NOTE: For the foreseeable future, given the scope and pace of current events & related noise and actions coming from the Hill, there will continue to be no comprehensive “On the Record” in the Round-Up (use google or check members’ websites to see what a specific members is saying) and an abbreviated/selective Media section. Likewise, I’ll continue to cover all letters I find, but in most cases I’m just giving links and maybe an excerpt (apologies to anyone who misses the analysis and occasional snark). Let us all hope that the time will soon return when the horror-show of events on the ground ends and the Round-Up can return to systematically reporting on the full gamut of “normal” Middle East-related grandstanding on and from the Hill.
New from FMEP:
- UPCOMING: FMEP webinar 11/21/23: Repression in the Shadow of Israel’s War on Gaza-Part 2: Israel’s Rapid Repression & Criminalization of Palestinian Life in the Wake of October 7th, ft. Hassan Jabarin (Adalah) and Ghousoon Bisharat (+972 Magazine), in conversation with FMEP’s Peter Beinart.
- FMEP webinar 11/17/23: Repression in the Shadow of Israel’s War on Gaza-Part 1: Five Israeli Human Rights Groups Sound the Alarm, ft. Samah Bsoul, Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI); Jessica Montell, HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; Anat Litvin, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI); Tal Steiner, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI); & Yahav Erez, Yesh Din, in conversation with Lara Friedman (FMEP)
- 11/14/23: Jadaliyya/Connections Podcast Episode 77: Silencing Palestine, ft. Mouin Rabbani (Jadaliyya co-editor) in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman
- Occupied Thoughts podcast 11/10/23: From Israel’s Blockade to the Siege on Al Shifa Hospital: Public Health in Gaza, ft. FMEP Palestinian Non-Resident Fellow Dr. Yara Asi in conversation with FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin
- Occupied Thoughts podcast 11/10/23: The UN Tried to Silence Craig Mokhiber, He Resigned, ft. FMEP’s Peter Beinart in conversation with Craig Mokhiber, who served as a Director in the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) prior to his resignation on October 28, 2023.
Aid for Israel, for Israelis, and for Amcits in Israel
- (DISAPPROVING OF SENDING MORE MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO ISRAEL) H. J. Res. 102: Introduced 11/15/13 by Omar (D-MN) and 4 cosponsors (all Democrats), “Providing for congressional disapproval of the issuance of a license to export with respect to the proposed export of defense articles, including technical data, and defense services to the Government of Israel.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Also see: Exclusive: Rep. Ilhan Omar To Introduce First Bill To Block U.S. Weapons For Israel Since Gaza War Began (Huffington Post); press release – Rep. Omar Introduces Resolution to Block Weapons Sale Used to Fund War Crimes in Gaza
- (AID FOR ISRAEL & ONLY ISRAEL) HR 6126: Introduced 11/1/23 by Granger (R-TX) and 100 cosponsors, (all Republicans), the “Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024.” Passed by the House 11/2/23; On 11/14/23, motion to force a vote on the bill was blocked by a party-line vote of 51-48. Also see: House Israel aid bill with IRS cuts was ‘disgusting,’ Max Miller says (Jewish Insider 11/67/23); Senate blocks House bill to help Israel, cut IRS (The Hill 11/14/23)
- (EVACUATED FROM ISRAEL? YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FOOT THE BILL!) S. 3299: Introduced 11/14/23 by Blackburn (R-TN) and Rosen (D-NV), “A bill to provide that United States citizens evacuating Israel shall not be required to reimburse the United States Government, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
- (EVACUATED FROM ISRAEL? YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FOOT THE BILL!) S. 3343: Introduced 11/16/23 by Blackburn (R-TN) and Rosen (D-NV), “A bill to provide that United States citizens evacuating Israel shall not be required to reimburse the United States Government, and for other purposes.” NOT referred to committee, but directly Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar [meaning it is likely to be brought to a vote quickly, without any committee consideration necessary].
