As a retired brigadier general in the Georgia Army National Guard who has spent 3 years of active duty in and around the Middle East I strongly urge Congress to oppose HR 4681, the Palestinian Anti-terrorism Act of 2006.
The central provision of this resolution would prohibit the United States from providing direct assistance to the PA unless the President certifies that it has fulfilled a long list of subjective and ambiguous conditions. Current law already prohibits the United States from providing direct assistance to the PA unless the President signs a national security waiver, and in fact the United States provides no direct assistance to the PA.
However, this resolution goes far beyond reiterating the current US ban on direct assistance to the PA; it also calls for many troubling provisions that would punish and isolate the Palestinian people for exercising their right to vote, including:
- Restricting humanitarian aid. Through its military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel has de-developed the Palestinian economy by destroying infrastructure and agricultural lands; by inhibiting the development of internal trade through walls, checkpoints, roadblocks, closures, and curfews; and by preventing external trade through border closings. US humanitarian assistance, overseen by USAID and implemented by certified non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), is not only essential to preventing the complete collapse of the Palestinian economy under these difficult conditions imposed by Israel; it is also morally necessary since the United States supports these Israeli policies through $3 billion of direct military and economic assistance every year. Even though it contains a waiver for certain humanitarian aid categories, this resolution threatens US assistance to NGO’s in Palestinian territories by putting it in the same category as aid to the PA.
- Designating Palestinian territory as a “terrorist sanctuary”. Under the terms of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, this designation would trigger restrictions on US exports to Palestinian territories, effectively gutting the free trade agreement between the United States and the West Bank and Gaza Strip and further crippling the Palestinian economy.
- Prohibiting official Palestinian diplomacy or representation in the United States. Restricting Palestinian diplomacy in the United States would be counter-productive to efforts to promote dialogue and a just peace, further eroding the claim of the United States to be an “honest broker”. This resolution would deny visas to PA representatives; restrict the movement of Palestinian diplomats at the UN; and shut down the PLO information office in Washington.
- Targeting the UN for supporting Palestinian human rights. The Palestinians have been denied their human rights through Israeli dispossession and military occupation. The United Nations has voted by overwhelming majorities to create bodies like the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to advocate for the realization of unmet Palestinian human rights. This resolution seeks to defund these bodies by calling on the United States to withhold UN dues in proportion to the percentage of the UN budget that funds these bodies.
- Denying Palestinians the ability to receive assistance through international financial institutions. The World Bank has been working with the PA to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip since Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from it in 2005. Funds are needed urgently to rebuild thousands of homes that Israel destroyed there. The reconstruction of the Gaza Strip could be in jeopardy if this bill is passed. It contains a provision instructing the United States, which has a controlling vote at the World Bank, to vote against such funding.
Since the Palestinian elections last month when Hamas won the majority, there hasn’t been a single attack by Hamas against the Israeli state. On the contrary, there have been a dozen or so attacks by the Israelis killing and injuring more than 20 Palestinians. Just today, Israeli troops shot dead a mentally retarded Palestinian teenager holding a toy gun. These kind of atrocities happen nearly everyday yet the news media seldom report such acts, only reporting the news when Israelis are the victims.
Why is it that we never hear about the more than 12,000 homes of innocent Palestinains being demolished by Israeli bulldozers, or the daily confliscation of Palestinian land to create more illegal Jewish settlements, or the uprooting of over 100,000 Palestinian olive orchards, or the assasination of more than 200 Palestinian political leaders? Why not show Israelis ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their homes, brutally occupying their land, imposing severe collective punishment and forcing American politicians to lick their boots in exchange for support from the Israeli lobby?
Congressional leaders, Secretary of States, and American Presidents must kow tow to Israel to survive politically in this government. Most American politicians jump on the pro-Israeli agenda simply because they know that is where the power is. The Anti-Defamation League has effectively silenced many critics of Israel by smearing the character of anyone who opposes aid to that country. The media continues to verbally crucify those who speak out against the anti-democratic power of the Israeli lobby making public debate on the issue virtually impossible. Truth has become socially illegal in America and that is not healthy for any so-called "democracy."
The United States says that it is committed to promoting democracy. If that is indeed the case, it is inappropriate for Members of Congress to advance legislation that would punish and isolate people through draconian economic and diplomatic measures when the result of an election is not to the liking of the United States.