Friday, May 26

MCC Palestine Prayer Request - 26 May 2006

MCC Palestine Prayer Request

26 May 2006

Dear Friends,

As many of you may have already heard, the U.S. House of Representatives did vote on HR 4681, the "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act"—a bill that imposes draconian economic and diplomatic sanctions against the Palestinian people for exercising their democratic rights—this past week and overwhelmingly passed it. In particular, this bill includes:

* Restricting US humanitarian aid and potentially eliminating entire US aid projects, such as infrastructure and small business development;
* Threatening to withhold a portion of US dues to the United Nations because it maintains bodies that advocate for Palestinian human rights and seek to hold Israel accountable to international law;
* Defining territory controlled nominally by the Palestinian Authority as a "terrorist sanctuary", thereby requiring US businesses to obtain special export licenses for most goods destined for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and gutting the provisions of the US free trade agreement with the West Bank and Gaza;
* Refusing visas to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian Mission to the UN, even those who belong to political parties that the United States does not classify as "foreign terrorist organizations";
* Restricting the movement of PLO diplomats at the United Nations and threatening to close the PLO's office in Washington, and;
* Instructing the US representative to the World Bank to use the considerable strength of the United States in international financial institutions to vote against the continuation of humanitarian aid projects.

According to a report from Churches for Middle East Peace (; see their email update below), "the bill’s passage on Tuesday morning was preceded by a lively debate on Monday evening, where a number of Members spoke eloquently in opposition to the bill, citing concerns about its restrictions on NGO aid, prohibitions on diplomatic relations with Palestinian moderates and lack of flexibility for the Administration in pursuing foreign policy in the Israeli-Palestinian arena."

Though this is a sad commentary on the distance between what is actually happening in reality in other parts of the world and what gets discussed and ultimately determined on Capitol Hill, the bill is not law yet. It must first be passed by the U.S. Senate, which is now likely to take up its more moderate version of the bill, S. 2370, with further improvements possible. Even if the Senate passes their bill, then the House and Senate will still have to reach a compromise in the House-Senate conference before the President can sign it into law.

For those of you who took the time to make a phone call or send an email to your representative expressing your concern over this legislation, thank you. For those of you who brought this information to your communities for discussion and prayer, thank you.

As this legislation continues to be on the table, we would again ask you to please continue to keep the people of this land in your thoughts and prayers, even bringing this specific issue up with friends and family for prayer, and again to consider taking a few minutes to call your congressional representative and senator to express your concerns over this unfair legislation.

Attached below are three pieces. The first is a report on this House’s vote that appeared in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The second is another report discussing the concerns over this legislation. Finally, an update from Churches for Middle East Peace listing those Representatives who voted "no" on this bill and a suggested action to thank them for opposing the bill.

Thank you. And if you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so.


Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee - Palestine

Last update - 02:45 24/05/2006
U.S. House votes to tighten PA sanctions
By Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies, By Shmuel Rosner

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives yesterday voted to further choke off the flow of U.S. aid to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, drawing the displeasure of the Bush administration, which says the legislation goes too far, and dividing the pro-Israel lobbying community.

The measure, which passed easily with 361 votes in favor and 37 opposed, makes it very difficult for non-governmental groups working in the West Bank and Gaza - with the exception of health programs - to receive funding, denies visas to members of the Palestinian Authority, bans contacts with Hamas because of its classification as a terrorist organization and limits the president's authority to waive the aid bans.

"The United States must make it ambiguously clear that we will not support such a terrorist regime, that we will not directly or indirectly allow American taxpayer funds to be used to perpetuate the leadership of an Islamic jihadist group," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a chief sponsor of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act.

The vote comes as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House to discuss Israel's plans to impose a West Bank agreement on the Palestinians. Olmert addresses a joint session of Congress today.

The White House, which has already cut off funds for the Hamas-led government until it recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces acts of terrorism, criticized the bill as unneeded and overreaching in its restrictions.

