Congressional Delegation Has Duty to Investigate Impact of U.S. Military and Political Support to Apartheid Government in Israel, Hear from Impacted Communities
(Washington, D.C., February 16, 2022) – The U.S. Congressional delegation headed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi should ensure that its visit to Israel includes travel to Gaza and investigates and hears directly from communities impacted by unconditional U.S. political and military support to Israel's apartheid government, said Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).
The Congressional delegation, led by Speaker Pelosi and including Representatives Adam Schiff, Ted Deutch, Barbara Lee, Bill Keating, Eric Swalwell, Ro Khanna, and Andy Kim, arrived in Israel yesterday, only two weeks after the publication of an Amnesty International report that concluded Israel's systemic and oppressive domination over the Palestinian people amounts to the crimes of apartheid and persecution. Pelosi declared that "support for Israel is in our DNA," and the trip was in recognition of "our shared democratic values and mutual security," but she made no mention of the apartheid designation by leading Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations.
"Speaker Pelosi and the Congressional delegation have a fiduciary, political, and moral responsibility to see for themselves what is transpiring on the ground, particularly in Gaza, with the backing of U.S. political and military support to Israel," said Adam Shapiro, DAWN's Director of Advocacy for Israel-Palestine. "As Americans increasingly question our government's unconditional support for the Israeli government, and over a quarter of American Jews recognize Israel as an apartheid state, the very least this delegation can do is take a close look at what U.S. support for Israel has wrought."
Pelosi's office has provided few details of the trip, purportedly for security reasons, however, according to Israeli publications, the delegation's trip will last only two days and is scheduled to include a visit to the Israeli Knesset and meetings with Israeli politicians. The delegation will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but it has provided no information about any practicable objectives to address Israel's human rights abuses, particularly in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Since Israel and Egypt imposed a siege of Gaza in 2006, only three members of Congress have visited, and none since 2009. Three members of Congress who tried to visit Gaza in 2018, Representatives Mark Pocan, Dan Kildee, and Hank Johnson Jr., were denied entry by Israel.
"Meeting with the expired Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah is no substitute for meeting with Palestinian civil society representatives, particularly of the six non-governmental organizations that Israel recently designated as 'terrorist' in a pretext to shut them down," said Shapiro. "Our elected representatives should demand a visit to Gaza so they can see for themselves the toll of Israel's closure and its years of indiscriminate and deliberate bombardment of civilians there, including most recently in May 2021."
"Instead of supporting failed policies and stale talking points about a fictional peace process, Speaker Pelosi and this delegation should use their visit to learn about the harm U.S. support for Israel has caused Palestinians."
- Adam Shapiro, DAWN's Director of Advocacy for Israel-Palestine
Amnesty International's determination that Israel is an apartheid state reaches a similar conclusion to those of Palestinian human rights groups, Human Rights Watch, which issued its own groundbreaking report on this subject in 2021, and B'Tselem, a leading human rights organization based in Jerusalem. These reports combine meticulous research with expert legal analysis, applying settled international law to the facts on the ground in Israel and occupied Palestine. These reports should trigger reflection and reevaluation, and lead to a critical assessment of how more than fifty years of occupation without a viable political process have disenfranchised Palestinians while also undermining democracy in Israel and destabilizing the region.
"Instead of supporting failed policies and stale talking points about a fictional peace process, Speaker Pelosi and this delegation should use their visit to learn about the harm U.S. support for Israel has caused Palestinians," said Shapiro. "Palestinian families being dragged from their homes, Palestinian students being teargassed in their classrooms, Palestinian children being killed by Israeli soldiers—all of which happened just this week—were all funded or supported by the U.S. government and have no place in U.S. foreign policy," Shapiro added.
Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits military assistance to systematically abusive governments, like Israel. However, the U.S. Congress has never sought to enforce the law, required any human rights certification by the President, as the law requires, nor imposed any conditions on U.S. military assistance to Israel. Continued U.S. military and political support to Israel violates the United States' own human rights obligations not to contribute to human rights abuses by Israel.
"Some of the members of this delegation, like Representatives Khanna and Lee, have often spoken for progressive values in U.S. foreign policy, but a real test of their commitment will be what they say and do during this trip to Israel," said Shapiro.