Why US lawmakers should witness the Israeli occupation firsthand

A visit by Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Mark Pocan to my Palestinian village affirmed the value of politicians learning about Israel’s policies on the ground.


Palestinians protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin to the heritage site of ancient Susya, in Yatta, near the West Bank city of Hebron, March 14, 2021. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Nasser Nawajah, +972 Magazine, December 8, 2021

When U.S. Congressman Andy Levin visited my village of Susiya in 2019, he witnessed a live illustration of the unjust reality that Palestinians in the occupied West Bank experience daily.

As we stood at the entrance of the village, looking toward the illegal Israeli settlement of the same name that has turned Susiya’s ancient ruins into an archeological park, Mekorot, Israel’s water utility company, was busy laying down pipes. The water, of course, would not be accessible to us or the other Palestinian communities in the area; it is meant to serve the outposts and settlements on the hilltops that surround us.

The congressman saw firsthand how water, a basic service which should be guaranteed as a human right, is in fact a precious commodity here in the South Hebron Hills. Do you know how much a cubic meter of water costs in your neighborhood? In Susiya, it costs NIS 35, approximately $11. For Israeli Jews — including those who live just hundreds of meters from us in the Israeli Susiya — the average price is just NIS 7, about $2.

Currently, most of our water cisterns are located in a “security buffer zone” that we cannot access. We are thus forced to buy water at five times the price, while Israelis living in settlements enjoy the same privileges as if they were living in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Last month, U.S. Congressmen Jamaal Bowman and Mark Pocan, together with their colleagues, visited Susiya and witnessed these injustices, too. I stood with them in our playground, which on the previous Shabbat had been invaded by settlers who were escorted and protected by the Israeli army.

#StandWithThe6 and Call Out Biden

Register for & share the Wednesday Power Half-Hour #StandWithThe6 Call-In to Call Out Biden

Join us for the Power Half-Hour #StandWithThe6 Call-In to Call Out Biden. Join us for 30 minutes on Wednesday, November 3, 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12pm MT / 11am PT to be part of a wave of people power flooding the White House’s reactivated comments line (202-456-1111) to #StandWithThe6. We’ll take action together and also hear analysis to shape our grassroots advocacy strategy in this moment, in order to advance an end to U.S. military funding to Israel, uplifting effective human rights advocacy work that Israel is working so hard to silence.

Drive Emails for H.Res. 751 #StandWithThe6 Resolution

Just a reminder that we have an email action tool and accompanying social media toolkit for the letter launch. 300 organizations have signed and individual signers are still welcome!

9 progressives joined as original cosponsors on H.Res.751 – Condemning the repressive designation by the Government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations. Rep. Holmes Norton has since joined. We’re disturbed by silence from high profile ‘Progressive Except Palestine’ Representatives who claim to care about human rights.


House overwhelmingly approves Iron Dome funding in 420-9 vote

Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), all of whom have been critical of Israel, voted ‘Yes’


RASHIDA TLAIB CALLS ISRAEL AN APARTHEID STATE DURING DELIBERATIONS ON SPENDING $1 BILLION FOR ISRAELI MILITARY PROGRAM, IRON DOME. SEPT. 23, 2021. SCREENSHOT

MICHAEL ARRIA AND PHILIP WEISS, Mondoweiss, SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

This week House progressives were able to temporarily hold up an additional $1 billion to Israel that had been tacked onto the short-term government spending bill to replenish the country’s Iron Dome system.

The victory ended up being short-lived, as Iron Dome spending was split into a separate vote by pro-Israel Dems and passed easily in the House. The final vote was 420-9 with 2 present.

The funding’s removal had sparked widespread congressional backlash on both sides of the aisle. The vote seemed to catch progressive House members in disarray, as some of lawmakers associated with the funding’s initial removal ended up voting for the legislation.

The No votes belonged to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Andre Carson (D-IN), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) , Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO).

Not among the No votes: NY Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted present; while Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), all of whom have been critical of Israel, voted Yes.

The Israeli Prime Minister thanked the House shortly after the vote:

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Rep. Mark Pocan: Iron Dome should avert need for Israeli retaliatory strikes

Pocan, a leading figure among Israel critics in the House, organized a series of floor speeches criticizing Israel


Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

Marc Rod, Jewish Insider, May 20, 2021

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a left-wing Democrat who has frequently been vocally critical of Israel, argued on Wednesday that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system should remove the need for it to launch its own strikes in response to terrorist rocket attacks, as it largely prevents rockets from striking Israel.

“I’ve always supported the Iron Dome. Because the idea is when a missile comes in, if you take it out, no one’s been killed on either side, and there’s de-escalation,” Pocan, who organized an hour of speeches on the House floor criticizing Israel last week, told reporters. “If you use it for that purpose, then you still send 20 times the number of missiles back, that’s not the intention.”

The Israeli Defense Forces have said that more than 4,000 rockets have been fired at Israel since this conflict began, most of which have been intercepted by the Iron Dome. Israel has carried out hundreds of retaliatory strikes on Hamas targets. 

When pressed on the fact that the Iron Dome does not deal with the sources of the rocket attacks, Pocan did not address the issue directly, responding that “they should be de-escalating by doing a cease-fire.”

“You can’t justify taking out media buildings, roads to hospitals, scores of children. This is not what this is about,” Pocan claimed. The Israeli military has accused Hamas of using “human shields” — hiding military equipment, facilities and personnel in civilian locations, including an office building which housed The Associated Press and other international media organizations.

As part of the 2016 memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel regarding military aid, the U.S. provides $500 million per year to support missile defense efforts in Israel, including Iron Dome. Pocan and some fellow House Democrats have pushed to place additional conditions on this aid.

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How a West Bank Trip Turned This Congressman Into One of Israel’s Strongest Critics

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan tells Haaretz why he welcomes a new Israeli government, even one led by a right-winger like Naftali Bennett who has renounced the two-state solution


Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan. Andy Manis / AP

Ben Samuels, Haaretz, Jun. 7, 2021

WASHINGTON – How does a lawmaker go from surface-level familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to being one of the most vocal proponents of Palestinian rights in the history of Congress?

It starts with Humpty Dumpty.

Possible House Committee Hold on Arms Sale to Israel