Led by Florida’s Marco Rubio, a group of GOP senators said Friday they would be reintroducing legislation intended to force other countries to take a hard line on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups whose mission is to bring about the destruction of Israel.
The Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, which already has the support of almost a dozen of Rubio’s GOP colleagues, is a call for tough measures against Israel’s opponents that runs counter to the softer approach being taken by the Biden Administration.
“As these terrorist groups continue to show zero regard for the loss of innocent lives and threaten our ally, Israel, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill which seeks to impose sanctions against foreign nationals and governments who are actively providing material support to these groups,” Rubio said. “We must hold accountable the individuals who are aiding the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
The legislation under consideration requires the imposition of sanctions on countries, individuals, entities, and governments that provide support to anti-Israel terror groups and requires the U.S. president to send to Congress an assessment regarding America’s foreign allies’ diligence in choking off the stream of terror dollars that finance activities such as the recent weeklong rocket attack waged by Hamas against civilian Israeli targets.
“As our ally Israel continues to stand its ground in the face of ongoing terrorist attacks, we must step up to hold these terrorist groups and their enablers to account,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was one of the bill’s earliest co-sponsors said in a release. “It’s incumbent on responsible nations to do their part to prevent material support from reaching those who desire to destroy our ally. This bill sends a clear message that anyone who aids Israel’s attackers will face stiff consequences.”
“During the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas launched thousands of rockets intended to kill Israeli civilians. Hamas, a terrorist organization supported by Iran, also put the lives of Palestinian civilians at risk,” said Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who added the proposed legislation reaffirms “the United States’ commitment to combatting global terrorism.”
“Israel is one of our closest allies and deserves our support in countering these persistent threats to its security,” North Dakota GOP Sen. John Hoeven, another principal sponsor of the bill said. “Our legislation will sanction those who support terrorism against Israel while holding accountable those nations that do not take seriously the threats posed by Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
“America will always stand unapologetically with our great ally, Israel, and against all that wish it harm,” Florida Sen. Rick Scott said. “I’m proud to again join Senator Rubio on this important legislation to clearly demonstrate the United States’ intolerance for violent terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and hold accountable all who support them.”
Joining Rubio as additional original co-sponsors of the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act are Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran, Indiana’s Todd Young, and Mike Braun, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, John Boozman of Arkansas, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Oklahoma’s James Lankford, Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, and Bill Haggerty and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
What makes this war different—and disturbing
Israel has battled Hamas four times since the terror organization seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Each battle unfolds the same way: Hamas launches rockets at Israel’s civilian population, Israel bombs Hamas targets, and the fighting continues until terrorist infrastructure is sufficiently degraded so that the rocket fire stops for a few years. Israelis call it “mowing the lawn.” The last major clash was in 2014. In its origins, order of battle, and strategy and tactics, Operation Guardian of the Walls, which began May 10, resembles these previous flareups.
So what’s different? Just about everything.
The region has changed. In 2014 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, legitimizing the nuclear program of Israel’s archenemy Iran, was a gleam in John Kerry’s eye. Its adoption the following year, and America’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, realigned the Middle East along the axis of Iranian power. The result was an Arab-Israel détente formalized in the 2020 Abraham Accords. From a regional perspective, the Palestinian cause is less important than Iran’s ambitions.
Israel has changed. In 2014 Benjamin Netanyahu was at the outset of his third term and led from a position of strength. His indictment on corruption charges in 2019 initiated a political crisis that has led to four elections (and most likely a fifth) in the space of two years. On the eve of the latest violence, Israel’s bewildering politics became even more surprising when two of Netanyahu’s rivals enticed an Arab Islamist party to join a coalition government. That effort collapsed when the rockets blazed. The subsequent outbreak of intercommunal violence in cities with large Arab-Israeli populations is a reminder of Israel’s pressing domestic challenges. The security issue unites Israel. Just about everything else divides it.
America has changed. In the summer of 2014, Barack Obama was a lame duck, the Republicans controlled the House and were on the verge of winning the Senate, and Donald Trump was the host of Celebrity Apprentice. Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu and willingness to expose “daylight” between the United States and Israel was no secret. But anti-Israel invective was limited to the fringe. And anti-Israel media bias was nowhere near as bad as it is today.
