Most Americans have a negative perception of Congress. It is not hard to figure out why when one learns that most congressmen spend much of their time raising money so they can be reelected. I for one am not bothered by that aspect of the legislative experience because I believe that if they are out pursuing money they are keeping out of trouble, except when they are simultaneously raising the cash illegally and concealing large packages of it in their freezers.
When Congress actually sits down and does something, hold on to your hat and wallet. Last week the House passed "unanimously" what might be described as a stealth resolution in that the document was only made public a day before being voted on, allowing no time for genuine debate or review by legislators and voters. When it was finally tabled, it received a voice vote, in which those present say aye or nay, with the speaker declaring whether the resolution passes or not. Unlike a "record" vote, there is no easy way to determine who voted which way or, indeed, who was present when the vote was taken. It is the ultimate democracy in action cop out, enabling congressmen to behave completely irresponsibly.
The resolution in question was – surprise, surprise – on the Middle East, another expression of the will of Congress and the American people that Israel should be able to do anything it wants and the Palestinians should be grateful that they have not been completely exterminated. House Resolution 1765 "Supporting a negotiated solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes." The resolution was drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and sponsored by Congressman Howard Berman, currently Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There were 53 co-sponsors.
House Resolution 1765, in spite of its title, has little interest in any solution and is more concerned with stopping Palestinians from taking unilateral steps. It is not binding and only reiterates what the administration of Barack Obama has been saying about Palestinian aspirations for statehood, namely that they should forget about them until such time as Bibi Netanyahu says they’re okay. Which translates as "never." As State Department spokesman Philip Crowley sagely put it, "the only way to resolve the core issues within the process is through direct negotiations." Crowley’s core issues apparently do not include actual sovereignty or access to Jerusalem or fixed borders or sharing water supplies because all those items conflict with Israeli security needs and the "natural growth" of settlements.
The reason why the resolution has appeared so opportunely, right on the heels of the Crowley statement, is that some naughty dagoes in South America have been acting up, daring to recognize Palestine as a state within its 1967 borders. "Not helpful," says Hillary Clinton. What would happen if a lot more countries beyond the current miscreants Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay were to do the same thing? Definitely not helpful. It might actually lead to creation of a Palestinian state.
So what did our wise men in Washington craft when they put pen to paper or, rather, pick up the latest instructions from AIPAC? Reading a congressional resolution is a bit like going through one of those lists from your mother when you go off to college, incorporating a preamble consisting of a series of syntactically challenged clauses ending up with instructions about brushing your teeth and changing your underwear. The only difference is that for Congress each clause is preceded by a "Whereas." In this case, Congress cites itself as an authority for its own action, noting that in 1999 it had declared "any attempt to establish Palestinian statehood outside the negotiating process will invoke the strongest congressional opposition." It also quotes Hillary, Crowley and auxiliary Department of State Spokesman Mark Toner, all of whom say that anything but direct negotiations is "not helpful." The last "Whereas" clause seals the argument, noting that any unilateral declaration of statehood would be an Arab trick to bypass negotiations with Israel and therefore not helpful.
Then comes the good bit. Congress resolves that it opposes any attempt to "establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians." It urges the Palestinians to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process" to "resume direct negotiations with Israel immediately," and to "support the Obama Administration’s opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state." The last bit is particularly juicy, as it is telling the Palestinians to take action against themselves. Or else.
HR 1765 then calls on the White House to "lead a diplomatic effort to persuade other nations to oppose a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state" and "affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state…" So the sense of Congress is not just limited to those happy lands where the Stars and Stripes bravely fly. Anyone anywhere who steps out of line will be whacked.
The resolution does not call on Israel to do anything. If you want to find the word "settlements" you will have to look somewhere else. It is all about restraining the Palestinians and how to stop and punish those benighted heathens who want to affirm that Palestine might be considered an actual state. There might as well have been a final clause clarifying the resolution’s intent by stating, "Israel can set whatever conditions it wants to in its negotiations and if you ragheads don’t like it you can go fish."
Then comes the really interesting part. The mainstream media did not report on the passage of House Resolution 1765, as if it did not happen. Nothing appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS, or PBS. Nada. Did some gatekeeper news editors decide that the story did not reflect well on Israel and its friends in Congress so it had to vanish down the memory hole? Congress again lining up and bending its knee before AIPAC was not news? Apparently not. The House of Representatives declares that an all powerful Israel backed by the United States can continue to steal Arab land with impunity while at the same time giving lip service to talks designed to go nowhere. The Palestinians can only lie back and take it while the American Congress and Administration tell them to suck it up, denying them the right to even call themselves a nation. Pathetic and sickening and it could not even make the news.
My congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution. Frank has been in Congress a long time and he is reported to be the largest recipient of Israel PAC money in the state of Virginia. In his promotional literature Frank brags about what a great family man he is, including pictures of himself with his grandchildren. I wish him and his family no ill, but I would like to make him think of the consequences of how he votes in Congress. Put Frank and his whole family into a burned out shell of a house in Gaza for a few days without food or water, knowing that to stick their heads out invites a round from an Israeli sniper. See how he would like it. What would be his reaction if one of his grandchildren were to become sick only to be denied access to a hospital three hundred yards away because an Israeli border patrol thug is trying to show how tough he is? I would like Frank and all the other clowns in Congress who sponsored and voted for HR 1765 to experience just one tiny bit of the reality that the Palestinians live with every day at the hands of the Israelis enabled by the United States of America. Does Frank really wonder why nearly all the world hates us and why we are confronting a growing terrorist threat? You have created that evil, Frank, you and all your buddies in Congress who line up to do AIPAC’s bidding and pass shameful pieces of paper like House Resolution 1765, which do terrible damage to the United States and its interests on behalf of Israel. Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell, the lowest level, was reserved for those who betray their own country. If God truly exists and will someday mete out justice, I expect to learn that you and many of your colleagues from the 111th Congress someday will be doing hard time there.