FMEP Legislative Round-Up: August 25, 2023 (recess edition)


1.Bills, Resolutions & Letters
2. House Members’ Most Excellent Recess Adventures in Israel
3. Israel & AIPAC in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)
4. Media & Reports
5. Members on the Record

New from FMEP:

  • 8/23/22: New episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, “Hebron (Al-Khalil) Through Palestinian Eyes,” ft. FMEP 2023 non-resident fellow Rabea Eghbariah speaking with Abdullah (last name withheld), a tour guide from Hebron (Al-Khalil). The conversation touches on the history of Hebron, the development of the Israeli settlement project in the city post its 1967 occupation, and the division of the city into H1/H2 zones following the Oslo Accords. We also hear from Abdullah about the dystopian reality of living under hyper-militarization and the pervasive surveillance in the city.

1. Bills, Resolutions & letters

(EQUIP/TRAIN IRAQI & KURDISH PESHMERGA FORCES) HR 5232: Introduced 8/18/23 by Bacon (R-NE) , the “Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Defense Act of 2023“, aka, “To direct the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to equip and train Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, andthe Committee on Armed Services.

(ISRAEL/MIDEAST IN FY24 INTELL AUTH BILL) HR 3932: On 8/18/23, the FY24 Intelligence Authorization Act was reported out of Committee with a report. That bill text includes:

  • Section 705, requiring the submission to relevant congressional committee of “an intelligence assessment on efforts by the People’s Republic of China to increase its influence, through overt or covert means, with respect to the political, military, economic, or other policies or activities of governments of countries in the Middle East in ways that are detrimental to the national security interests of the United States.
  • Section 707, requiring the CIA director, in consultation “with the heads of the other elements of the intelligence community that the Director determines appropriate” to submit to congressional intelligence committees “an assessment of the current effects on the intelligence community of the agreements between Israel and 4 other foreign countries, collectively known as the Abraham Accords, and of the potential effects on the intelligence community if the Abraham Accords were to be expanded to additional foreign countries.” The section specifies that the include a description of whether, and in what respects, the agreements between Israel and the 4 countries (Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and Sudan) have “resulted in the intelligence community obtaining new and valuable insights regarding national intelligence priorities.” It also must include, “An assessment of whether, and in what respects, additional agreements between Israel and other foreign countries to normalize or otherwise enhance relations would result in the intelligence community obtaining new and valuable insights regarding national intelligence priorities.”


(ENFORCE IHRA DEFINITION IN US SCHOOLS!) Manning/Smith/Rosen/Lankford et al letter to Education Secretary: On 8/22/23, Reps. Manning (D-NC) and Smith (R-NJ), and Sens. Rosen (D-NV) and Lankford (R-OK) led a letter, cosigned by 85 fellow House and Senate members (bipartisan) to Education Secretary Cardona noting, “we are deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitic incidents at universities and college campuses” and stating, among other things, that they “strongly encourage the Department to continue taking the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism into consideration as it investigates individual incidents of anti-Jewish discrimination and enforces federal civil rights law.” As alleged evidence of antisemitism, the letter specifically offers exactly one example: “A 2022 survey also found that 54% of Jewish students feel that they pay a social cost for supporting the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.” Signers ask Cardona to respond in writing to a series of questions and “Keeping the priorities and questions outlined above in mind, we urge the Department to brief Congress on the Department’s plan to implement key actions outlined in the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism by September 30, 2023.

Also see:

  • Press releases: Manning (D-NC), Rosen (D-NV)
  • X: Lawler (R-NC) 8/22/23: X-thread – “I joined 83 colleagues on a bipartisan letter to the Department of Education concerning the backlog of investigations into campus antisemitism as well as how they plan to improve protections for Jewish students. Anti-Semitism on college campuses is a problem. That’s why I introduced H.R. 3773, the Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act, which will take away federal funding from college campuses that peddle in anti-Semitism. Hate has no place in our society and I will continue working with my colleagues to make sure we are doing everything we can to eliminate the scourge of anti-Semitism.” [NOTE: HR 3773 would legislate the IHRA definition of antisemitism, including its examples, into law as the basis for stripping campuses of labeling criticism of Israel as antisemitism and punishing campuses for it]. Wilson (D-FL) 8/22/23: X-post – “Antisemitism and hate have no place in our society, especially in our places of education. Sadly, antisemitism is on the rise. I joined my colleagues to urge the @usedgov to improve protections for Jewish students on college campuses.”
  • Lawmakers press Department of Education on campus antisemitism (Jewish Insider 8/22/23); Leading Jewish Civil Rights Group Applauds US Lawmakers Calling on Biden Admin to Resolve Campus Antisemitism Complaints (Algemeiner 8/22/23)