Then came the Great Awokening. The dialectic of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump drove the nation into its current obsession with race, culminating in the protests, riots, vandalism, cancellations, and iconoclasm that followed the murder of George Floyd one year ago. The Trump years brought a revolutionary fervor to American politics, radicalizing the left and burdening the rest of us with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her anti-Israel, socialist “Squad” of congressional Democrats.
The Squad shares an all-encompassing woke mindset that collapses individuals and events into a reductive binary of oppressor and oppressed. When the Squad looks at Israel and Hamas, it cannot see anything other than Critical Race Theory. And so this emboldened left draws disgustingly false equivalences between American racial minorities and Palestinians. It slanders Israel as an apartheid state. It demands America stop a planned weapons sale to Israel in the middle of our ally’s offensive against terrorists supplied by Iran. It says President Biden is “taking orders” from the Jewish prime minister.
What the Squad lacks in numbers it makes up for in noise. Its members exploit social media, show up on MSNBC, and amplify the hostility to Israel already thick on college campuses and in progressive enclaves. Its allies fill the op-ed pages with similar dreck, catering to the audience for politically correct, left-wing clickbait. The polemical onslaught is false and obnoxious. But it gets results, driving an Israel-shaped wedge into the Democratic Party and forcing Biden to step up his calls for a ceasefire.
This unappeasable hostility is a problem for Israel, for America, and for the Democratic Party. It makes me wonder if the head of the DNC has checked in lately with his British counterpart. There hasn’t been a Labour prime minister since 2010 and Labour just experienced another drubbing in local elections. Labour’s current leader has been trying to salvage his party’s reputation from the wreckage of his far-left anti-Semitic predecessor Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a struggle.
Explanation? Under Corbyn, Labour went hard left, abandoning its traditional working-class constituency for progressive social and cultural issues that appeal to the university crowd and the Very Online but turn off everyone else. Corbyn opposed Brexit, supported high levels of immigration, embraced political correctness, and tolerated the worst sort of anti-Semitism in his campaigns against Israel. The Socialist International became the Socialist Intersectional (Jews excluded).
The same process is well underway here. Not content with tearing down America, and energized by the cultural revolution of 2020, the Jackal Bins turn their gaze on the Jewish State. Anti-Semitism dogged the anti-Trump Women’s March. Black Lives Matter, which recently tweeted its advocacy for “Palestinian liberation”—no mention of Hamas’ genocidal intent—supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib require no introduction. Comedian Trevor Noah irresponsibly likens Hamas to a powerless four-year-old. The haters can’t believe their success.
Someone needs to disappoint them. As long as Hamas remains in power, Israel will be forced to defend itself. The Jewish State’s position in American politics can’t be allowed to deteriorate further. Not just for Israel’s sake. For ours.
By now most armchair pundits and faux Mideast experts have chimed in on the violence in Israel and Gaza. Some of the most frivolous comments come from misguided hyper woke celebrities and athletes who seek to establish their expertise when they know virtually nothing. For example, Trevor Noah, on MSNBC’s Joy Reid show claimed “Jewish Supremacy” was the cause of the violence, rather than the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. To be clear, they are not misguided for feeling sympathy for the Palestinians living in Gaza, but rather, they are cartoonishly misguided for blaming Israel for the suffering.
The Israel/Palestinian conflict is among the most vexing foreign policy issues. However, there is nothing complex about the need to recognize that Hamas deserves absolute culpability for the suffering of average Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. I say “average” because poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are rampant in Gaza, but not among the Hamas elite.
Hamas has a specific and obvious raison d’être — to kill as many Jews as possible. No mind reading is required to know this — it is Hamas’ explicitly stated goal. They spend most of their foreign aid money not on much needed infrastructure, COVID vaccinations, or education. Instead, their priority is building illegal smuggling tunnels from which they launch attacks, and unguided rocket technology from Iran to indiscriminately target Israeli civilians.