Targeting Palestinians & Anyone Who Supports Them
- (INT’L ORGS MUST SUPPORT GAZA ETHNIC CLEANSING & RE-DEFINE PALESTINIANS AS *MIGRANTS* RATHER THAN *REFUGEES*) HR 6367: Introduced 11/13/23 by Cleaver (D-MO), the “Armed Conflict Migration Act of 2023,” aka, “To direct the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the United States Executive Director at each international financial institution to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States to provide financial assistance to countries that receive an influx of civilian, non-combatant displaced persons stemming from the armed conflict that has resulted from Hamas’s October 2023 terrorism in Israel, to be used for humanitarian aid for the displaced persons.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Note that this bill, in effect, is designed to enable/facilitate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, while simultaneously defining them as “migrants” rather than “refugees” (and thereby preemptively denying them any claim to return to homes/property in the land from which they are ostensibly choosing voluntarily to migrate — in effect achieving two key Israeli objectives with a single piece of legislation – impressive!) Marked up in the Financial Services Committee on 11/14/23, where it was passed by Voice Vote, with Waters (D-CA) speaking in favor (video). Notably, while Congress so far has had virtually no interest in or sympathy for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, when it comes to legislation to facilitate them LEAVING Gaza (an objective that aligns with Israel’s aspirations), members of Congress suddenly come over all kind-and-empathetic about the plight of Palestinians who through no fault of their own find they now need to relocate to somewhere else. Also see: prett release – Rep. Cleaver Introduces Legislation to Ensure Humanitarian Assistance is Accessible to Displaced Palestinians; Bill Passes Out of Financial Services Committee with Bipartisan Support
- (BARRING US FUNDING TO EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS THAT PERMIT ALMOST ANY CRITICISM OF ISRAEL OR ACTIVISM/SPEECH IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN RIGHTS, VIA ENFORCEMENT OF IHRA DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM) H. Amdt. 781 to HR 5894: On 11/14/23, Rep. Lawler (R-NY) offered this amendment to HR 5894, the FY24 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill. The amendment adds to the bill the following text (emphasis added): “None of the funds made available by this Act may be made available to an institution of higher education that authorizes, facilitates, provides funding for, or otherwise supports any event promoting antisemitism (as such term is defined by the working definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on May 26, 2016, including the contemporary examples of antisemitism cited by the Alliance.) on the campus of such institution.” Passed by the House by a recorded vote of 373 – 54. [note: this bill in its current form appears unlikely to pass in the Senate (for reasons unrelated to this amendment) — but this amendment is still notable, since it passed with bipartisan support, suggesting that the provision could easily pass as freestanding legislation or attached to another piece of legislation.] Also see: Lawmakers move to cut federal funding to colleges over antisemitic activity, push for federal probes of SJP and AMP (Jewish Insider 11/16/23); press release – Nadler Statement in Opposition to Misguided Amendment Designed to Harm Universities Under the Guise of Combating Antisemitism; press release – HOUSE PASSES REP. LAWLER’S AMENDMENTS TO LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION (LHHS) APPROPRIATIONS BILL COMBATTING CAMPUS ANTISEMITISM
- (SETTING UP NEW CATEGORY OF LAWFARE OPEN DOOR TO TARGETING ANY/ALL NGOs, [but aimed initially at NGOs that deal with Palestinian issues]) HR 6408: Introduced 11/14/23 by Kustoff (R-TN) and Schneider (D-IL), “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to terminate the tax-exempt status of terrorist supporting organizations.” Referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Also see: press release – Kustoff, Schneider Introduce Legislation to Revoke Tax-Exempt Status to Nonprofits Supporting Hamas. NOTE: US charitable organizations (*like all other US entities*) are already barred by law from providing material support for terror and already face intense scrutiny (for example, see the landmark Holy Land Foundation case). With this in mind, one must ask: what’s the purpose of HR 6408? Some observers seem to assume that it is merely about virtue signaling and grandstanding, but careful reading of the text of HR 6408 strongly suggests something much more serious. This would be: enabling a new category of legal harassment of NGOs, focused in the first instance on those that engage with Palestinians or on Palestinian issues, but also enabling attacks on NGOs working in any sector and on any issues. This would be similar to the strategy innovated in recent years by politically-motivated lawfare actors to target NGOs that work with USAID, relying on a combination of US anti-terror laws and the False Claims Act (detailed in my 2019 article in The Forward; for further resources check out the Charity & Security Network), and using as its hook the anti-terror certification that is included in every USAID contract. While HR 6408 does not explicitly stipulate that U.S. 501(c)(3) organizations would be required to sign an anti-terror attestation akin to the one in USAID contracts, such an attestation (or something like it) would clearly be required to enforce HR 6408 — creating a hook for lawfare actors to pursue what would be a much broader new category of harassment lawsuits. As such, this new legislation would potentially represent a powerful weapon of NGO mass harassment, enabling politically motivated actors from across the political spectrum, and focused on any issue, to launch harassment lawsuits (aka SLAPP suits) against NGOs whose mission/work they want to undermine, discredit, or otherwise obstruct (and as a reminder: when it comes to harassment lawsuits, the mere act of forcing an NGO to spend time, money, and political/reputational capital in defending itself is a win for those bringing the suits, regardless of whether there is any chance of them actually winning the case). Also see: Congress seeks to end tax-exempt status for Hamas-supporting charities (Jewish News Syndicate 11/15/23)
