Two Congressional Resolutions That Won’t Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Dr. James J. Zogby, July 13, 2019

In the coming week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will move on four bills – all of which, I believe, drive more nails in the coffin of Israeli-Palestinian peace. While two of the proposed bills are blatantly pro-Israel, it is the two more benign pieces of legislation that cause me real concern.

House Resolution 246 (HRes246) “Opposing efforts to de-legitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” is a non-binding resolution putting Congress on record in opposition to BDS. Unlike earlier versions, HRes246 does not impose penalties on BDS supporters nor does it conflate Israel and “areas under Israeli control” – a not too clever way designed to recognize Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. For this reason, this resolution has won the support of several liberal groups and is currently co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of 338 Members of Congress.

HRes246 also includes language calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “both the Israeli and Palestinian people should be able to live in safe and sovereign states, free from fear and violence, with mutual recognition.” And it “urges the Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations as the only way to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The bulk of HRes246, however, is devoted to a series of “Whereas” and “Resolved” clauses opposing BDS. These clauses mischaracterize the goals of the BDS movement, misquote the co-founder of the BDS movement; and falsely claim that BDS targets not just the State of Israel but individual Jews “who support Israel.”

HRes246 concerns me for two principal reasons:

– far from being a benign resolution, HRes246 has been correctly described by the Arab American Institute as a “transparent ploy” that delegitimizes a legal and non-violent movement that advocates for Palestinian human rights – and secures the blessing of an overwhelming majority of Congress in this effort. While this non-binding resolution does not criminalize BDS, by defaming the practices advocated by this movement and putting Congress on record in opposition to it, HRes246 opens the door to current state laws and future Congressional efforts to do so.

– HRes246’s profession of support for a two-state solution and its implication that the BDS movement is an obstacle to reaching that goal can only be described as naïve, at best, or even disingenuous. Nowhere in the resolution is there any mention of any of the obstacles posed by the Israeli Government: the 620,000 settlers living in settlements that have, by design, carved the areas West Bank open to Palestinians into non-contiguous “Bantustans”; the aggressive land grabs, demolition of Palestinian homes; the brutal behavior of the occupation authorities; the policies of both the current Israeli Government and its opposition, both of which see no place for the “viable” Palestinian State called for in HR246; or the annexationist policies currently underway in the area referred to “East Jerusalem,” having a profoundly negative impact on the lives of the 320,000 Palestinian citizens who live there.

All of this is ignored, as is Congressional complicity in these Israeli policies. Despite several past US Administrations calling on Israel to stop settlement construction, not only do they continue, but they continue with Congress’ blessing in the form of increased aid and not only no US sanctions, but not even a rebuke.

When the Palestinians have appealed to the United Nations or other international bodies like the International Criminal Court, the response of US Administrations or Congress has been to punish the Palestinians and/or the international organizations, in question.

As a result, the only recourse Palestinians have had is in the court of public opinion, hence, the BDS movement. Their successes have been greeted by Israel and now the US Congress with hysteria. Hence, the effort to delegitimize and defame the movement – with criminalization sure to follow.

The second bill before Congress is House Resolution 326 (HRes326) “Regarding efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.” This is also a non-binding resolution. It is currently sponsored by 144 Members of Congress and has a companion bill before the US Senate (Senate Resolution 234) that is sponsored by nine Democrats – including two presidential aspirants: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

HRes326 includes one very positive “Whereas” clause which calls for “an end to the occupation, including opposing settlement activity and moves toward unilateral annexation in Palestinian territory.” Because such strong language has never before appeared in a congressional bill with this many sponsors, HRes326 is deserving of support. It should be recalled that we were unable to get the Clinton campaign to insert the words “settlements” and “occupation” in the 2016 Democratic Party Platform.

Even with this, I am concerned that this support for a “two-state solution” not be turned into what I have termed “a two-state absolution” which sees Members of Congress going on record in support of an outcome, but then absolving themselves of their responsibility to address precisely what can be done to realize that outcome – and if it is even possible to achieve a viable “two-state solution” given current realities on the ground in the occupied territories. 

Opposing settlements is one thing, but what, other than hand-wringing, is the Congressional response to continued construction and how will they deal with the 620,000 settlers who reside in the West Bank? Calling for an end to the occupation and opposing annexation is one thing, but what has been and will be the response of Congress to Israel’s deeper encroachment into the territories and its de facto annexation of large areas of Palestinian lands that have been captured inside what Israel calls East Jerusalem and behind its West Bank Wall? Being opposed to something is one thing, acting against what you oppose is quite another.

The bottom line is that Congress, as much as this and past Administrations, is responsible for the current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine. Decades of Congressional inaction in the face of Israeli transgressions of international law and the human rights of the occupied Palestinian people have resulted in Israeli impunity – they know they can get away with anything – and deepening Palestinian despair – they’ve lost hope that the United States will ever hear their cries for justice. These two bills, one of which blames the victims and the other which will allow some Members of Congress to feel “they’re off the hook” cause me to be concerned.    


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Touring the Israeli Occupation: Young U.S. Jews Get an Unflinching View


At Har Gilo, a Jewish settlement overlooking the southern West Bank, American college students get a history lesson. (Ilia Yefimovich for The New York Times)

David M. Halbfinger, The New York Times, July 10, 2019

PSAGOT, West Bank — The fun was over before the tour bus rolled into Har Gilo.

For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.

Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.

The organizers said they embraced Birthright’s goal of helping young American Jews connect with Israel and with their Jewishness, but that they also needed to be exposed to the realities of the occupation.

On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go.

In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.

Adam DeSchriver, 21, a clarinet student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said he had been wowed on the trip’s first few days by the “renaissance of Hebrew culture” he discovered in Israel.

“What breaks my heart,” he said after Sunday’s eye-opening itinerary, “is seeing it at the expense of others.”

More. . .

Why some Palestinians are backing Trump’s peace push

A growing number of Palestinians want a ‘one state, equal rights’ model and think Trump may unwittingly pave the way for it.


Palestinian youths climb a section of Israel’s wall near the West Bank. | Abbas Momani/Getty Images

NAHAL TOOSI, POLITICO, 05/21/2019

Some prominent Palestinian activists and politicians are quietly rooting for Jared Kushner as he prepares to unveil the first part of his Middle East peace plan next month.

That’s not because they think the plan will resolve their decadeslong conflict with Israel. It’s because they hope it will hasten the onset of a “one-state” solution they are coming to support.

The push for one state with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis has gained steam in recent years as the Trump administration has been preparing its peace plan, which Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, is expected to unveil at a June conference in Bahrain. Kushner has signaled that his plan abandons America’s decadeslong official support for a “two-state solution,” in which the Palestinians are given a sovereign nation of their own.

Many Palestinian supporters of a single state — whose ranks now include Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a Palestinian-American — wouldn’t necessarily mind seeing the creation of two independent, full-fledged states in the region. But they don’t consider that outcome realistic, nor do they believe that the international community ever truly backed the idea.

Some argue that due to Israeli actions on the ground, including the construction of settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians already live in a de facto single state, but one in which they lack the same rights as Israeli Jews. Many liken the situation to apartheid South Africa and say Trump’s policies are simply exposing that reality.

“Trump is now not only burying the two-state solution, which was not viable anyway, but he’s gladly dancing on its grave, thus forcing people to end their denial,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “It’s important for us to respond very clearly that we need equal rights in one state.”

Surrendering the fight for two states could mean short-term pain for Palestinians, one-staters admit. But they hope to draw the world’s attention over time to the implications of one Israeli state in which Palestinians lack full voting and freedom-of-movement rights, bolstering their demands for one state with equal rights for all citizens.

The push for one state with equal rights is also fueled by a series of other strongly pro-Israel actions by Trump, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite its contested status. If the Palestinians are not given sovereignty, an Israel that absorbs millions of them indefinitely may ultimately be forced to choose between its democratic character and its Jewish identity — especially if demographic growth favors Palestinians.

“I don’t think it’s the intention of Mr. Trump to help Palestinians, but indirectly I think it is [helping]," said Hamada Jaber of the One State Foundation, an organization that launched last year to argue that a single state is actually in the Palestinians’ interest. “There is no two-state solution. It’s pushing us as Palestinians to think about an alternative.”

