**UPDATE** ON FAUX-PRO-ISRAEL, PRO-SETTLEMENTS BILL: HR 1697 & S. 720: As noted previously in the Round-Up, these bills have three major problems: (a) they conflate Israel and settlements, (b) they seek to legislate U.S. support for settlements, and (b) would sacrifice Constitutionally-protected free speech on the pretext of defending Israel (bad enough) but in reality to quash opposition to settlements. Both are strongly supported by AIPAC, CUFI, and a range of groups ostensibly acting in support of Israel. They are also being opposed by the ACLU and others concerned with free speech – for a compendium of resources on the constitutionality Issues involved in BDS/settlements legislation at both the federal and state levels, see here. New development this week:
- It was reported this week that the UN sent letters to 150 Israeli and international companies warning them over their activities in Israeli settlements.
- In case anyone still had any doubt about the real purpose of pending legislation that pretends to be about defending Israel from boycotts, shortly after these letters (which are about business in settlements, not Israel) were reported, this was the headline: “S. Legislators, AIPAC Push anti-BDS Bill After UN Letter Warns Companies Against Operating in Settlements.” Sticking to past practice, members of Congress quoted in the article (Schumer, D-NY; Deutch, D-FL) along with AIPAC and the RJC, simply ignore the fact that letters are about settlements, and treat the matter as a boycott of Israel – breaking with 50 years of bipartisan U.S. policy distinguishing between sovereign Israel and settlements.
- Cardin (D-MD), one of the chief architects of the Senate version of the bill (and the key backer of previous iterations of this same legislative effort, in the form of language added to two trade bills under the Obama Administration), told reporters that he would be willing to “clarify certain additions that do not change the function of the bill, but will give people more comfort.”
- The problem, of course, is that the problem with the bill is not that it is not clear, either in terms of intent or impact; on both counts it is quite clear. The problem is that it is brazenly unconstitutional. For further thoughts on this, see this thread on Twitter (from FMEP’s Lara Friedman), which notes: “Banning boycotts that are VOLUNTARY, FREE SPEECH is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. No ifs, and, or buts…Has ZERO to do with Arab League Boycott of Israel, which is COERCIVE BOYCOTT – not free speech by an act compelled by foreign state…Insult to injury: Real purpose of Act is to protect SETTLEMENTS. UN/EU NOT TARGETING ISRAEL. Lie or self-delusion to pretend otherwise…This cannot be fixed by “clarification” or legislative tweak. This Act is a betrayal of US values – & not for Israel but for settlements…Patriotic response, pro-Israel fix is to consign this Act to the dustbin of bad legislation rejected by responsible Congress.”
(IRAN NUCLEAR COMPLIANCE) HR 3810: Introduced 9/21 by Connolly (D-VA) and Rooney (R-FL), and having 6 other cosponsors (all Democrats), the “Commission to Verify Iranian Nuclear Compliance Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Press release is here. Connolly introduced a bill with the same name in October 2015 – HR 3741.
(SUPPORTING KURDISH STATE) H. Res. 534: Introduced 9/25 by Franks (R-AZ), King (R-IA) and Abraham (R-LA), “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have the right to determine their status as a sovereign country.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
(ISRAEL-US SPACE COOPERATION) HR 1159: Introduced 2/16 by Kilmer (D-WA) and having 34 cosponsors, “United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act.” Marked up 9/28 in the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Opening statements: Full committee Chair Smith (R-TX); ranking member Johnson (D-TX); Chair of Space Subcommittee Babin (R-TX).
(HIZBALLAH BILLS) H.R. 3342 and H.R. 3329: On 9/28, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a markup of a number of pieces of legislation, including H.R. 3329 (To amend the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 to impose additional sanctions with respect to Hizballah, and for other purposes) and H.R. 3342 (To impose sanctions on foreign persons that are responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights by reason of the use by Hizballah of civilians as human shields, and for other purposes.) Both measures were passed by the committee – HFAC press release.
10/4: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing entitled, “Iranian Backed Militias: Destabilizing the Middle East.” Scheduled witnesses are: Michael Knights, WINEP; Aram Nerguizian, CSIS; and Kenneth Pollack, AEI.
NOTE: This week, Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro was in Washington, DC. His schedule included some widely documented meetings on the Hill. See:
- Haaretz 9/28: Bernie Sanders Meets With Prominent Palestinian Activist Targeted by Israel and Abbas
- Issa on Twitter: “Fantastic meeting today with members of US Congress including @BettyMcCollum04 who works to end the detention of Palestinian children (pic with McCollum (D-MN), Lowenthal (D-CA), Pocan (D-WI) Beyer (D-VA), and Ellison (D-MN)
- More pix: here, here, here, and here]
Lankford (R-OK) 9/28: Senator Lankford Denounces Turkish President Erdogan Suggestion of Prisoner Swap
Cruz (R-TX) 9/27: ‘By Permitting the Palestinians to Join, Interpol Has Undermined Its Own Credibility’