The Palestinian Refugee and Diasporic Community Denounces Unconditional Aid for Israel

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

On July 29th,  H.R.4373 committed to providing Israel $3.3 billion in unconditional military aid after it passed in the House in a close bipartisan vote of 217-212.

The Palestinian refugee and diasporic community residing within the so-called United States is outraged by this bill that embodies all the funding mechanisms for US interference in Palestine.  We center the dignity and rights of all colonized people impacted by US imperialism and are steadfast in upholding the sanctity of Palestinian lives, Afghan lives, Cuban lives, and the many other lives targeted for violence in H.R 4373. 

We commend Rep. Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, and Bush for voting no. We hold accountable other members of the Squad who supported this bill. We reject the demand that we remain silent about this hypocrisy– hypocrisy that leads to the loss of Palestinian life.

We’ve seen legislation that criminalizes BDS. Palestinian activists in the U.S. face a violent pro-Israel lobby that bullies and blacklists activists with anti-BDS legislationcensors media and news that criticizes Israel, punishes Palestinians and their supporters through termination from their work, and even outright murders pro-Palestine activists like Alex Odeh, while subjecting others to mass arrest.

Rep. Betty McCollum allegedly supports Palestinian human rights, and Ilhan Omar claims to be against Israeli occupation. But they voted for granting $3.3 billion in military aid to Israel as well as more funding to the Palestinian Authority. The Bill guarantees unconditional military aid to Israel. These forms of legislation reinforce a decades-long “special relationship” between the US and Israel. Acts of genocidesettler colonialism, and militarized violence against Palestinians are made possible with this taxpayer money.

The bill’s support of the Palestinian Authority is also violent. It funds the security apparatus to guarantee “security of Israel” in the form of espionage, incarceration, and surveillance against the Palestinian people. It funds normalization educational programs. It represses independent Palestinian media. It provides conditional aid for USAID programs. Some conditions in H.R. 4373 include strict limitations on the Palestinian Authority from pursuing legal action against Israel in international court, and they cannot pursue statehood. This aid also makes our people highly dependent while crippling the local economy.

We are dismayed by members of our community, including Muslim, Palestinian, and Arab organizations and community leaders, who enable the manipulation of Palestine’s name through the uncontested introduction of this Bill followed by their silence after such a close vote.  These organizations insist that there are progressive items to fight for in this bill, that we not call out Ilhan Omar or Betty McCollum for their “Progressive Except Palestine” positions, and that passing this is inevitable.

Betty McCollum presented the JSTREETPAC endorsed H.R. 2590, a bill that claims to defend Palestinian families. JStreet is a lobby that advocates for a two-state, Jewish majority “solution.” JStreet endorsed H.R. 2590 because it does not harm Israel’s aid. It only conditions military aid when Israel acts so aggressively that it jeopardizes the two state agenda. JSTREETPAC does not want a one state that threatens a Jewish majority identity. McCollum disguises this as concern for Palestinian life, yet pay close attention: she voted for more aid to Israel. We are painfully aware of how seemingly progressive legislation is dressed as concern for Palestinian life. To the Palestinian community, these nuances are hard to uncover. This is intentional.

We urge our community to be cautious and to hold anyone who arms Israel accountable in the following ways:

1. Contact the offices of Betty Mccullum and Ilhan Omar, to voice your dismay at their disregard for Palestinian life and their flip flop approach. Their actions normalize Israel and as a result they have no place speaking on our behalf, especially when they simply want to condition, not cut, the military aid they green light to kill Palestinians.

2. If you belong to an organization, ask for transparency. Did they know about this vote on H.R. 4373 and try to do anything about it? Did they make space or resources to educate the community? Ask what their strategy is, and how the community’s voice is centered in that strategy.

3. Hold organizations accountable for their decision to continue to invest in Rep. Betty McCullum and Rep. Ilhan Omar despite this recent vote. Express that this is not allyship, this is supremacy that deserts the sanctity of Palestinian life for their own privilege and agenda.

4. Contact the offices of Rep. Rashida TlaibRep. Corey Bush, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and thank them for voting against H.R. 4373. Keep them accountable and ask their reasoning as to why they voted no, and if Palestinian life was considered in that vote.

5. Contact your senator, since this bill is moving to the Senate for their vote. The date on this vote is not yet clear, but we can act now to make sure Palestinian voices flood their office lines.

6. Be sure you are aware of the stances of individuals and organizations that parade politicians and ask you for donations. As an alternative, invest in the dignity of Palestinians directly through vetted organizations that do not profit from our suffering. This is better than gambling your dignity in the U.S. political circus.

7. Contact and demand that your elected officials investigate local 501c3s in their districts that fund illegal Israeli settlements.

 We applaud this effort by Tlaib and hope for its success. Yet the vote by progressives in favor of unconditional aid for Israel undermines Tlaib’s efforts. After all, the aid the Israeli military receives works directly with violent illegal settlements funded by American nonprofits.

We, a collective of all generations of refugees, survivors, and descendants say, NO MORE political games that suffocate us from uttering our true demands. Our demands transcend generations and will never change: Free Palestine from the river to the sea, with the Right of Return, the freedom of all political prisoners, and Palestinian self-determination. We must act now to protect the future of our community from the legislative contradictions that manipulate Palestine.

Jisr Collective is a diaspora Arab media collective challenging imperialism and capitalism.