Michael F. Brown
The Electronic Intifada / June 30, 2020
Four women in the US Congress say that if Israel proceeds with further annexation plans in the occupied West Bank it would “lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.”
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum and Pramila Jayapal are making the claim in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they are circulating for signature among colleagues.
Although the letter overlooks the current apartheid reality, it is not typical for US lawmakers to refer to Israeli apartheid at all.
It is even rarer for members of Congress to call for Israel to pay any price for its actions.
In this letter, however, the signers say that if Israel proceeds with annexation they will demand conditions on the annual $3.8 billion in military aid it receives from the US.
They say they will pursue “human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.”
Lobby hits back
Israel lobby groups AIPAC and Democratic Majority for Israel quickly objected.
Democratic Majority for Israel claims it opposes annexation, yet says that the letter represents “bad policy” and “bad politics.”
The group undoubtedly fears any initiative that could result in conditions on US aid to Israel, preferring only toothless verbal protests.
This is not the first time this year that AIPAC has collided with McCollum, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib.
In February, the Israel lobby group accused “radicals in the Democratic Party” – along with photos of the three – of “pushing their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies down the throats of the American people.”
McCollum called this “hate speech” and referred to AIPAC as a “hate group.” She rejected their apology.
The letter writers insist that “Members of Congress should not be expected to support an undemocratic system in which Israel would permanently rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination or equal rights.”
Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, welcomed the Democrats’ letter:
Concern for Israel prioritized
That letter failed even to mention occupied Palestinian territory.
Its major concern was not how annexation would harm Palestinian rights, but that it would be bad for Israel.
The signers asserted that it would “jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states” and could create “insecurity” in Jordan with “ancillary risks to Israel.”
They also stressed that annexation could create “serious problems for Israel with its European friends and other partners around the world.”
The European Union, while admonishing Israel for its annexation plans, continues to provide Israel with rewards as it breaks international law.
The writers of the 25 June letter stressed maintaining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” and keeping alive the so-called two-state solution.
By contrast, the congresswomen do not mention maintaining an exclusivist Jewish state or the two-state solution, but rather emphasize how annexation could “harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity.”
Republicans promote annexation
Initiated by Ted Cruz of Texas, it is endorsed by six other senators.
Not only did they back the “extension of Israeli civil law into Israeli communities and areas critical for Israel’s security such [as] the Jordan Valley,” but they commit to funding such violations of international law.
They pledge to provide the Trump administration “with the resources it requires” for implementation of the Israeli plans.
For all that Trump has done in violating international law on behalf of an expansionist Israel, the senators make clear that annexation is Israel’s “sovereign decision” to take.
That the illegal move has Trump’s backing is just the icing on the cake for them.
If the International Criminal Court ever does try Israeli leaders for crimes including settlements and annexation, it can also look to American leaders who every step of the way supported and provided financial backing for Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and entrenchment of apartheid.
This article now accounts for minor differences between the version of the letter secured by Jewish Insider and the final version released by the office of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The letter’s final version can be read here.
Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist