Palestinian Sanctions Bill Passed as Olmert Addresses Congress
A bill seeking to impose sanctions on the Palestinians for participating in democratic elections that resulted in the success of a party not in the liking of the US was passed yesterday by a majority in the House. For more on the serious consequences of this bill, see my earlier post. Despite the fact that 361 congressmen voted for the bill, grassroots campaigns by pro-Palestinian organizations here in the US helped to delay the vote, trigger serious debate on the House floor, and spur some changes in the bill. Here is what the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation had to say:
Although the bill passed, our tremendous grassroots opposition to it prevented the bill's supporters from rushing it through for a quick vote with no debate. We succeeded in delaying the bill for months, helped to get it watered down at the committee level, and forced AIPAC to expend enormous amounts of political capital to pass it.
In fact, our opposition helped generate something last night on the floor of the House of Representatives that has not occurred in a long time: the House held an open and honest debate about US policy toward Israel/Palestine for nearly three hours. This afforded many Members of Congress an opportunity to speak out in forceful terms against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (Congressional Record, H2990-H3012).
Even though the House has passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, it is still a long way from becoming law. The Senate has yet to take up its less draconian version of the bill (S2370) and even if the Senate passes this bill, it will need to be reconciled by both houses in committee and signed by the President before becoming law. In other words, we still have many opportunities to continue to mobilize opposition to sanctioning the Palestinian people for exercising their right to vote.
The US Campaign urges its supporters to take one additional, extremely important action on HR4681. Please contact the Representatives who voted against or abstained on HR4681 and/or who spoke against the resolution last night. It is especially important if you and your organizations reside in the district of a Representative who took one or more of these steps against the resolution. It is critically important for Representatives to receive support when they act or vote courageously.
TAKE ACTION: Contact Representatives who voted against or abstained on HR4681 and/or who spoke against the resolution. To send a letter to them, click here. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 1-888-355-3588 and ask to be transferred, or call them directly on the numbers below.
Click here to find out how your congressman voted on this bill and contact them ASAP with a letter of support or a letter expressing your disappointment for the way he/she voted. The main goal of any congressman is to be voted again to office this November, and their future is in your hands. Give them a piece of your mind and let them know that they will or will not have your support in the upcoming November elections. Your voice does make a difference.
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert received a red carpet kind of welcome as he met with President Bush and later addressed a joint session of Congress-- "a rare honour reserved for close allies of the US." The US media is still apparently very confused about whether Bush is backing or rejecting Olmert's West Bank withdrawl plan. Olmert of course needs strong support from the administration and Congress because "withdrawl" plans require lots of US tax payer $$$. Yes, that means your money and my money, Mr. Average American Joe.