This article appeared in our Spring 2017 Newsletter
Despite the Trump administration’s contradictory policies, MAPA’s Palestine/Israel working group is keeping on, to advance Palestinian rights and for our own sanity, and to add new issues as needed: e.g., opposing David Friedman as ambassador to Israel.
The Jewish Community Relations Council wrote a bill in January (S.1689/H.1685) that ostensibly would prevent discrimination on the basis, among other criteria, of national origin. As such it is redundant; such laws already exist. But, as the JCRC explained in a press release, the real target is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, a non-violent effort to change Israel’s policies of occupation and settlement in Palestinian lands. Boycotts are a constitutionally protected form of free speech. We’re working to block the anti-BDS bill together with Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston and Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, supported by 100 other organizations.
At the same time that legislators are expected to vote on legislation submitted by the JCRC, 10 state senators, 12 state representatives, the Governor, and the Attorney General have all taken donor-funded trips to Israel. While state officials are prohibited from taking gifts of $50 or more, the State Ethics Commission (EC) has made an exception for travel. MAPA’s formal complaint to the Ethics Commission last year was brushed off. The legislature has now appointed a Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government. We testified at its hearing on gifts (Feb. 1st), making the case for more stringent oversight of lobbyist-funded travel.
Israeli settlements in occupied territory are obstacles to peace, as Secretary Kerry and President Obama pointed out in their last weeks in office. H.Res.11, condemning the Obama administration’s support of a UN resolution criticizing settlements, received 80 No votes in Congress in January, including Massachusetts Reps. McGovern, Clark, Lynch, and Tsongas, a greater number than have dissented on pro-Israel Congressional votes in the past. MAPA board member and Democratic State Committee member Carol Coakley has submitted a resolution to the DSC which reaffirms long-standing US opposition to settlements, arousing intense discussion. DSC leaders have promised a public hearing on the issue within the next two months.
We persist because Palestinians need justice; US public opinion is changing: even many young Jews do not sub-scribe to “Israel can do no wrong”; because current policies are bad for Israel and the US too; and to honor the memory of David Zackon, who died on Mar. 13, 2016. We miss his dedication and his cheerful presence.