new bill

Latest McCollum bill attempts to regulate aid to Israel

Five other members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors so far

Preston Keres/USDA

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) speaks during a hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building, in Washington, D.C. on April 9, 2019.

A new bill sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), a longtime critic of U.S. Israel policy, seeks to add restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel.

The legislation, which was first reported by The Hill on Wednesday and has not yet been formally introduced, would prohibit U.S. taxpayer funding to Israel from being used for a variety of military operations, some involving Palestinian minors.

It also requires the secretary of state to annually certify that U.S. aid is not being used for those purposes. Under the new proposed legislation, the Government Accountability Office would have to submit an annual report detailing how much U.S. aid Israel spends on Israeli-produced equipment.

Five representatives — Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Andre Carson (D-IN), Marie Newman (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — have signed on as cosponsors as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to a McCollum spokesperson. McCollum’s office will continue collecting original cosponsors until Thursday afternoon, according to a “Dear Colleague” letter being circulated to House members. 

“Israel is a U.S. ally and for the past twenty-five years Congress has focused on providing Israel security funding while passing resolutions supporting a two-state solution. During this time Israel has been strategically expanding settlements, committing flagrant violations of human rights against Palestinian children and families, and aggressively undermining any prospects for a Palestinian state,” McCollum wrote in the letter. “I want Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans committed to peace to find hope in Members of Congress who are willing to stand in support of basic human rights.”

The bill has the support of a number of left-wing groups, including J Street, IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace. AIPAC announced its opposition to the legislation, calling it “both unnecessary and redundant” and noting that existing law “already establishes reasonable conditions for aid to Israel.”

The Minnesota Democrat has built a reputation on Capitol Hill as a critic of Israel during her two decades in office. Last year, she introduced a resolution prohibiting the U.S. from recognizing potential annexation of the West Bank and blocking U.S. assistance to annexed territories. Her past bills seeking limitations on aid to Israel have failed to gain significant support. None of McCollum’s proposed pieces of legislation regarding Israel have passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Newman, a first-term congresswoman, ousted former Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a social conservative at odds with much of his party on issues like abortion and gay marriage, in last year’s Democratic primary. 

Seeking Original Cosponsors:  Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act

Current Cosponsors: Rush, D. Davis, Carson, Newman, Omar

Endorsing Organizations: Adalah Justice Project, Al-Haq, Americans for Peace Now (APN), American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Center for Constitutional Rights, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Jewish Allies for a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine, Churches for Middle East Peace, Church of the Brethren – Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, CODEPINK, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), DSA BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group, The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Eyewitness Palestine, Freedom Forward, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, IfNotNow, Institute for Policy Studies – New Internationalism Project, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Justice Democrats, MADRE, Massachusetts Peace Action, Middle East Children’s Alliance, MPower Action Fund, National Council of Churches USA, New Generation for Palestine, NGP Action, Norwegian Refugee Council, Palestine Legal, Peace Action, Presbyterian Church (USA), Progressive Democrats of America, Reformed Church in America, Sacramento Democrats for Justice in Palestine, Tree of Life Educational Fund, U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, United Church of Christ, United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network, United We Dream Network, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), US Palestinian Council, Veterans For Peace, Win Without War, Working Families Party

Dear Colleague:

This week I will be introducing legislation Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. I am requesting Members committed to promoting human rights, peace, and justice for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to respectfully consider co-sponsoring this bill. 

Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act prohibits U.S. taxpayer funding to the Government of Israel from being used for 1) the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention; 2) supporting the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes in violation of international humanitarian law; and, 3) any support or assistance for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law. The Secretary of State is required to certify annually to Congress that foreign aid to Israel does not violate any of the outlined prohibited uses.

The bill also requires the GAO to submit an annual report to Congress detailing the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds by Israel for “off-shore procurement” and compliance with Congressionally mandated requirements. The goal of this provision is transparency and accountability for the expenditure of U.S. foreign aid, as we do with all countries.

Israel is a U.S. ally and for the past twenty-five years Congress has focused on providing Israel security funding while passing resolutions supporting a two-state solution. During this time Israel has been strategically expanding settlements, committing flagrant violations of human rights against Palestinian children and families, and aggressively undermining any prospects for a Palestinian state. U.S. assistance intended for Israel’s security should foster peace and must never be used to violate the human rights of children, demolish the homes of Palestinian families, or to permanently annex Palestinian lands.

Millions of Palestinians have lived their entire lives under the systemic oppression of Israel’s military occupation. I want Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans committed to peace to find hope in Members of Congress who are willing to stand in support of basic human rights.

Sincerely,

Betty McCollum

Member of Congress