(WE ACCUSE YOU OF MAKING DEAL WITH IRAN!!!) Scalise-Stefanik-McCaul letter to Biden: On 8/21/23, Reps. Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik (R-NY) and McCaul (R-TX) sent a letter to President Biden, expressing their “significant concern that your Administration is pursuing a nuclear understanding with Iran alongside a hostage release deal.” The letter goes on: “The Wall Street Journal reported on August 11 that Iran had ‘diluted a small amount of 60% enriched uranium in recent weeks and slowed the rate at which it is accumulating new material.’ This report coincided with news of a deal for Iran to release five American hostages in exchange for several Iranian prisoners and access to at least $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets held in South Korea and potentially billions more held in Iraq. Taken together, this strongly suggests your Administration has contemporaneously brokered a $6 billion prisoner deal and a nuclear ‘understanding’ with the regime that are inextricably linked. This would be a clear violation of your Administration’s legal obligation under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (‘INARA’; 42 U.S.C. 2160e), which requires you to submit any ‘agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran” requiring U.S. action “regardless of the form it takes, whether a political commitment or otherwise, and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not’ (42 U.S.C. 2160e(h)(1)) to Congress for formal review within five days.” The letter goes on to lay out objections/concerns and closes with a conclusion that in effect finds the Biden Administration guilty of (doesn’t even bother with the pretense of seeking more information from the Administration) and a threat: “Our citizens deserve answers about why your Administration is rewarding an Iranian regime that is targeting Americans overseas and at home. The Administration must adhere to U.S. law which requires that any agreement, arrangement, or understanding, formal or informal, with Iran needs to be submitted to Congress pursuant to INARA, and submit the information required by law to Congress, as prescribed by statute. Should the Administration continue to ignore U.S. law and flout congressional oversight, we will use all the tools at our disposal to bring transparency and accountability to the American people and return to a policy of maximum pressure that reverses Iran’s nuclear advancements and deters its targeting of American citizens and servicemembers, support for terrorism, and other malign activities.”

Also see:

(WE DEMAND ANSWERS RE ANY DEAL WITH IRAN!!!) Scott et al letter to Blinken & Yellen: On 8/18/23, Sen. Scott (R-FL) led a letter, cosigned by 24 fellow Senate Republicans, addressed to SecState Blinken and Treasury Secretary Yellen. The signers express “significant concern over the administration’s decision to release approximately $6 billion in frozen assets to the Islamic Republic of Iran in exchange for the release of five American detainees” and suggest that “this decision will reinforce an incredibly dangerous precedent and will enable the Iranian regime to increase its destabilizing activities across the Middle East.” They add: “We are also worried that your administration is attempting to sidestep Congress and pursue other pathways to financially compensate Iran in an attempt to renegotiate a successor to the ill-fated 2015 nuclear deal. Any agreement with the Iranian regime that entails financial reward for malign behavior is wholly unacceptable.” The letter goes on to demand written answers, within 30 days, to a list questions related to these concerns.

Also see:

(WE WANT MORE INFO ABOUT MALLEY SITUATION) McCaul-Mast letter to Blinken: On 8/18/23, Reps. McCaul (R-TX) and Mast (R-FL) sent a letter to SecState Blinken, “to directly reiterate our request that the Department notify and brief the Committee upon any relevant developments regarding the status of Mr. Malley’s employment and his ability to access classified information at the Department. This request is even more important with the recent news that Mr. Malley will be joining both Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs as a visiting professor and guest lecturer, and Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs as a senior fellow. Both developments would suggest a change to his employment status and that he will be leaving the State Department.” The letter adds: “To improve communication and transparency with Congress going forward, we also request that the Department notify and brief this Committee when an Assistant Secretary or higher, a Deputy Chief of Mission or higher, or an individual who is a direct report to you, such as a Special Envoy, has their clearance suspended or revoked.” Also see: McCaul press release.