- (DEFINING CAMPUS ACTIVITY CRITICAL OF ISRAEL AS ANTISEMITISM & LINKING IT TO TERRORISM) HR 6419 (text): Introduced 11/15/23 by Bean (R-FL) and Nehls (R-TX), “To require institutions of higher education to include reporting regarding campus anti-Semitism in the annual security report required under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, to ensure that institutions of higher education do not support terrorist activity of foreign terrorist organizations, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committees on Education and the Workforce, and the Judiciary. Also see: press release – Bean, Nehls Take Action to Halt Antisemitic Attacks on Campuses
- (FIGHTING ANTISEMITISM – conflated with criticism of Israel – IN EUROPE) H. Res. 872: Introduced 11/15/23 by Keating (D-MA) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA), “Reaffirming the need for transatlantic cooperation to combat antisemitism in Europe.“ Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
- (STOP IRAN OIL EXPORTS) HR 6365: Introduced 11/13/23 by Waters (D-CA), the “Stopping Illicit Oil Shipments Act of 2023,” aka, “To protect against illicit oil shipments, and for other purposes.” The bill notes: “One method by which Iran and Russia frequently attempt to evade these U.S. sanctions on oil is to ‘false flag’, which means to avoid sanctions scrutiny by registering a vessel in a permissive country or by sailing under another country’s flag without communicating this to the country whose flag is being used” and “this Act will force a change in behavior within the maritime shipping industry by limiting the availability of insurance products to those not verifying flag registration and providing a direct route for the Office of Foreign Assets Control (‘OFAC’) to gain possibly actionable information that could lead to OFAC enforcement actions as well as additional targets for sanctions designations.” Referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
- (FREEZE IRANIAN $$ IN PRISONER EXCHANGE DEAL) HR 5961: Introduced 10/16/23 by McCaul (R-TX) and 25 cosponsors (all Republicans), “To freeze certain Iranian funds involved in the 2023 hostage deal between the United States and Iran, and for other purposes.” On 11/15/23, the House voted on H. Res. 869, the Rule that would have paved the way for HR 5961 to be brought to the floor for a vote. That resolution failed by a vote of 198-225, with all Democrats plus 19 Republicans voting No.
- (TARGET IRAN FOR ATTACKS ON ISRAEL!) S. Res. 462 (text): Introduced 11/14/23 by Graham (R-SC) and having 8 cosponsors (bipartisan), “A resolution emphasizing the urgency of responding to attacks in Israel and the greater region from the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: press release – Sullivan, Graham, Blumenthal & Colleagues Introduce Resolution Supporting U.S. Efforts to Deter Iran; Bipartisan Senate group pushes for hard line against Iran (Jewish Insider 11/15/23)
- (MORE IRAN SANCTIONS) S. 3334 (text): Introduced 11/15/23 by Cotton (R-AR), “A bill to require reports on and impose sanctions with respect to Iran’s development of space-launch vehicles, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial systems, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Also see: press release – Cotton Introduces Legislation to Sanction Iranian Missile Development
- (STICKING IT TO QATAR!) HR 6431: Introduced 11/15/23 by Ogles (R-TN) and Biggs (R-AZ), “To suspend the designation of the State of Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.“ Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
- (FORMER US SOLDIERS MUST NOT WORK FOR US ENEMIES!) S. 3339: Introdued 11/15/23 by Shaheen (D-NH) and 2 cosponsors (bipartisan), “A bill to prohibit former members of the Armed Forces from accepting employment in positions involving training, consulting, advising, or instructing any government-associated individual or entity from the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, or the Syrian Arab Republic.” Referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
- (REMOVE US FORCES FROM SYRIA!) S. J. Res. 51: Introduced 11/15/23 by Paul (R-KY) and no cosponsors, “A joint resolution directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in Syria that have not been authorized by Congress.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
- (COMPENSATE US VICTIMS OF LIBYA-SPONSORED TERROR) S. 3336: Introduced 11/15/23 by Collins (R-ME) and 4 cosponsors (all Democrats), “A bill to provide compensation for United States victims of Libyan state-sponsored terrorism, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Aid/Support for Israel
- 11/13/23: Kuster Leads Letter Urging Congressional Leaders to Bring the President’s Full Supplemental Funding Request Up for a Vote (letter text)
- 11/15/23: Rep. Greg Landsman Letter to Constituents on the War Between Israel and Hamas
Targeting Hamas &/or ALL Palestinians &/or Anyone Who Cares About Them
- 11/16/23: SENATOR VANCE LEADS CHARGE TO PREVENT PALESTINIAN RESETTLEMENT IN AMERICA (letter text) [“We urge your Administration to neither authorize Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Palestinians in the United States nor designate the Palestinian territories for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). As you know, DED and TPS make it more difficult to remove eligible foreign nationals from our country. In light of the ongoing armed conflict in the Gaza Strip, and related domestic protests by foreign nationals from the region, Palestinian aliens should not be incentivized to travel to, or remain in, the United States. We ask that you remember your oath to protect the lives of American citizens and not import a population of potentially radicalized individuals into the United States…n our humble opinion, we should be finding ways to reduce the number of terrorist sympathizers in America, not increase them.”]
