do with antisemitism and “bias” against Israel, and everything to do with attacking Palestinian rights activists/activism; delegitimizing efforts to hold Israel accountable to the same rules/laws as all other states; undermining and suppressing criticism/critics of the state of Israel and its policies; and promoting the adoption and enforcement of the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples. That witness list (expanded since last week) consists of a who’s who of individuals engaged in efforts to do all of this, and representing groups whose missions focus on doing these things: Natan Sharansky, ISGAP (statement), Yona Schiffmiller, NGO Monitor (statement), Itamar Marcus, Palestine Media Watch (statement), Eugene Kontorovich, Kohelet Policy Forum (statement), Hillel Neuer, UN Watch (statement), Sharon Nazarian, ADL (statement), and Yair Rosenberg, the Atlantic (statement).
Of special note here is Kontorovich, representing the Israeli far right-wing organization that is the key driver of the ongoing “reform” agenda in Israel (the one that Israelis are protesting in the streets). For a deep-dive into the efforts of the Kohelet Forum to drive policy/law changes in Israel AND in the U.S., check out this podcast/video: Spotlight on the “Kohelet Policy Forum”: How a Far-Right-Wing, U.S.-Funded Israeli Think Tank is Working to Shape Policy & Law in Both the US & Israel
- hearing video (nearly 3 hours).
- Hearing-related coverage: thread from J Street offering background on all these witnesses; Hearing on antisemitism in international orgs highlights divides over combating antisemitism (Jewish Insider); live-tweeting of the hearing by the JTA’s Ron Kampeas;
- Of special note: Chairman Smith (R-NJ), in his opening statement, promised that this hearing is the first in a series on the topic of antisemitism; he later noted that he plans to convene (hostile) hearings on UNRWA and UNESCO. He stated later in the hearing that he as chairman he will never permit Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International to testify before his committee due to their criticism of Israel.
I am NOT going to cover this hearing point by point (feel free to watch it for yourself). Suffice to say that broad themes of the hearing – articulated to varying degrees by all of the witnesses, backed up and even surpassed by some Committee members — focused on:
- making the case for the U.S. to wholeheartedly and exclusively embrace/enforce the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
- erasing any distinction between antisemitism on the one hand, and criticism of Israel/Zionism, or resistance against Israeli policies that violate Palestinian rights, on the other [a particular highlight was Natan Sharansky comparing instrumentalization of criticism of Israel by the former Soviet Union (a regime that systemtically targeted its Jewish citizens) to criticism/protest of Israeli policies by Palestinians, whose land/property has been taken by Israel, and who have for decades lived either under the boot of Israeli occupation or as refugees].
- eliding the distinction between neo-Nazi and white supremacist antisemitism and activism for Palestinian rights and expressions of Palestinian identity [in numerous cases members of Congress spoke passionately about antisemitic attacks in the US by white supremacists as an intro to attacking the UN and human rights groups for their criticism of Israel].
- embracing and legitimizing anti-Palestinian racism [in effect framing the very fact of being Palestinian or insisting on Palestinains’ rights as ipso facto antisemitism].
- demonizing and delegitimizing the UN and international law, as well as the very idea that Israel should be held accountable to the same rules/laws as other nations [including arguments insisting that, in judging whether criticism of Israel is antisemitic, they key factors to consider are how often the criticism are made and whether other countries are criticized equally. Whether the criticism is factually true is not deemed relevant — and indeed, to suggest that it is relevant would likely be proof of antisemitism. Notably, McCormick (R-GA), appeared to make the case for the US to stop funding or even quitting the UN – comments he circulated as a clip on Twitter].
The few members who suggested some discomfort with the tenor, content, or focus of the hearing – to varying degrees and in varying ways- were Phillips (D-MN), Jacobs (D-CA), and Wild (D-PA).
- Marcus (PMW) urged Congress to designate Palestinian officials who are involved with prisoner payments as ineligible to enter the US and offered to prepare for Congress a complete list of Palestinians who should be designated – Chairman Smith welcomed this suggestion.
- Nazarian (ADL) urged Congress to pass legislation compelling social media companies to legislation to shut down hate speech (including antisemitism – notably, the ADL is on the record that its demand centers on the enforcement of the IHRA definition)
- Kontorovich (Kohelet Forum) asserted (among many many other outrageous things) that the term “apartheid” applied to Israel is a modern “blood libel” against the Jewish people.