(TARGETING WORLD VISION) Grassley letters to World Vision & USAID: On 8/11/23 (not previously reported in the Round-Up), Sen. Grassley (R-IA) sent letters to World Vision and to USAID (press release) linked to the case of Mohamed Halabi – the Palestinian from Gaza who after a trial/pre-trial detention that lasted SIX YEARS was convicted by Israel of funneling World Vision funding to support terrorism – a case that has been widely condemned (Amnesty International has classified Halabi as a prisoner of conscience, and involving accusations by Israel that have been contradicated by World Vision auditors – also see: Kafka in Gaza: How Israel turned a Palestinian aid worker into a ‘terrorist’ — All of the evidence in Mohammed Halabi’s six-year trial was either ‘secret’ or implausible. That didn’t stop Israel sentencing him to 12 years in prison.“).

  • The letter to demands that World Vision provide the audit to him, and provide answers/records responding to a list of questions, all of which start with the embrace of Israel’s accusations against Halabi — accusations that were not borne out by World Vision’s own audit/investigations – and which appear designed to find a pretense on which to cut off all US funding for World Vision.
  • The letter to USAID mirrors the letter to World Vision, this time demanding answers from USAID to questions that, once again, appear to be driven by the goal of establishing a pretext to bar World Vision from receiving US funding.

2. House Members’ Most Excellent Recess Adventures in Israel

AIPAC & its Recent Delegation of House Dems to Israel

  • Landsman (D-OH) 8/23/23: video diary of his trip, with comment “Six takeaways from our most recent trip to Israel and the West Bank” [also see AIPAC X-post thanking Landsman and reminding the world – “This month @HouseDemocrats visited Israel with AIEF to see the Jewish state firsthand, meet with top officials across the political spectrum, and learn about how a strong U.S.-Israel relationship helps address pressing security threats.” Landsman also posted full “trip notes” here.
  • In 2022, AIPAC opposed Shri Thanedar. This month he went to Israel with the group. (Jewish Insider 8/22/23) [“Thanedar told Jewish Insider in an interview last week following his trip to Israel that he has gone through a ‘big learning experience,’…'[Israel] certainly is a vibrant, liberal democracy. No doubt about that,’ Thanedar continued. ‘And they are an important ally of the United States. It’s a dangerous region. Israel is really the only democracy surrounded by some hostile elements.’… ‘It highlighted why protecting or helping Israel defend herself, by herself, is very essential and critical to our national security and our national interest,’ the Michigan congressman said. ‘It’s a relationship that is mutually beneficial.'”
  • Rep. Balint Joined House Dems on August Trip to Israel (Seven Days – Vermont 8/22/23)
  • Nickels (D-NC) 8/21/23: Press release – Congressman Nickel Travels to Israel on Congressional Delegation Trip

Other Members in Israel

3. Israel & AIPAC  in the 2024 Election Cycle (things are heating up)

AIPAC in the News

Seeking the future of pro-Israel activism (Cleveland Jewish News/Doug Bloomfield 8/24/23) [“AIPAC has plunged into partisanship with a hard turn to the right, embracing evangelical Christians, hardline conservative Republicans and election deniers whose views on everything but Israel were largely anathema to the mainstream Jewish community.”]

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Takes on AIPAC During Pro-democracy Event in U.S. (Haaretz 8/24/23)

I was involved with AIPAC for 35 years. Their latest move convinced me to join J Street (The Forward 8/23/23)

‘We cannot be selective with justice’: Texas congressional candidate Pervez Agwan is standing up to AIPAC (Mondoweiss 8/22/23)

How AIPAC Can Rescue What’s Left of Its Influence and Credibility (Haaretz 8/22/23) [“While Israelis are speaking out, loudly and clearly, against Netanyahu’s assault on democracy, AIPAC just sticks a finger in their eye and organizes photo-ops with government mouthpieces. Will AIPAC, belatedly, wake up or will it watch Israel crumble?”]