- 11/15/23: Nadler Leads Letter to AG Garland Urging Prosecution of Hamas Terrorists (letter text) [“We write to urge you to use all necessary Department of Justice resources to investigate and prosecute these murders pursuant to the extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 2332 (a), which grant the United States government authority to prosecute anyone who ‘kills a national of the United States while such national is outside the United States.’“]
Defending (to some extent) Palestinians & Free Speech
- 11/16/23: Warner and Kaine Request Guidance on Federal Employees’ Right to Self-Expression During Middle East Conflict (letter text) [“We are writing on behalf of federal employees in Virginia who have expressed fears about censorship and reprisal resulting from their expression of views related to the horrific terrorist attack committed by Hamas against Israel on October 7 and the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. We are concerned that the federal government has not provided adequate guidance on federal employees’ rights to self-expression. To that end, we request that you develop and circulate clear guidance, or direct agencies to do so, concerning the federal government’s policies on federal employee self-expression, and that you ensure federal employees do not face retaliation for expressing their personal views in line with that guidance…Although we appreciate your outreach efforts to federal employees thus far, current OPM and OSC policies lack adequate guidance on this matter and have left many federal employees unaware of their rights. This conflict has brought incredible heartache to countless Americans, and we urge you to act swiftly to develop clear guidance on federal employees’ rights allowing for the appropriate expression of these sentiments.”]
- 11/16/23: Booker and Goldman Push Biden Administration to Address Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank (letter text) [“…As your administration tirelessly works to prevent the expansion of this conflict, we write to specifically highlight the threat that violence in the West Bank – especially vigilante violence by Israeli settlers – poses to those efforts, Israel’s near-term security, Palestinian human rights, and long-term regional peace. We thank you for your strong remarks condemning settler violence and for speaking directly with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu about the ‘need to hold extremist settlers accountable for violent acts.’ It was valuable that following your conversation, Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly stated on Saturday his condemnation of this violence and that his government ‘will act against it,’ but we are concerned that his remarks did not accurately recognize its source nor scale. We believe Israel must do more to stop any further settler violence and urge you to continue to stress to the Israeli government the need to proactively prevent these attacks and ensure accountability for any crimes committed in the West Bank.”] Also see: X-post from Yousef Munayyer -“This is the safe space for Dems to hide right now. It is a way to tell constituents demanding a cease-fire in Gaza : Just because 5,000 dead kids in Gaza isn’t enough dead kids for me, I actually do care about Palestinians, see.“
- 11/15/23: 24 Members of Congress Call on Biden Administration to Establish a Ceasefire, Protect Children in the Gaza Strip (letter text) [“...We commend your Administration’s goals of seeing a major expansion of humanitarian supplies arriving into Gaza. While we greatly welcome your work, it has had limited impact on the ground so far and, we believe, risks undermining the United States’ own credibility in the region. We urge an immediate cessation of hostilities in order to stop the bombing and provide much-needed relief to Palestinian civilians. In his remarks reflecting on the October 7th attacks, the President acknowledged U.S. mistakes in the aftermath of September 11th and advised that an appropriate response ‘requires being deliberate. It requires asking very hard questions. It requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you are on will achieve those objectives.’ These wise words should continue to inform U.S. counsel to Israel’s response. Recognizing that there is no military solution that will end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we urge your Administration to obtain clarity on the specific strategic objectives of a large-scale ground invasion, their achievability, what may come after Hamas, the risks to hostages and civilians in the region, the national security implications of a multi-front war in the Middle East, and the potential threats to American citizens in the region…” Also see: Twenty-four House Democrats call for a cease-fire, accuse Israel of ‘grave violations against children’ [“The letter does not acknowledge or address Hamas’ use of human shields in Gaza“] (Jewish Insider 11/16/23)
