How about a “Rachel Corrie Act” from Congress?

 

Has there ever been a worse American Congress than the one that we have now?  A Gallup poll published in early July reported that their approval rating with the public stood at 20%, but one may well conclude that it is now lower than that, considering how Gallup summed up its findings at the time in what it called the “Bottom Line:”

Overall, Americans view Congress relatively poorly, with job approval ratings of the institution below 30% since October 2009. A different Gallup measure shows that a mere 12% of U.S. adults say they have confidence in Congress, the lowest rating of 14 major institutions that Gallup tracks. *

Substantial improvements in Americans' views of Congress are not likely to occur until the institution moves forward on its stalled efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, as well as other policies that Trump and Republicans have proposed. While successfully repealing the healthcare law may increase congressional approval among Republican supporters, it is unlikely to boost ratings among other Americans -- unless they have a positive reaction to Congress' merely managing to pass legislation.

The repeal and replacement of Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act or ACA for short) has come a cropper, as we know, so any hope for an uptick from that quarter is gone.  Blame for the failure has been placed upon the extreme partisanship of the two ruling parties, but this Congress has been at its absolute worst—also since that July Gallup poll was taken—on a matter in which there was near unanimity, the sanctions bill against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.  The German economist Peter Koenig summed up the folly of the sanctions, at least with respect to Russia, with his opening paragraph of a recent article:

 

Everybody with a clear mind is up in arms about the US Congress’ latest sanctions against Russia –  and as usual – sanctions for naught- zilch, zero – since Russia hasn’t done any of the things Washington and the servile west accuses her of, like interference in US elections (US secret services have repeatedly said there is no evidence whatsoever), interference in Ukraine (Washington / NATO / EU have instigated and paid for the bloody Maidan coup in February 2014); annexing Crimea (an overwhelming (97%) vote by the people of Crimea for reincorporation into the Russian Federation – their given right, according to the UN Charter). Even if Russia wanted to, she couldn’t correct any of her ‘mistakes’. They are all invented.

 

Our Kept Congress

 

Why is our Congress so bad?   There is one good explanation that I can think of.  The primary concern of virtually every member of that august body from his or her first day in office is getting reelected.  The special interests with the reelection money control them, and one very rich and powerful interest group has more control over them than any other.  That is the Israel lobby.  Kowtow to the Israel lobby and you get reelected; buck them and you’re out.  It’s pretty much that simple.  Ask Cynthia McKinney or Paul Findley.   

 

My three songs on the subject, “When the Roll Is Called by AIPAC,” “Falling to Pieces for Israel,” and “Bibi’s Clowns” are not at all the exaggerations that they might seem.  If you could catch your representative off guard he would probably tell you that.

 

Just now as I am writing this 53 of them along with a dozen Latino leaders and some top political operatives are off on an all expense paid trip to Israel, compliments of an outfit called the American Israel Education Foundation, which fashions itself, “The Charitable Organization Affiliated with AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee].”  Providing free junkets like this is one of the less heavy-handed ways that the lobby makes sure that these people who should be your representatives continue to be theirs, instead, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.

 

The bloody morass in which we have been involved in the Middle East for most of this century owes heavily to the fact that we are pursuing the interests of Israel, killing and dying and spending our fortune to weaken Israel’s enemies, rather than pursuing the interests of the American people.  The warnings of America’s first secretary of defense, James Forrestal, are proving to be very well founded.  We continue to pursue the interests of the Zionists over our own in spite of their attempt to assassinate President Harry Truman in 1947 and in spite of their best efforts to sink our intelligence gathering ship, the USS Liberty in 1968, killing 34 and wounding 174 in an obvious botched false flag attack done in complicity with the treasonous pro-Zionist President Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

The previous Congress to this one passed legislation to rain $38 billion of our tax money down upon Israel in military aid over the next ten years, “the largest batch of military assistance the US has ever pledged to another country.” What none of the pundits in the news media will tell you, across the ideological spectrum from NPR and MSNBC to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, is that every penny’s worth of military aid that we give them is completely illegal.  Our laws prohibit us from providing such aid to any country that develops nuclear weapons “outside of international safeguards.” As one of only five countries failing to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel is pointedly outside international safeguards.  We manage to side step the law by officially accepting the Israeli fiction that they don’t really have any nuclear weapons.  You can read about it here and here, not exactly major mainstream news organs.

