Congress has been cranking out legislation that bankrolls & benefits Israel at a remarkable pace during the current congressional session. Here’s a rundown…
To see how Senators have been voting view this detailed Scoreboard.
by Kathryn Shihadah
Since Israel’s founding in 1948, it has received (adjusting for inflation) more than $252.7 billion from the U.S. – an amount that the majority of Americans consider excessive. In spite of its consistent, long, documented history of frequent human rights violations (often not reported in US media) and discrimination, Congress seeks to reward Israel and chastise Israel’s victim (read more about aid to Israel here and here).
The sheer quantity – and expense – of the advocacy work that our Congress has done on behalf of this pariah state are staggering: consider the hours spent in meetings, negotiation, research, and floor debates, the trips and calls to Israel, to name a few.
And while only a handful of the almost one hundred proposed bills will become law, our legislators will have spent their time (and our money) on them, instead of addressing American needs and concerns – especially in this time of pandemic, economic crisis, and civil unrest. Plus, the legislation that is enacted inevitably cost Americans taxpayers massive amount of money.
Skim the partial list below to get a taste of what our legislators have been doing in the last two years on behalf of Israel; for more detail, please read this, this, and this – commentary on the legislation we have provided throughout the congressional session.
Another useful tool is the congressional scoreboards created by If Americans Knew. These track all Israel-related legislation and who supported it in the current session.
LEGISLATION FOR MORE WEAPONS TO ISRAEL
A study of military aid to Israel uncovers a bottomless pit that only starts with $3.3 billion per year (recently changed from a “maximum” to a “minimum” amount of assistance), guaranteed for the next ten years. Another $500 million is immediately added each year, specifically for Israel’s Iron Dome, a massive (and expensive) anti-missile defense weapon.
On top of this, some bills expend an additional $9 million per day on behalf of Israel, making the combined total $19 million per day on behalf of Israel (and this estimate may be low).
Iron Dome is used to counter small projectiles shot from Gaza, the main form of resistance coming from Palestinians in the Strip. Rockets from Gaza have killed a total of 30 Israelis in the past twenty years, while Israeli airstrikes again Gaza have killed thousands of Palestinians.
S.3176 and H.R.1837 lay out the basic premise for the $3.3 billion a year. In addition, the legislation would give the President authority to provide Israel with unlimited weaponry and assistance if “needed” without prior authorization from Congress.
These bills also lay the groundwork for millions in new funding for various additional programs benefiting Israel (which will be discussed below). (Read more about some unscrupulous Congressional actions related to S.3176.)
These bills defy the Leahy Laws, which clearly state that, “when credible evidence of human rights violations exists, US aid must stop.” (For more on the Leahy Laws, read this.)
LEGISLATION ON US COLLABORATION WITH ISRAEL
Collaboration with Israel (i.e. entangling us with a foreign pariah country) is a recurring theme in Congress. Below are several examples among many.
H.R.1459 endorses collaboration in security and law enforcement training between the US and Israel to “promote security against terrorism, peaceful resolutions to community disputes, and the protection of spaces for civil society.”
American law enforcement personnel have received training from Israel for years – in spite of the brutality of its military and police.
S.3775 seeks, in the words of Foundation for Defense of Democracies (recognized as an arm of the Israel lobby) reports that this bill seeks to create a “permanent and dedicated forum” for “[sharing] intelligence-informed military capabilities.”
H.R.2488 and S.2309 and H.R.7148 seeks to bring the US and Israel together to collaborate on cybersecurity and defense technology, in spite of Israel’s history of spying on the US, infringing on the decisions of our President, and attacking an American Naval ship.
S.4228 stresses binational collaboration between the US and “Middle Eastern countries, such as Israel” in developing hydropower technology – adding an irrelevant caveat that prioritizes countries with trade relationships with Israel.
H.R.7613 would set aside money for many American projects, including hurricane preparedness, clean energy. Inexplicably, it includes millions for a “US-Israel Cooperative Energy Center.”
S.3722 and H.R.6829 authorize funding for the US to collaborate with Israel in the development of health technologies, including COVID-19. Ironically, Israel has shut down or destroyed a number of Palestinian COVID clinics in recent months.