- 11/10/23: Merkley, Colleagues Urge Inclusion of Full Humanitarian Assistance in Supplemental Funding Package (letter text) [“As supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, we believe Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself against Hamas – a terrorist organization whose horrific attacks on October 7 and long history of violence against Israelis and Palestinians make clear its total disregard for innocent human life. We also know from our country’s own experiences that protecting civilians and ensuring access to desperately needed food, water, medical care, and shelter for innocent civilians caught in the middle of conflict is critical for strategic success. Preventing Hamas from ever again threatening Israeli lives does not depend solely on Israel’s ability to degrade Hamas militarily. It also requires giving Palestinians hope for a better future, starting with making sure that humanitarian aid continuously reaches vulnerable civilians in Gaza. This is why the United States and our implementing partners, working closely with the Israeli government, undertake extensive oversight procedures so that U.S. assistance flows only to its intended recipients.“]
- 11/9/23 (press release 11/13/23): Welch and Colleagues Urge USDA and USAID to Provide Food Aid to Palestinians in Gaza (letter text) [“We are writing to request the immediate release of resources from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, along with other resources available to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to provide food aid to Palestinians in Gaza.1 We believe the current situation in Gaza necessitates the utilization of the Trust, which was established to provide emergency assistance for populations facing acute hunger needs, among other resources created to address acute hunger needs.”]
- 11/16/23: Sens. Moran, Hagerty Lead Colleagues in Calling on Biden Administration to Enforce Congressionally-Mandated Sanctions on Iran (letter text)
- 11/15/23: Cotton, Colleagues Call on Biden Administration to Designate Iraq-Based Groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (letter text)
- 11/15/23: Ernst Demands Accountability for Terrorist-Backed Attacks on U.S. Servicemembers (letter text)
Using Support for Israel as Hook for Other Agendas
- 11/16/23: Budd Leads 46 Senators to Demand Answers Over Biden Administration’s Unprecedented Pause of Firearms Export Licenses (letter text) [“We recognize the crucial need for firearms for civilian self-defense in Ukraine and Israel, which are exempted from this pause, and note the actions by the Ukrainian and Israeli governments to fulfill those needs. For example, in response to the Hamas attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that part of the war against Hamas involves ‘encouraging civilians and helping civilians to arm themselves for their self-defence.’ The Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, promised to distribute 10,000 free weapons, including 4,000 rifles to settlers in the West Bank, and has relaxed rules for permits to allow 400,000 new people to qualify to carry a firearm… Please provide data on export license applications submitted for non-governmental users in Israel since Hamas’ attacks began in October 2023 that are of the same type covered by the Department’s October 27 announcement…Please provide data on the average time to review export license applications related to the October 27 announcement to non-governmental users in Israel…“]
- 11/15/23: Sen. Rick Scott Urges Biden to Reexamine U.S.-Colombian Relationship Under Petro Admin (letter text) [“I am writing regarding Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s hostile and anti-Semitic statements made after Iran-backed Hamas terrorists tortured and massacred more than 1,400 Israeli men, women and children, and at least 33 Americans on October 7, 2023, and continues to hold more than 200 people hostage, including numerous Americans. President Petro has a gross track record of opposing U.S. interests and has now crossed a new line by blaming Israel for the atrocities committed by these Iran-backed Hamas terrorists and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. It is clear that the positions taken by President Petro’s administration require a full examination of the U.S.–Colombia relationship.”]