 

All the while we are lavishly furnishing the primarily European colonists of Palestine the martial wherewithal to keep the natives of the region ground beneath their heel, we also provide a comparatively small annual stipend to the Palestinian Authority.  One might think of it as conscience money, but more realistically it is done so as to maintain some leverage over them on Israel’s behalf.  Now, in their wisdom, the Congress is threatening to withhold more than three quarters of that fund unless the Authority stops doing something that Israel doesn’t like. 

 

The threatened action is embodied in a bill called the Taylor Force Act.  The folks at Alison Weir’s If Americans Knew have suggested that better results could be achieved with different legislation—which even if passed would no doubt just be ignored like the prohibition on aid to countries flouting nuclear weapons control—named after other people besides the American student, Taylor Force.  The full proposal, which is good at least for educational purposes, is in an article by If Americans Knew staff writer, Kathryn Shihadah:

 

Instead of Taylor Force Act, Congress should consider Rachel Corrie Act, Orwah Hammad Act

 

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring about change. The story of Taylor Force is one such tragedy. A young American in the prime of his life was stabbed to death in an unnecessary, unprovoked act of terrorism while in Israel on a Vanderbilt University study program. Perhaps the only good that can come of such a dreadful event is in learning a lesson to ensure that it never happen again.

 

Our government wants to protect its citizens wherever they are in the world, so enacting some constructive legislation would be a smart move. Unfortunately, that’s not what Congress is currently contemplating.

 

The US Senate is debating a bill right now—the Taylor Force Act—that would prohibit foreign aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories unless the Palestinian Authority ends stipends to the families of those who have been killed, injured, or imprisoned. Congressional reasoning is that the so-called “Martyrs’ Fund” encourages terrorism.

 

The United States currently gives The Palestinian Authority a relatively small amount of aid each year (in 2016 about $300 million, roughly 8 percent of what Israel receives); the Taylor Force Act would withhold about $230 million until the Fund disappears.

 

It is important to understand that this fund is not an incentive for Palestinians to commit terrorism. It is a social program to provide for the families of those killed, injured, or held prisoner by hostile forces.

 

Most of the fund provides for those killed or injured while peacefully demonstrating, defending their property, or going about their business, and the thousands wrongly imprisoned or detained without charge. This is the program that would be shut down by the Taylor Force Act.

 

The fund also supports Palestinians killed by Israel while using armed resistance – in the case of Taylor Force, a knife – against a country that has one of the most powerful, advanced militaries on earth.

 

It is customary for members of an oppressed population to resist. In fact, it is an internationally recognized right, as stated by the UN in 1982:

 

The General Assembly…reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of all peoples for independence…and liberation from…foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.

 

Palestinians have engaged in this struggle for independence from foreign occupation since 1967, only to find themselves losing more lives, land, and rights every day.

 

Undeniably, the killing of Taylor Force and other civilians is a war crime, and it is legitimate to abhor such a crime–no matter the nationality of the criminal. All countries that engage in war have killed large numbers of civilians–nevertheless, all governments provide for the families of soldiers who have died in the line of duty. This includes the Palestinian government. Enabling these families to put food on the table is not an endorsement of any act of terrorism but a humane, compassionate act. No country should be required to withhold such support.

 

It must also be said that the shutdown of this social program would likely result in the opposite of the intended outcome: it may lead to yet more resentment and extremism.

 

Proposed legislation that could make things better, not worse

 

Perhaps instead of the Taylor Force Act, Congress should bring some other bills to the floor—bills that would begin to address the real problems in Israel/Palestine.

 

Here are a few suggestions.

 

We could start with the Rachel Corrie Act, prohibiting the U.S. from giving aid to countries that practice home demolitions.  Rachel Corrie was killed in 2003 as she worked in Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Rachel, clearly visible with a neon vest and bullhorn, confronted an IDF soldier on a bulldozer, about to demolish the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, when she was run over in what is widely believed to be a deliberate act.  (Read the rest of the article at If Americans Knew.)

 

* The military is at the top of that confidence list at a whopping 72%, but that can only be because the massive propaganda campaign on its behalf has been so successful and so few people, unlike the current writer, have any actual experience with that hoary institution now that the draft has been ended.

 

David Martin

August 10, 2017

 

 

 

 

Home Page    Column    Column 5 Archive    Contact