Other media coverage:
- Media: ‘Disgusted’: Congressional Human Rights Chair Announces Boycott of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Over Israel Treatment (Algemeiner 6/22/23); US Congress discusses Anti-Semitism in UN, PA, and NGOs (Arutz Sheva 6/22/23); ‘Double standards towards Israel is a form of antisemitism’ (Arutz Sheva 6/23/23)
- Press release: NGO Monitor Testifies in Congress on NGO Human Rights Exploitation (NGO Monitor); Hillel Neuer Testifies Before U.S. Congress (UN Watch);
June 21, 2023: The Senate Committee on the Budget held a hearing entitled, “Dollars and Degrees: Investigating Fossil Fuel Dark Money’s Systemic Threats to Climate and the Federal Budget. (video)” One witness, Richard Painter (S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School) noted in his written testimony: “…much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves are under the control of dictatorships including Putin’s Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Marxist Venezuela. To access those reserves fossil fuel companies for decades have coddled foreign dictators and encouraged the United States government to do the same. Corporate interests, including some Americans with ties to industry, encouraged Germany and the EU to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to import massive quantities of Russian natural gas, all while greenwashing German politicians lectured the rest of the world on climate change. Saudi Arabia uses proceeds from its oil exports to buy weapons from the United States, including a $110 billion arms deal spearheaded by Jared Kushner who coincidentally closed a $2 billion business deal with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund months after leaving office. The Saudis also embrace ‘sportswashing.’ Earlier this month the PGA agreed to a merger with LIV Golf, a league funded with Saudi Arabia’s $620 billion sovereign wealth fund26 (the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is another example of how oil rich nations also use sports to burnish their image).”
Times of Israel 6/21/23: Chikli irritated US Democrat lawmakers by telling them he’s ‘not woke’ – report [also see: Israeli minister’s “not woke” comment irks Jewish Dem lawmakers (Axios 6/21/23)]
Middle East Eye 6/21/23: US: Congress wants to give air defence systems to Kurdish fighters in Iraq
Jewish Insider 6/21/23: Entering House race in Maryland, Lesley Lopez seeks to ‘build on’ Trone’s work [“Lopez was unable to clarify her positions on one of Trone’s top issues: Israel. The three-term congressman, an AIPAC ‘minyan’ donor, has been a staunch supporter of pro-Israel causes during his time in the House, where he is among the most outspoken critics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement…Lopez said she was not ready to explain her approach to the BDS movement or other key Middle East policy questions such as U.S. security funding to Israel. ‘I just don’t really know enough to even know what I don’t know yet,’ she acknowledged. ‘I would need to do a little bit more research before really going into the details.’“]
Jewish News Syndicate 6/20/23: Senate resolution urges widespread adoption of IHRA definition [“The only thing missing? Democrat co-sponsors, said Daniel Pollak of the ZOA.”]
Washington Free Beacon 6/19/23: Lawmakers Call on Biden To Expand Abraham Accords
Florida Daily 6/19/23: Rick Scott Wants to Define Efforts to Delegitimize Israel as Antisemitism
Jewish News Syndicate 6/18/23: Proposal to set up ‘Abraham Accords’ FDA office moves ahead [“The bipartisan bill amended a direct reference to Israel to ‘Abraham Accord region’ amid ongoing vacillation by the Israeli Health Ministry regarding the initiative.”] NOTE: This report is inaccurate. The referenced text is in the House REPORT LANGUAGE, not the bill text of the FY24 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Bill — see report language (page 71); amendments to report language (page 4). Reminder: report language is an expression of appropriators’ intent. It is not legally binding, but is nonetheless generally treated as binding (given that ignoring appropriators’ intent is a good way to end up with appropriators putting their intentions into binding law next time around).
New York Post 6/16/23: Biden & Co. keep funding Palestinian terror — in defiance of Congress (op-ed by fellow at JINSA and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Florida Press 6/16/23: Scott Introduces Resolution to Condemn Anti-Israel Rhetoric as Antisemitism
Jewish News Syndicate 6/16/23: Rep. Mark Green: Rejoining UNESCO ‘undermines’ US-Israel relationship
Tlaib (D-MI) 6/22/23: Tweet – “Spoke to families in Turmusaya who are petrified,
including IL State Rep. Rashid who said the village is full of families & children. The Israeli military is
helping a mob of armed extremists terrorize civilians and it is out of control. Enough!” [responding to
tweet from Garcia (D-IL)]
Tlaib (D-MI) 6/22/23: Tweet – “Silence and expressions of concern without action while the extremist apartheid Israeli government intensifies its campaign of violence, terror and death is shameful. Our country funds this violent & racist government with close to $4B. It’s time that ends.” Linked to Twitter thread from Btselem (with video), starting with, “Happening now at Turmus Ayya: settlers continue their attacks,”
Tlaib (D-MI) 6/22/23: Tweet – “Omar was only 25 years old, father of two. He just celebated his son’s birthday. His family in the U.S. are devastated. He was trying to help protect families in his home village of Turmusaya when an Israeli extremist (backed by the Israeli govt) fatally shot him in the back.” [with photo of Omar]
García (D-IL) 6/22/23: Tweet – “I have received reports that constituents, friends, and their families visiting loved ones in Palestine have faced violent threats from Israeli settlers during the recent raids on villages in the occupied West Bank. [1/2] Even as my colleagues and I work with authorities to stop the current settler attacks, Palestinians will continue to face threats to their homes, livelihoods, and safety. As a close ally of Israel, the US can’t continue to tolerate systemic violence against Palestinians. [2/2]”
