These organizations draw upon their decades of experience in the region, during which they have collectively witnessed the horror of suicide bombing, rocket attacks, shootings of civilians, home demolitions, forced displacement, and other widespread human rights violations. These faith groups “recognize that each party — Israeli and Palestinian — bears responsibilities for its actions and we therefore continue to stand against all violence regardless of its source.”
Unconditional U.S. military aid has become one of those sources fueling violence and further entrenchment of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. This statement highlights the United States’ responsibility to hold Israel accountable for “a troubling and consistent pattern of disregard by the government of Israel for U.S. policies that support a just and lasting peace.”
Congress must investigate possible violations of U.S. law
The latest State Department human rights report on Israel and the Occupied Territories provides a devastating account of Israel’s human rights violations against civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons. This diverse religious coalition has called for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act,” and urges Congress to “ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace”.
The signers affirm that these are laws that “should be enforced in all instances regardless of location,” but that it is especially critical for Israel to comply with laws that regulate the use of U.S. supplied weapons, since Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II. Notably, the United States has initiated investigations of violations of these laws by other countries, and on four different occasions between 1978 and 1982, the Secretary of State notified Congress that Israel “may” have violated the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act.
The coalition has called for renewed investigations into human rights violations documented by the State Department’s report, including Israel’s escalation of home demolitions, forced displacement, suppression of dissent, and its use of prohibited weapons in densely populated areas during Israel’s military Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
Echoing urgent warnings from Israeli leader
The letter also echoes the urgency for immediate action to secure a diplomatic settlement to the crisis that has been acknowledged by scores of Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including Ehud Barak, Israel’s current Defense Minister and former Prime Minister. In a historic speech delivered at the prestigious Herzliya National Security Conference in Israel in early 2010, Mr. Barak warned of Israel’s future in the absence of a political settlement, saying in stark terms:
“The reality is cruel but simple. Between the Jordan River...and the Mediterranean, 12 million people live, 7.5 million Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians. And the simple truth is that as long as in this territory to the West of the Jordan River, there is one political entity which is called Israel[...]and if this bloc of Palestinians would not be able to vote, it’s going to be an apartheid state.”
Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. interests require urgent efforts to avoid the nightmare that Israeli leader Ehud Barak has described as an apartheid state. A just and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians requires that all parties to a conflict are held accountable and that a comprehensive, inclusive diplomatic settlement be secured. An essential step for Congress to support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts is to heed these warnings, and hold Israel accountable for how it uses U.S. military aid. (See full letter at: http://www.fcnl.org/middle_east)
Gould is legislative associate for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).