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Sunday, 29 March 2009

the undemocratic stance of the democrats

...yet another indication of the Democratic majority's lack of concern for human rights. [More than] A few paragraphs taken from a Huffington Post report on the 2009 Omnibus Budget Bill in the United States. The complete article does not solely deal with Israel and Palestine, but a fair bit of it does and that is what I have chosen to feature. The emphasis below are mine (apart from headings).
Sabotaging a Palestinian Unity Government

As European governments and others, recognizing that some kind of government of national unity between Fatah and the more moderate elements of Hamas is necessary for the peace process to move forward, Pelosi and her colleagues are attempting to sabotage such efforts. This year's appropriations bill prohibits any support for "any power-sharing government" in Palestine "of which Hamas is a member," unless Hamas unilaterally agrees to "recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements, including the Roadmap."

By contrast, there are no such provisions restricting the billions of dollars of aid to the emerging coalition government in Israel, which includes far right parties that have likewise refused to recognize Palestine, renounce violence, support the disarming of allied settler militias, or accept prior agreements, including the roadmap.

In short, to Pelosi and other Democratic congressional leaders, Palestinians simply do not have equal rights to Israelis in terms of statehood, security, or international obligations. The Democrats are willing to sabotage any Palestinian government that dares include — even as a minority in a broad coalition —any hard-line anti-Israeli party, yet they have no problems whatsoever in pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into supporting an Israeli government dominated by hard-line anti-Palestinian parties.

There's a word for such double-standards: racism.

Other Anti-Palestinian Provisions

Migration and refugee assistance are other areas where the anti-Palestinian bias of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders becomes apparent. There are dozens of countries in which the United Nations, assisted in part through U.S. aid, is involved in relief operations, including those dealing with Rwandans, Kurds, Congolese, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, and other refugee populations from which terrorist groups operate or have operated in the recent past. However, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have determined that it's among Palestinian refugees alone that the State Department is required to work with the UN and host governments "to develop a strategy for identifying individuals known to have engaged in terrorist activities."

Pelosi's bill stipulates that not less than $30 million in funds for migration and refugee assistance should be made available for refugee resettlement in Israel. None of the other 192 recognized states in the world are specifically earmarked to receive this kind of funding, which is normally made available on assessment of humanitarian need. In recent years, successive Israeli governments have encouraged immigrants to live in subsidized Jewish-only settlements, illegally constructed on confiscated land in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights, in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. The inclusion of this funding is widely interpreted as an effort by Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers to encourage further Israeli colonization in occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory so as to decrease the likelihood of a peace settlement.

Only $75 million in aid is allocated to the West Bank and none of it is allocated to the Palestinian Authority itself. In contrast, annual U.S. economic assistance to Israel (which doesn't include the billions in military aid) goes directly to the Israeli government and has usually totaled more than 15 times that amount, even though the per-capita income of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is less than one-twentieth that of Israeli Jews.

Pelosi's bill contains lengthy and detailed conditions and restrictions on programs in the West Bank, with extensive vetting, reporting, and auditing requirements required for no other place in the world. This year's bill adds requirements that all funds are subjected to the regular notification procedures, also an unprecedented requirement. There are also a number of other stipulations not found for any other nations, such as the provision banning any assistance to the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation .

Despite all the additional administrative costs such restrictions require, the bill caps administrative expenses at $2 million; no such limitations exist involving aid to any other nation.

The Democrats' goal appears to be to make it all the more difficult for Palestinians — already suffering under U.S.-backed Israeli sieges — to meet even their most basic needs for health care, education, housing, and economic development.

One target of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is the Palestinians' desire to regain the Arab-populated sections of East Jerusalem, which have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. In addition to its religious significance for both Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims, Jerusalem has long been the most important cultural, commercial, political, and educational center for Palestinians and has the largest Palestinian population of any city in the world. Given the city's significance to both populations, any sustainable peace agreement would need to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city for both Israel and Palestine.

In an apparent effort to delegitimize any Palestinian claims to their occupied capital, however, Pelosi's bill prohibits any "meetings between officers and employees of the United States and officials of the Palestinian Authority, or any successor Palestinian governing entity" in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem "for the purpose of conducting official United States Government business with such authority." Even if the Israelis do agree to end their occupation of Arab East Jerusalem, Pelosi and the Democrats have inserted language that no funds could be used to create any new U.S. government offices in Jerusalem that would interact with the Palestinian Authority or any successor Palestinian government entity
But wait, there is some good news:
Most significant is a provision banning nearly all cluster-bomb exports to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries, an initiative which had been defeated during the last session of Congress thanks to near-unanimous Republican opposition, as well as negative votes from such leading Democratic senators as Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Obama — who, in contrast, voted in favor of the resolution — apparently helped to insure the inclusion of this provision in the bill, which has been applauded by human rights groups. [My note: Israel used cluster bombs in the war on Gaza; Australia signed a convention banning their use in late 2008]

Meanwhile, a number of additional anti-Palestinian amendments introduced from the floor by Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) were voted down after vigorous lobbying by Americans for Peace Now and other liberal groups.[Yaaay! - me]
Conclusion (there is a lot more in the article)- I feel the last clause of the last sentence is the most pertinent:

It will be President Obama, and not the Democratic-controlled Congress, who will ultimately determine the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere in the coming years. Unfortunately, even assuming the best of intentions by a president who came to office in large part due to popular dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. policy in the region, he won't be able to fundamentally change the direction of that policy if Congress continues to pursue policies supporting militarization, occupation, and repression. Read more: The Budget's Foreign Policy Handcuffs.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr