Quaker Orgs Write Senate: Support Funding for Palestinians and the UN

Nov 30, 2012


FCNL, AFSC and QUNO-NY sent the following joint letter to the Senate urging them to vote against three possible amendments to the Senate's defense authorization bill that sought to punish Palestinians and the United Nations on the eve of the vote at the United Nations for Palestine's formal observer status.

See the letter here, and below.

November 29, 2012

Dear Senator,

We are writing to you to express our grave concern about proposed legislation to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations. This legislation may come up for a vote as amendments to S 3254, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.

Amdt. 3203 (Graham/Schumer/Barrasso/Menendez) would cut assistance to the Palestinian Authority if they take any issue to the International Criminal Court for adjudication and would close all PLO affiliated offices in the United States unless the Palestinians have “entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

Amdt. 3139 (Barrasso/Lee/Inhofe) threatens to cut U.S. funding to the U.N. and assistance to the Palestinian Authority as a response to the General Assembly vote today to upgrade Palestine’s status at the U.N. to that of “non-member observer state”.

Amdt. 3171 (Hatch) would bar all U.S. funding to the United Nations in response to the UN General Assembly voting to upgrade the status of the Palestinians.

We urge you to vote against these amendments and any other effort to punish the Palestinians and the U.N. for today’s vote. Instead of punishing the Palestinian Authority, the United States should welcome this effort on the part of the Palestinians to use non-violent means to realize their right to self-determination, and should use its diplomatic influence and resources to leverage international support for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis based in international law.

The U.S. government has opposed this move at the U.N. stating that Palestine’s statehood status should only be decided through direct negotiations with Israel and contending that this move by the Palestinian Authority threatens to derail peace efforts. However, it should be clear that the U.S.-brokered process for resolving the conflict was derailed long before the Palestinian Authority began pushing for recognition at the U.N. There have been no meaningful negotiations since at least 2001, in no small part because of the U.S.’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its continued expropriation of Palestinian land and natural resources, which under international law and U.S. policy should belong to a future Palestinian State. It is the failure of this process which has pushed the Palestinian leadership to pursue this course at the U.N.

It should also be clear that in pushing for statehood recognition at the U.N. the Palestinians have not turned their backs on a negotiated solution. To the contrary, Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that the Palestinians remain committed to working with both the international community and Israel to achieve a just and lasting peace. As a matter of international law and practice, the Palestinians, like any other aspiring people seeking statehood recognition, have the right to present their case to the international community, and should not be punished for doing so.

We therefore strongly urge you to vote against these punitive and counterproductive amendments, and also urge you to reject any other actions which would punish either Palestinians or the U.N. as a result of today’s vote. Uncritical U.S. support for Israel has already seriously damaged U.S. credibility and leadership with Palestinians and the international community, and a decision by Congress at this time to punish the Palestinian Authority and the U.N. because of this vote is likely to do even further damage.

Quaker organizations including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and the Quaker United Nations Office in New York (QUNO) have worked since before 1948 to promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We speak to you out of our experience in the region and recalling our beliefs in nonviolence and equality. We hope that you will hear our voices and support the Palestinian recourse to international law rather than press for punishing them for their diplomatic efforts.

Sincerely,

American Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Quaker United Nations Office in New York

For more information, contact: Kathy Zager, Policy Assistant for Foreign Policy
at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, who can be reached at: kathy@fcnl.org.

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