Renegade Editor’s Note: The featured image was chosen by yours truly
Congress members, perhaps eager for campaign donations from wealthy pro-Israel donors, continue finding creative new legislation to slip Israel even more US tax money on top of the $10 million per day it already receives. Welcome to the latest batch of bills designed to keep Israel front and center – bringing the total pieces of pro-Israel legislation for this session of Congress to NINETY.
In spite of the pandemic, in spite of the election and the Supreme Court vacancy, pro-Israel Congress members continue to spend time pushing their Israel agenda. Democrats who want to wait on the Supreme Court appointment till the new government comes in are rushing to add one more pro-Israel bill or resolution. Members of the House of Representatives, each representing a small local population, are pulling together obscure, fiction-based narratives to rationalize more legislation.
Below are the most recent bills before Congress, introduced since our last two articles. Our first report itemized fifty pieces of legislation that were brought up in the first year of this Congressional session, 2019; the second covered roughly the first half of 2020.
Below are those introduced since June – at the end of the list is the single new piece of legislation in support of justice for Palestinians, introduced by Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum.
7 bills for more weapons to Israel
S.4474 – “To amend the Arms Export Control Act to prohibit the export of certain unmanned aircraft systems”
Introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on 08/06/2020 (5 cosponsors)
This legislation seeks to prohibit the export of certain unmanned aircraft systems and related equipment – Israel is exempt from this ban (as are NATO countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea).
The Arms Export Control Act was designed to require that recipients of US armaments use them only for legitimate self-defense, and not in such a way as to “increase the possibility of outbreak or escalation of conflict.”
International law does not support Israel’s “self-defense” argument for its many large and small incursions into Gaza – the incursions contributed to escalations of conflict.
S.4049 – “National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021”
Introduced 6/24 by Inhofe (R-OK) on 06/23/2020 (0 cosponsors)
The text of this bill includes all of the usual Israel-related expenses, and proposes furthering the US-Israel “defense innovation partnership” even more by creating an ongoing Working Group to “research, develop, procure, and field weapons systems and military capabilities as quickly and economically as possible.”
An amendment to this legislation, proposed by fourteen Democratic senators, seeks to prohibit the use of US funding by Israel to defend annexed parts of the West Bank.
Another amendment, S.A.1895, was slipped into the bill without debate, and without making the text available to American voters: the amendment seeks to codify into law the US annual aid to Israel (currently $3.8 billion) using wording that would “prevent any future Administration or Congress from having the ability to use that aid as leverage” (that is, it would be impossible to make aid Israel conditional), and to ensure that the amount of aid could only go up, never down.
H.R.8494 – ‘‘Guaranteeing Israel’s QME (Qualitative Military Edge) Act of 2020’’
Introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) on 10/01/2020 (17 cosponsors)
This legislation calls on the President to “seek to consult with appropriate officials of the Government of Israel” before selling any major defense articles to Middle East countries, for the purpose of preserving Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).
The bill, introduced in response to Trump’s plan to sell F-35s to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is described by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as “an effective Israeli veto on US arms sales to the Middle East.”
S.Res.669 – to recommend that the Department of Defense should expedite delivery of precision-guided munitions to Israel
Introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) on 08/06/2020 (0 cosponsors)
“This resolution expresses the sense of the Senate that (1) regularized purchases of precision-guided munitions by Israel, coordinated with the U.S. Air Force annual purchase of precision-guided munitions, would enhance the security of the United States and Israel; and (2) the Department of Defense should take measures to expedite deliveries of precision-guided munitions to Israel.”
Israel hosts a $1 billion stockpile of American weapons containing missiles, armored vehicles, and ammunition (a second stockpile is located in South Korea) – enabling Israel to replenish its supplies quickly if “necessary.”
In the summer of 2014, Israel burned through its arsenal so quickly in its attack on Gaza, that it requested and received permission through military channels to access the stockpile, bypassing standard White House approval.
Amnesty International was among the groups calling on the US to stop furnishing weapons in 2014:
The US government is adding fuel to the fire by continuing its supply of the type of arms being used by Israel’s armed forces to violate human rights. The US government must accept that by repeatedly shipping and paying for such arms on this scale they are exacerbating and further enabling grave abuses to be committed against civilians during the conflict in Gaza.
