We applaud efforts to secure a complete and lasting ceasefire. We support an immediate end to the Israeli-Egyptian military blockade of Gaza and a final end to the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in compliance with UNSCR 242 and other UN Security Council resolutions. The Israeli occupation has gone on far too long, in defiance of international law, without solutions, without hope. PDA's End War and Occupation team is committed to a future in which Israelis, Palestinians and people everywhere are free to thrive and prosper, free from war and occupation. Opinion polling during a crisis tends to reflect the passions of the moment, but Americans have told pollsters for decades that we want our government to take an unbiased position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A Chicago Council Global Views survey in 2012 found that 65% of Americans want the U.S. to "not take either side", while only 30% want it to "take Israel's side". That majority rose to 74% vs 17% at the height of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2004. There are three ways in which the U.S. effectively "takes Israel's side" in the conflict, and PDA's End War and Occupation team proposes significant changes in all three to reflect the even-handed approach that most Americans want. We believe that this is a critical moment, and that Members of Congress have a chance to play a vital role:
- Military aid. The U.S. has provided Israel with at least $73 billion in military aid and currently gives it $3.1 billion per year. Under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, the U.S. is obliged to suspend or terminate military aid when U.S. weapons are used against civilians or in other ways that violate international humanitarian law. These provisions have not been invoked or enforced in the case of Israel since 1982. (PDA's End War and Occupation team supports ending U.S. military aid to Israel until it withdraws from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).) U.S. law requires that military aid be suspended until alleged violations during the present crisis have been fully investigated.
- Diplomatic cover. Since 1966, the U.S. has used its UN Security Council veto 83 times, more than the other four Permanent Members combined. Forty-two of those vetoes have served to kill resolutions on Israel and Palestine, effectively shielding Israel from accountability under international law. Israel has taken advantage of this effective immunity from the rule of law to violate the Geneva Conventions and human rights laws, to continually expand its illegal settlements in the OPT and to ignore UN Security Council resolutions that require it to withdraw from the OPT. The U.S. also uses its diplomatic, military and economic power in other ways to shield Israel from international accountability. PDA's End War and Occupation team urges Members of Congress to challenge the use of our Security Council veto and American power to shield a foreign state from the rule of law.
- Moral support. Israel is now a wealthy, developed country with an advanced weapons industry. A cut-off of U.S. military aid would not in itself force the Israeli government to rethink its policy. But U.S. diplomatic and Congressional support is critical to the Israeli government's ability to ignore otherwise universal condemnation of its illegal settlement building, human rights abuses and failure to end the occupation. The UN General Assembly passed 21 resolutions on Israel-Palestine in 2013, mostly by at least 165-6, with the US and Israel in the minority. But the unconditional support of Congress confers a false sense of legitimacy on Israeli policies. It encourages the Israeli government to press ahead with an illegal territorial expansion that the world will never recognize, leading to endless conflict and growing international isolation. The role of Congress is therefore critical, and may even hold the key to a final resolution of this incredibly painful and long-running crisis.
PDA's End War and Occupation team urges Members of Congress and their staffs to educate themselves on the experiences and history of people on both sides of this conflict; to genuinely adopt the even-handed approach that most Americans want; to hold all sides accountable under U.S. and international law; and to stop supporting the continued occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.