The measure must still be considered in the Senate, where Sentors Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden have a similar but somewhat less restrictive bill that carves out more exceptions for PA officials not affiliated to Hamas.

In the event of Senate passage, negotiations would be needed with the House to mesh the two bills before Bush could sign the law. The House bill also withholds money from the United Nations equal to sums provided to the Palestinian Authority, restricts travel by PA officials in the United States and limits direct assistance through international financial institutions.

In three hours of sometimes emotional debate on the House floor Monday night, lawmakers were unanimous in condemning Hamas, which rose to power in January elections, but differed sharply on the wisdom of the comprehensive sanctions outlined in the bill. "The issue is not Hamas," said Rep. David Price, a critic of the bill. "The issue is rather the bill's ban on aid to all nongovernmental groups, private groups and organizations, many of whom are diametrically opposed to Hamas' philosophy."

But Representative Tom DeLay said Palestinians "have made their choice" in voting Hamas into power. "American aid to the Palestinian people must be predicated on their rejection of terrorism."

Pro-Israel groups have also split on the issue, with the largest lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), pushing for its passage while other groups, including the Israel Policy Forum and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have come out against it.

House Passes Anti-Palestinian Legislation, Senate Fight Continues
Press Release, CNI, 23 May 2006

The House of Representatives today passed a controversial bill (H.R. 4681) that would punish all Palestinians, not just members of Hamas, for electing a Hamas-led government in January's legislative elections. The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 passed the House under suspension of the rules by a vote of 361-37 (with 9 members voting "Present"), despite nearly four months of strong opposition from the Council for the National Interest and other national organizations, including Churches for Middle East Peace, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans for Peace Now, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The Bush Administration itself deemed the bill "unnecessary" in a memo outlining its opposition.

"With the passage through the House of H.R. 4681, which divided the Israel lobby because of its harshness, the fight now moves to the Senate, where S. 2370 remains in a state of suspended animation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obviously, the Israel lobby hoped to have a final bill in time for the appearance of Ehud Olmert at a joint session of Congress on Wednesday morning. The debate was rancorous. The Tuesday morning interview with Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) on C-SPAN was marked by a shouting match between Ackerman and the people who called in from all over the country. We hope that both Palestinian Americans and ordinary Americans will make their anger felt as the bill in the Senate is taken up," said CNI President Eugene Bird.

In a three hour floor debate on Monday evening, several representatives came to the floor to express their opposition to the bill, including Democrats Earl Blumenauer (OR), Lois Capps (CA), John Dingell (MI), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Betty McCollum (MN), David Price (NC), Nick Rahall (WV) and Republican Ray LaHood (IL).

Introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in February, H.R. 4681 would:
· Strictly limit assistance provided to the Palestinian Authority and NGOs working in the West Bank and Gaza to aid necessary to meet "basic human health needs," including food, water, medicine and sanitation services, unless the Palestinian Authority fulfills a long list of unrealistic and unachievable benchmarks.
· Deduct a percentage from the U.S. annual dues to the United Nations that goes to standing committees that advocate for Palestinian human rights.
· Deny visas to all members of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Legislative Council, including non-Hamas members of the PLC that support the peace process, reject violence, and recognize Israel.
· Prohibit the Palestinian Authority or PLO from having representation in the United States, including the PLO information office in Washington and the Palestinian Permanent Observer Mission to the UN.

Contact: Carlton Cobb, 202-863-2951,

The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization founded seventeen years ago by former Congressmen Paul Findley (R-IL) and Pete McCloskey (R-CA) to advocate a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy. CNI seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values, protects our national interests, and contributes to a just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.

