Taking action on Palestine

BY:Joelle Fishman| June 4, 2021
Taking action on Palestine


This report was presented by Joelle Fishman, chair of the Political Action Commission, to the National Board meeting, June 2, 2021.

I would like to start by quoting the first and only Palestinian member of Congress, Rashida Tlaib from Detroit. Speaking on the House floor in opposition to military aid or money to Israel, she said: “I am a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians do indeed exist, that we are humans. My ancestors and current family in Palestine deserve the world to hear their history without obstruction. . . . We must, with no hesitation, demand that our country recognizes the unconditional support of Israel has enabled the erasure of Palestinian life and the denial of the rights of millions of refugees.”

I would also like to start by quoting the newly elected Rep. Cori Bush from St. Louis, MO, the first member of Congress who is a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. She made the connections between oppression and racism of African Americans and the apartheid treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government, saying: “The fight for Black lives and the fight for Palestinian liberation are interconnected. We oppose our money going to fund militarized policing, occupation, and systems of violent oppression and trauma. We are anti-war. We are anti-occupation. And we are anti-apartheid. Period.”

There is a new situation and new possibilities.

Because of the ability of labor and people’s forces to elect a core of congresspersons, many of color and many women, who are more advanced, it becomes possible to shift the debate on Palestine — although the framework of unconditional support for Israel remains dominant, including in the White House.

It is a reflection of shifts in public opinion, including shifts in the Jewish community, opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and of the growing Jewish presence in the wave of mass actions led by Palestinian organizations that swept the country and in which we participated.

It is also a reflection of the raised consciousness of anti-racism and human rights from the Black Lives Matter movement. As well, the anti-fascist trends in opposition to Trump and the awareness that this fascist trend is worldwide, including the reactionary government of Israel.

It is not unexpected that three quarters of the House, including a majority of Democrats, signed a letter promoted by the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that the United States’ annual $3.8-billion aid to Israel should remain unconditional.

But it is new that more than 75 Democrats refused to sign the letter and many are taking further action.

The Democratic Majority for Israel super PAC spent $1.4 million attacking Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary. Reps. Tlaib and Omar were also targeted but won re-election overwhelmingly.

Now the Democratic Majority for Israel and Pro-Israel America are pouring money into Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, which had been held by Marcia Fudge. They are supporting Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown in order to defeat former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, who supports imposing tighter conditions on U.S. aid to Israel.

Several actions have been taken within Congress aimed at changing the long-time standard defense of Israel including by President Biden.

Rep. Marie Newman, a freshman who defeated a staunchly pro-Israel Democrat in Chicago last year with support from the Arab American and Muslim community, spearheaded a letter with 24 co-signers calling for Biden to send “the strongest possible diplomatic message to Israel” to halt the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and ensure that U.S. aid is not being used to contribute to these abuses. Over 100 organizations, including MoveOn and the Arab American Institute, sent a similar letter to Biden.

In the Senate, Jon Ossoff, newly elected from Georgia, and Jewish, was joined by 28 senators demanding President Biden call for a ceasefire and take a stronger position to force Israel to halt its offensive.

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution opposing a $735 million U.S. arms sale to Israel, following a similar resolution in the House introduced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mark Pocan, and Rashida Tlaib and co-sponsored by six others.

More than 500 Democratic party staffers and alumni of Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign signed an open letter calling on him to “investigate whether Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza violates the Leahy Law, prohibiting US military aid from funding foreign military units implicated in the commission of gross violations of human rights” and saying, “The very same values that motivated us to work countless hours to elect you demand that we speak out. . . . we remain horrified by the images of Palestinian civilians in Gaza killed or made homeless by Israeli airstrikes.”

Then, on May 24 the House Foreign Relations Committee announced it would send a message to the Biden administration demanding postponement of the $735 million in military contracts for precision-guided rockets to Israel.

A movement is building around HR 2590, The Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota with 24 co-sponsors:

To promote and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds are not used by the Government of Israel to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.

The 70 initial organizational endorsers include many religious organizations, peace groups, Justice Democrats, Working Families Party, Movement for Black Lives, United We Dream network, and Institute for Policy Studies Internationalism Project.

We took this up at the Political Action Commission and agreed that this effort deserves our support. It is a concrete effort to push Congress to act and to further shift the balance of forces. This bill may be a way to break through on union solidarity. During this current aggression some local unions across the country have spoken out, including unions with many immigrant workers in their membership.

We also have a contribution to make in connecting the support for the Israeli occupation to overall U.S. imperialism and multinational corporate domination. As well, we put this into the larger framework of the movement to cut military spending and support for the resolution titled “Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages from the Bottom Up” and introduced by the Poor People’s Campaign and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

We should support all of these initiatives and use them as an organizing opportunity to build a deeper mass understanding of how the occupation relates to foreign policy and military funding and to the fight against fascism and for democratic rights, voting rights, and racial justice. Most important will be our consideration of how to bring forward the class issues.


Co-Sponsors HB 2590 Introduced by Rep. Betty McCullum [DLF-MN]

Rep. Rush, Bobby L. [D-IL-1]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Carson, Andre [D-IN-7]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Newman, Marie [D-IL-3]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Omar, Ilhan [D-MN-5]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Tlaib, Rashida [D-MI-13]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Pressley, Ayanna [D-MA-7]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Bush, Cori [D-MO-1]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Bowman, Jamaal [D-NY-16]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Alexandria [D-NY-14]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Garcia, Jesus G. “Chuy” [D-IL-4]* 04/15/2021
Rep. Johnson, Eddie Bernice [D-TX-30] 04/16/2021
Rep. Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA-7] 04/16/2021
Rep. Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR-3] 04/26/2021
Del. Norton, Eleanor Holmes [D-DC-At Large] 04/28/2021
Rep. Evans, Dwight [D-PA-3] 04/30/2021
Rep. Huffman, Jared [D-CA-2] 05/12/2021
Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12] 05/17/2021
Rep. Pingree, Chellie [D-ME-1] 05/18/2021
Rep. Welch, Peter [D-VT-At Large] 05/20/2021
Rep. Chu, Judy [D-CA-27] 05/25/2021
Rep. Payne, Donald M., Jr. [D-NJ-10] 05/28/2021


 Sign the petition: Tell President Biden and Congress to stop U.S. funds from being used to kill Palestinians and demolish their homes!

Image: Alisdare Hickson (CC BY-NC 2.0).



    Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.



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