WASHINGTON (Jul. 25)
The Senate and House of Representatives passed a flurry of measures on Jewish interests last week, most in the form of amendments to bills regulating the State Department’s budget.
The Senate approved a non-binding resolution proclaiming that “the United Nations is an inappropriate forum for a Middle East peace conference.”
The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), contends that U.N. approval of a 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism “makes the U.N. or any of its associated organizations an inappropriate forum for sponsorship” of such a conference. It was approved July 20 by a vote of 90-8.
Also last week, after a bruising debate, the Senate and the House adopted virtually identical resolutions commending Israel for planning to reopen Arab schools in the West Bank, while urging that they not be closed again “for political purposes.”
The schools were reopened Saturday.
The Senate actions came as amendments to the same 1990 State Department authorization bill that contains restrictions on U.S. contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The House adopted its resolution on the West Bank schools as an amendment to the 1990 foreign aid appropriations bill, which contains $3 billion in aid to Israel, all of it grants that do not have to be repaid.
The foreign aid bill, which has not yet been voted on by the Senate, also provides $25 million to resettle an estimated 10,000 Soviet, East European and other refugees in Israel. This fiscal year, $28 million was provided for that purpose.
ISRAEL CHASTISED BY SENATORS
It provides $12 million for assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip through private voluntary organizations. Under U.S. law, the funds can only be used for projects that help Palestinians.
The foreign aid bill earmarks $7.5 million to cooperative U.S.-Israeli projects in developing countries, many of which are in Africa.
The Senate resolution on the schools was sponsored by Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) and modified by Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R- Kan.). While Kassebaum eliminated language sharply critical of Israel, many senators participated in one of Israel’s biggest human rights beatings on the Senate floor this year.
The House resolution was sponsored by Rep. Howard Nielson (R-Utah) and modified by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.).
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee did not oppose the resolutions as amended.
Chafee argued that when youngsters are kept out of schools, particularly younger children, “it greatly slows their cognitive development.” He also complained that Israel authorities “would not even allow the distribution of homework.”
“By denying the children of the West Bank an education in recent months,” said Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), “Israel has been squandering the very basis of trust and cooperation by turning its back on the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of children.”
Hatfield said he was “very pleased” to hear that the schools were being reopened.
But the senator added, “I worry that some people in the Israeli government continue to believe, contrary to international law, that schools can be opened and closed at will — at political will.”
“If these children cannot learn in school, surely they will learn on the streets,” he said. “But the lessons they learn will not be reading and writing and arithmetic. They will be lessons of hatred and violence.”
Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) retorted that Palestinians had been using the schools “as a place to congregate stone-throwers.”