In response to the sleight, the Obama administration added an official approval process to prevent Israeli PM Netanyahu from going behind his back again.
Israel is in its third ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US – the current agreement set $3.8 billion as the minimum amount of military aid to Israel per year till 2028, and allows for more for in various “joint programs” (see below).
Introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) on 07/01/2020) (0 cosponsors)
H.R.7617 – Appropriations for Department of Defense, FY ending Sept 30, 2021
Introduced by Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN-1) on 07/16/2020 (0 cosponsors)
The Israel section of this legislation earmarks $500 million in Israeli Cooperative Programs missile defense funding.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)reports that since 1948, the US has given Israel $6.9 billion for missile defense (over $1.5 billion for Iron Dome, Israel’s short-range missile defense system) – in addition to over $100 billion in military aid and $34 billion in economic aid (in current, non-inflation adjusted dollars).
However, when the US Army bought two Iron Dome systems from Israel, Israel refused to furnish necessary proprietary information, preventing integration of the apparatus with existing American technologies.
H.R.7608 – Department of State appropriations for FY ending Sept 30, 2021
Introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) on 07/13/2020 (0 cosponsors)
This legislation advances a policy whereby at least $3.3 billion of the DoS budget would be “available for grants only for Israel.”
It also calls for an end to the Arab League boycott of Israel and American firms that have ties with Israel, and normalized relations with Israel – without addressing the Arab League’s grievance against Israel (namely, injustice against the Palestinians).
The section of the bill on “Palestinian Statehood” would require that any Palestinian State be eligible for US aid only if it has, among other things, “demonstrated a firm commitment to peaceful coexistence with the State of Israel.”
As “peaceful coexistence” is defined by Israel and the US, this commitment would involve Palestinians giving up internationally recognized rights such as the right of return, the right to a decent quality of life, the right to justice, equality, and self-determination.
Funding would also be prohibited if Palestinians obtain member status in the United Nations without Israel’s permission, or ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel for “alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
5 pieces of legislation on US collaboration with Israel
Continuing the trend of Israeli-US collaboration (for example, read about S.3722 and H.R.6829 here, and S.Res.153 and H.Res.310 here), Congress is considering four newer bills that earmark funds for the two countries to partner on various projects. These so-called “joint programs” effectively funnel money and/or material to Israel, condition Americans to see Israel as a “partner,” and serve as a reminder of Israel’s omnipresence in Washington.
It is common knowledge for those aware of the issue, that Israel spies aggressively on the US, has refused to share privileged information with us, and has attempted to destroy a Navy ship belonging to the US. Yet, Israel partisans continue to claim that Israel is “an ally.”
H.R.7148 – “US-Israel Military Capability Act of 2020”
Introduced by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) on 6/11/2020 (6 cosponsors)
This bill asserts that collaboration with Israel is necessary in order to maintain military supremacy over China – which is, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, “improving their military very, very rapidly in space, air, cyber, maritime, land domains, etc.”
The sponsors of this legislation suggest that Israel is the natural choice to partner with because of its “innovative and agile defense technology sector”; however they do not take into account Israel’s testing of new weapons on Palestinians before marketing them around the world, including to countries that perpetrate human rights abuses. The bill also fails to take into account that Israel’s alleged prowess is connected to the massive amounts of US money that has been sent to Israel, to Israeli theft of US technology, and to its spying on the US.
In reality, the bill is yet another perk for Israel and another way to entangle the US with Israel.
S.4228 – “Water-Energy Technology Demonstration and Deployment Act”
Introduced by Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) on 07/20/2020 (0 cosponsors)
This bill stresses binational collaboration between the US and “Middle Eastern countries, such as Israel” in developing hydropower technology, and prioritizes international projects with countries that have “an established presence in Israel for the promotion of trade.”
Once again, Congress seeks to line up commercial clients for Israel – a country in breach of international law. Building up Israeli companies that then compete with American companies may result in major job losses for Americans.