- 11/14/23: Garbarino, Moskowitz Urge President Biden To Reconsider FDA Rule With Potential To Open Illicit Revenue Stream For Hamas-Allied Terrorists (letter text) NOTE: The argument of this letter is: don’t ban menthol cigarettes because people will then be forced to buy the illicitly, which could benefit Hezbollah and Hamas, because, “There have been cases in which Hezbollah and Hamas cells have smuggled cigarettes into the United States to send the revenue overseas. Given Hezbollah’s established cigarette business and its ties to the Mexican drug cartels, we cannot discount the potential for this FDA-proposed rule to open a massive revenue stream for this Hamas-allied foreign terrorist organization.” Also see: Congressmen warn US menthol cigarette ban could benefit Hezbollah, Hamas
- 11/14/23: Casey Urges President Biden to Confront Chinese President on Fentanyl, Hamas (letter text) [“As you prepare to meet with PRC President and CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, I urge you to ensure President Xi commits to meaningful action to go after Chinese chemical companies fueling the fentanyl epidemic in our country, and to continue to stress the need for President Xi to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization and demand the immediate release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.”]
November 15, 2023: The House Financial Services Committee’s Digital Assets, Financial Technology and Inclusion Subcommittee held a hearing entitled, “Crypto Crime in Context: Breaking Down the Illicit Activity in Digital Assets.” Witnesses were: Bill Hughes, Senior Counsel & Director of Global Regulatory Matters at ConsenSys and previously Associate Deputy Attorney, General at the Department of Justice (statement); Jane Khodarkovsky, Partner at Arktouros, previously Trial Attorney and Human Trafficking Finance Specialist with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (statement); Jonathan Levin, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Chainalysis (statement); Gregory Lisa, Chief Legal Officer, DELV (f/k/a Element Finance, Inc.) and Senior Counsel, Hogan Lovells US LLP, Previously Interim Director, Office of Compliance and Enforcement at Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (statement); and Alison Jimenez, President, Dynamic Securities Analytics, In (statement). Also see: hearing video; opening statement by Chairman Hill (R-AR), focusing on fighting Hamas financing.
November 15, 2023: The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing entitled, “From Ivory Towers to Dark Corners: Investigating the Nexus Between Antisemitism, Tax-Exempt Universities, and Terror Financing.” Witnesses – representing a unified perspective with respect to the conflation of criticism of Israel/Palestine rights activism with antisemitism – were: Talia Dror, Student at Cornell University and Vice President of Finance, Cornellians for Israel (Statement); Adam Lehman, President & CEO, Hillel International (Statement); Jonathan Schanzer, FD (Statement), Noa Tishby, Israel’s Former Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism (Statement); and Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO & National Director (Statement). As was clear in advance from the title and witness list of this event, this was a show-hearing, with all conclusions already drawn, and called for the purpose of putting voices that back those conclusions into the spotlight & for members to grandstand. SPECIAL FUN NOTE: One witness – Noa Tishby – wore at the hearing her usual necklace, which is a map depicting – from her perspective – Israel, spanning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. As a reminder, if Palestinians, including on any US campus, use this same map – or invoke language that in any way suggests it – they are attacked for alleged genocidal, antisemitic intent. But when a former Israeli official proudly wears this same map as she testifies in Congress – crickets. Also see: hearing video
November 15, 2023: The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing entitled, “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland.” Witnesses were: Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas, FBI Director Wray, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid (written testimony of all 3 witnesses – all of whom include focus on Hamas/Israel/antisemitism – is here). Reminder: in the press release announcing the hearing, Chairman Green (R-TN) states: “The complex threats facing our nation are growing, especially as enemies of freedom perceive weakness in the current administration. Our ally Israel faces continued attacks from proxies of the Iranian regime, a regime that also proudly chants ‘Death to America’ and brazenly threatens our citizens, interests, and allies in the region…An open border, an emboldened Iran and Russia, and a Chinese Communist Party on a quest for global dominance represent a growing threat to America’s interests abroad and our security at home. The testimony of these officials next week is crucial to examine how the Biden administration is falling short, and where Congress needs to step in so the administration can adequately protect our country.” Also see: hearing video; Large majority of post-Oct. 7 threats in the U.S. have targeted Jews, FBI director says (Jewish Insider 11/15/23)
November 14, 2023: The House Financial Services Committee held a full committee markup of various measures related to Iran and Hamas (listed below). Also see: hearing video; Waters (D-CA) press release – Ranking Member Waters Delivers Opening Statement During Full Committee Markup: “There Is a Strong, Bipartisan Desire to Send a Clear Signal That Terrorism, From Iran’s Support of Hamas and Hezbollah to Russia’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine Will Not Be Tolerated.”