Related Links
· BY TOPIC: Cutting Aid to Palestine
· A Letter to AIPAC, Rep. Betty McCollum (23 May 2006)
· Council for the National Interest


Email Action Alert
HR 4681 Passes: Thank Reps who Opposed the Bill

~May 24, 2006~

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 23rd, Congress voted on HR 4681 and it passed overwhelmingly with 361 Yeas, 37 Neas, 9 Present and 25 Nonvoting. While the bill was expected to pass, given its 295 co-sponsors, it was disappointing that more Members did not see its glaring problems and join the opposition. The bill’s passage on Tuesday morning was preceded by a lively debate on Monday evening, where a number of Members spoke eloquently in opposition to the bill, citing concerns about its restrictions on NGO aid, prohibitions on diplomatic relations with Palestinian moderates and lack of flexibility for the Administration in pursuing foreign policy in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. CMEP, along with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans for Peace Now, Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom were mentioned numerous times as reputable Christian and Jewish organizations that were opposing the legislation. Your advocacy has made a difference!

Details on the vote and excerpts from the debate are included below. Keep in mind that House passage of HR 4681 does not make it law. The Senate is now likely to take up its more moderate version of the bill, S. 2370 and further improvements are possible. Even if the Senate passes their bill, then the House and Senate will still have to reach a compromise in the House-Senate conference before the President can sign it into law. The Appropriations season is also upon us. CMEP sent a letter to the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Committee last week as they prepared to mark up their bill, which included Palestinian related provisions. If there are handles for citizen advocacy related to the Appropriations bills, CMEP will provide you with guidance. Meanwhile, efforts toward the Senate and breaking developments with the Administration will be a priority in the coming weeks and months.

Take Action: Send an email or fax a short letter to your Representative if they voted no or present on HR 4681, especially if he or she spoke in opposition to the bill during the floor debate.
Your Message: Thank you for not supporting HR 4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, a bill that severely undermines the US’ ability to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and remain positively engaged with the Palestinian people, through aid via NGOs and diplomatic relations with moderates. This fundamentally flawed bill, which is not in the best interest of Israelis, Palestinians or the United States deserved to be defeated. Your vote on HR 4681 and your efforts on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking are very much appreciated.

Contact Info:

Roll Call Vote on HR 4681:
Full Roll Call:
Voted No:
Jones (NC)
Kilpatrick (MI)
McCollum (MN)
Miller, George
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Price (NC)
Voted Present:
Davis (IL)
Jackson (IL)
Johnson, E. B.
Spoke in Opposition:
Price (NC)