The irony in this piece of legislation (and H.R.1837 and H.R.1795 – read here) is that while Israel develops water resources on the one hand, it uses water as a weapon on the other.
[Israel] is perpetrating a water catastrophe in the Palestinian territories. For example, Israel forbids Palestinians from digging wells or running water pipes on their own land (although the Israeli government provides running water to illegal settlements); instead, Israel sells water to Palestinians – at some of the highest prices in the world.
H.R.7613 – “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, FY 2021”
Introduced 07/15/2020 by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) on 07/15/2020 (0 cosponsors)
The planned work under this bill includes, for example, funding for Everglades restoration, hurricane and flood preparedness, clean energy…and $6 million for the US-Israel Cooperative Energy Center. This partnership has offices in California, New Jersey, and Tel Aviv.
Notably, this US-Israel collaboration is not mentioned in the legislation itself, only in a 235-page report that accompanied the bill. There, a reader can find out about a desalination and water purification program that gives “special consideration to drought-prone regions, and in collaboration with possible partners in the Middle East, including Israel.”
While Israel does struggle somewhat with water (at least in part due to its own mismanagement), it has found a way to provide twice the minimum requirement set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for free to its Jewish residents – and the Jews illegally living on Palestinian land. Meanwhile, Palestinians consume less than half that amount, at great expense.
The Applied Research Institute–Jerusalem (ARIJ) points out that
As of 2013, Israel’s 600,000 illegal settlers collectively used six times more water than the three million Palestinians in the West Bank for domestic use (and amenities like swimming pools and lawns).
Israel refuses completely to provide water to some of the Palestinians under occupation; when they make their own provision, at their own cost, Israel regularly destroys or confiscates the materials.
Israel forces have also been known to punitively shoot holes in Palestinian water tanks (even during the pandemic).
In Gaza, water is “scarce and mostly unfit for human use.”
S.4537 – “Reinvigorating the Economy, Creating Opportunity for every Vocation, Employer, Retiree & Youth Act ” or the “RECOVERY Act”
Introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on 09/08/2020 (0 cosponsors)
This economic recovery bill includes sections on safely returning Americans to work; job creation; retirement security; safely returning kids to school; Covid cures and treatment; and miscellaneous.
However, the legislation also slips in more money to Israel.
Under “Covid cures and treatment,” the bill proposes
$4,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2023 for a bilateral cooperative program with the Government of Israel…with an emphasis on collaboratively advancing the use of technology, personalized medicine, and data in relation to COVID–19.
While Israel has the most advanced medical technology in the Middle East (likely helped by the massive US aid it has received through the years), it does not share its bounty with the Palestinians in the territories it occupies.
Regarding the pandemic, Israel neglects the care of Palestinian prisoners (many of whom are illegally held in administrative detention) – including children; has demolished a number of Palestinian Covid testing centers; restricted pandemic-related efforts by international medical services; carried out thousands of search-and-arrest operations, and demolished hundreds of homes, leaving Palestinian families homeless.
Everyday health risks for Palestinian include Israeli police brutality, attacks against unarmed people, raids on hospitals, and refusal to allow ambulances and medical personnel to treat Palestinians injured by Israeli soldiers.
These practices, plus the oppressive policies of occupation and blockade, have led to Palestinians’ life expectancy at almost nine years shorter than that of Israelis – yet US politicians want to collaborate with Israel on medical matters.
S.4522 – funding for the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund
Introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) on 08/11/20 (1 cosponsor)
This is yet another bill to funnel more money to Israel and entangle the U.S. further with this foreign country.
This bill seeks to amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to authorize appropriations for the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund. The amount to be allocated is ominously unspecified: “such sums as are necessary to carry out activities…for each fiscal year.”
3 bills demonizing Israel’s enemies
H.Res.1131 – “Resolution to Stop Rewarding Terrorists”
Introduced by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) on 09/21/2020 (4 cosponsors)
This bill reports that, according to Israel, 1,360 people (at least 25 of them Americans) have been killed “by Palestinian violence and terrorism since September 2000. It alleges that the Palestinian Authority’s payment of “salaries to terrorists…as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.” (While this is a common argument by Israel partisans, the reality is significantly different.)
