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APN Legislative Roundup - April 27, 2007

I. Bills and Resolutions; II. Issa Dear Colleague on "Human Shields"; III. Debate on "Human Shields" in the House; IV. McCollum on Pastor John Hagee

APN Legislative Round-Up for the week ending April 27, 2007

I. Bills and Resolutions
II. Issa Dear Colleague on "Human Shields"
III. Debate on "Human Shields" in the House I
V. McCollum on Pastor John Hagee

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I. BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS ================================

(Israel) S. Res. 175: Introduced 4/26/07 by Sen. Brownback (R-KS) and 27 cosponsors, "A resolution recognizing the 59th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel." Brought to the Senate floor and passed by Unanimous Consent 4/26/07. (Note: The text of S. Res. 175 is virtually identical to text passed by both the House and Senate in the 109th Congress recognizing the 58th anniversary of Israel's independence -- S. Res. 463, passed by the Senate on 5/3/06, and H. Con. Res. 392, passed by the House on 5/2/06; as well as H. Con. Res. 149, passed by the House 5/23/05 for the 57th anniversary.)

(Jerusalem) H. Con. Res. 131: Introduced 4/25/07 by Reps. Wilson (R-SC) and Pence (R- IN), "Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (Note: The text of this resolution is largely identical to measures introduced in previous years. These measures usually - but not always - die in committee).

(Jerusalem) S. J. Res. 12: Introduced 4/25/07 by Sen. Brownback, along with Sens. Smith (R- OR) and Collins (R-ME), "providing for the recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel before the United States recognizes a Palestinian state, and for other purposes." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. (Note: The text of this resolution is largely identical to measures introduced in previous years. These measures usually - but not always - die in committee).

(HEZBOLLAH) H. Res. 125: Introduced 2/5/07 by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and currently having 27 cosponsors, "Expressing deep concern over the use of civilians as 'human shields' in violation of international humanitarian law, including Hezbollah's tactic of embedding its forces among civilians to use them as human shields during the summer of 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and the State of Israel." Brought to the floor 4/25/07 under suspension of the rules and agreed to by a voice vote.

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II. ISSA DEAR COLLEAGUE ON "HUMAN SHIELDS" ================================

As noted above, on 4/25/07 the House voted to suspend the rules and pass H. Res. 125. The resolution focuses on the use of "human shields" by Hezbollah in last summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel. In response to the decision to move this resolution forward, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), circulated a Dear Colleague letter expressing support for the measure, but also expressing regret that the resolution does not "recognize efforts to curb the use of human shields in the Middle East."

In the Dear Colleague, Issa notes that "On October 6, 2005, in response to petitions filed by human rights groups, Israel's High Court of Justice ruled that it was illegal for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to use Palestinian civilians during military actions. This ruling effectively ended an officially sanctioned tactic known as the 'neighbor procedure' whereby Israeli soldiers would forcibly use Palestinian civilians for tasks including entering buildings to check if they are booby- trapped, removing building occupants, and moving suspicious objects from roads used by the army. The Israeli army also recently suspended a commander caught on video using two Palestinian youths as human shields...Shortly after the video was posted, the Israeli military announced the mission commander had been relieved of operational duty, 'following the incident in which IDF soldiers apparently made prohibited use of civilians.' A military police investigation also has been ordered.

He urged colleagues to vote for H. Res. 125 and also to visit his website (http://www.issa.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction =Issues.View&Issue_id=21&CFID=27714653&CFTOKEN= 38255415)to view the video report, news stories, and weblinks focusing on real efforts to combat the use of human shields that should be recognized. (For further information about this topic from the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, see: http://www.btselem.org/english/Human_Shields/Index.asp)

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III. DEBATE ON "HUMAN SHIELDS" IN THE HOUSE ================================

The floor debate on H. Res. 125 included an interesting series of statements by Reps. Kucinich (D-OH), Issa (R-CA) and Ackerman (D- NY).

Kucinich (D-OH)
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[In addition to his comments, Kucinich inserted into the record two articles from the New York Times and a report by Human Rights Watch, both focused on the damage caused in Lebanon by Israel's use of cluster bombs in last summer's war]

"...I also want to ask for this moment when we are talking about the use of human shields to remember that certainly the people of Israel suffered, and my wife and I visited Israel and we talked to government officials who were concerned about the threat to Israel's security that was presented by Hezbollah. But I also have to say that the use of cluster munitions and the use of bombs against the people of Lebanon needs to be recognized at this point. I could stand here, certainly, objecting, and I do, to Hezbollah's conduct, because we know what they did in creating conditions to use people in populated areas was wrong.

"But I also think that it's important to call to the attention of this Congress the suffering of the people in Lebanon, because what happened was that bombs were dropped and perhaps over 1,000 people were killed. That needs to be discussed. We also need to recognize that the people of Lebanon have a love for America despite our Government's actions in standing back.