S.4537, a pandemic 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. Israel is embedded in this bill too. Under “COVID cures and treatment,” the bill proposes $12 million over a three-year period to collaborate with Israel (a tiny country funded by American taxpayers) vis-a-vis the coronavirus.
H.R.5063 is legislation seeking to increase US-Israel collaboration on anti-drone weapons – specifically for use against Iran. (Israel has been targeting Iran for decades.) The bill would bankroll Israel’s already lucrative development of cyberweapons, which would then be tested on Palestinians and sold around the world – including to human rights violators and enemies of the U.S.
S.4522 seeks to authorize “such sums as are necessary” for a US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund. (Some Americans might wish this money to instead go to struggling American farmers.)
H.R.5605 proposes funding for a US-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Program. If Americans Knew and B’Tselem are among many organizations that have reported on Israel’s victim-blaming and whitewashing of Palestinian suffering and extensive PTSD.
Vox reports that between 2005 and 2014, 23 out of every 24 conflict-related deaths have been Palestinian. Tragically, Palestinians’ experiences would provide a more abundant field for PTSD research than Israelis’. 54% of Gazan children who experienced heavy bombardment in the 2014 Israeli incursion known as Operation Protective Edge, suffer from severe PTSD. (Fyi – Vastly more Palestinians are killed than Israelis.)
In case some potential areas of collaboration had been overlooked in all of these bills, Res.324 “Recognizing the importance of the US-Israel economic relationship,” makes a blanket statement “encouraging new areas of cooperation” (and US money funneled to Israel).
LEGISLATION ON ANTI-SEMITISM AND HOLOCAUST EDUCATION
S.852, H.R.4009, H.R.221, H.Res.72, H.Res.241, S.Res.189, H.Res.183, H.R.943, S.2085, H.Res.782, and H.Res.837 cover various angles of an important topic: anti-Semitism. The issue turns a corner in each of these bills when they improperly equate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel (an Israeli official once explained that the antisemitism accusation is a “trick” to cover up Israeli crimes.) The US staunchly defends Israel against all reproof, whether from the UN, journalists, or private citizens (see BDS, below). (For more, read this, this, this, and this.)
LEGISLATION DEMONIZING ISRAEL’S ENEMIES, CONGRATULATING ITS “FRIENDS”
S.2132 is designed to put Palestine in an impossible situation: choosing between financial solvency and international legitimacy. The bill would make the Palestinian government liable in potentially devastating lawsuits – unless it stops its quest for justice and recognition in the world (read about the bill here).
S.Res. 570 opposes the possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court of both Americans and Israelis validly accused of war crimes. Instead of calling for due process, the bill calls for impunity and considers the ICC a foe. (One of the few bills not on behalf of Israel, H.Res.855 points out that the US has never become a member of the ICC, and encourages it to do so.)
In the year before the resolution was introduced, four Israelis had been killed by rockets from Gaza; Israeli snipers and airstrikes had in the same period killed over 150 Gazans.
H.R.2343, the so-called “Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act,” addresses the alleged failure of the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA to keep Palestinian textbooks free from incitement or intolerance toward Israeli Jews.
These allegations have persisted for years thanks to a faux, pro-Israel “peace” organization called the “Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace” (more info here). In fact, the opposite is true: Israeli textbooks consistently “marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity.”
H.R.1850, S.2680, H.R.4411, and H.Res.1131 all address the issue of terrorism – a word that means different things to different groups. What Israel considers terrorism is, to Palestinians, resistance against illegal occupation; what Israel considers military action, Palestinians see as state terrorism – consider this and this.
The most basic fact that these bills ignore is that while Israel’s 53-year occupation of Palestinian territories violates international law, resistance against that occupation is a protected right. (They also ignore the way the state of Israel was established.)
The charge of Palestinian “terrorism” is problematic to say the least, given the relative impotence of Palestinian weapons and the low number of Israeli victims, vs. Israel’s advanced military and the high number of Palestinian victims it creates (read more about terrorism here and about Israel’s actions here).