- HR 5921, the “No U.S. Financing for Iran Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury from issuing any licenses authorizing a U.S. financial institution to engage in transactions for trade with Iran, other than food, medicine, or medical devices benefitting Iranian civilians. The legislation also requires the Secretary to oppose International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance to Iran, and to ensure that IMF member companies do not exchange Special Drawing Rights held by Iran. H.R. 5921 further prohibits the Export-Import Bank from providing assistance involving the Iranian government, or an entity owned or controlled by the government.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 34 – 12
- HR 5923, the “Iran-China Energy Sanctions Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would expand secondary sanctions involving Iran to cover all transactions between Chinese financial institutions and sanctioned Iranian banks that transact for the purchase of petroleum and petroleum products. The bill would also require an annual determination as to whether Chinese financial institutions have engaged in sanctionable conduct.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 47 – 0.
- HR 6245, the “Holding Iranian Leaders Accountable Act” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “requires the President to report on the assets of certain Iranian government officials and terrorist leaders while also providing for the publication of those assets. This legislation further requires the Secretary of the Treasury to seek the closure of U.S. and foreign financial institution accounts connected with the assets.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 49 – 0.
- HR 6323, the “Iran Counterterrorism Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “requires Iran to have ceased support for acts of international terrorism as a condition for the President to waive secondary sanctions imposed with respect to the country. This bill also provides for a congressional review process for national security interest waivers of these sanctions.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 30 – 19.
- HR 6322, the “End Financing to Hamas and State Sponsors of Terrorism Act” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “requires the Secretary of the Treasury to submit to Congress an analysis of major financing sources to Hamas, a description of U.S. and multilateral efforts to disrupt illicit financial flows to the group, and an evaluation of efforts to undermine Hamas’s ability to finance armed hostilities against Israel. The bill also requires the Secretary to develop a multilateral strategy to ensure that Hamas is incapable of financing global terror. The bill also prohibits the Secretary of the Treasury from using the exchange stabilization fund to deal in Special Drawing Rights from state sponsors of terrorism.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 36 – 13
- HR 5945, the “Freezing-HAMAS Act” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would negate any waiver of sanctions issued pursuant to a U.S. agreement with Iran, including the waiver transmitted to Congress on September 11, 2023, that permitted Iranian access to certain funds held abroad.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 37 – 13.
- HR 6000, the “Revoke Iranian Funding Act of 2023,” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute – text not available), which “would rescind the waiver transmitted to Congress on September 11, 2023, that released funds to Iran for humanitarian purposes. The legislation would also require a report on assets held by the government of Iran and certain sanctioned persons.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 37 – 13.
- HR 6015, the “Iran Sanctions Accountability Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would require the President to prescribe regulations to ensure that humanitarian exemptions involving Iran sanctions do not facilitate acts of international terrorism, transactions with sanctioned persons, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 50 – 0.
- HR 6367, the “Armed Conflict Migration Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the United States Executive Director at each international financial institution to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States to provide financial assistance to countries that receive an influx of migrants stemming from the armed conflict that has resulted from Hamas’s October 2023 terrorism in Israel, to be used for humanitarian aid for the migrants.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by Voice Vote.
- HR 6370, the “OFAC Licensure for Investigators Act” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would require the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a pilot program within the Office or Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) and administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) by which private-sector firms (like blockchain analytics firms or the financial intelligence units within correspondent banks) can conduct (send or receive) nominal financial transactions to and through sanctioned entities in furtherance of their investigations. It would be a well-defined, narrowly applied specific license that allows these entities to access better data through their interactions with these bad actors so they can share that with the financial industry, governments, and other consumers of their products. The program would include regular reporting of the license recipients’ findings to OFAC as a condition of the license.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 50 – 0.
- HR 6365, the “Stopping Illicit Oil Shipments Act of 2023” (see amendment in the nature of a substitute), which “would require the insurance and reinsurance companies to include in their agreements for shipping coverage termination clauses that would be triggered when a flag state withdraws the registration of a vessel, often used as a method of disguising the transport of sanctioned oil.” – Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by the Yeas and Nays: 50 – 0.
November 14, 2023: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to hold a CLOSED/CLASSIFIED (TS/SCI) meeeting entitled, “The Current Security Situation in the Middle East,” featuring John Bass, Under Secretary of State for Management. This meeting was POSTPONED.
