All I can say is thank God for American Friends of Peace Now (and Brit Tzedek and Israel Policy Forum). They’re leading the charge against The Palestinian Anti Terrorism Act of 2006 ((HR 4681), a piece of draconian anti-Palestinian legislation that would further erode the already miserable quality of life for average Palestinians. It will tie Pres. Bush’s hands if he wishes to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. It will prohibit paying the salaries of the 160,000 Palestinians who work for the Palestinian Authority, effectively starving them if not to death, then to a state of perpetual want.
According to the Jerusalem Post, all three Jewish groups are directly taking on the behemoth of American Jewish organizations, Aipac, which is the 800 lb. gorilla behind this legislation. Aipac distributed an FAQ memo in the run up to the legislative vote on the bill, which contained specious arguments and erroneous interpretations of its language. Aipac would have you believe that the bill isn’t intended to penalize Palestinians for voting for Hamas in the last election. Even if you give the group the benefit of the doubt (which you shouldn’t) and say they don’t INTEND to penalize them, the net effect of the legislation will be to do precisely that. And thank God, APN issued an immediate rebuttal refuting Aipac’s distortions point by point. The group organized messages of opposition sent to 300 members of Congress in only 12 hours! Now that’s organizing.
Over 50% of Gazans live below the international poverty standard of $2 a day. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. says Israel Radio reports four Gaza hospital deaths already because kidney dialysis treatments have been reduced by one-third due to running out of necessary medicines, supplies and equipment. Imagine what’s to come once the crisis deepens. Here’s what one dialysis patient had to say to a NY Times reporter:
In the dialysis ward of Shifa Hospital, Ahmed Shabat, 51, sits in fraying clothes. He must come every other day. “This is my work,” he says, then shows the swollen veins on his arms caused by a lack of mineral supplements normally provided. “What is the relationship between humanitarian and political aims here?” he asked. “The United States is the mother of democracy. What is political about salaries to teachers and nurses? Please,” he said, “please don’t mix humanitarian help with politics. Please separate the two.”
Malnutrition is rampant. IDF shelling is incessant. And Aipac proposes ratcheting up the pressure even further with this poison pill of a bill. Someone should tell these people that our Jewish God is one of mercy, not of blind justice. And besides, what’s just (or merciful) about the bill or the Israeli punishment policy it represents?
The world already sees America as a heartless bully due to our militaristic forays into the Mideast. Is this legislation the face we really need to show the world? That we would willingly stand by while Palestinians drop dead in the streets and hospitals from conditions that would be easily curable in any modern society? Do we want to stand by while Israel and Aipac turn the screws ever tighter on an already debilitated people and society?
PLEASE, write your Congressmember asking that he or she opposes HR 4681. It is bad for America. It is bad for the Palestinians. It is even bad for Israel because it will draw us farther from a reasonable solution to the conflict. This bill is a worrisome distraction from the real issues confronting the parties–their need to sit down face to face and negotiate for peace. In other words, it’s a big fat waste of time for our elected representatives.
UPDATE: APN reports that Congress has delayed action on the bill, a victory for forces opposing it. This gives Congress further opportunity to amend the bill and make it more consonant with the milder Senate version.