Congress on Rampage to Punish Palestinians
By Kate Gould on 10/05/2011 @ 03:10 PM
Congress escalated its rampage to unjustly punish Palestinians for seeking statehood recognition at the United Nations by blocking assistance, threatening programs that provide food aid for impoverished families and life-saving hospital equipment.
The fact that Congress is blocking $192 million in USAID assistance signals that anti-Palestinian sentiment has—as hard as it may be to believe—reached new heights in Congress. Three members of Congress who have been identified by name as responsible for placing a hold on this aid are: Senator Richard Lugar (IN), Rep. Kay Granger (TX), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL). Unnamed Senate Republicans have also joined Senator Lugar’s effort to withhold both humanitarian assistance and security assistance for the Palestinian Authority.
Members of Congress can theoretically place a hold on funding simply to gather more information. In this case, however Rep. Granger, the Chair of the House foreign operations subcommittee, explained that she placed a hold on humanitarian and development assistance for Palestinians “until the issue of statehood is resolved.”
As Lara Friedman from Americans for Peace Now points out in her excellent analysis on the topic, even after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Congress continued to fund humanitarian aid programs for the West Bank and Gaza. These funds are for programs funded through USAID, the U.S. government agency providing U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance around the world. The humanitarian and development programs are then carried out by non-governmental organizations, with no connection whatsoever to the Palestinian Authority.
By blocking humanitarian and development assistance, Congress is sending a clear message that Congress seeks to punish the most vulnerable sector of Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza for their leadership’s efforts to pursue a nonviolent, diplomatic approach to self-determination.
What makes matters worse is that in addition to Congress blocking essential Palestinian aid for this year, a dizzying array of additional retaliatory initiatives is currently underway in Congress, threatening the future of every type of Palestinian aid.
For a detailed analysis of these punitive measures, check out FCNL's outline of "Congressional Actions Threatening Palestinian Aid".