The growing calls among far left Palestinians and other advocates for “one state, equal rights” comes as Israeli and Palestinian officials acknowledge that the decadeslong efforts at achieving a political solution has stalled, and that the two sides’ respective positions on issues like borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees may be irreconcilable.

Even so, many close observers of the conflict say, a one state, equal rights approach may prove an even more impractical goal.

“It’s not a real-world solution,” insisted Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of J Street, the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group that supports the two-state model. “It may sound nice in an academic hall. In a real world, this is not going to become one democratic state with equal rights.”

Israeli politicians won’t stand for an outcome in which they could lose political power, critics of the one-state idea say. Then there’s the fact that Palestinian leaders still say they want two separate states. Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis run so deep, some two-staters argue, that they could not coexist peacefully under one government.

Israeli leaders have long blamed the lack of progress in past peace talks on Palestinians, saying they’ve repeatedly refused generous offers that would have helped them create their own state while supporting violence against Israel. The militant group Hamas’ control of the Gaza Strip — from which it launches attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians — hasn’t helped inspire Israeli confidence in a potential peace deal.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered only tepid support for the creation of a Palestinian state. | Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP

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Rise against Racism! #CounterCUFI

Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA)

For too long, Palestinians have been calling for freedom, justice, and equality. As organizations that share these values, we urge you to join us in confronting Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

CUFI has quietly become the largest organization in the United States driving support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. With over five million members, CUFI uses its political leverage to ensure ongoing U.S. support for Israel’s colonization and military occupation of Palestine, including imprisoning Palestinian children; bombing homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza; massacring peaceful protestors; and confiscating Palestinian land.

By its own admission, CUFI “led the charge to have the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” and it continues to push for unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation and illegal settlement expansion.

CUFI is a Christian Zionist organization: Its ideology and politics are deeply entrenched in white nationalism, anti-Muslim racism, anti-Semitism, and other systems of oppression. In spite of its strong political influence on the Hill, CUFI has operated largely under the radar and received little attention in comparison with groups like AIPAC.

Until now. This is the moment to act: This July, many of your Congressional representatives will be attending CUFI’s annual summit as invited guests. We cannot allow CUFI’s influence to go unchallenged. Come to Washington, D.C. on July 7 and 8 to tell the world to #CounterCUFI!

It will take each and every one of us to rise against racism, to reclaim and protect our communities, and to uphold the liberation of all people in the vision of justice, equality, and freedom.

Signed,
Friends of Sabeel North America
Jewish Voice for Peace
American Muslims for Palestine
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

We will be congregating in Washington, D.C. on July 7 and 8 to challenge Christian Zionism and express our solidarity for the Palestinian people. Join us in person in D.C. by registering here and help make the action possible by donating here.

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Landmark Ruling Strikes Down Ban of Israel Boycott

Arsalan Bukhari, Informed Comment, 04/26/2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CAIR News Release) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed this afternoon’s landmark victory in CAIR’s First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of Bahia Amawi, the Texas speech language pathologist who lost her job because she refused to sign a “No Boycott of Israel” clause.

The CAIR Legal Defense Fund filed the lawsuit in December 2018 challenging Texas Anti-BDS Act, H.B. 89. CAIR actively challenges similar measures around the country, including in Arizona and Maryland.

SEE: CAIR Files Motion to Enjoin Texas Anti-BDS Act as Unconstitutional

This afternoon Judge Pitman of the Western District of Texas issued a 56-page opinion striking down H.B. 89, the Texas Anti-BDS Act, as facially unconstitutional.

READ: The Judge’s Opinion

The Court held that the Texas Anti-BDS Act “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” The Court concluded: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”

Every single “No Boycott of Israel” clause in every single state contract in Texas has today been stricken as unconstitutional. The Attorney General of Texas is no longer permitted to include or enforce “No Boycott of Israel” clauses in any state contract.

Bahia Amawi can also now return to work as a speech language pathologist. Amawi received the news of her victory while driving, and pulled over to the side of the road to shed tears of joy. “God is great,” she exclaimed.

“Arabic-speaking schoolchildren in Texas have been deprived of critical services from Bahia Amawi for almost this entire schoolyear because of this unconstitutional law,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Today we welcome a victory for the First Amendment.”

“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “More importantly, it’s a complete victory for all Texans, to engage in political speech without government censorship.”

“The First Amendment blocks any effort by state governments or the federal government from forcing their citizens to take sides in the widespread international debate about the relationship between Israel and Palestine,” said CAIR Trial Attorney Carolyn Homer. “This is a lesson all public servants should remember when considering Anti-BDS measures around the country.”

“Bahia Amawi has been an inspiration to the Muslim community and all advocates for free speech in Texas,” said CAIR-Austin Executive Director Maira Sheikh.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.


Video from Informed Comment

Democracy Now! Dec 18, 2018: “Meet the Texas Speech Pathologist Who Lost School Job for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel, Anti-BDS Oath”

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I co-founded the BDS movement. Why was I denied entry to the US?

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding


“Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left.” (Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Omar Barghouti, The Guardian, 16 Apr 2019

Last Wednesday, as I was preparing to depart for the United States for a series of speaking engagements, I was abruptly stopped and prevented from boarding my flight at Ben Gurion airport. The US consulate informed the airline staff that US immigration has banned me from entering the country, despite having a valid visa, without providing a reason.

Given my regular, unhindered travel to the US for years, this ban seems to be an ideologically and politically motivated measure that fits in with Israel’s escalating repression against human rights defenders. Israel’s far-right regime is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.

As a co-founder of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, I have been smeared by the Israeli government and banned from travel repeatedly, including in 2018 when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination”, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International. Their de facto and “arbitrary travel ban” against me was recently lifted for three months after Amnesty International’s pressure.

On this US trip, I was scheduled to meet with policymakers and journalists and to address the critical need for cutting US complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights before audiences at New York University, Harvard, a black community bookstore in Philadelphia and the Tzedek Chicago synagogue. Afterwards, I was going to attend my daughter’s wedding in Houston.

I have decided not to miss any of my speaking engagements, joining via video in the middle of my nights, but I cannot possibly compensate the personal loss of missing my daughter’s wedding. I am hurt, but I am far from deterred.

Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly signaled his deep bias in favor of Israel. His Middle East team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, with their fervent support for Israel’s illegal settlements and other crimes, must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. He has recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in violation of international law and more than seven decades of official US policy.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and politicians in 27 states have passed laws intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. The ACLU has condemned these repressive measures as an unconstitutional violation of free speech that is “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths”.

All of this has emboldened Israel’s hardline rightwing government to accelerate its racist, oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. Over the last year, Israeli soldiers have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters demanding refugee rights and freedom from the open-air prison that Israel has turned Gaza into.

Last summer, Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which constitutionally enshrines an apartheid reality that has existed for many years. And Israel’s government has buried the so-called two-state solution by continuing its relentless theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements, while at the same time increasing pressure on human rights defenders, particularly BDS advocates.

During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing the West Bank and repeatedly incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel, declaring, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” He will now likely form a government even more extreme and intransigent than the last, which was the most racist in Israel’s history.

Some Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left, but many are intensifying popular resistance, including BDS, calling for impactful solidarity and ending international complicity.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and the US civil rights movements, BDS calls for cultural, economic and political pressure on Israel to end its military rule over Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied since 1967, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognize the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, a universal right that applies to all refugees. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian society.

Americans have a long and honorable history of using boycotts for social, political and economic justice causes against the Montgomery Bus company, California grape growers, the states of North Carolina and Arizona over anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant laws, respectively, and now against Trump’s racist agenda. Similarly, Palestinians seek to use peaceful economic leverage to achieve our liberation.

With its inclusive, anti-racist principles, BDS rejects all forms of bigotry, and appeals to progressives everywhere. Its tactics have been adopted by a number of US mainline churches, student governments in tens of universities, academic associations and racial and social justice groups, who wish to avoid being complicit in the suffering of Palestinians.

This trend is now being amplified by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar’s courageous endorsement of BDS and the much wider defense, including by the ACLU and Senators Bernie Sanders and Dianne Feinstein, of the right to boycott Israel to end its human rights violations, as constitutionally protected free speech. All this deeply inspires Palestinians and gives us hope that we can prevail over oppression. Despite the alarming spread of white supremacy in the Trump era, struggles for racial, social, indigenous, economic and environmental justice are growing and connecting with each other.

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