Hamas prefers using the money it receives from well-meaning nations including the US, and many European and Middle Eastern nations to launch attacks, murder homosexuals, oppress women, and prevent truly democratic institutions from taking root. If you doubt this, try going to Gaza when things settle down and attempt to form a new political party that supports equal rights for women and homosexuals and that actually seeks peace.
Before the George W. Bush years, Hamas was a rogue terror group with no official power. However, the unintended consequences of the Bush foreign policy of rightly condemning the PLO/Arafat regime for rampant corruption and an unwillingness to make peace, unfortunately led to the election of Hamas in Gaza. Thus, the only time Gazans were afforded an actual choice began Hamas’ reign of terror.
Since those faithful years, Palestinians have been living in a prison of their own making. In fact, a significant percentage of Hamas rockets fired at Israel did not even make it to Israel from Gaza, killing or injuring many Palestinians. This is, of course, of no consequence to Hamas leaders who see average Gazans as pawns to manipulate in order to maintain power. But it is even more troubling that liberal celebrities and media organizations don’t care and end up acting as a shield to the monstrous actions of Hamas.
No matter how pro-Palestinian one may be, to normalize the actions of Hamas, as so many liberal journalists are doing (and a few folks among the alt-Right), is to directly oppose and fight against the hope of a better future for Gazans.
As usual, support for Israel is nearly unanimous among the GOP. While some Republicans want foreign aid generally reduced across the board as a budgetary matter, none would disagree with Israel’s inherent right to self-defense.
This is juxtaposed to an increasingly hostile Democratic Party who once were part of the bedrock support of Israel. Now, its Middle East policy is increasingly driven by younger Democrats who are extremely woke and see Israel as the automatic aggressor, regardless of the facts. For some reason Hamas escapes any real blame.
Over the last few years of President Trump’s term, the world saw a flowering of new peace arrangements between Israel and Arab nations, including but not limited to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Morocco. Amazingly, UAE officials have threatened to cut investment in Gaza if Hamas does not immediately commit to complete calm. They have admitted what many have known for some time, that Hamas policies are hurting the people of Gaza. This is a far more enlightened understanding than that of the Washington Post or foreign policy professors at Harvard University.
The irony is that during this time of immense political and security challenges facing Israel, it is the Republicans who stand steadfast with our ally Israel. As Democratic support for Israel continues to wane, even “pro-Israel” Democrats are more apt to criticize the GOP for “making the Israel issue political” rather than criticizing their own for being increasingly radical and woke while ignoring fact.
For Israel, the choice is the same today as it was decades ago when Golda Meir said: “If we have to choose between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”
And makes a mockery of his democracy agenda
That didn’t take long. One week after piously and erroneously repudiating the Commission on Unalienable Rights established by his predecessor Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed the hollow selectivity of this administration’s commitment to human rights and democratic reform.
On April 7, Blinken said he was “pleased to announce” the reinstatement of tens of millions of dollars in aid to the West Bank and Gaza and of some $150 million to support the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law,” Blinken added.
Easier said than done. The Taylor Force Act, signed into law in 2018, withholds aid from the Palestinian Authority until the State Department certifies that the ruling party of the West Bank has terminated payments to family members of terrorists. It hasn’t. That was one reason the Trump administration slashed the aid in the first place. Nor is there evidence that suddenly the Palestinians have curtailed the so-called pay-to-slay schemes that incentivize the murder of civilians and the perpetuation of conflict. On the contrary: They bristle at the idea of changing their corrupt and self-destructive ways.
A second law from 2018, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, holds beneficiaries of foreign assistance legally and financially responsible for terrorism committed against U.S. citizens. This notion — that the Palestinian Authority might actually have to pay a price for its incitement to anti-Semitic violence — so terrified the leadership in the West Bank that it sent a letter to the Trump administration in February 2019 renouncing U.S. aid. I must have missed the make-up note postmarked Ramallah.
UNRWA long ago abandoned its original mission for anti-Israel activism. According to Pompeo, there are fewer than 200,000 Palestinian Arabs who remain displaced by the 1948 war. Rather than work to resettle this dwindling population, UNRWA devotes its resources to the delegitimization of Israel and to the perpetuation of a mythic “right of return” that obstructs peace. UNRWA also operates in the Gaza Strip, where its facilities were used by Hamas operatives and other terrorists during the 2014 war with Israel.
“Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a recent briefing. That’s the understatement of the year. But what hope is there for reform of UNRWA when the Biden administration rewards it for doing nothing?
A conceit of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that involvement in corrupt multilateral institutions somehow gives the United States an opportunity to improve them. “By resuming this assistance today, not only do we have that dialogue, but we have a seat at the table,” Price said. “We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do.” That was also his argument for rejoining the World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council. He has little to show for it. The results so far: A propagandistic and misleading investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, and four anti-Israel resolutions. Having a seat at the table doesn’t matter when everyone ignores you.
What was particularly galling about Blinken’s announcement was its disconnect from the nature of Palestinian governance. Here is an administration that says the conflict between democracy and authoritarianism will define the 21st century. Here is an administration that prides itself on its support for human rights. And here is an administration that says it will be able to prevent millions in taxpayer funds from directly benefiting the Palestinian Authority, and thereby breaking U.S. law, by taking into account
the intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the PA is the direct recipient of the assistance, of course; whether the assistance involves payments of Palestinian Authority creditors; the extent of ownership or control the PA exerts over an entity or an individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or, in some cases, the services provided directly replace assistance or services that the PA would otherwise provide.
Good luck. The renewed assistance, remember, will be circulated in a polity whose president is in the 16th year of a four-year term, whose official corruption is legendary, whose 2.7 million subjects are policed by no fewer than six internal security forces, and whose entry in the 2020 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reads as follows:
reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation, as the Palestinian Authority has not held a national election since 2006; acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; and reports of forced child labor.
The entry for Hamas is no better.
For all of his “transformative” ambitions at home, Biden’s Middle East policy is remarkably backward-looking and uninspired. By denying aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, the Trump administration recognized that the Israeli–Palestinian peace process had become a counterproductive sideshow, and that U.S. aid wasn’t contributing to the resolution of conflict, but incentivizing it. The more urgent problem is Iran, which is why Trump was able to broker the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco.
Now Biden has pivoted away from the anti-Iran coalition and toward the pro-Iran deal European allies. He’s distanced himself from Israel and moved toward the Palestinians. He’s rebuked the Saudis and coaxed the Houthis. He is trying to reconstruct, ever so slowly, Barack Obama’s Middle East. But he hasn’t really explained why this time will be different. After all: When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And that is exactly what Biden is doing.
Why ban BDS supporters?
Israel’s decision to ban Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is, while controversial, the right one. Yes, America is Israel’s foremost ally and members of Congress, the elected representatives of the American people, must always be respected.
Like America, Israel is a nation of laws, and the democratically elected government adopted a law in 2017 which prohibits the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” This includes proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
Why ban BDS supporters?
The answer is that their objective is the destruction of Israel. They make no secret of this goal. As As’ad AbuKhali has said,” “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its destruction?
Since entering Congress just a few months ago, and in the years before, Omar and Tlaib have waged war against Israel and the Jewish people. They have made disgustingly anti-Semitic comments, including accusations that the Jewish people are not loyal to the United States but to Israel; that the Jewish people buy politicians with their money; that Israel hypnotizes the world with its evil actions, and that Israel is an apartheid occupier which must be boycotted.
We can only assume that what Omar and Tlaib would be doing in Israel is simply inciting and inflaming the Palestinian population, or at the very least trying to visit upon Israel the most negative possible media coverage in order to delegitimize the Middle East’s only democracy before the eyes of the world.
Israel does not have to prove its commitment to freedom of speech by allowing foreigners into the country who want to exploit that liberty to propagandize against the state and advocate measures to undermine its democracy. Omar and Tlaib could have asked to travel with the other 40 Democrats who recently visited Israel, but they preferred to go separately to avoid the discomfort of meeting with Israeli leaders and experiencing an Israel that does not comport with their preconceived notions. Unlike their colleagues, they were uninterested in learning about Israel; they prefer to speak from ignorance. The two were clearly out for publicity and hoped to find opportunities to embarrass the Israeli people and their government while highlighting their anti-Israel agenda.
