Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives yesterday introduced a bill specifying that Israel should not be allowed to use American taxpayer's money to kill, torture, imprison, displace or otherwise harm Palestinian children and families. Moreover, the draft legislation requires the secretary of state to certify to Congress that US funds are not being used for these illegal purposes. The bill is being seen as a pushback against Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.
A staggering $3.8 billion of American taxpayers' money goes to Israel every year, making it the world's leading recipient of US aid since the Second World War. Such largesse has continued even while unemployment and poverty levels in the US skyrocketed as a result of pandemic lockdowns. Washington found it necessary to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in "security assistance" and $500 million for US-Israel missile defence cooperation under the Covid-19 relief package.
The new bill — Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act — was introduced by Representative Betty McCollum and co-sponsored by Representatives Andre Carson, Danny Davis, Marie Newman, Ilhan Omar, Bobby Rush, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jesús "Chuy" García.
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The bill seeks to impose oversight on the way that US aid money is being used by Israel by ensuring that American taxpayers are not subsiding the occupation state's detention of Palestinian minors, destruction of Palestinian property or support for unilateral annexation.
According to a draft of the bill obtained by Haaretz, it says that such Israeli actions "undermine efforts by the United States to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians." The bill requires the secretary of state and General Accounting Office to report annually and certify Israeli compliance with such measures, though it does not call for US assistance to Israel to be conditional upon its abuses ending.
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Even though the bill is not expected to advance and become law, it is another indication that Israel's ongoing occupation, human rights abuses and violations of international law are becoming a major concern for a growing number of Democrat politicians.
The US human rights group Jewish Voice for Peace has endorsed the bill. "[This] could not come at a more critical moment," explained Beth Miller, senior government affairs manager at JVP. "The pandemic has exposed and intensified brutal systemic injustices around the world, and Israel is no exception."
The Israeli military has continued to imprison Palestinian children, she pointe out. "Horrifyingly, at a time when we are all asked to stay at home, the Israeli government has actually increased the rate at which it is demolishing Palestinian homes. It could not be clearer: Congress needs to stop funding the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians."