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APN Legislative Round-Up - April 4, 2008

I. Bills, Resolutions, and Dear Colleagues; II. Dear Colleagues; III. ALLMEP; IV. Members on the Record on H. Res. 185

...for the week ending April 4, 2008

I.   Bills, Resolutions, and Dear Colleagues
II.  Dear Colleagues
IV.  Members on the Record on H. Res. 185


(FATAH CONSTITUTION) S. Res. 499: Introduced 4/3/08 by Sen. Specter (R-PA), co-sponsored by Sens. Casey (D-PA) and Wyden (D-OR), "urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the head of the Fatah Party, to officially abrogate the 10 articles in the Fatah Constitution that call for Israel's destruction and terrorism against Israel, oppose any political solution, and label Zionism as racism." Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.  This is the Senate version of H. Res. 758, introduced 10/18/07, just prior to the Annapolis Peace Conference, by Reps. Blunt (R-MO) and Berkley (D-NV) (and covered in the 10/19/07 edition of the Round-Up). As of this writing, the resolution has attracted a total of 18 cosponsors. Sen. Specter began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors for the Senate version of the resolution during the week of March 10th, apparently with little success (garnering only two co-sponsors).

This resolution appears to be an initiative of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). As was reported in the 10/19/07 edition of the Round-Up, the House resolution was introduced the same week that the ZOA introduced a similar resolution in the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (CoP). Following objections from members of the CoP regarding the content, timing, and fundamental value of the initiative, the CoP resolution was indefinitely tabled. In addition, on 10/18/07 the ZOA placed a full page ad on the same subject in the New York Times (the ZOA press release can be found at:

In his statement introducing the resolution, Specter noted: ".In order to move the Middle East peace process forward, it is necessary that the Fatah Party recognize Israel's legitimacy. The Fatah Constitution makes this impossible.." This is a stunning assertion, given that the government of Israel has never in the past nearly 2 decades of contacts with Fatah raised the issue of the Fatah Constitution and is not doing so at the present time. 

APN's objections to the initiative in the CoP -- objections which apply equally to the House and Senate resolutions -- were summarized in an APN letter to the CoP. The key points of the letter are copied below:

"We obviously feel strongly that no political document should include language calling for the destruction of Israel or supporting violence against it. However, we have some serious concerns which make it impossible for us to seriously consider this issue at this time. These concerns, we believe, should also prompt the Conference to table the vote.

"First, we feel that it would be irresponsible for the Conference of Presidents to vote on this issue without first closely examining the original document referenced in the resolution and without clearly understanding what the appropriate procedure would be for its amendment, if such amendment is indeed necessary. We attempted to obtain an original text of this document, which apparently dates back to the mid-1960s, and could not find one, either in Arabic or in English [note: the only versions of the text that can be found online are hosted on right-wing websites, and links provided to the alleged official Palestinian sources of the document do not work]. As far as we can tell, this means that the quotes included in the resolution are thus far unsubstantiated.

"Moreover, assuming the English version of the document available online is accurate - something which so far cannot be confirmed - it does not appear to include mechanisms or procedures through which this document could be amended, either by President Abbas (as demanded in the resolution) or by some other body. We sought expert opinions from several authorities who specialize in Palestinian legal and constitutional affairs [including George Washington University Professor Dr. Nathan Brown] and consulted senior members of Fatah. None could come up with a clear answer, but their overall instinct was that the power to alter such a document, assuming the document does exist, would not be with Abbas, but rather would require an intricate institutional procedure, including the convening of a wider Fatah body (which has not in fact been convened in many years and which would likely be very complicated to convene at this time).

"Second, we have serious reservations about the timing and motivations behind this resolution. The issue of the Fatah charter has, to the best of our recollection, never been raised before in the Conference. Similarly, it has never been raised before, and it is not being raised now, by any Israeli leader in any context, let alone as a vital measure of President Abbas' seriousness as a partner for peace.

"The fact that this issue is suddenly being raised and action on it demanded now, precisely at a time when the government of Israel is attempting to chart a road toward peace with President Abbas and resume real negotiations with the Palestinians for the first time in nearly 7 years, is clearly not coincidental. The interests of Israel and the American Jewish community would be better served by the Conference [and Congress] rallying behind Israel's democratically elected government as it works to make progress toward peace, rather than indulging those elements in the Conference [and activist community] that prefer to look for new pretexts to thwart Israel's efforts."