"Let me share with you a story out of Qana that my wife and I visited. We went there late at night, and there was destruction everywhere. We were led to a graveyard where people had their families buried as a result of a U.S. attack. Then we were led to the site of where a bomb fragment or a bomb burst through an apartment building, and it killed dozens of people. It was thought that bomb was paid for by U.S. tax dollars. The people who gathered around late at night from the village, knowing there was an American Congressman there, spoke out and said, you know, we love America. We don't like what your leaders do, but we love America. We do not wish anyone ill in America, and we want peace. We don't want Israel to be destroyed. This was made very clear. These were people who from the depths of their humanity were crying out for recognition about their suffering.

"Madam Speaker, this is a fragment of the bomb which burst through an apartment building and killed dozens of women and children. I wanted to just show Congress this, because what we are talking about, using people as human shields, it's important also for the Israeli Government to take responsibilities for their actions as well. I say this as someone who speaks in defense of Israel and the defense of Israel's right to survive.

"If we are going to ever have peace in the region, there has to be a mutual recognition of everyone's right to survive, and opportunity for all people to be able to bring their grievances forward and have them resolved."

Issa (R-CA)
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"I rise today in support of H. Res. 125 and join with my colleagues in denouncing Hezbollah for employing the use and the tactic of placing weapons, defensive and offensive, in the midst of communities in which innocent civilians live. I also associate myself with the previous speaker [Kucinich], though, in saying that we have to go beyond a narrow issue of a single enemy in the Middle East. The use of human shields in the Middle East is unfortunately widespread, not just by the cancer that grows, that is known as Hezbollah in Lebanon, but also throughout the region.

"On this point, I would like to give credit where credit is due. These pictures were taken, this one was taken in 2004, where a 13-year-old Palestinian boy named Mohammed Badwan was tied to the hood of an Israeli police jeep in the West Bank. A group of Palestinian youths had been reportedly throwing rocks at Israeli police, so the boy was taken and tied to the jeep so that they would stop throwing their rocks.

".I want to give credit where credit is due, because this has not been unanswered, on October 6, 2005, the Israel High Court of Justice, the equivalent of our Supreme Court, ruled that it was illegal for Israeli forces to use Palestinian civilians during military operations. This ruling effectively ended the officially sanctioned tactic known as neighborhood procedure, whereby Israeli soldiers would forcibly use Palestinian civilians for tasks, including entering buildings to check to see if they were booby- trapped, removing building occupants, and moving suspicious objects from roads used by the army.

".In addition to the Israeli Supreme Court, human rights group have also been recognized for their work, and I commend them. B'Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, and Adalah have worked extensively on these cases and brought them to the court. To the credit of the Israeli people and their court system, they have denounced it, and they have sought to stop it.

"The Israeli Army itself, most recently, acted swiftly to suspend a commander caught on videotape using two Palestinian youths as human shields earlier this month.Shortly after this videotape was posted, the Israeli military announced the mission commander had been relieved of operational duty following this incident, in which IDF soldiers had apparently used these civilians, and the Israeli Government acted quickly.

"...Madam Speaker, I believe there are two sides to this. There is a difference. One side is continuing to be a cancer on the people of Lebanon. One side is continuing to use human shields with very little to stop them. The other side is taking those measures. I came here today to commend the Israeli Government for taking those measures, to ask them to continue to use the strongest methods possible to make sure that is eliminated from one side of the equation. I will support this resolution denouncing the other side of the equation that continues to use human shields."

Ackerman (D-NY)
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"To my good friend from California, as well as my good friend from Ohio, I would address the following observations and concerns. First, I would like to thank each of them for their support for this resolution condemning Hezbollah for their actions. But I would like to note for the record that there is a tremendous difference between a perpetrator and a victim. A perpetrator is the one who initiates the act. The victim is the one who is victimized by the act. Very often, in an act of violence, murder, mayhem, the victim fights back. The victim has every single right in the world, legally and morally, to defend itself against violence. Some might argue sometimes that in defense of oneself, the victim goes too far. The woman being raped tries to scratch out the eyes of the rapist. Who is to blame her?

"I thank my two friends for also pointing out that there is a difference in systems, that there is a difference in moral values between that which the Hezbollah does and the response of the Israelis. I appreciated the fact that the gentleman from Ohio brought in part of a weapon of destruction that was used in self- defense, but I am also happy that we did not bring in gory pictures of Israeli children and women on their way to school or working on farms or in their villages, who every day are subject to attacks and missiles fired by Hezbollah as they go about their daily, innocent lives.

"I thank the gentleman from California for calling to the House's attention in so eloquent a way of what is rarely government and governance and society and what Israel is all about, who points out graphically and with the evidence he brought before us the fact that it was an Israeli human rights defender who called out to the Israeli soldiers whose conduct he properly called into question, that they have no right to do that and that there are laws against it.

"Where were the Lebanese people calling out to the Hezbollah who invaded their homes and their neighborhoods and took over and used them, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, as human shields, and said to them, we forbid you to do this, it's against our human rights, and it's against our laws? Not once.

