FAQ #3: Which Palestine/Israel Legislative and Policy Issues Should I Support?

December 15, 2022
  1. Should I support end-use restrictions on US weapons to Israel?

✅ YES. As we mentioned in an earlier FAQ, countries cannot receive US weapons if they commit systematic violations of human rights. Israel’s use of US weapons to injure and kill Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian homes and build illegal Israeli-only settlements, etc. make Israel ineligible for any US weapons. 

As a step toward ending US complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians, Members of Congress should insist, at a bare minimum, on placing specific end-use restrictions on US weapons to Israel. A positive example of this type of legislation in the previous Congress was H.R.2590, Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which sought to prevent Israel from using US weapons to harm Palestinian children in its military court system, and to destroy Palestinian homes and annex Palestinian land.  

2. Should I support initiatives to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses?

✅ YES. Any country that commits human rights abuses should be held accountable, especially countries that do so with US weapons. When Congress takes action to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses committed against Palestinians, it affirms that human rights apply equally to everyone. Refusing to hold Israel accountable exceptionalizes Israel and holds it to a lower standard of conduct than we expect from all countries, including our own. 

Fortunately there are increasing congressional efforts to hold Israel accountable. In the last Congress these included calls by Members of Congress to investigate Israel’s killing of US citizens Omar Assad and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh; to withhold the delivery of certain missiles to Israel which Israel had previously used to attack Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip; and to oppose Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program as it intensifies its discriminatory travel restrictions against Palestinian Americans.   

3. Should I support bills to provide Israel with even more weapons than usual?

❌ NO. As we mentioned in an earlier FAQ, Israel is already the largest recipient of US taxpayer-funded weapons. In most normal budget years, Israel gets more weapons–$3.8 billion–than all other countries in the world combined. It’s bad enough that this massive level of US funding for weapons to Israel makes us deeply complicit in Israel’s daily and systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights. It’s even worse when Congress takes steps to further deepen this complicity by sending additional weapons to Israel above and beyond the existing extreme levels. 

This happened after Israel brutally attacked Palestinian civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2021. Congress appropriated $1 billion of additional funding for weapons to Israel. Providing these Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to Israel is part of an integrated system of weapons that enables Israel to enforce its illegal military siege against 2 million Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and subject them to brutal violence with US weapons without having to face repercussions for its aggression.  

4. Should I support bills and resolutions to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans to boycott for Palestinian freedom?

❌ NO. In 2005, Palestinian civil society groups issued a call for people of conscience around the world to campaign for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) to help achieve Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality. These were some of the same tactics used to end racist Jim Crow laws in the US and to end apartheid in South Africa. In the US, the Palestinian call has been endorsed by mainstream churches, student governments, academic associations, trade unions, and cultural workers. Boycotting for social justice is as American as apple pie and has been upheld by the Supreme Court as a First Amendment-protected form of free speech

Israel and its advocates have tried, often successfully, to pass unconstitutional legislation at the federal and state levels that would punish and even criminalize people who boycott for Palestinian rights. Despite the fact that federal district courts repeatedly have declared these laws to be unconstitutional, these efforts to shut down advocacy for Palestinian rights persist. The most draconian bill, proposed by Sen. Ben Cardin, would have jailed people for 20 years for supplying the UN or EU with information to further a boycott for Palestinian rights.  

5. Should I support initiatives to punish or condemn the UN for backing Palestinian rights?

❌ NO. The UN played a huge role in enabling Israel to dispossess the Palestinian people by recommending in 1947 that Palestine be partitioned against the wishes of the majority indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. As a result, the UN has an important role to play in helping to advance the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people. UN divisions, special rapporteurs, and committees of inquiry play a key role in reporting on Israel’s systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians.    

Each congressional session, there are multiple bills, resolutions, and letters unfairly condemning the UN for seeking to protect and advance Palestinian rights. Many such initiatives seek to compel the UN to end reporting of Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights by partially cutting or completely defunding the UN. The idea that the US should force the UN to stop reporting on Israeli human rights abuses makes a mockery of the universality of human rights and the stated commitment of the US to advance human rights globally.

6. Should I support initiatives to cut off funding for Palestinian refugees?

❌ NO. Before, during, and after Israel’s establishment in 1948, Israel violently forced roughly 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. The US supported a UN resolution affirming Palestinian refugees’ right to return home. However, Israel has never agreed to repatriate Palestinian refugees. Original surviving refugees and their descendants now number more than 5 million people who are registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). International law confers refugee status on the descendants of original refugees. 

Each congressional session, there are bills, resolutions, and letters that condemn UNRWA for its social services to Palestine refugees, that seek to defund US contributions to this critical agency, and that attempt to strip Palestinian refugees of their protected refugee status. All of these efforts are designed to minimize or completely erase the status of Palestinian refugees and their right to return to their homes in what is today Israel. Denying refugees their right to return home is a violation of international law.        

7. Should I support Trump administration weapons deals known as the Abraham Accords?

❌ NO. In 2020, the Trump administration made weapons deals and provided other political favors to various authoritarian regimes that established diplomatic relations with Israel. These deals have reinforced repressive rule in the region (UAE, Bahrain, Morocco), undermined democratic transitions (Sudan), and intensified warfare and military rule targeting civilians (Yemen and Western Sahara). In addition, these deals, known as the Abraham Accords, were also designed to isolate Palestinians to more easily consolidate Israel’s apartheid rule over them. In the words of one Trump administration official, the plan was to put Palestinians on a metaphoric “island”.

There have been many congressional initiatives–caucuses, resolutions, and pressure on the Biden administration–to celebrate and expand these anti-human rights weapons deals. The Abraham Accords consolidate undemocratic rule in the region, including Israel’s undemocratic rule over the Palestinian people. Members of Congress who believe in human rights and democracy should avoid association with these Trump administration weapons deals.