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Senate declines to consider Bernie Sanders bill to review whether Israel follows US human rights law

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly declined to consider a bill advanced by Sen. Bernie Sanders to assess whether Israel is complying with U.S. human rights laws governing the American military aid it receives.

The Senate voted 72-11 across parties to shelve the bill, which would have required the State Department to report to Congress within 30 days on Israeli compliance with international and U.S. human rights laws. All but one of the votes in favor were Democrats. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the single Republican who supported the measure. The motion to shelve the bill was advanced by Sen. Ben Cardin, the Jewish Maryland Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.

Sanders, a Jewish Vermonter who caucuses with Democrats and is the unofficial leader of progressives in Congress, spoke passionately on Tuesday for 10 minutes, flanked by two large photos of Palestinian children in Gaza waiting for food. International aid organizations say the coastal enclave is on the verge of starvation after more than 100 days of war between Israel and Hamas.

Sanders pointed to Israel’s use of American weapons in its campaign against the terror group.

“Almost 2 million people are trying to survive with an inadequate supply for food, water, medicine or fuel, and the humanitarian situation is getting worse by the minute,” Sanders said. “Hundreds of thousands of beautiful children are facing starvation. Given the scale of the destruction and the extensive use of American armed military equipment in this campaign, Congress must act and that is why we must have is vital to the resolution. We must ensure that U.S. aid is being used in accordance with international human rights and our own laws.”

Israel has said it is not obstructing the entry of aid, and blames the slowness of delivery on hapless humanitarian organizations. It also claims Hamas is stealing the aid.

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded Israel, killing approximately 1,200 and taking some 250 hostages. More than 23,000 Palestinians have died since Israel launched counterstrikes on Oct. 8, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Israel has said approximately third of the dead in Gaza are combatants.

Sanders was a vocal defender of Israel’s war effort at first but has grown more critical of the campaign.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbied against the bill. “Take 45 seconds to email your Senators and urge them to vote NO on this dangerous resolution,” it said in an action alert to its membership. The bill “falsely implies that Israel is committing gross violations of human rights in its effort to defend itself from Hamas’ barbaric terrorist attack,” the alert said.

It didn’t help Sanders that even among more left-leaning Jewish organizations there was less than full-throated support. Americans for Peace Now, which has called for a ceasefire, backed the bill. But J Street, the larger liberal Israel lobby, said in a statement that while it backed oversight of defense assistance to Israel, it had problems with the bill as written.

“J Street has concerns with specific provisions that have prevented us from offering our full support for this particular resolution, and we have reviewed these concerns with Senator Sanders,” but said in a statement. “We look forward to working with him and others in the near future to craft a resolution that we can support to ensure US oversight and enforcement of Israel’s compliance with U.S. law in its current war in Gaza.”

A spokesman did not answer a query about which “specific provisions” troubled J Street.

Also opposing the bill was the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which, like AIPAC and J Street, fundraises for Democrats.  JDCA said the bill could jeopardize aid to Israel.

“The resolution requires the State Department to issue a report on alleged Israeli human rights violations, and if it fails to do so within 30 days, all U.S. security assistance to Israel would be cut,” JDCA in a statement. “JDCA and the vast majority – 80% – of Jewish voters support U.S. aid to Israel.”


The post Senate declines to consider Bernie Sanders bill to review whether Israel follows US human rights law appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Top Swiss Diplomat Appointed to Mediate Tensions Between Jewish Tourists, Businesses in Davos Ski Resort

A Hebrew sign at the Pischa Restaurant in the Swiss resort of Davos informing Jewish guests that they are banned from renting ski equipment. Photo: Screenshot

The tourism authority in the exclusive Swiss mountain resort of Davos has appointed a top diplomat to mediate the growing tensions between local businesses and Orthodox Jewish visitors as complaints of antisemitism increase.

Michael Ambühl — the former State Secretary of Switzerland previously in charge of the country’s relationship with the European Union (EU)  — will head a task force to tackle the problem, Swiss media outlets reported on Friday.

The announcement of Ambühl’s appointment comes just days after the resort was roiled by the refusal of a restaurant that operates a ski equipment rental store to provide services to Jewish guests.

A sign in Hebrew at the Pischa Restaurant in Davos stated that “due to various very annoying incidents, including the theft of a sledge, we no longer rent sports equipment to our Jewish brothers. This affects all sports equipment such as sledges, airboards, skis and snowshoes. Thank you for your understanding.”

Swiss police are currently investigating the incident as a possible case of discrimination. One Israeli tourist reported that he had visited the Pischa Restaurant where he “pretended not to understand Hebrew and asked if we could rent the equipment. After the woman consulted with the manager, she rejected our request.”

The tourism authority’s decision has irritated the country’s main Jewish representative body, the Swiss Israelite Association (SIG), which had been engaged in a separate dialog with the authority about accommodating Jewish guests that was abruptly closed down last year.

“The latest case shows that something is obviously wrong in Davos,” SIG General Secretary Jonathan Kreutner said in remarks quoted by the Blick news outlet.

Kreutner said that “comparable problems are not known from other holiday destinations, especially in those where our dialogue program is still active.” Kreutner acknowledged that the tourism authority “wants to take a new path, but we don’t yet know what it looks like and where it will lead.”