The resolution calls on the international community to condemn Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and reaffirms the penalties for such activity as laid out in the Taylor Force Act.
Gottheimer linked the bill to the recent divestment referendum at Columbia University (one of the American victims, a resident of his state, graduated from Barnard, a college affiliated with Columbia).
Gottheimer and his resolution ignore the fact that Israel has killed more American citizens than Palestinians have (read about some of them here and here); Israelis have killed almost eight times as many Palestinians as vice versa.
If Americans Knew has stressed that a social safety net for the families of Palestinians who have been imprisoned, injured, or killed by the occupying power
is not an endorsement of any act of terrorism but a humane, compassionate act…It must also be said that the shutdown of this social program…may lead to yet more resentment and extremism.
S.4482 – “Strengthening Reporting of Actions Taken Against the Normalization of Relations with Israel Act of 2020”
The purpose of this legislation is “to require the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an annual report regarding instances of Arab government retribution toward citizens and residents who engage in people-to-people relations with Israelis.”
Section 3 of the bill requires anti-normalization activities to be included in the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – part of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which determines whether a country is eligible for aid from the US.
Since Israel’s founding in 1948, it has received (adjusting for inflation) roughly $252.7 billion from the U.S. as of March 2018 – an amount that the majority of Americans consider excessive), in spite of its consistent, documented Gross Violations of Human Rights (GVHR) – yet Congress seeks to censure not Israel, but countries that snub Israel (read more about aid to Israel here and here).
Also noteworthy is that, while the US encourages Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel (including Syria and Lebanon, which have been attacked by Israel numerous times), it allows Israel to attack its Palestinian neighbors, even for holding a Palestinian flag.
H.R.7850 – “National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian Proxy Forces Act”
Introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) on 07/29/2020 (9 cosponsors)
“This bill requires the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to produce an assessment of Iran’s support for proxy military forces in the Middle East…and the increased risks that this support poses to Israel and U.S. regional interests [sic]…It also directs the President to report to Congress a strategy to prevent Iran from expanding its power in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.”
The bill is part of the ongoing effort by Israel and its partisans to target Iran, which Israel seeks to damage, much as it did Iraq.
Regarding the US preoccupation with Iran, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) points out:
[W]hen one examines the State Department’s rationale for designating Iran as the “world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” it should be clear that Iran is considered so because it supports armed resistance groups opposing the US [support for] Israel’s illegal occupation of Middle Eastern territories.
If Iran is a “state sponsor of terrorism” because it provides support to “Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza,” then does the US providing cash, weapons and surveillance for Israel’s state terrorism against Palestinians qualify the US as a “state sponsor of terrorism”?
According to B’Tselem’s figures from 2000 all the waythroughthe end of 2019, while Palestinian militants have killed a total of 301 Israeli civilians, Israeli security forces have killed 5,279 Palestinians who did not take part in hostilities, or were killed during the course of targeted killings (which are illegal under international law)…
Iran is considered a state sponsor of terrorism even though Iranian/Shiite terrorism “is not even a category in U.S. counterterrorism reporting.” On the other hand, Sunni terrorism (behind the 9/11 attacks, ISIS, and al Qaeda) is on the list – but Saudi Arabia, a staunchly Sunni country, is not considered a state sponsor of terror.
3 pieces of legislation applauding normalization with Israel
Israel recently signed agreements with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, two states with which Israel has never been at war. The normalization of relations with Arab countries gives Israel a veneer of legitimacy while giving them access to US-made weapons (and giving the US access to Arab money).
The treaties, facilitated by President Trump, also give Republicans a talking point: the GOP establishment loves and nurtures its relationship with Israel (or at least from campaign donors like Sheldon Adelson).
Three bills recognize the “historic achievement” of these agreements – which ignore the issue of justice for the Palestinians and erode hope for their future, as other countries may follow in UAE and Bahraini footsteps.
What incredible times we are living in. These agreements set the Middle East on a new course of cooperation and economic integration…Going forward the biggest winners will be those who pursue peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. The prospects of a sustainable peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians just became more real.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) added (without evidence);
If Biden wins in November and appoints Bernie Sanders as Secretary of State, we’ll see open hostility toward our friend and ally Israel.