 (HAMAS TV) H. Res. 1069: Introduced 4/1/08 by Rep. Crowley (D-NY) and two co-sponsors, "Condemning the use of television programming by Hamas to indoctrinate hatred, violence, and anti-Semitism toward Israel in young Palestinian children." Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (See Section II, below, for further discussion of this resolution).

(JEWISH REFUGEES) H. Res. 185: Introduced 2/16/07 by Rep. Nadler (D-NY), "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the creation of refugee populations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf region as a result of human rights violations." The resolution, which after a huge push from a wide range of supporting groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, managed to muster a total of 40 cosponsors, was brought to the House floor and passed under suspension of the rules on April 1. The measure was passed by a voice vote (i.e., no recorded roll call vote).  APN's analysis and views on this resolution were summarized in the 2/8/08 edition of the Round-Up.

It is worth noting that floor statements made in connection with the passage of H. Res. 185 appeared to recognize the problematic history of this resolution (i.e., that in its earlier forms it appeared to be seeking to using the Jewish refugee issue primarily as a tool to seek to undermine Palestinian refugee claims), with most members explicitly stating, to a greater or lesser degree, that recognition of the rights and grievances of Jewish refugee does not conflict with the right of Palestinian refugees to seek redress. Indeed, one ironic element of the debate over H. Res. 185 was that (unintentionally) it included the strongest explicit and implicit Congressional recognition, perhaps in history, of the Palestinian refugee issue. While the repeated use of inclusive phrasing (focusing on the need to address the grievances of "all refugees") was clearly intended by most speakers to focus attention on the allegedly forgotten plight of Jewish refugees, it carried with it an implied recognition and affirmation of the need to address the grievances of Palestinian refugees that has thus far never been stated by any U.S. Congress. 

In addition, it is notable that while the formulations used both in the resolution and in the floor statements demanded that the issue of Jewish refugees be part of any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement, they did NOT link the issue to resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (something that had characterized similar efforts in the past). This represents a significantly more responsible approach -- i.e., one that does not create a new obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace by holding Israeli-Palestinian peace hostage to multilateral negotiations between Jewish refugees and the countries against which they may wish to lodge claims.


ISRAEL AT 60: On 3/31/08 Reps. Hastings (D-FL), Reynolds (R-NY), Waxman (D-CA), Cantor (R-VA), Green (D-TX), Davis (R-VA), and Sanchez (D-CA) began circulating a Dear Colleague encouraging other members to make floor statements in support of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel. On 4/1/08 AIPAC issued an Action Alert asking supporters to contact members and urge them to make such statements, and noting that "background resources" will be made available for congressional offices on the Hill Staff page on AIPAC's website. The Dear Colleague states:

"Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been forced to wage a struggle for survival, facing hostile neighbors with numerically superior armed forces while also contending with the constant threat of terrorism against its civilians. Despite all of the hardships our democratic ally has faced over the past 60 years, Israel has flourished as the only true democracy in the Middle East and the United States' closest ally in the region.

"On May 14 Israel will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Congress will celebrate this special occasion with a bipartisan series of weekly floor speeches beginning on Thursday April 3rd, honoring the Jewish state and the contributions Israel has made during the past 60 years.

"The achievements of Israel during the past six decades are especially remarkable considering that the country possesses few natural resources. Despite two-thirds of its land mass being arid desert, Israel has developed agricultural techniques that 'make the desert bloom.' Today, Israel is home to world-class universities and is a global giant when it comes to high-tech and medical innovations. Life-saving medical techniques and products used every day around the world--from computer processors to cell phones--have all been developed in Israel.

"To honor Israel's 60th, we encourage Members of Congress to join this bipartisan educational effort and share their personal stories describing why they support Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship while highlighting some of these positive contributions of our close ally.

"We will be coordinating dedicated floor time each week. This effort will begin Thursday, April 3 and floor time will be made available weekly through Israel's Independence Day and into June. [emphasis in the original]

"If you would like to participate in this effort, please contact one of us or have a member of your staff contact Eve Lieberman in Rep. Hastings' office at or Josh Shapiro in Rep. Reynolds' office at"


As noted in the Dear Colleague, statements honoring Israel at 60 kicked off on 4/3, with floor statements by Reps. Green (D-TX), Engel (D-NY), Reynolds (R-NY), and Jackson-Lee (D-TX). Most statements focused on the achievements of Israel and recollections of visits there, although Engel used the opportunity to also voice his view that "we must not put pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions in her quest for peace. It takes two to tango, and we need to have both sides make concessions and work together..."

