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House committee debates measures targeting UN anti-Israel bias

“We need to make it clear the United States completely supports Israel’s efforts to wipe these terrorists off the map,” Rep. Tim Burchett, of Tennessee, told JNS.

The United Nations flag is lowered to half-mast at U.N. headquarters on Nov. 13, 2023 to honor colleagues killed in Gaza. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. photo.
The United Nations flag is lowered to half-mast at U.N. headquarters on Nov. 13, 2023 to honor colleagues killed in Gaza. Credit: Evan Schneider/U.N. photo.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee debated a raft of measures on Wednesday that target the United Nations for its anti-Israel bias.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told JNS that his resolution, which condemns the global body for including Israel on its annual “list of shame” of countries that violate the rights of children, would signal U.S. support for the Jewish state in its war against Hamas.

“The United Nations putting the Israel Defense Forces on this list of children’s rights abusers is a total joke,” Burchett told JNS. “Grouping them with terrorists like the Taliban and Hezbollah is absolutely ridiculous.”

“Israel is our greatest ally in the Middle East and works hard to protect life, while Hamas hides behind innocent civilians like a bunch of cowards,” the congressman added. “We need to make it clear the United States completely supports Israel’s efforts to wipe these terrorists off the map.”

Some Democrats, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, supported the measure, though Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) opposed it, claiming that Israel has failed to protect children sufficiently.

“This was a very thorough, vetted process,” Castro said. “This resolution simply seeks to declare an alternate reality, without any evidence, to rebut the conclusions of the United Nations report.”

Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) said that the resolution doesn’t go far enough in using U.S. leverage to influence the United Nations.

“Where is the red line where this body will start to take action with the power of the purse against the organization that does such a thing?” Self asked. “This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that the U.N. has done something this horrific.”

Burchett’s resolution passed by voice vote and will be recommended to the wider House, but two bills that aim to go after U.N. purse strings faced resistance from some Democrats on the committee.

One of those measures, the No Official Palestine Entry (NOPE) Act of 2024, would cut off U.S. funding to the United Nations after the U.N. General Assembly voted to give the Palestinians special privileges beyond “observer status” in May.

Meeks said that the bill as written would undermine U.S. diplomacy.

“The current draft of this bill could gut U.S. leadership at the U.N. following a U.S. defunding, including possibly even causing the United States to lose our ability to vote in the General Assembly within a year,” the congressman said. 

“The United States stepping back from its U.N. obligations could threaten the institution’s ability to function writ large, impacting a host of issues that are critical to the United States interests and ceding even more ground to our adversaries,” he added.

Under longstanding U.S. law, Washington will cut off funding to the United Nations and other agencies if the Palestinians are granted full membership as a state outside of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The NOPE Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.), would lower that threshold to cut off funding if the Palestinians are granted “any status, rights or privileges beyond observer status,” something that the U.N. General Assembly and other agencies have already done.

Meeks and other Democrats also opposed a bill that would instruct the U.S. secretary of state to claw back funds from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency after the Biden administration suspended funding to UNRWA amid allegations that some of its staffers participated in the Oct. 7 attacks.

“This bill is the definition of really kicking someone while they are down in a place where too many people are already hurting and hungry and dying,” Meeks said.

The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), said that taking money back from UNRWA holds the U.N. body accountable for its actions.

“UNRWA is an entity that has been a part of supporting hatred against Jews, against Israel, a part of facilitating attacks, holding hostages,” Mast said. “Their headquarters in Gaza City was just raided because of their participation in housing of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.”

Votes on the Baird and Mast bills are postponed until Thursday. 

A bipartisan measure introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)—which requires the secretary of state to report on whether the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, Lion’s Den and other groups should be formally designated and sanctioned as terrorist groups—passed by voice vote and will be forwarded to the House.

The Jewish state also made appearances even on bills unrelated to the war against Hamas, with Rep. John James (R-Mich.) accusing the Biden administration of playing politics with the Gaza aid pier while ignoring the conflict in Sudan. 

“Ukraine gets billions and Gaza gets a pier, but because the Sudanese are neither white, nor have a vital diaspora which represents a key voting block for the president, the Sudanese people, the black Sudanese people, get crickets,” James said. 

“Do black lives matter, Mr. President, or do you only care about their votes in election years?” he added.

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