Excerpts from the Floor Debate on HR 4681, May 22, 2006:
Read the Full Debate on HR 4681:
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3)
“…This bill provides no diplomatic horizon, no sunset. It is in perpetuity. It does little to prioritize on the basis of our strategic interest and provides no prospect for Palestinian reform coming through the process of negotiations. In so doing, it weakens the hands of those who advocate for peace negotiations and supports those extremists who believe in violence…
[The bill’s] lack of flexibility [on humanitarian aid] is one of the reasons why this bill is opposed by Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum, Brit Tzedek, Shalom, Churches for Middle East Peace, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bill sets permanent and inflexible limits on the United States's ability to be involved with Israel and Palestine, whether or not Hamas is in power. And that is a mistake. It goes far beyond dealing with the ramifications of January's elections, and Hamas's rise to power, essentially Palestinian moderates and institutions that have nothing to do with Hamas. Most independent observers feel that that is counterproductive and it may well end up backfiring and actually providing further strength to the extremists…”
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4)
“Mr. Speaker, tonight we should be working to ensure security and peace for Israel and for more hope, opportunity and peace for the Palestinian people…
Congress should be here tonight unanimously passing a bill that supports Secretary of State Rice as she leads the international community to keep firm pressure on Hamas until they agree to internationally recognized and civilized standards of conduct. At the same time, Congress should be working to support the Bush administration and the international community to avoid a serious humanitarian crisis among the Palestinian people…
It is unfortunate that the bill tonight could not have been drafted to come to the floor that would be supported by the State Department. The State Department's comment regarding H.R. 4681 is, ‘this bill is unnecessary.’…
This bill places extreme constraints on the delivery of humanitarian assistance by non-governmental organizations to the Palestinian people. This bill's unnecessary obstacles have the potential for very negative human consequences and would exacerbate a human crisis. Palestinian families and children must not be targeted. They must not be deprived of their basic human needs by this Congress. Instead, this House should assure that Palestinian families and children will be treated in a fashion that reflects our values and the belief that their lives are valuable…”
Rep. David Price (D-NC-4)
“…Nobody on this floor tonight has any tolerance for Hamas. The issue is rather the bill's ban on aid to all nongovernmental groups, private groups and organizations, many of whom are diametrically opposed to Hamas's philosophy...
Think about the kinds of aid programs that would be cut off, projects that focus on building democratic institutions and civil society, projects that promote economic development to stabilize the territories, projects that ensure that school curricula provide students with a progressive education rather than fundamentalist propaganda, curricula that teach tolerance and conflict resolution skills. Surely programs like this are in our interest…
Mr. Speaker, because of these fundamental flaws in the legislation, it is opposed by several leading voices for Israel and Middle East peace, including the Israel Policy Forum, Brit Tzedek, Americans for Peace Now, Churches for Middle East Peace - a broad coalition of churches - and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops…
If we adopt legislation that punishes the Palestinian people, instead of isolating the terrorists, we lose the moral high ground. Let us reclaim the moral high ground, signal our resolute opposition to terrorism and also our support for those Palestinian individuals and groups who are working for a peaceful and democratic future…”
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15)
“…Peace in the Middle East is not going to be achieved at gunpoint. It is going to be achieved by negotiations, by people working together; and that process may be ugly, dirty and slow, but it is the only process that will work. To create additional hardship and suffering for the Palestinians is simply going to guarantee more desperate, angry men who are fully determined that they will go forth to kill Israelis or Americans or anybody else. Our purpose here tonight should be to look to the well-being of the United States, craft a policy which is good for this country. And that policy can only be one which is good for Israel and for the Palestinian people, one which is fair to all, one which puts the United States as a friend and an honest broker of peace to both parties where we can be so accepted…”
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-23)
“…Direct aid to the Hamas-controlled P.A. has been cut off. The basic goal of this bill has already been accomplished. But H.R. 4681 goes well beyond this objective. It is a punitive measure aimed at punishing the Palestinian people. It will undermine U.S. national interests and do nothing to strengthen Israel’s security. I have two main objections with this bill. First, it places nearly insurmountable barriers to future U.S. efforts to engage Palestinians and Israel in peacemaking…
Second, except for very limited circumstances, this bill will cut off humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people at the very moment when a horrendous humanitarian disaster is looming…
Mr. Speaker, there is significant opposition to this bill in the pro-Israel community. Respected national groups like Americans for Peace Now, Israel Policy Forum and Brit Tzedek strongly oppose it. They tell us voting no on this bill is a pro-Israel vote. And groups like Churches for Middle East Peace and the Conference of Catholic Bishops, with decades of experience providing humanitarian relief, oppose it as well…"
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL-18)