HAMAS TV: On April Rep. Crowley (D-NY) began circulating a Dear Colleague seeking cosponsors on H. Res. 1069. The Dear Colleagues notes, among other things, that "Peace is not just about a lasting end to military hostilities between warring factions, but the creation of an environment where people can live and coexist side-by-side. The Annapolis Conference in November 2007 triggered a renewed sense of hope and purpose for resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Sadly, much more needs to be done to bring about a peaceful two state solution. Adding to the conflict is Hamas, the governing party in the Gaza Strip and a terrorist organization that continues to call for the destruction of Israel and has been working to undermine this process through rocket fire and attacks against the State of Israel. .Hamas, the governing party in the Gaza Strip and a terrorist organization that continues to call for the destruction of Israel and has been working to undermine this process through rocket fire and attacks against the State of Israel. Rockets and attacks by Hamas kills innocent Israelis, but even more sickening are their efforts to use their television network, Al-Aqsa TV, to air a children's show 'Tomorrow's Pioneers' to breed new terrorists through hatred for the Israel and Western nations.Instead of promoting violence, our children should be taught to respect and accept all people, no matter their faith.."

Rep. Crowley's concern assertion that " about the creation of an environment where people can live and coexist side-by-side" is absolutely correct, and his concern for the welfare of Palestinian children in Gaza is laudable. It is also worth noting that objectionable TV programming represents only one of many challenges facing these children. For example on March 10, 2008, a joint statement was issued by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), World Vision, Save the Children, CARE, Oxfam, and Mercy Corps regarding the situation in Gaza. That statement noted, among other things: 

"As the United Nations emergency relief coordinator John Holmes recently noted, medical services in Gaza are deteriorating, private industry has more or less collapsed, and increasing poverty and dependence on international aid, has risen sharply over the past eight months.Children are among those most at risk. Recent reports indicate that there has been an increase in chronic disease and malnutrition among children under five in the Gaza Strip, as well as an increase in children suffering from diarrhea, insomnia and anxiety. John Holmes reported, for example, that rates of anemia and diarrhea among children have skyrocketed by 40 percent and 20 percent respectively over the past year. Children's education is also suffering. Almost 2000 children have dropped out of school in the last five months because their parents cannot afford to send them. Due to the closures of borders, schools are short of textbooks and other resources, and the exam failure rate has soared to 80-90 percent of the population despite the region's reputation for high levels of educational achievement. Relief organizations report that their access to Gaza has been dramatically reduced which has hindered their ability to adequately meet people's basic needs.Save the Children cannot fully support children with its protection programs because its staff can no longer obtain the permits required to enter Gaza from the West Bank, its vehicles in Gaza do not have any fuel to reach project sites, and the continued violence makes it difficult for parents to allow children to leave their houses."


As in previous years, the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is mobilizing support on Capitol Hill for funding for organizations and projects that promote coexistence, cooperation, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and between Arabs and Jews within Israel. A sign-on letter circulated in the House of Representatives last month garnered 28 signers, and a similar letter is circulating in the Senate this week, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE) and Senator John Sununu (R-NH). APN strongly supports this effort and has urged Senators to sign on to the letter.

As noted in an email sent out this week by ALLMEP, "Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and John Sununu (R-NH) are circulating the attached letter to their colleagues. They are asking other senators to sign a letter with them in support of $11 million in funding for grassroots peace activities in the Middle East.  Even as Israeli and Palestinian political leaders work on negotiating a peace agreement, a true peace will not arrive or survive without substantial public support on all sides. Dozens of non-governmental organizations, such as the members of ALLMEP, are working every day on the ground to create this grassroots support by promoting people-to-people coexistence, cooperation, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians across borders and Arabs and Jews within Israel. These activities include joint schools, soccer leagues for kids, business cooperation, joint medical projects, and shared environmental initiatives (more information available at Last year Congress created a critical new U.S. grant program with $9 million to support these activities in FY 2008. The Biden-Sununu letter seeks to continue that important new grant program for the next fiscal year with $11 million."

Questions about ALLMEP should be directed Avi Meyerstein at or (202) 457-6623.


Rep. Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

".While the plight of Palestinian refugees is well known throughout the world, has been the subject of numerous U.N. resolutions, and has been a major element in every Arab-Israeli peace plan, the plight of Jewish refugees is rarely mentioned.  Nevertheless, the rights and redress of Jewish refugees deserve recognition in any peace settlement. And, indeed, numerous international agreements pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict have been codified with the rights of Jewish refugees in mind.The right of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern lands to seek redress does not in any way conflict with the right of Palestinian refugees to seek redress, and the resolution before us states this explicitly. This resolution merely expresses the sense of Congress that Jewish refugees also should not be denied their legitimate rights. We are simply seeking to ensure that any comprehensive Middle East settlement is just and fully just to all the parties. That sentiment of basic fairness is one I fully embrace."