"I thank the gentleman from California for pointing out the Israeli system of justice, which stands basically equal to ours. We, too, in the pursuit of terrorists and evildoers, as the President would call them, sometimes unfortunately commit acts in that pursuit and in defense of ourselves against the terrorists, where civilians are hurt and civilians do die. But that is not our purpose. When the Hezbollah does that, that is their intention for the civilians to die.

"I thank the gentleman from California for pointing out that this went through the Israeli justice system because it is contrary to the laws of the democracy of the democratic State of Israel. It went to the Supreme Court of Israel, and that court found, in full view, because Israeli television shows showed their soldiers doing something wrong, and they were charged, and the court found them guilty, and the court banned it.

"People were held responsible in a responsible society. That did not happen with the Hezbollah. That did not happen in Lebanon. It happened in Israel where people paid the price, where the military officers who were in charge of the operation were found guilty.

"That is the difference between a democratic, humane society, where there are innocent victims of self-defense, who unfortunately, as individuals within the military, sometimes get carried away. That happens in every army in the history of the world. But holding people responsible for those individual actions is a sign of a true democracy.

"That did not happen with the Hezbollah. That did not happen with Lebanon. That is the difference between democratic, humane societies and terrorist organizations. I thank our two colleagues for bringing this to the attention of the House so that we might highlight the differences between two societies, Hezbollah, governed by terror, whose only purpose is to wreak havoc upon civilian populations, and a democracy like Israel, who responds to terrorism and sometimes have unfortunate incidents for which they hold individuals responsible and who pay the price."

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IV. MCCOLLUM ON PASTOR JOHN HAGEE ================================

On 4/25/07, Rep. McCollum (D-MN) sent the following letter to Pastor James Hammond, of the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota (the letter was also cc'd to Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor and the Minnesota Congressional delegation):

Dear Pastor Hammond:

A letter of invitation to your church's April 29th event, "A Night to Honor Israel," was received in my St. Paul office. In response, I am writing to inform you that I must decline the invitation.

Your event and events like it are "being coordinated and conducted around the country by Christians United for Israel," according to the invitation. The founder of this organization, Pastor John Hagee, is prominently highlighted on the invitation as an event speaker, along with Israel's Consul General Barukh Binah.

Pastor Hammond, freedom of speech and freedom to practice one's religion are cherished American rights. However, well publicized public statements by Pastor Hagee demonstrate extremism, bigotry and intolerance that is repugnant. For example:

"I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God...I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans." (Fresh Air, 9/18/2006)

"Those who live by the Quran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews." (Fresh Air, 9/18/2006)

"I would hope that United States would join Israel in a military pre-emptive strike to take out the nuclear capability of Iran for the salvation of Western civilization." (Jerusalem Post, 3/21/2006)

These statements are not representative of the people of Minnesota nor do I believe they reflect the views of the people of Israel whom the Pastor purports to be advocating on behalf of at your church. How does one "honor Israel" with an individual whose toxic statements pollute the environment of peaceful religious coexistence, cooperation and respect that we strive to achieve in America, and especially Minnesota, among Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of all faiths?

Pastor Hammond, it seems I am not alone in this belief. A clergyman from Pastor Hagee's own hometown of San Antonio, TX, Rabbi Barry Block, was identified in the Jewish Weekly as a support of Israel and characterizes Hagee as promoting "...extremist anti-Palestinian positions and anti-Muslim prejudice..." and states "I do not believe Pastor Hagee's activism is good for Israel." (Jewish Weekly, 3/9/2007)

My support and much of America's support for Israel is built on a historic partnership between our two nations and peoples, sharing a common goal of living in peace, security and freedom. Unlike Pastor Hagee, I support working for the "roadmap for peace" in the Middle East, Israel living side-by-side in peace and security with an independent Palestinian state. This is a goal many of us in Congress share with both Israeli political leaders and citizens.

Pastor Hammond, your invitation says this event's purpose is for people to "speak and act with one voice in support of Israel and the Jewish people." As an elected official and a person of faith, I feel compelled to speak out against a voice, like Pastor Hagee's, that promotes or, even worse, preaches intolerance and bigotry -- whether in churches, synagogues or mosques. Minnesota is a state in which multiculturalism, religious tolerance, honest debate and a spirit of respect are treasured. Pastor Hagee's voice is clearly inconsistent with our Minnesota values and I believe with the values of the people of Israel.

Sincerely,

Betty McCollum Member of Congress

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Note: Pastor Hagee was a keynote speaker at the March 2007 AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC. For a report on that appearance, see:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=13765

Hagee's speech at AIPAC can be viewed on YouTube at:

Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDRxmqOn7x4

Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7p7o4f4Asg

Part III: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt5Urh7Ctzw


For more information, contact Lara Friedman, APN Director of Policy and Government Relations, at 202/728-1893, or at lfriedman@peacenow.org.