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that, between 2000 and 2019, Palestinian militants killed a total of 301 Israeli civilians, while Israeli security forces killed over 5,200 Palestinians who were not involved in hostilities.
S.4482 seeks to police the Arab world, hunting down governments that punish their citizens who engage in personal relationships with Israelis. While the US wants to scold Arab countries for resentment toward Israel, it allows Israel to attack its Palestinian neighbors and violate their human rights daily.
S.Res.709, S.Res.713, H.Res.1110 declare that the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are historic achievements, and encourage other Arab countries to follow suit, ignoring the issue of justice for Palestinians.
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 and Israel access to Arab money.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jubilant: “Everyone can see the fruits of this peace accord. The UAE committed to bringing massive investments to Israel, hundreds of millions of shekels. It’s already happening and it will happen even more..”
More treaties are expected, bought and paid for by the US.
MISCELLANEOUS PRO ISRAEL LEGISLATION
H.R.3723 addresses the issue of aiding drought-stricken areas of the US, and prioritizes projects that have worked with international partners “such as the state of Israel.”
There is great irony in the idea of Israeli experts assisting with water projects in the US: is simple: Israel provides plenteous water to its Jewish residents for free (including the 600,000 that live illegally on Palestinian land), but is perpetrating a water catastrophe in the Palestinian territories – refusing to provide water to some areas, selling it at exorbitant prices to others. In Gaza, water is “scarce and mostly unfit for human use.”
In several pieces of legislation – including H.Res.326, H.Res. 518, S.Res.234, and S.567 – Congress attempts to impose decisions about land in Middle East countries (some of the decisions contravene international law).
H.R.5595, S.Res.120, H.R.336, H.Res.314, H.Res.348, and H.Res.246 seek to extinguish the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement, which puts nonviolent pressure on Israel to obey international law. BDS patterns itself after the movement that aided in ending apartheid in South Africa, and “upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.” Much has been written about BDS (for example, read this and this).
S.Res.745 and H.Res.1173 honor “the life, legacy, and example of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the 25th anniversary of his death” – a man whose life’s work has been whitewashed to erase atrocities against the Palestinian people.
H.R.7900 addresses the issue of organ donation in the US, and gives a shout-out to Israel for its “exemplary” program – although Spain’s is considered the best in the world, and Israel made improvements only to reform its reputation as a favorite destination for illegal organ trafficking.
LEGISLATION THAT APPEARS TO BE PRO-PALESTINE, BUT ISN’T
S.Res.171 seeks to restore economic aid to the Palestinians without bringing an end to the programs that caused Palestinians to be in need of aid – thus enabling Israel to continue unchecked in its oppression.
H.R.3104 promotes “joint economic development and finance ventures between Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies and those in the US and Israel.” Rep. Chris Coons, one of the bill’s sponsors, explained, “job creation is the best way to turn people away from violence” – implying that unarmed Palestinians are the violent party, and that employment – not freedom or self-determination – is the solution.
PALESTINIAN RIGHTS RECOGNIZED
H.R.8050 would prohibit the US government from recognizing Israel’s claim of sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, or assisting Israel with those efforts – because it violates international law. The international community, many Israelis, and many staunch Israel partisans, agree.
H.R.2407 seeks to protect Palestinian children from incarceration and torture by Israel using US aid money. It seeks not to end the practice, but only American complicity in it. (Read more about the bill here.) Although its language is mild and pro-child, the bill has been attacked aggressively by pro-Israel groups.
H.Res.496, the only pro-boycott bill, supports the right of Americans to take part in a political practice long used by Americans across the political spectrum. The bill does not mention Israel or Palestine – yet it has been denounced as “anti-Semitic.”
If Americans Knew has checked every legislator’s voting record on every Israel-related bill since January 2019, and reported them for your information. We hope you will make your voice heard in this election – and throughout the next congressional session – to bring accountability to our government vis-a-vis Israel, and to Israel vis-a-vis Palestine.
To view all the bills and Senators’/challengers’ record see this:
And for the House record see this:
Note: The House table contains a large amount of data and may take several minutes to load. If you’re only interested in your state, try one of these links instead:
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