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries Affirms Support For Embattled Progressive Incumbents (Yahoo News 8/22/23) [“House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), a staunch ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, affirmed his support for the reelection bids of progressive Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), whom AIPAC is hoping to oust”]

Ilhan Omar calls Israel lobby AIPAC a ‘right-wing’ PAC funded by ‘dark money’ (F0x News 8/21/23)

AIPAC, J Street and Summer Lee wrangle over 2024 District 12 race (Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh 8/21/23)

Other Israel-related News in Various Races

In Ohio, Frank LaRose looks for his lane – The Ohio secretary of state is facing a three-way primary ahead of next November’s general election against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) (Jewish Insider 8/23/23) [“The Akron native, who described himself as a ‘proud Zionist,’ said he would be a stalwart supporter of Israel in the Senate. ‘I would be not just a casual vote in favor of things like funding Iron Dome’ and ‘opposing BDS,’ he explained… ‘I would be a champion on those and many other things to advance and strengthen the relationship between the United States and the State of Israel.‘”

4. Media & Reports

Haaretz 8/24/23: Major U.S. Jewish Groups Urge U.S. Lawmakers to Back Resolution Supporting Israeli Democracy [“The number of co-sponsors for the House resolution has more than tripled since its introduction last month from 12 to 43 Democrats, demonstrating the growing displeasure with Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul”]

Baltimore Jewish Times (Mitchell Bard) 8/24/23: How Good Are US-Israel Relations?

Breaking Defense 8/24/23: Any Saudi-Israeli normalization requires clearing major security, defense roadblocks: Experts

The Nation 8/21/23: Cutting US Aid to Israel Doesn’t Go Nearly Far Enough

Middle East Forum 8/18/23: Crocodile Tears from Jailed Muslim Brotherhood Cleric Earns Sympathy from Congress

Jewish News Syndicate 8/18/23: State Dept: Worth naming ambassador to Israel despite Senate political football game [“Foggy Bottom looks forward to working with partners in Congress whenever the administration announces its nominee for ambassador to Israel, a State Department spokesman told JNS.”]

5. Members on the Record

Lawler (R-NY) 8/24/23: X-thread – “Even worse than the disgraceful graduation speech, CUNY hired a professor who was reprimanded at his last job for anti-Israel comments, palled around with Louis Farrakhan & was fired by CNN for openly genocidal comments calling for Israel’s elimination. This is exactly why I introduced H.R. 3773, the Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act, to take away federal funding from any college or university that peddles in anti-Semitism.” Linked to article, CUNY, Under Fire for Antisemitism Complaints, Hires Prominent Anti-Israel Scholar as ‘Presidential Professor’ (The Algemeiner 8/23/23)

Wilson (R-SC) 8/24/23: X-thread – “The multi-ethic and cross-sectarian protests across Syria against brutal Assad this week have inspired the world and demonstrate that Syria has no future and will never stabilize under Assad. Tomorrow at the “Friday of Accountability for Assad” even bigger protests are planned. I am looking forward to Congress soon passing our bipartisan Assad Regime Anti-Normalization Act and am grateful to stand for a #FreeSyria. Like Ukrainians, the people of Syria have suffered absolute depravity at the hands of mass murderers Putin & Assad. Those who seek to normalize and reach agreements with Assad are doing business with death itself.

Letlow (R-LA) 8/24/23: X-post – Co-Sponsor Alert: I recently signed on to the Fight CRIME Act, which will double-down on sanctions on those aiding Iran’s missile and drone programs and constrain their missile and drone building efforts. It’s time to keep Iran’s illegal actions in check.

D’Esposito (R-NY) 8/23/23: X-post – “I recently spoke with the Jewish Home to discuss my continued support for Israel here in Congress and the various actions I have taken in the several months of my term. I will always stand up for our great ally Israel.” [gif of article]