The post Top Swiss Diplomat Appointed to Mediate Tensions Between Jewish Tourists, Businesses in Davos Ski Resort first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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‘Israel Outright Rejects International Dictates’: Biden Creating Plan For Palestinian State, Netanyahu Pushes Back: Report

US President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York City, US, Sept. 20, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

US President Joe Biden, along with a number of Arab states, are quickly working to form a plan to end the Israel-Hamas war and create a Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, sparking pushback from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The first step of such a plan would be for Israel and Hamas to agree to a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the Israeli hostages. Then, during that pause in fighting, the U.S. and its Arab partners would announce the plan and start to form an interim Palestinian government.

The US, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates are all reportedly are part of the talks, which have an ultimate goal of creating a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Washington Post also suggests that Israel may be expected to expel many of its own citizens from West Bank settlements and help rebuild Gaza.

The development of these plans is part of the reason Biden has cautioned Israel against moving on to fighting Hamas in Rafah — the terrorist group’s last stronghold. He believes such a ground offensive could jeopardize the prospect of peace. 

In a statement on Thursday, the White House said Biden “raised the situation in Rafah [during a call with Netanyahu], and reiterated his view that a military operation should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the civilians in Rafah.”

In response to these reports and the conversation he had with Biden, Netanyahu wrote that “Israel outright rejects international dictates regarding a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. Such an arrangement will be reached only through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions.”

He added, “Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7 massacre would give a huge reward to unprecedented terrorism and prevent any future peace settlement.”

The tension represents the latest hiccup in Biden and Netanyahu’s relationship, which has grown increasingly sour since October 7 as Biden put pressure on Israel to wind down its fight against Hamas.

Netanyahu, jpwever, was not the only one to question the prudence of the proposed American-led plan. Left-leaning group Democratic Majority for Israel said in a post on Twitter/X: “We have always favored a two state solution. But right now, how do we ensure the lesson does not become ‘sheer evil,’ pays? That must be a central part of any plan.”

Richard Goldberg, a Senior Advisor at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies contended that the plan “is doomed to fail for several reasons. Two big ones: It’s premised on Hamas surviving and involves Qatar.” 

“Israel will be in a much stronger position after it takes Rafah,” he argued.

The post ‘Israel Outright Rejects International Dictates’: Biden Creating Plan For Palestinian State, Netanyahu Pushes Back: Report first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Harvard University Issued Subpoenaed for Antisemitism Documents

Pro-Hamas students rallying at Harvard University. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Following weeks of warnings and ultimatums, the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce subpoenaed Harvard University on Friday to hand over documents related to its handling of allegations of antisemitic intimidation and harassment.

The order represents an escalation of tactics by the House Committee, which began investigating Harvard University last semester to determine whether it ignores complaints of discrimination when the victims who lodge them are Jewish. Since then, Harvard has been asked twice to submit a trove of materials requested by the committee.

Last week, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) wrote Harvard a censorious letter accusing school officials of obstructing the committee’s investigation with “grossly insufficient” responses to its inquires and submitting content of a “limited and dilatory nature.”

In a statement to Reuters, Harvard maintained that it has cooperated with the committee in “good faith,” providing “10 submissions totaling more than 3,500 pages that directly address key areas of inquiry put forward by the committee.” Chairwoman Foxx told the outlet, however that the problem is one of “quality, not quantity,” suggesting that Harvard is frenetically pantomiming compliance without providing anything of substance.

Foxx has requested “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined, had “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.

“While a subpoena was unwarranted, Harvard remains committed to cooperating with the committee and will continue to provide additional materials, while protecting the legitimate privacy, safety, and security concerns of our community,” Harvard told Reuters.

“We will use our full congressional authority to hold these schools accountable for their failure on the global stage,” said committee member and Harvard Alumnus Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in a statement announcing the action.

The past four months have been described by critics of Harvard as a low-point in the history of the school, America’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious institution of higher education. Since the October 7 massacre by Hamas, Harvard has been accused of fostering a culture of racial grievance and antisemitism, while important donors have suspended funding for programs, and its first Black president, Claudine Gay, resigned in disgrace last month after being outed as a serial plagiarizer. Her tenure was the shortest in the school’s history.

As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard, led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005. In the weeks that followed, anti-Zionists stormed the campus screaming “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “globalize the intifada,” terrorizing Jewish students and preventing some from attending class.

In Novevmber, a mob of anti-Zionists — including Ibrahim Bharmal, editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — followed, surrounded, and intimidated a Jewish student. “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” the crush of people screamed in a call-and-response chant into the ears of the student who —as seen in the footage — was forced to duck and dash the crowd to free himself from the cluster of bodies that encircled him.

By Dec., Claudine Gay —  along with Elizabeth Magill of University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Sally Kornbluth of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) — was hauled before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce to account for her administration’s handling of the problem. For weeks, Gay was reluctant to punish students who chanted genocidal slogans and unequivocally condemn antisemitism. During questioning, she told the committee that determining whether calling for a genocide of Jews constitutes a violation of school rules depends “on the context.”

Two days later, the committee launched investigations of Harvard, Penn, and MIT.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Harvard University Issued Subpoenaed for Antisemitism Documents first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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