107 Democrats challenge Pompeo’s recognition of illegal Israeli settlements

A masked Palestinian protester during clashes with Israeli forces on Friday following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2019

107 Democrats challenge Pompeo’s recognition of illegal Israeli settlements

  • Pompeo’s declaration was surprising but not unusual, reflecting the views of past Republican administrations, which favor Israel over international law

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement recognizing the legitimacy of Israel’s illegal settlement movement has prompted one of the largest protests challenging Israeli policies in the US Congress.

One-hundred seven members of Congress, all Democrats, signed a letter on Friday (Nov. 22) rebuking Pompeo for his declaration recognizing the settlements.

Only one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s seven-member Democratic leadership team, Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, signed the letter. That exposes the hypocrisy of Congressional Democrats, including Pelosi, who have criticized President Donald Trump for shifts in longstanding policy on Israel and Palestine, but refrained from challenging those policies directly or offered counter legislation.

Pompeo’s declaration was surprising but not unusual, reflecting the views of past Republican administrations which favor Israel over international law. Even Democratic administrations that criticized the settlements continued to ignore Israel’s settlement expansion which grew under every Trump predecessor at an alarming rate, including President Barack Obama.

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo said, including several important and ignored qualifications. He added the view did not reflect an opinion on the legal status of any individual settlement, nor was Trump declaring that the settlements were not subject to changes through direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

But the declaration itself was enough to prompt the 107 Democratics, led by Congressman Andy Levin, to issue a blistering attack on Trump and Pompeo’s actions.

The letter also criticizes Trump’s recent decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside of a negotiated settlement, the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel, annexation of the Jordan Valley, and other actions including the halting of financial aid to Palestine and the closure of the Palestinian Mission in Washington D.C. as undermining peace and encouraging more violence.

The letter warned that the Trump administration’s actions and Pompeo’s declaration on settlements “would destroy prospects for a two-state solution and lead to a more entrenched and possibly deadlier conflict, this decision erodes the security of both Israel and the US.”

The letter is signed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim members including several who have been consistently outspoken in challenging Israel’s violence against Palestinian civilians such as Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Not included are Congressman Dan Lipinski, whose Illinois 3rd District represents one of the largest concentrations of Palestinian Americans in the country. Lipinski is being challenged by progressive Marie Newman who has embraced the Two-State Solution and criticized Trump’s declarations, and Palestinian-American Rush Darwish. Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating the five-term Lipinski, while this is Darwish’s first election run.

The eight-page lrebuke does not hold back on the damage Pompeo and Trump have brought to the delicate Israeli-Palestinian peace process, arguing that by ignoring international law in this respect, the Trump administration is also undermining international law for human rights and undermining “America’s moral standing.”

“This State Department decision blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which affirms that any occupying power shall not ‘deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies,’” the letter continues.

“In ignoring international law, this administration has undermined America’s moral standing and sent a dangerous message to those who do not share our values: Human rights and international law, which have governed the international order and protected US troops and civilians since 1949, no longer apply. If the US unilaterally abandons international and human rights law, we can only expect a more chaotic and brutal 21st century for Americans and our allies, including the Israeli people.”

The US Congress has 435 members including 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans and 1 independent. Justin Amash, who was a member of the Republican Party representing the 3rd Congressional District, abandoned the GOP, criticizing Trump’s policies to become an independent. But Amash, who is also a Palestinian-American, did not sign the letter.

Catholic bishops call on West to recognize Palestine

Updated 18 January 2020

Catholic bishops call on West to recognize Palestine

  • The plea by 34 bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, followed their five-day visit to the region this week

AMMAN: A group of Catholic bishops from throughout Europe, North America and South Africa have called on their governments to insist on the application of international law in Israel and Palestine.

The plea by 34 bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, followed their five-day visit to the region this week. Based in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, the religious leaders toured key locations in Jerusalem and expressed support for the local church in promoting dialogue and peace.

They added that they had also been inspired by the enduring resilience of the people they met in Gaza, East Jerusalem and Ramallah despite the worsening situation.

Jamal Khader, pastor of the host Latin Church in Ramallah, told Arab News that the choice of Ramallah for their residency was excellent because they had the chance to meet the local community.

“The bishops were extremely moved by their visit to the Comboni Missionary Sisters outside of Jerusalem. The convent was divided in half as the Israeli-built wall divided their community and made it impossible for many to reach the school and nursery that is part of their mission.”

The bishops also met with PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amer in addition to the visit to Jerusalem with the leader of the Catholic church.

Fr. Ibrahim Shomali, secretary of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Arab News that the visit and the final communique had been well received. “We welcome the visit of the Catholic bishops and we applaud their statement that calls on their governments to follow the position of the Holy See and recognize Palestine.”

However, Shomali feared many governments would not listen. “While the visit is very positive and we hope that the church’s voice will be heard, we are not sure that this will happen because many of the Western governments are not listening to the voice of peace and justice.”

Kamal Shamshoom, a member of the Ramallah Latin, said the bishops, many of whom had visited the area before, had “a good idea of the situation” and made a strong communique. “While we welcome such visits, it is important to note that we don’t want just sympathy, we need action that is effective.”

Shamshoom, who is also an elected member of the Ramallah city council, added that the church leaders must use their moral authority with their political leaders. “They are bishops and it means something if they decide to do something concrete. What I would like is for them to talk to their leaders like bishops and make a strong intervention for peace and justice.”

The final communique of the bishops spoke about the importance “of the application of international law” and the need to “follow the Holy See’s lead in recognizing the state of Palestine; addressing the security concerns of Israel and the right of all to live in safety; rejecting political or economic support for settlements and resolutely opposing acts of violence or abuses of human rights by any side.”

The local bishops also warned that people were facing further “evaporation of hope for a durable solution. We have witnessed this reality first

hand, particularly how the construction of settlements and the separation wall is destroying any prospect of two states existing in peace.”

In the same message, the local bishops sounded the alarm about living conditions becoming “more and more unbearable. This is painfully clear in the West Bank where our sisters and brothers are denied even basic rights including freedom of movement.”

In Gaza, the bishops noted that the “political decisions of all sides have resulted in the creation of an open-air prison, human rights abuses, and a profound humanitarian crisis.”

They said they were welcomed by families “whose focus is now day-to-day survival and whose aspirations have been reduced to bare essentials such as electricity and clean water.”

The bishops added that they “encourage Christians in our own countries to pray for and support this mission. The increase in people making pilgrimages to the Holy Land is encouraging and we call for those who come to ensure they encounter the local communities.”

In their conclusion, the bishops said that they would continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.