In the coming week, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs will move on four bills – all of which, I believe, drive more nails in the coffin of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Two are blatantly pro-Israel, but the two more benign pieces of legislation cause me real concern.
House Resolution 246 (HRes246) opposing efforts to de-legitimise Israel and the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a non-binding resolution.
It does not impose penalties on BDS supporters, nor does it conflate Israel and “areas under Israeli control”.
For this reason, it has won support of several liberal groups and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 338 Congress members.
It also includes language calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Both the Israeli and Palestinian people should be able to live in safe and sovereign states, free from fear and violence, with mutual recognition.”
In addition, it urges Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations.
However, the bulk is devoted to a series of clauses opposing BDS.
These clauses mischaracterise the goals of the BDS movement, misquote the co-founder and falsely claim that BDS targets not just Israel, but individual Jews who support Israel.
HRes246 is a transparent ploy that delegitimises a legal and non-violent movement advocating for Palestinian human rights.
While it does not criminalise BDS, by defaming the practices advocated by this movement and putting Congress on record in opposition to it, HRes246 opens the door to do so in future.
Nowhere does the resolution mention any of the obstacles posed by the Israeli government: The 620,000 settlers who have carved up the West Bank, the aggressive land grabs, demolition of Palestinian homes, brutal behaviour of occupation authorities, Israeli policies that see no place for a viable Palestinian state or the annexation of East Jerusalem.
All of this is ignored, as is Congressional complicity in these Israeli policies.
Despite several past US Administrations calling on Israel to stop settlement construction, it continues with blessing from Congress in the form of increased aid.
When Palestinians appealed to the UN or other international bodies like the International Criminal Court, the response of US administrations or Congress has been to punish the Palestinians and/or the international organisations in question.
As a result, the only recourse Palestinians have had is in the court of public opinion – hence the BDS movement.
Its successes have been greeted by Israel and now the US Congress with hysteria.
The other bill before Congress is House Resolution 326 (HRes326) regarding efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution.
This is also a non-binding resolution currently sponsored by 144 Congress members. A companion bill before the US Senate (Senate Resolution 234) is sponsored by nine Democrats – including two presidential aspirants: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
HRes326 includes one very positive clause, which calls for “an end to the occupation” and “settlement activity” that leads to “unilateral annexation in Palestinian territory”.
Such strong language has never before appeared in a congressional bill with this many sponsors.
We were unable to get the Clinton campaign to insert the words “settlements” and “occupation” in the 2016 Democratic party platform.
But even with this, I am concerned Congress members will go on record in support of a two-state solution, but absolve themselves of responsibility for addressing precisely how to realise that outcome.
Opposing settlements is one thing, but what is the Congressional response to continued construction?
How will it deal with the 620,000 settlers in the West Bank?
Calling for an end to the occupation and opposing annexation is one thing, but what is the response of Congress to Israel’s deeper encroachment into the territories and its de facto annexation of large areas of Palestinian lands, inside what Israel calls “East Jerusalem” and behind its West Bank wall?
Being opposed to something is one thing, acting is quite another.
These two bills, one blaming the victims and the other allowing Congress members to feel they’re off the hook, are cause for concern.