The Abraham Accords Gets a Caucus

The Abraham Accords Caucus

During their time in The White House the Trump administration helped negotiate a number of arms deals between Israel and other authoritarian governments, while cutting the Palestinians out of the process completely. This is sometimes hilariously referred to as a “peace plan”, but people usually roll with something less Orwellian and call it “The Abraham Accords.”

Democrats will readily criticize Trump about virtually anything, but good luck getting them to utter a critical word about this diplomatic effort. When Secretary of State Tony Blinken was asked to say something positive about Mike Pompeo’s reign during a congressional hearing, he immediately cited the Abraham Accords. In fact, the Biden administration has pledged to “expand” them, whatever that means.

Now this bipartisan consensus has produced a legislative group. The Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports that eight members of the Senate and House are launching the Abraham Accords Caucus. Here are the co-chairs: Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), David Trone (D-MD), Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).

It’s unclear exactly what the caucus will do but Lankford has called the group a “cheerleading squad” for the accords. Israel’s Knesset’s has its own such caucus and it’s wished its new U.S. counterpart well.  Here’s Knesset Member Ruth Wasserman Lande: “I deeply cherish the support from the United States and offer my congratulations on the establishment of a sister-caucus in America, with whom we can advance further frameworks for regional cooperation.”

Act.IL, the anti-BDS app partially funded by the Israeli government, encouraged its users to post positive comments about the caucus on social media.

The caucus was celebrated by the editorial staff at the right-wing Jerusalem Post. “Why is this good news?,” reads the op-ed. “Because it demonstrates bipartisan support for Israel in Washington – something always good for everyone to see, especially at a time when anti-Israel Democratic progressives are frequently in the news – and because it could give a push toward getting other countries to join the accords.”

The development was also saluted by AIPAC, who thanked the lawmakers on Twitter. “The Abraham Accords proved that peace and prosperity can be achieved by engaging with Israel, rather than boycotting our ally,” wrote the lobbying group. JVP Action’s Beth Miller responded: “Who’s gaining peace & prosperity through the Abraham Accords? UAE will get F-35s & drones. Morocco got drones & US recognition of the illegal occupation of Western Sahara. Israel got Middle Eastern countries to throw the Palestinian struggle for rights & freedom under the bus.”

CAIR Revelations

Last month the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) dropped a bombshell. It had an uncovered a mole within the group who had been sharing confidential information with an anti-Muslim group for years.

Romin Iqbal was the Executive and Legal Director for one CAIR’s Ohio chapters before it was revealed that he had been secretly recording meetings and sending the audio to Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a group that’s been referred to as “a leading source of anti-Muslim racism.” The evidence also showed that IPT was sharing its information with Israeli intelligence.

In a press conference yesterday, CAIR came forward with new revelations. Two individuals have come forward and admitted that they also spied on Muslims for IPT. The Israeli government was apparently privy to this confidential information as well. “We are working diligently to uncover, disrupt and expose every attempt that this anti-Muslim hate group and its allies have made to spy on American Muslims in service to the Israeli government,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement. “We commend the whistleblowers who are coming forward to apologize, take responsibility and provide information. In the coming weeks, we plan to continue releasing additional information as we uncover and validate it.”

One of the individuals who recorded former House member (and current Minnesota AG) Keith Ellison criticizing U.S. foreign policy toward Israel at a fundraiser in 2010. You’ll recall that this recording was leaked when Ellison was campaigning to become head of the DNC and anti-Palestine groups were able to use the ensuing controversy as a means to derail his candidacy.

“Keith Ellison was IPT’s main target for many years,” said CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell during the press conference. “They compiled a massive dossier on him, targeting his public and private remarks, his speeches, his articles. They were trying to find anything they could to undermine this inspiring black, Muslim politician. They were spying on him for years.”

The Shame of Gitmo

The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp is 20 years old. 780 men have been held there since it first opened in 2002 and only two have been convicted by a military conviction. Here’s Alex Jordan in Responsible Statecraft:

Over the last 20 years, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force that the Bush administration used to justify GITMO’s opening has also been used to justify U.S. military operations in at least 22 countries. GITMO is a perfect microcosm of the Global War on Terror that birthed it — its evidently ineffective and contrary to America’s stated values, yet it appears to be a permanent fixture of U.S. foreign policy.

This is why President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan seemed so remarkable: He was squaring a broken U.S. military policy (spending billions of dollars and risking American lives indefinitely in pursuit of a long-failed nation building project) with what was in the best interests of the American people. Yet Afghanistan was the exception that proves the rule; Biden has largely re-committed America to bloody, ineffective militaristic foreign policies — like spending $778 on the military while failing to invest in climate action, or pursuing the beginnings of a new Cold War with China — that make foreign policy elites very happy, while delivering few tangible benefits, and plenty of risks, to the American people.

Amnesty International’s Agnes Callamard at Al Jazeera:

Guantánamo remains an indelible stain on US history, a chapter the US government must now close and never repeat. President Biden owes it to all of us – those who have experienced or watched Guantánamo with horror over the years, and new and future generations just now learning about it – to shut it down once and for all.

Former detainee Moazzam Begg interviewed on Democracy Now!:

And then, after Kandahar, I was sent to Bagram. In Bagram, I was held approximately, as you said, for a year. Amongst the worst things I saw was a prisoner called Dilawar. He was a taxi driver. His hands were tied above his head to the top of a cage, and he was physically beaten until he was killed. And I was subject to sounds of a woman screaming in the next cell, that I was led to believe was my wife being tortured while FBI and, again, CIA agents — and I emphasize FBI because they are always the ones that kind of get out of being accused of being involved, but the FBI were involved right from the get-go. And they waved pictures of my children in front of my face while I was being tortured, and I heard the sounds of the woman screaming. They threatened to send me to Syria or to Egypt if I didn’t cooperate, as they had done to others.

So, by the time I was sent to Guantánamo and spent the next two years in solitary confinement in a windowless cell without any access, or any meaningful access, to family, to phone calls, to visits — to any of the things that any normal, ordinary, decent convicted prisoner gets, we had no access to, even though we’d never been charged. And in that state, it was in 2005, eventually, that I was told that I will be going home. There are no charges against me, so the last three years of my life have been all arbitrary.

McCollum Faces Lefty Challenger

Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum (often covered at the site as a result of her Palestine bills) is facing a primary challenger from the left, Amane Badhasso. Ryan Grim has a good piece on the development at The Intercept:

Badhasso’s background is likely to resonate in the Twin Cities, which has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees, who have in turn revitalized the area’s economy. Her family fled Ethiopia in the mid-’90s as a result of conflict between the Oromo Liberation Front and the country’s ruling factions. While a refugee in Kenya, she said, she nearly died of malaria, until a collection could be taken to pay for treatment at a hospital. On another occasion, she returned home to find that the dilapidated building she lived in had collapsed. At the age of 13, she finally arrived in Minnesota, home to a large Oromo community.

Another Minnesota lawmaker, Rep. Ilhan Omar, has said that Badhasso is “truly is one of the most impressive people I have ever met.” Grim’s piece cites an interesting HuffPost article from 2019 about the relationship between McCollum and Omar:

Though she aligns on many issues with Rep. Ilhan Omar, she and her fellow Twin Cities lawmaker have at times betrayed a frosty relationship. “Ilhan is on the other side of the Mississippi River, and we talk sometimes in the break room in between votes,” McCollum told HuffPost. When Omar was in the barrel over remarks in 2019 that critics deemed antisemitic, McCollum issued a statement: “Rep. Omar has the right to speak freely, and she also must take responsibility for the effect her words have on her colleagues, her constituents, and the policies Democrats seek to advance.”

McCollum’s chief of staff, Bill Harper, went further, telling HuffPost: “My own take on it is that she really derailed a lot of our work.

Omar has not endorsed either candidate.

Odds & Ends

🇮🇱 Jordan Teicher is in The Baffler writing about how the Israeli government uses animals rights to whitewash its crimes.

🦆 The Shalom Hartman Institute claims that the consulting firm Big Duck refused to work with them over the institute’s presence in Israel and opposition to the BDS movement. “Big Duck’s decision represents a moving of the goalposts on BDS from Israel to North American Jewish organizations, and applies a standard on North American Jewish commitments that would exclude the vast majority of the members of our community,” they said in a statement. “Big Duck’s claims to not apply litmus tests nor to adhere to a BDS policy as a company are belied by their application of a litmus test here, and by their allowing those employees who support BDS to exercise a veto over business decisions on the basis of that commitment.”

🇵🇸 Rep. Betty McCollum’s child detention bill has a new cosponsor. Rep. Paul Tonko, who represents New York’s 20th district, has signed onto HR 2590. Tonko has faced pressure to support the bill from local activists.

🇺🇸 Matthew Kassel has an interesting piece on Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) in the Jewish Insider.

☢️ This week over 60 organizations issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of land-based nuclear missiles.

🇦🇫 Murtaza Hussain has a good piece in The Intercept about the deadly impact of western sanctions on Afghanistan and how the people who claimed to be so concerned about human rights a few months ago have nothing to say:

“Though sanctions on Afghanistan won’t achieve U.S. political aims, they are, as in so many other countries, succeeding in visiting cruel consequences upon the most vulnerable. House Democrats have called on Biden to release funds owned by Afghanistan’s central bank, but the administration has so far been resistant to this step. One reason could be that reversing course would reveal the brutality of the underlying policy — employing sanctions to deny foreign nations’ central banks access to their funds — which the U.S. government continues to do in other cases. Meanwhile, the broader sanctions regime on Afghanistan remains in place, with ordinary Afghans bearing the brunt.

🎥 More Emma Watson. A group of figures from the film industry have signed a letter expressing support for Watson and solidarity with Palestine. Names include Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, Jim Jarmusch, and Viggo Mortensen. The letter was put together by Artists for Palestine UK.

“We join Emma Watson in support of the simple statement that ‘solidarity is a verb’, including meaningful solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their human rights under international law,” it reads. “We oppose injustice anywhere in the world and stand with all those seeking an end to oppression.”

“We stand against ongoing Israeli attempts to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

💩 The Nation published a weird and embarrassing piece about Palestine solidarity that claims that the left alienates Jewish people, declares that DSA’s Israel position is often antisemitic, defends Iron Dome funding, and claims that anti-Zionists are uninterested in learning about the two-state solution. (??) Just an absolutely amazing beginning to a paragraph towards the end of the piece: “None of this is to absolve Netanyahu’s reign or excuse the oppression of the Palestinian people. But…”

But!

The piece has faced widespread criticism on social media, but it’s been embraced by pro-Israel voices and outlets. AJ+’s Sana Saeed has a good thread on it:

This piece from The Nation regurgitates old talking points: US Jews should lead the conversation on the Israeli occupation of Palestinians & how can socialists have the audacity to demand socialist principles. Palestinians (and anti-Zionist Jews) do not exist in the author’s mind. If anyone is alienated by an anti-apartheid position — good.

🍉 Yumna Patel, our Palestine News Director, joins American Muslims for Palestine tomorrow night for a webinar about the administrative detention of Hisham Abu Hawash who recently ended a 141-day hunger strike in protest to his treatment. Click here for more information and to RSVP on Facebook.

Stay safe out there,

Michael

BEFORE YOU GO – Stories like the one you just read are the result of years of efforts by campaigners and media like us who support them by getting the word out, slowly but doggedly.

That’s no accident. Our work has helped create breakthroughs in how the general public understands the Palestinian freedom struggle.

Mondoweiss plays a key role in helping to shift the narrative around Palestine. Will you give so we can keep telling the stories in 2022 that will be changing the world in 2023, 2025 and 2030?

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