Last month, over 100 Democratic House members signed a letter that decried the Trump administration’s policy shift on West Bank settlements. The letter was initiated by Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI and was sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On November 18, Pompeo announced that the U.S. government was abandoning a 1978 State Department legal opinion which determined that settlement expansion in the occupied territories were in violation of international law. Just a day after Pompeo’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advanced a bill that would annex the Jordan Valley.
“If the U.S. unilaterally abandons international and human rights law, we can only expect a more chaotic and brutal twenty-first century for Americans and our allies, including the Israeli people,” reads Levin’s letter, “Given these serious implications, we strongly urge you to reverse this policy decision immediately.”
On Dec 1, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennet announced that new Israeli settlement would be constructed in Hebron. “Everyday things are getting worse for us, and no one bats an eye,” a Palestinian Hebron resident named Mufeed al-Sharabati told Mondoweiss‘ Yumna Patel, “The American government gave the green light to the Israelis to build settlements without consequence.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Rep. Betty McCollum were among the notable signatories. However, the majority of House Democrats declined to sign.
“Some 126 Democrats DID NOT sign this letter,” tweeted Freedom Forward Executive Director Sunjeev Bery, “These 126 Democrats stayed SILENT on Trump’s acceptance of Israeli settlements. The IDF takes Palestinian land, often at gunpoint, to create segregated Jewish-only neighborhoods called ‘settlements.'”
Some 126 Democrats DID NOT sign this letter.
These 126 Democrats stayed SILENT on Trump's acceptance of Israeli settlements.
— Sunjeev Bery (@SunjeevBery) November 25, 2019
Arab American Institute co-founder James Zogby told Mondoweiss that he believed the letter was quite significant nonetheless. He pointed out that it rightly focuses on human rights law, as opposed to simply Trump and Netanyahu. “Most important is that the letter strongly endorses the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands,” explained Zogby. “To the best of my knowledge we have never seen a Congressional statement affirming these Conventions in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel has long refused to acknowledge the applicability of the Conventions since under their terms Israel is guilty of: ‘annexing’ occupied lands, building settlements for their own citizens on this land, stealing resources from this land, the expulsion of and denial of repatriation of Palestinians who inhabited this land, and whole range of human rights abuses committed against the captive Palestinian population.”
After the antiwar group CODEPINK praised Levin for skipping an AIPAC-sponsored trip to Israel this summer, the Representative distanced himself from the organization’s narrative, made it clear that his decision wasn’t political, and declared that Palestinians are not living under apartheid. “CODEPINK suggests I’m skipping the AIPAC trip to oppose ‘Apartheid Israel.’,” he tweeted, “In fact, I’ll be on a family vacation. I support a Jewish, democratic Israel, a two-state solution and Palestinian human rights. I was an anti-apartheid activist; Israel is not an apartheid state.”
CODEPINK suggests I’m skipping the AIPAC trip to oppose “Apartheid Israel.” In fact, I'll be on a family vacation. I support a Jewish, democratic Israel, a two-state solution and Palestinian human rights. I was an anti-apartheid activist; Israel is not an apartheid state.
— Rep. Andy Levin (@RepAndyLevin) June 19, 2019
However, after traveling to the West Bank last month, Levin fired off a series of tweets blasting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. “Yesterday, I traveled to the southern West Bank, including the Palestinian village of Susya, which the Israeli government has destroyed twice and currently denies access to water,” he wrote, “Yet we watched the government utility, right before our eyes, lay in pipes right across the village’s land to deliver tap water to an illegal Israeli outpost nearby. It was simply incredible. As angry as the situation made me, the resilience of the Palestinian villagers left an even stronger impression.”
Yesterday, I traveled to the southern West Bank, including the Palestinian village of Susya, which the Israeli government has destroyed twice and currently denies access to water. pic.twitter.com/VTDzdoJTyl
— Rep. Andy Levin (@RepAndyLevin) November 6, 2019