The times, they are-a changing on American-Israeli policy

February 9, 2018

Photo by Juliane Kravik (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo by Juliane Kravik (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Israeli government has ordered about 40,000 African migrants, who fled war-torn Sudan and Eritrea, to leave the country or face imprisonment -- prompting international outcry and dozens of Holocaust survivors to urge the government to abandon its plans.

The State of Israel has a track record of failing to adhere to human rights law. At a United Nations convening in January, the South African delegate argued that “Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state” for continuing its human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Traditionally, Members of Congress have shied away from criticizing Israel, but things are changing. Today, they are calling into questions Israeli policies more frequently -- from the demolition of Palestinian homes to the constitutionality of legislation that criminalizes the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

U.S. lawmakers condemn demolitions

On February 1, the Israeli Supreme Court approved the immediate demolition of property in the Palestinian village of Susya -- leaving dozens of Palestinians homeless.

Fearing that these actions will jeopardize a two-state solution, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders and eight other senators called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the demolition. Visiting Susya in October, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky voiced her strong opposition to the Israeli government's actions: “demolitions in villages like Susya are not helping Israel’s security – in fact they are a direct and grave threat to a viable two-state solution, and Israel’s safety.”

A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report concluded that: “The violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life.” The international community must work to pressure Israel to protect the human rights and dignity of Palestinians. Israel’s mistreatment and abuse of Palestinians is a major obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the 70-year conflict.

Additionally, Congress must prioritize the passage of Congresswoman Betty McCollum's Palestinian human rights legislation that would prevent U.S. tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. In this moment, it is critical that pro-peace lawmakers speak out in support of Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its human rights violations.

You can help protect the human rights of Palestinian children. Urge your Member of Congress to sponsor and support Congresswoman McCollum’s bill.

Take action!

Questioning the constitutionality of anti-BDS legislation

The BDS movement is an international, non-violent approach using political, economic and social means to pressure the State of Israel to: 1) end the occupation, 2) recognize the human rights of Palestinians, and 3) honor the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

US state and federal lawmakers have introduced many bills aimed at criminalizing the BDS movement. Kansas passed a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they will not boycott Israel or its settlements; this law is currently being challenged in court. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a convoluted bill that would impose new restrictions on Americans who want to participate in boycotts against Israel -- criminalizing some expressions of dissent as a serious felony. Questioning the constitutionality of the bill, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) withdrew her support for it. Shortly thereafter, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) came out in strong opposition because the bill violates First Amendment protected speech and activities.

As ridiculous as it sounds, lawmakers across the country need a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution and the rights enshrined in it. One does not need to support the BDS movement to conclude that legislation seeking to criminalize the BDS movement is an egregious constitutional violation of protected speech and activities. As Americans, we have the responsibility to insist on our constitutional right to engage in peaceful protests, movements, and boycotts.

Advocates and community organizations around the country work daily to ensure lawmakers use their positions of power to speak out against injustices committed by any entity, including the Israeli government. For example, J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” community organization, educates Members of Congress like Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA) about the pro-peace approach to the conflict.

Our country’s leaders can easily move the needle on racial and religious conflicts happening in Israel. Palestinians and migrants have been persecuted in the region for decades, and it’s time for Members of Congress to step up to the plate and create policies that can get rid of human rights abuses abroad and the intimidation of free speech here at home. Congressman Evans said, “There are tremendous opportunities for the Trump administration to guide the region towards peace, if they decide to actually work towards peace and help bring about a solution.”



View All


Help us continue our work with a quick
one-time or monthly donation.