The U.S. should end Israel funding by implementing the Leahy Law and H.R. 2590

Israeli and American top-generals meet in Tel Aviv (Dominique A. Pineiro - WikiMedia)

Siham Rashid

Mondoweiss  /  October 14, 2022

Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid regime violates international law. It is time the U.S. follows its own laws, and cuts off the funding that makes this possible.

“Where did we get to? Well – a lynching attempt in Bat Yam, because the passengers in the car were Arabs [Palestinians].” These are the words of Israeli Knesset member Zehava Galon, leader of the Meretz party. 

Galon was referring to Israeli MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s continued incitement to violence against Palestinians. Last week, on October 12, Ben Gvir led a group of Jewish settlers in raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

What’s more, he has been charged with over 50 crimes, and has already been convicted in eight cases, including once for providing support to a terrorist organization. However, this has not stopped Ben Gvir from running for Israeli elections and coordinating his media strategy and campaign with the rightwing Likud and other parties.

As Jews around the world observed Yom Kippur, a crowd of Israeli worshipers overturned a car with Palestinian passengers and assaulted them. This is not the first time Israeli mobs attack Palestinians in Israel. While there are many documented cases, one in the same area as today’s attack happened last year where an Israeli mob attempted to lynch Saeed Mousa, who barely survived. 

Lynching, murders, and assaults against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory are not new. They also take place in parallel to calls for the death of Palestinians made by Israeli parliamentarians and legislators, many of whom are themselves West Bank settlers.

Calling for the slaughter of Palestinians, and chanting “your village should burn,” are also commonplace — far more than what many media outlets and pro-Israel groups and individuals would have you believe. The misinformation and negation of the Palestinian lived experience is well planned and budgeted for by the Israeli government and its settlers. 

But lynchings are just the tip of the iceberg, and the U.S. should not stand for it. The only logical, and legal, solution is to cut off U.S. aid to Israel for its continued and state-sanctioned grave human rights violations, in accordance with the U.S.’s own laws.

Israeli crimes are ‘normal’ for apartheid

The extrajudicial killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh gained widespread attention internationally. A recent report by Forensic Architecture and Al-Haq’s Forensic Architecture Investigation Unit found that Shireen was intentionally killed by an Israeli sniper, even though the Israeli government initially blamed Palestinians for her death. Most mainstream media parroted the Israeli government’s talking points, without any journalistic due diligence, including the basic foundation of journalistic integrity — fact-checking.

How are the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh by an Israeli sniper and violence and incitement by Israeli legislators and settlers related?  

A few weeks ago, Israeli MK Itamar Ben Gvir — who has praised mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994 — spoke to high school students in Ramat Gan, some of whom hosted a rally protesting his appearance, only to be drowned out by a counter-protest of Ben Gvir supporters, who shouted “your village should burn.”

As chilling as this chant and other similar calls for the killing and burning of Palestinians are, these dangerous calls for the death and erasure of the Palestinian people were made by high school students who are on the helms of being conscripted to the Israeli army — the army responsible for Shireen’s death. 

Israeli soldiers and settlers work in unison against the Palestinian population. These actions have been documented over many years, including in an in-depth article in 2021 detailing how Israeli settlers uprooted Palestinian fig and olive trees and attacked a school, including destroying its solar panels while Israeli soldiers “covered for them by gunfire” and pointed settlers where to go. In 2015, thirteen-year-old Ahmad Manasra from Jerusalem survived a lynching by settlers while Israeli police stood around and refused Ahmad any medical attention, despite his critical condition. In the same year, 18-month-old Ali Dawabseh and his parents Riham and Saad were burned inside their home by settlers, who then danced while later stabbing photos of him at a wedding, chanting “Ali was burned.” The settlers were not apprehended by Israeli police, who watched them outside of a courthouse. 

In 2014, Israeli settlers abducted sixteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir from his Jerusalem neighborhood and then burned him alive. Though eventually prosecuted, Israeli police immediately created propaganda and spun lies to whitewash the crime in an attempt to prevent domestic and international outrage. 

There are countless more crimes, all of them more egregious than the last. But what all of them have in common is that they are not the actions of individual settlers, but the systemic result of a settler-colonial apartheid regime that is predicated on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population. This is not only a violation of international law, but also a violation of American laws.

The U.S. should implement its own laws

How is this related to us as Americans? 

As Americans, we give Israel $3.8 billion worth of unconditional military aid every year, yet we do not enforce accountability mechanisms already in place, including those set forth in the Leahy Law. The Leahy Law states that we will not provide funding “… to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” 

The second statutory provision to the Law, under the Department of Defense, states that the Secretary of Defense has the responsibility to “…ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.” The Law is in place, and it is our responsibility to ensure that it is enforced, as the United States has done in other countries. Israel cannot continue to be the exception.

Not all hope is lost, though, in pushing for accountability and justice and ending human rights abuses, including the state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings of children in Palestine. Congresswoman Betty McCollum introduced H.R. 2590, or the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, in 2021.

This is another accountability mechanism that, if adopted and enacted, would prohibit Israel from using U.S. tax revenues “on the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention; to support the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes in violation of international humanitarian law; or on any support or assistance for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law.” H.R. 2590 has over 30 signatories and should be immediately adopted and enacted so that Palestinian children live a life of equality and justice.

Siham Rashid is the Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund – Palestine Center.