Christian pro-Israel group lobbies to cut funding to Palestinians


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Christians United for Israel activists will lobby for a congressional bill that cuts nearly all U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for or killed in attacks on Israelis.

The pro-Israel group, meeting this week in Washington, D.C., for its 12th conference, on Tuesday also will push a measure that expands anti-boycott laws to target the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Some 5,000 activists are attending the conference.

The United States currently provides some $300 million a year to the Palestinian Authority.

“Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian government, by legislation, by law, gives rich financial rewards to anyone who kills an Israeli,” David Brog, the founding executive director of CUFI and an active board member, told activists in a briefing Monday. “So long as the Palestinian government is paying money to terrorists, we should stop giving money to the Palestinian government.”

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are considering versions of the bill, which is named for Taylor Force, an American student slain in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv in 2016. Mostly just Republicans are supporting the measure.

The other bill backed by CUFI, the Israeli Anti-Boycott Act, would expand 1970s-era laws that make illegal compliance with boycotts of Israel sponsored by governments — laws inspired at the time by the Arab League boycott of Israel — to include boycotts backed by international organizations.

While the measure is aimed at the BDS movement, it also targets efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to distinguish products manufactured in Israel from those manufactured in West Bank settlements. It has bipartisan support.

“The threat today is coming from international organizations,” Brog said.

The conference mood was one of jubilation and celebration of the Donald Trump presidency; CUFI had vigorously opposed policies of the administration of President Barack Obama, particularly its deal with Iran to grant sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. CUFI’s founder, Pastor John Hagee, earned a long standing ovation just for mentioning Trump. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak.

A year ago Gary Bauer, the director of CUFI’s new Washington office, said to applause, “From one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the next we had people who were not blessing Israel, they were cursing Israel.”

CUFI has over 3.5 million members.

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