(Joe Biden is a staunch supporter of Israel; Bernie Sanders has lived on an Israeli kibbutz and has taken positions on both sides of the issue.)
Israeli activist Miko Peled described the treaties as an opportunity for Arab countries to get
access to much desired U.S.-made weapons and other perks such as security and economic cooperation…Israel has successfully taken the Palestinian issue off the world stage. Regardless of how often Israel attacks Gaza or how viciously it attacks, regardless of how many Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons and how severe the conditions in which Palestinians live, Israel succeeded in getting the world to look the other way.
Introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (N-NY-16) on 09/15/2020 (259 cosponsors)
This House resolution applauds the treaties, encourages other Arab nations to follow suit, and supports the (temporary) suspension of annexation plans by Israel.
The sponsor of this resolution, Eliot Engel, has been one of Israel’s staunchest allies during his three-plus decade in Congress. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee since 2013, he consistently discussed legislation with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to make sure it was satisfactory.
Former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer Philip Giraldi commented on Engel’s close ties with AIPAC, “Some might suggest that serving in one country’s legislature and working for the interests of another country amounts to treason.”
4 pieces of miscellaneous pro-Israel legislation
S.Res.745 and H.Res.1173 – “honoring the life, legacy, and example of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his death”
Introduced in Senate by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD – 8 cosponsors) and in House by Rep. Dean Philips (D-MN-3 – 6 cosponsors)
While Rabin received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize (along with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat) for efforts to create peace in the Middle East, Jacobin Magazine details some of his less-known actions – which include sending Palestinians on a “death march,” collaborating with apartheid South Africa, and calling for a policy of “bone-breaking” for Palestinian protesters.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”), who was slated to participate in an event commemorating Rabin, withdrew after learning that the Prime Minister’s politics have been whitewashed.
Backlash against her decision was fierce, and exemplifies the panic that ensues, as Yousef Munayyer pointed out, when pro-Israel voices lose control of “a narrative that erases Palestinians.”
H.R.7900 – “Organ Donation Clarification Act of 2020”
Introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) on 07/31/2020 (10 cosponsors)
The purpose of this legislation is to amend the National Organ Transplant Act to allow for pilot programs promoting organ donation.
In addition to citing statistics showing how economical organ transplants are, the bill singles out Israel for the “sweeping changes” it made to its national organ donation program in 2010, and as a result saw organ donation approximately triple over a 10-year period.
According to the International Registry in Organ Donation and Transplantation, Israel ranked only near the middle in most measures in 2019, while Spain consistently came in near or at the top of the list.
In fact, the Israel Journal of Health Policy Researchhighlights Spain’s program, considered to be the world’s “gold standard.”
The new Israeli program grew out of an attempt to address Israel’s reputation as a favorite destination for illegal organ trafficking. When bans were put in place, Israel experienced a dramatic drop in organ donations – a problem that initiated the “sweeping changes” that this bill touts.
S.Res.686 – “Honoring the service and sacrifice of members of the United States Armed Forces, veterans, prisoners of war, and Gold Star Families.”
Introduced by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on 09/09/2020 (o cosponsors)
This resolution includes this clause, unrelated to the service and sacrifices of US Armed Forces:
Whereas the President was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his successful efforts to create peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates…
Introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) on 08/14/2020 (11 cosponsors)
The purpose of this bill is “to prohibit United States Government recognition of the Israeli Government’s claim of sovereignty over the occupied West Bank…No Federal department or agency may take any action or extend any assistance in a manner that extends or implies United States recognition of such a claim of sovereignty in violation of international humanitarian law or customary international law.”
In fact, the international community – and even many Israelis, along with some staunch Israel partisans who feel this is damaging to Israel – oppose the annexation of West Bank land.
Such an action is illegal, and the US has opposed annexation until the Trump administration. In 2019, Trump reversed American policy by green-lighting Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
(To read about the single other piece of legislation in this congressional session supporting Palestinian rights – Rep. Betty McCollum’s H.R.2407 – go here.)