“…I think the approach that is offered in this bill is what I would characterize as a meat-axe approach. This does not help common ordinary citizens. What it does is it hurts common ordinary citizens. There is no other way around it. You can protest as much as you want about Mrs. Capps and what she said, but she is right. Common ordinary citizens, common ordinary Palestinians are going to be hurt by this, because the funding is going to be cut off for educational services, for health services, for the services that these people need very badly. And what we have now, it looks to me like at least a couple hundred Secretaries of State, as reflected in this bill. Do you all know more than the Secretary of State? Do you know more than the President? Do you think your policy is better than the administration's policy? Yes, you do. Well, I don't happen to agree with that. I really don't…”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10)
“…A two-state solution, I believe, can be achieved with our mutual, thoughtful patience and support. At a time when the U.N. is reporting a pending humanitarian disaster in the West Bank and Gaza, I believe this legislation would restrict U.S. assistance to the Palestinian people delivered through nongovernmental organizations. We know that, today, up to 80 percent of all Palestinians, particularly in parts of the Gaza strip, live at or below the poverty line. Unemployment stands at 53 percent of the total workforce. Just as I join my good friends on both sides of the aisle in speaking out against violence against Israel, I object in the strongest terms to any measure that will increase the humanitarian crisis of the Palestinian people. It is true that the recent Palestinian legislative elections have created a tense situation in the international community. It is a situation that demands thoughtful and deliberate action in pursuit of peace. Despite the best intentions of those who wrote this legislation, I do not believe this legislation will advance peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli people…”
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22)
“…Hamas' victory in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council was indeed regrettable, and Hamas government's failure to condemn, much less take steps to prevent acts of terrorism is abhorrent. It is appropriate that the international community, including, of course, the United States, make a concerted and coordinated effort to pressure Hamas. However, H.R. 4681 risks undermining such efforts, harming United States national security and undermining those Palestinian officials and activists who do recognize Israel, who do reject terror, and who do support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. H.R. 4681 subjugates U.S. national security interests to political grandstanding…
This proposal, unfortunately, is itself extreme, and as such, I believe, would do no good. Rather, it will strengthen the position of extremists and increase the violence and destruction which has become more prevalent as the result of the expression and implementation of policies such as those contained in H.R. 4681. I believe that we should defeat this proposed legislation and instead focus on something that would be more productive to achieve the kinds of solutions that we need to the problems that exist in the Middle East.”
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9)
“…I rise this evening because I have to say that this act, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, I fear will result not in less terrorism, but in more. I do not really believe it is in the interest of the United States, of Israel or the world to further radicalize elements in the Palestinian population, and I do believe this bill will do exactly that. It is not in the interest of the government of the United States nor Israel nor the world to make it impossible for Palestinians to become more educated and to learn how to govern an emerging nation….
In this bill, no one wants to support Hamas. All we are asking for is the right to amend this bill to find other non-governmental groups that we can help to support, to help educate, to help inform, to help teach, in the hope, even though we are all walking through the tunnel and we see no light at the end of the tunnel, that we give the ordinary person, the moderate, and there are some moderates, some hope, some ability to connect…”
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV-3)
“…Reasonable, even intelligent people can, and frequently do, disagree on how best to achieve peace in the Middle East, but, peace must be the goal of our foreign policy tools, whether they be by the stick or by the carrot. Peace cannot come from punishing the Palestinian people. Even Israel's Foreign Minister knows that. He states in Reuters, that, ‘Israel is prepared to release Palestinian tax revenues into a proposed aid mechanism being set up by Middle East mediators to avert the collapse of the Palestinian health sector.....’ Instead, this legislation seeks to accomplish exactly what President Bush's Administration and the Israeli Foreign Minister realize is counterproductive. I can tell you that after 30 years in Congress, I have seen legislation succeed and fail. This legislation is rigid, and unnecessary. To put it plainly, when you take from people who already have nothing, you breed trouble, you don't combat it.
Today, our actions must be motivated only by our intense desire to achieve a just and lasting peace. The compassion and charity of the American people should be reflected in this legislation, though sadly, they are silenced…”
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA-17)
Submitted as extension of remarks on May 23, 2006
On May 23 the House approved HR 4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006. If I was convinced that passage of this bill would foster peace in the Middle East, I would have voted for it. Unfortunately, I felt compelled to oppose the bill because I do not believe it will help Israel, our only democratic ally in the region, or improve grassroots efforts to reach a peace agreement. In particular, HR 4681 would make it nearly impossible to fund non-governmental organization (NGO) reconciliation programs that work to build peace. By funding NGOs that work towards reconciliation and peace we undermine the ideology of hate that Hamas perpetuates...
A secure Israel and a two-state solution are the cornerstones to achieving peace in the region, and grassroots conflict prevention is the critical first step of the foundation for peace."

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