Schneider (D-IL) 6/22/23: Twitter thread – “In the face of rising violence by Palestinian groups and Israelis living in the West Bank, I condemn the murder of four Israelis at Eli and the retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers in Turmus Ayya and other towns—and look to other leaders around the world to follow suit. 1/ The Palestinian Authority is at grave risk of losing control of areas it governs, requiring the IDF to fill the vacuum. 2/ The government of Israel and the IDF must act to defend all Israelis from terrorist attacks. The government of Israel also has a responsibility to protect Palestinians from settler violence – which Israel has repeatedly acknowledged. 3/ Responding to terror with terror, setting fire to Palestinian homes and attacking Palestinian families, most recently resulting in the death of a young father, is unacceptable. 4/ Recent violence strikes particularly close to home in Illinois, as our State Representative Abdelnasser Rashid was present and threatened while visiting his parents who live in Turmus Ayya. I am deeply relieved to learn that Rashid and his family are safe. 5/ The news that three Israeli attackers have been arrested is a positive step. All who participated must be held to account. 6/ All families, Israeli and Palestinian, deserve to feel safe in their homes and hold fast to their dreams for the future – a dream I share – where they can live side by side in mutual security, peace, and prosperity. 7/7“
Carson (D-IN) 6/22/23: Tweet – “@StateDept I agree w/ that there must be accountability and justice for Palestinians, including US citizens, whose lives and property are at risk at the hands of violent, armed Israelis acting under the protection of the Israeli military. This Israeli settler violence must end.” Linked to article, Palestinian killed as Israeli settlers attack West Bank village (Al Jazeera)
Wilson (D-FL) 6/22/23: Tweet – “My prayers are with the victims of the violent attacks in the West Bank this week. I stand firmly behind the people Israel and will continue to support their efforts to protect their communities.”
Mast (R-FL) 6/22/23: Tweet – “This week, 4 Israelis fell victim to radicalized Hamas gunmen. While my bill alone won’t fix it, Congress should pass the bipartisan Peace & Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act to stop US funding for Palestinian textbooks that teach the next generation to hate our ally.”
Gimenez (R-FL) 6/22/23: Tweet – “Deeply saddened to learn that four Israeli citizens have been brutally murdered by #Hamas terrorists. My prayers are with the people of #Israel who face constant threats by these terrorist hate groups.”
Feinstein (D-CA) 6/21/23: Twitter thread – “I’m deeply concerned about the escalating violence in
Israel and the West Bank. Dozens have already been killed, hundreds injured and civilians on all sides will
continue to suffer as long as the conflict continues. The only enduring answer to the Israeli–Palestinian
conflict is a two-state solution. I urge the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating
table, end the violence and forge a path forward to a just and lasting peace for both peoples.” (press release version)
Gottheimer (D-NY) 6/21/23: Twitter thread – “I’m proud to have cosponsored the bipartisan Special Envoy for the Abraham Accords Act which passed the House in a 413-13 vote. The historic Abraham Accords have opened the doors to increased Arab-Israeli cooperation and provide a way forward on Israeli-Palestinian peace. This legislation will create an ambassador-level Special Envoy position for the Abraham Accords — helping bring peace and stability to Israel and the Middle East.” Linked to article, Abraham Accords special envoy bill passes US House (Jewish News Syndicate)
McCormick (R-GA-6) 6/21/23: Tweet – “I am very, very tired of the Biden administration’s
false moral equivalency between terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and legitimate IDF operations to take out
said terrorists.” Linked to article, ‘Disrespectful’: US Ambassador Accused of False Equivalency After Terror Attack
Green (R-TN-7) 6/21/23: Tweet – “Any organization that doesn’t treat Israel as a legitimate and contributing nation does not deserve U.S. support or participation.” Linked to article, Rep. Mark Green: Rejoining UNESCO ‘undermines’ US-Israel relationship (Jewish News Syndicate)
Torres (D-NY-15) 6/20/23: Tweet – “My heart goes out to the families of the four Israeli civilians who were murdered at the hands of terrorists acting on behalf of Hamas. Terror is the enemy of peace.”
Mills (R-FL) 6/19/23: Tweet – “My colleagues and I, on both sides of the aisle, are calling on Secretary Blinken to expand the Trump era’s groundbreaking Abraham Accords to Africa. Opening up these continual alliances would help to strengthen Israel’s position within the Middle East. Additionally, supporting our allies brings stabilization that builds less reliance on adversarial nations, whether that be Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc.” Linked to Fox News article, Biden administration pushed by Dems, GOP to expand Trump-era deal to blunt Russia, China
Manning (D-NC-6) 6/20/23: Tweet – “I am glad to see the U.S. lead 27 countries in opposing
the UN Commission of Inquiry’s open-ended, one-sided investigation targeting Israel. We must continue to reject
unfair and biased efforts against Israel.” Linked to statement from the US Mission to International
Organizations in Geneva, Joint Statement on The COI on Israel
Titus (D-NV) 6/22/23: Tweet – “Turkey has been and continues to be a spoiler within the NATO alliance, and its history of antagonism toward Greece and Cyprus demonstrates its inability to be a constructive ally. Say no to F-16s.” (incl video)