Finally, someone in Congress who is willing to take a stand:
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy is promoting a bill to suspend U.S. assistance to three elite Israel Defense Forces units, alleging they are involved in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Leahy, a Democrat and senior member of the U.S. Senate, wants assistance withheld from the Israel Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a long-time friend of Leahy’s, met with him in Washington two weeks ago to try to persuade him to withdraw the initiative.
According to a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem, Leahy began promoting the legislation in recent months after he was approached by voters in his home state of Vermont.
A few months ago, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters staged a rally across from Leahy’s office, demanding that he denounce the killing by Shayetet 13 commandos of nine Turkish activists who were part of the flotilla to Gaza last May.
The senior Israeli official said that the Israeli Embassy in Washington had been trying unsuccessfully now for some months to persuade Leahy to back down from the initiative.
Two weeks ago, during Barak’s visit to Washington, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, asked Barak to meet with Leahy to dissuade him from promoting the legislation.
Even if Sen. Leahy (D-VT) isn’t successful, this is important. It shows how important it is to call, write and demonstrate for less damaging policies vis-a-vis Israel. Sen. Leahy is responding to his constituents on this and it is a reminder that if we care about this issue, we can’t just keep quiet and complain amongst ourselves and hope things get better. The Lobby is extremely powerful and Leahy has been in office for a long time- he also may not have to worry as much about the Lobby based on his state’s demographics. However, I can’t help but wonder if other lawmakers would suddenly find their backbone if their offices were flooded with calls telling them to stop supporting the Occupation with taxpayer dollars.
NOTE: Senator Leahy’s contact information is here.