Israel is also not unique in determining who should be allowed to enter the country. Applicants for visas to the United States, for example, are asked several questions about their political views and activities. The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”
The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim. And none of them supported movements advocating the destruction of the United States.
Israel is under constant attack, not just from terrorists, but from boycotters and others who seek to smear Israel in any way they can, via social media, mainstream media, and public relations stunts. Omar and Tlaib have every right to disparage Israel, but they cannot disguise their anti-Semitism by claiming to be merely criticizing the Israeli government. No one is silencing them, but they cannot have it both ways; they cannot promote a movement that denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their homeland and then complain when they are not allowed into that home.
If Israel made an exception for two promoters of BDS because they are members of Congress, it would make a mockery of the law passed by Israel’s parliament and its democratic principles. And being a member of Congress does provide license to work to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
by Peter Huessy
Cranky opponents of the Iron Dome Israeli missile defense claim the system doesn’t work. Some in the arms control community have latched on to such criticism to smear missile defense work in general especially that in the United States.
What happened then to the nearly 3000 Hamas rocket warheads that if not intercepted largely landed somewhere in Israel? The same critics say not only did Iron Dome not work, but the Hamas rocket warheads didn’t work either! Continue reading
by Dr. Laurie Ann Mylroie
President Obama’s handling of the Gaza conflict marks a sharp break with his attitude toward other Middle East conflicts, as well as the policies of previous U.S. presidents. In contrast to Obama’s lethargic and indifferent response toward such calamities as the Syrian regime’s serial massacres of its own population or threats like the Islamic State’s consolidation of control over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, Obama is exercised about the conflict in Gaza, and he has shocked Israelis across the political spectrum with his demand—made Sunday in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu—for an “immediate, unconditional, humanitarian” cease-fire. However, a cease-fire for whatever purpose has a determining impact on the military situation, and the cease-fire Obama demanded would have stopped the Israelis from achieving a key objective—the destruction of Hamas’ “terror tunnels.” Continue reading
Once again the Middle East has descended into a vicious circle of simultaneous human tragedies. The essence of this often repeated situation had been the irreconcilable difference between the arbitrary interpretation of the basic rights of the various ethnic and religious communities and their diametrically opposed sense of intolerable injustice. The differences between the two sides, Arabs and Israelis, had always been fundamental. The former had believed that what they had called Palestine had been promised to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah and sealed for eternity by conquest and occupation over fourteen centuries. The Jews had derived their right to the land of Eretz Israel and Zion directly from God over two millennia before Muhammad was even born. Jewish immigration throughout the 20th century and the establishment of the State of Israel had been viewed by the Arabs as illegal occupation of their land, and condemned and fought accordingly. The Jews had invoked history and asserted that they only exercise their God-given right to return to the land of their forefathers. Continue reading
by Liel Leibovitz
Here’s a bit of wisdom that cannot be repeated often enough: Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime. If you don’t believe me, ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was adamant on this point last year, when Syria’s president Assad, aided by Hamas’ brethren Hezbollah, engaged in the very same tactics we now see coming out of Gaza, albeit with much more devastating results. And if that’s not enough, consider a regime that targets not only the enemy’s civilians but also its own: Appearing on TV the other day, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri waxed poetic about the merits of using men, women, and children as human shields, a heinous tactic that puts every civilian in Gaza in needless risk.
The world has repeatedly—and rightly—asked that Israel take measures to protect the civilian population of Gaza. Israel chooses its targets very carefully, and, knowing that Hamas’ cowardly creeps would have likely stacked every strategic building with armfuls of kids, according to the instructions of its leaders, it takes extraordinary measures to provide ample warning before each strike. These include text messages and calls, leaflets dropped from above, and “knock on the roof” measures, or firing flares to signal an upcoming strike. Continue reading
A Saudi prince sent a harsh message to President Obama and his administration, saying White House waffling and indecision has compromised the ability of the United States to nail down a peace pact between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former intelligence head of Saudi Arabia, in The New York Times. “When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it. There is an issue of confidence.”
Specifically, the prince blasted Mr. Obama for reneging on promises — a habit that’s been shown by recent polls about Obamacare to plague the president with constituents in the United States, too. Continue reading