Additional Information on the Federal Legislative Agenda, 116th Congress (2019-2020)
On Providing Security Assistance to Israel – NO
Senator Rubio [R-FL] introduced S.1, also known as Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, while Representative McCaul [R-TX-10] sponsored companion legislation H.R.336. These pieces of legislation would renew U.S. military aid to Israel and allow states to divest in those who boycott Israel. These bills were not supported by any of the Massachusetts delegation. S.1 passed the Senate 77-23 on February 5th, 2019 with both MA Senators voting against the bill. Here is a press release from Senator Rubio on the vote.
H.R.1837 was introduced by Rep. Deutch [D-FL-22] and focuses on cooperation enhancement and regional security between the U.S. and Israel. This bill authorizes various joint research and cooperation programs between the United States and Israel, reauthorizes security assistance and loan guarantees to Israel, and authorizes the President to waive export control requirements to immediately transfer defense articles and precision munitions to Israel. This legislation was cosponsored by MA Reps. Trahan, Kennedy, and Keating, and passed the House by voice vote on July 23rd, 2019. Here is a press release from Rep. Deutch on the vote.
Senator Rubio also introduced S.3176 in 2020, a piece of Israeli security assistance legislation that would make improvements to certain defense and security assistance provisions and further authorize the appropriation of funds and munitions to Israel. This legislation was cosponsored by Senator Markey.
Opposing Efforts to Delegitimize the BDS Movement & Affirming the Right to Boycott – YES
MAPA opposes efforts to ‘delegitimize’ the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as well as efforts to oppose the ‘delegitimization’ of the State of Israel. The BDS movement has been occuring for the past 14 years and took inspriation from the South African anti-apartheid movement in an attempt to use non-violent methods to place pressure on Israel to comply with international law.[2
H.Res.246 was introduced by Representative Schneider [D-IL-10] and was cosponsored by MA Reps. Neal, Trahan, Kennedy, Moulton, and Keating. This House resolution is accompanied by S.Res.120 which was introduced by Senator Cardin [D-MD] and cosponsored by Sen. Markey [D-MA]. H.Res.246 passed the House 398-17 on July 23rd, 2019 even though the resolution effectively silences “the opposition to Israel’s blatantly racist policies that demonize both Palestinians and Ethiopians” and violates one of America’s founding principles of free speech. Here is a press release from Rep. Schneider following the House vote.
Representative Zeldin [R-NY-1] introduced both H.Res.72 and H.R.5595 which build on opposition to the BDS movement and attempt to censor criticism of Israeli practices. No MA Reps. supported these measures. Here is a press release on H.R.5595.
Representative Omar [D-MN-5] introduced H.Res.496 which affirms the right to boycott in pursuit of civil and human rights abroad and at home, a position MAPA supports. MA Reps. McGovern and Pressley both cosponsored this bill. Here is a press release from Rep. Omar on the introduction of this legislation.
Read an article on Palestine, BDS, and human rights here.
Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights – NO
Representative Gallagher [R-WI-8] introduced H.R.1372 while Senator Cruz [R-TX] introduced companion legislation S.567. These bills establish that it is U.S. policy to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and determine that references to “Israel” in future acts of Congress relating to appropriations or foreign commerce shall be interpreted to include the Golan Heights. These bills were not supported by any of the Massachusetts delegation. Here is a press release on the introduction of this legislation.
Restoring Bilateral Assistance to Gaza and the West Bank – YES
Senator Merkley [D-OR] introduced S.Res.171, which calls on the United States to expend all assistance appropriated in FY2018 to the West Bank and Gaza before the end of 2019. The resolution also presses for the enactment of legislation to specify that activities funded through the Economic Support Fund may not be construed to assert jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority. Here is a press release on this resolution.
Support for a Negotiated Two-State Solution H.Res.326 – NO
Representative Lowenthal introduced H.R.326 with strong support among democrats in Congress, with all MA Reps. ultimately becoming cosponsors of the resolution. This resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that only a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can ensure Israel’s survival as a secure Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations for a Palestinian state. It also expresses the sense that any U.S. proposal to achieve a just, stable, and lasting solution should expressly endorse a two-state solution and discourage steps that would put a peaceful resolution further out of reach. Here is a press release on the introduction of this legislation.
In a 2019 letter MAPA expressed concern about H.Res.326 which expresses support for a two-state solution without proposing any consequences if Israel fails to live up to these principles. MAPA wrote: “repeating outworn pledges of support for “two states” is ineffectual. If Congress is serious about promoting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, it must exert pressure on Israel, the stronger party, especially because the Israelis have lately repudiated the Palestinian right to self-determination. The Palestinians—backed by long-standing international law and numerous UN resolutions – have accepted a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders; the Israeli government does not.” MAPA’s letter can be found here.
This resolution passed the House on December 6th, 2019, with all MA Representative voting Yea EXCEPT Rep. Pressley who voted Nay. A statement from Rep. Pressley following the vote can be found here.
Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention – YES
Representative McCollum [D-MN-4] is the sponsor of H.R.2407 which prevents U.S. funds from being used to detain Palestinian children in violation of UN standards. Israel has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a document which Israel routinely violates by detaining over 500 children a year and trying them before “a military court system that lacks basic and fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards.” These violations of basic rights of children have been routine since 2000. This bill calls for an additional section to be included in the Leahy Law, specifying limitations on assistance to foreign security forces concerning the foreign security and courts abuse of children. MA Representative Pressley later became a cosponsor of this legislation. This press release from Congresswoman McCollum explains more about why she decided to sponsor the bill, as do these resources.
AOC Annexation Letter – YES
On June 30th, 2020, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez released a letter in opposition to the proposed Israeli annexation of the West Bank. This letter was signed by a dozen members of Congress including Sen. Sanders, Rep. Tlaib, Rep. Jayapal, and MA Rep. Pressley. It is the strongest letter released by any Democrat on the subject of Israeli annexation as it offers a clear legislative response to annexation including the condition of U.S. military aid to Israel. Text of the letter can be found here.
More information about the Israeli detainment of children can be found here: https://nwttac.dci-palestine.org/hr4391_factsheet_military_detention
More information on what the BDS movement does and is calling for can be found on their website: https://www.bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds.
“Israel’s settlements: 50 years of land theft explained” by Zena Tahhan
Here is a link to some background information on the issue.
Updated August 7th, 2020