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

". Discussions of Middle Eastern refugees invariably focus exclusively and short-sightedly on the plight of those of Palestinian descent. Few are aware of the injustices faced by hundreds of thousands of Jews, Christians and others who fled from Arab lands and Iran either as a direct result of the Arab-Israeli conflict or from persecution associated with that conflict..While countless U.N. resolutions have been adopted focusing on the Palestinian refugee issue, no conferences have been held on the Jewish refugees. No U.N. agencies nor international human rights organizations address their fate. Failure to recognize their plight, Madam Speaker, along with the plight of the Christian communities throughout the region, only serves to perpetuate their suffering. Therefore, in past Congresses, I have sponsored resolutions similar to the one before us today, House Resolution 185. This resolution urges greater recognition of the plight of these often overlooked refugees, it emphasizes that any comprehensive Middle East peace agreement can only be credible, can only be enduring if it resolves all issues related to the rights of all refugees in the Arab world and Iran, including Jews, Christians and others."

Rep. Nadler (D-NY)

".While the plight of Palestinian refugees is well known throughout the world and has been a major element in every Arab-Israeli peace plan and negotiation, the plight of these Jewish refugees is rarely mentioned these days.The right of Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern lands to seek redress does not in any way conflict with the rights of Palestinian refugees to seek redress, and resolution states this explicitly. This resolution merely expresses the sense of Congress that Jewish refugees, many of whom were so effectively absorbed by the State of Israel, should not be denied their legitimate rights and compensation for the property of which they were deprived. The resolution further states that a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement can be credible and enduring only if it achieves legitimate rights of all refugees, 'including Jews, Christians and other populations' displaced from Middle East countries. Importantly, it also resolves that the President should instruct the U.S. Representative at the U.N. and all U.S. representatives in bilateral and multilateral fora to use their voice, their vote and the influence of the United States to ensure that any resolutions relating to the issue of Middle East refugees which include a reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue must also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and to make clear that the United States Government supports the position that as an integral part of any comprehensive and much to be desired Arab-Israeli peace, the issue of refugees from the Middle East, north Africa and the Persian Gulf must be resolved in a manner that includes recognition of the legitimate rights of and losses incurred by all refugees displaced from Arab countries, including Jews, Christians and other groups."

Rep. Kucinich (D-OH)

".I rise in support of H. Res. 185. I commend this body for recognizing the rights of Jewish refugees displaced from Arab countries. I agree that a resolution that addresses the legitimate rights of all refugees is inherent to establishing enduring peace in the Middle East. The resolution draws its strength by including all refugees in the Middle East, including Jews, Christians, minority communities, Iraqis, and Palestinians. A lasting peace in the Middle East must abate feelings of hostility throughout all refugee populations. As the resolution suggests, this includes recognition of Jewish, Palestinian, and Christian refugee populations but must also encompass all Middle East refugee populations 'numbering in the hundreds of thousands and comprised of peoples from many ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds.'

"As such, I urge this body to continue to be mindful of and work toward peaceful, enduring solutions for all refugee populations in the Middle East. Currently the two largest refugee populations in the world are Iraqi and Palestinian refugees. The United Nations has estimated that there are approximately 2,000,000 Iraqi refugees currently displaced from their homes (and another 2,200,000 internally displaced). These Iraqi refugees endure deprivation of food, shelter, and medical care. The United States must be mindful of the role of our foreign policy in the creation of this refugee population and our continuing role in addressing this humanitarian crisis.

"United Nations-recognized Palestinian refugees currently constitute an approximate 3,700,000-person population. According to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, UNRWA, of these refugees, approximately 1,300,000 Palestinian refugees continue to live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Moreover, ongoing Israeli policies like settlement expansion, which contravene the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as the basis of Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements, create new refugee populations today.

"I support H. Res. 185 for recognizing the displacement, human rights, suffering and loss of all refugees. I encourage this body to do so in a way that brings us closer to establishing a just and long-lasting Arab-Israeli peace. To make this dream a reality we must truly rise to become the 'honest broker' of peace in the Middle East."

Past editions of the Round-Up are archived and available online at:

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