US politicians who routinely support pro-Israeli legislation cannot be unaware of Israel’s illegal and immoral actions against the Palestinians.
While Trump, Russia and Comey have dominated mainstream media, the Israel Lobby has continued it efforts to influence U.S. lawmakers at federal, state and local levels with generous contributions, political intimidation and expense-paid trips to Israel.
This year began with Congressional repudiation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law….”
In a major speech on December 28, 2016 former Secretary of State John Kerry spoke strongly in favor of the UN Resolution. Nevertheless, H.Res.11, with 134 co-sponsors, condemned the UN action; and S.Res. 6, with 47 co-sponsors, passed a similar resolution.
Since then Congress, state legislatures and local government bodies have passed a variety of resolutions and enacted bills in response to Israeli lobby pressure on three fronts.
As reported in my February 26, 2016 article (“Legislating Against BDS: Israel’s Current Blitz”), Israel’s anti BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) campaign “targets academic institutions and legislative bodies.”
Israel argues that BDS “delegitimizes the State of Israel,” is “anti-Semitic,” and a “war against Israel.” Yet, as earlier stated, the movement is none of these. It is instead a peaceful tactic to pressure Israel to comply with international law, end the occupation, and respect the human rights of Palestinians.
Congressional opposition to BDS flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent. In a 1982 opinion (NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886), the Court held that peaceful boycotts are a legitimate exercise of free speech to achieve a legitimate political end. Moreover, the U.S. government participated actively in the global BDS movement that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Increasingly, critics of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians find themselves wrongly accused of “anti-Semitism.” To equate criticism of Israel’s policies with “anti-Semitism” is an egregious mischaracterization that imperils free speech. Most Israel critics have nothing against either Jews or Israelis. They may even wish well for the State of Israel but condemn Netanyahu’s settlement expansion, continued occupation, and repression of Palestinians.
Last December the Senate fast-tracked the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” which takes aim at campus activism for Palestinian rights by codifying criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. The bill had the strong support of AIPAC, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
When criticism of Israel is deemed “demonization” or “de-legitimization,” the First Amendment right of free speech is called into question. What do we say when right wing pundits attack critics of Trump’s policies as “un-American?” The right of the press and citizens to criticize the actions of their government and its detractors should not be curtailed.
S.Res.176 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem by a vote of 90-0, reaffirmed its support for the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (urging Embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) and called upon the President “to abide by its provisions.” Similarly, the celebratory events in the U.S. Capitol and other cities (including Boston) on June 8 were occasions for politicians to endorse the Embassy Act.
At the joint celebration in Washington and the Knesset in Jerusalem, hosted by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Demer, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called upon the Trump administration to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
House Speaker Paul Ryan declared: “After thousands of years in exile, the Jewish people are finally back home…home in their eternal, unified capital of Jerusalem, never to be divided again.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was one of the original sponsors of the Jerusalem Embassy Act and has regularly called U.S. Embassy relocation to Jerusalem. Both Congressional leaders appear to ignore the negative impact of such a move on Palestinian statehood.
It is inconceivable that the U.S. politicians who routinely support pro-Israeli legislation are unaware of Israel’s illegal and immoral actions against the Palestinians. More likely, they choose to follow the biddings of the Israel lobby in exchange for campaign funding and junkets.