Why this issue is important: The perspective of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (HR 4681) is shaped by two overriding concerns. First, H.R. 4681 should be measured in light of the ultimate goal of promoting a two-state solution that provides security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians, two states living alongside one another in peace. Second, the legislation should provide for the urgent needs of the Palestinian people. A further deterioration of the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian people compromises human dignity, will lead to instability, and does not serve the long term interests of either Palestinians or Israelis who long for a just peace.
The recent election of a Hamas majority to the Palestinian parliament is a serious setback for the peace process. Although many voted for Hamas because they deliver effective social services and to protest cronyism, the fundamental premises of Hamas are antithetical to the peace process. The bishops’ Conference has called on Hamas to recognize Israel, reject terrorism and accept previous agreements negotiated with the Israelis.
H.R. 4681 attempts to respond to the Hamas situation, but it does so in a way that places road blocks to a two-state solution to the conflict, impairs relationships with non-Hamas moderate Palestinian leaders, and seriously compromises aid programs by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance to the Palestinian people. Bishop Thomas Wenski, the Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, expressed the concerns of the bishops’ Conference in a letter to Chairman Hyde of the Committee on International Relations on April 6, 2006.
What You Can Do: HR 4681, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, is coming to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday, May 9, under “suspension of the rules.” Suspension of rules means that no amendments can be offered and a full debate will not be possible. Members will have to vote on the bill, and will have the opportunity to make floor statements. With 290 co-sponsors the bill will surely pass, although some Members will vote no and it is possible that even some who vote yes will make statements expressing concerns about some of the bill’s shortfalls. Please contact your Representative by telephone today because time is short. Ask him or her to oppose the bill and to make floor statements expressing concerns that the bill undermines a two-state solution, cuts ties with moderate Palestinian leaders, and compromises aid administered by NGOs. The bishops’ relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services, reports that their assistance programs in the Palestinian Territories could be severely curtailed or ended under the proposed legislation. Other reputable NGOs report similar concerns.
Take Action Now! Call the US Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to connect your Congressional office today! Ask your Representative to oppose HR 4681. If you can speak to the foreign policy legislative assistant, ask that your Representative also consider making a constructive floor statement.
- In the wake of the Palestinian elections, the US should press Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept previous agreements.
- At the same time, the U.S. should support continued assistance to the Palestinian people through NGOs, such as Catholic Relief Services; and
- Preserve diplomatic relations with Palestinians leaders who have recognized Israel, renounced terrorism and seek a just peace.