November 14, 2023: The Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing entitled, “Confronting the Scourge of Antisemitism on Campus”. Witnesses were: Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union (statement); Kenneth Marcus, Founder and Chairman, Brandeis Center (statement); Stacy Burdett, Independent Consultant in Antisemitism Prevention and Response (statement); and Sahar Tartak, Student, Yale University (statement). Also see: hearing video; Hearing Recap: Antisemitism on Campus Edition. Also see: Lawmakers move to cut federal funding to colleges over antisemitic activity, push for federal probes of SJP and AMP (Jewish Insider 11/15/23)
November 14, 2023: The House Rules Committee met to consider HR 5961, the “No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act” (in order to decide on the rule under which HR 5961 is brought to the House floor for debate and a vote.
November 14, 2023: There was a CLOSED Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, & Intelligence, and the Subcommittee on the National Intelligence Enterprise (Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) on Countering Terrorism in a Shifting Geopolitical Landscape.
- The Forward 11/17/23: How a U.S. Senator Captured the Democratic and Jewish Consensus on Israel and Gaza
- New York Times 11/17/23: The War in Gaza Is Splintering the Democratic Party
- Politico 11/16/23: The generational divide over Israel and Palestine is widening
NY Magazine 11/14/23: Democratic Staffers Who Can’t Accept Democratic Support for Israel Should Quit
Al Jazeera 11/14/23: Anti-Palestinian sentiment rises amid bipartisan US support for Israel
BC 11/14/23: US evangelicals drive Republican support for Israel
Axios 11/14/23: Scoop: Bipartisan Jewish Caucus begins to take shape [“The group’s formation comes as the Israel-Hamas war and rising antisemitism in the U.S. have created a highly charged dynamic for Congress’ Jewish members.”]
New York Times 11/13/23: Democratic Aides in Congress Break With Their Bosses on Israel-Hamas War
- The Media Line 11/17/23: One of Arizona’s Most Pro-Israel Candidates Is Arab American
- Jewish Insider 11/16/23: Tammy Murphy kicks off campaign for Senate in New Jersey [“Jewish and pro-Israel activists in the Garden State say Murphy has a strong command of foreign policy and would be an outspoken supporter of Israel if she is elected, pointing to her multiple trips to the Jewish state and frequent engagement with Jewish communal leaders during her five years as first lady…“]
- Slate 11/15/23: The Squad Is About to Fight for Its Political Life [“…AIPAC wants ‘to make the statement this cycle that no one is safe from their wrath, that if you speak out, you can be targeted no matter how popular or how many cycles of incumbent you are,’ said Connor Farrell, president of the progressive fundraising group Left Rising, in a phone call…Close watchers now expect AIPAC to spend at least $100 million in Democratic primaries, largely trained on eliminating incumbent Squad members from their seats. It’s likely that even more money will be spent by affiliated super PACs, including the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC and the Mainstream Democrats PAC, too. (These PACs have already launched six-figure ad buys against Bowman, Lee, and Tlaib, a year away from the election—an exorbitant, hardly strategic commitment largely meant to prove that money will not be in short supply.) Meanwhile, small-dollar fundraising numbers are way down across the board, making it even more difficult for those progressives to fund a defense…“]
- The Guardian 11/11/23: Pro-Israel groups target US lawmakers critical of Israel’s war ahead of primaries
On the Current Crisis
- Jewish News Syndicate 11/17/23: Don’t pit Israeli aid against domestic US priorities, congressman says
- Balint (D-VT) op-ed 11/16/23: What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated ceasefire
- Rubio (R-FL) press release 11/16/23: Senate Blocks Rubio Effort to Revoke Visas of Hamas Sympathizers [“Hours after Hamas sympathizers illegally surrounded and tried to break into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters and violently attacked U.S. Capitol Police, Democrat senators once again blocbookked an effort by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to revoke the visas of foreign nationals who endorse or espouse terrorist activity, including those who defend or support Hamas.“] NOTE: The protest Rubio is citing was a peaceful protest organized by Jewish activists calling for a ceasefire (a call that in the current McCarthyist climate is sufficient to be labeled a “Hamas sympathizer”] – see video of protestors arm-in-arm and singing – outside the DNC building, which did not involve any effort to break into the DNC building, and that was violently attacked by Capitol Police]
- Jewish Insider 11/14/23: Congressional leaders pledge ‘unequivocal’ bipartisan support for Israel at Washington march
- Washington Post 11/14/23: House members emotional after seeing footage of Oct. 7 attack on Israel
- Jewish News Syndicate 11/14/23: Enshrine national strategy on antisemitism into law, ADL head tells Congress