ZOA Criticizes Sen. Leahy for Seeking Cut in U.S. Aid to Elite I.D.F. Forces
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for promoting a bill that seeks to cut from the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012 the component from U.S. military aid to Israel that is earmarked for three elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units – the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit. These units have been on the front lines protecting Israeli citizens in counter-terrorist operations, hunting down terrorists and securing Israel’s borders. In contrast, Senator Leahy has never called for reducing aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite the PA’s continuing failure to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorists groups, end the promotion of hatred and violence against Israel and its recently signed unity agreement with Hamas. In fact, he has supported increased aid to the PA.
The ZOA has noted that Senator Leahy’s effort to defund these IDF units has emerged under pressure in his home state from anti-Israel activists seeking to criminalize Israeli self-defense. These activists have sought to have Israel declared guilty of human rights abuses last year when the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit lawfully intercepted the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Mamara to ensure it was free of weaponry. Pro-Hamas operatives and other extremists on board carried out a pre-planned assault upon the Israeli boarding party, leading to the death of nine of the assailants in the resulting clash.
Leahy, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee’s sub-committee on foreign operations, was the principle sponsor of a 1997 bill prohibiting the United States from providing military assistance or funding to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes.
In recent years, Senator Leahy has been sharply critical of Israel, including of Operation Cast Lead, the counter-offensive launched against Hamas in Gaza following thousands of rockets fired into southern Israel over preceding years. Leahy claimed that Israel had a right to self-defense but then criticized Israel merely for imposing a blockade on Gaza, saying that it had failed to change Hamas policies. He did not ask whether the blockade’s effort to reduce the flow of weaponry to Hamas had been successful. Leahy also claimed that, “The blockade was not coupled with an effective strategy to address the underlying causes of the conflict.” Leahy found Hamas actions “deplorable” but did not say that Hamas needs to “address the underlying causes” of the conflict by ceasing to be a genocide-seeking terrorist movement calling in its Charter for the world-wide murder of Jews. Unsurprisingly, Leahy has become very close to J Street, the extremist, left-wing lobby which falsely claims to be pro-Israel while having urged Obama not to veto anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, refused to support Israel’s 2008-9 defensive military operations against Hamas in Gaza and which has lobbied against sanctions on Iran.
According to a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem, Leahy began promoting the legislation in recent months after he was approached by voters in his home state of Vermont. A few months ago, a group of anti-Israel protesters staged a rally across from Leahy’s office, demanding that he denounce the killing by Shayetet 13 commandos of nine Turkish activists on board the Mavi Mamara (Barak Ravid, ‘U.S. Senator seeks to cut aid to elite IDF units operating in West Bank and Gaza,’ Haaretz, August 16, 2011).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Senator Leahy has shown in recent years a propensity to blame Israel for the Arab war on Israel so it is therefore perhaps not surprising that he has now sought to penalize Israel for defending itself, as in the case of the Mavi Mamara affair.
“As Senator Leahy’s words regarding Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 show, he regards it, not as the job of Palestinians and the Arab world, but of Israel, to ‘address the underlying causes of the conflict.’ This is grotesque. The reason for the conflict is the Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state in the region and permit it to live in peace. Palestinians and the wider Arab world are responsible for this war and it is they who must address its underlying causes – Arab and Muslim supremacism and hatred that prevents them from accepting an Israel of any dimensions in the Middle East.
“Now, Senator Leahy has added fuel to the fire by seeking to penalize the brave, professional Israeli military forces that actually perform the dangerous and vital task of protecting Israeli civilians, the first duty of an Israeli government. He seeks to defund parts of the IDF on the basis of allegations of human rights abuses by long-term, hardened, anti-Israel extremists.
“The IDF is not only the indispensible defense force of Israel, it is also an amazingly valuable U.S. ally whose combat experience, innovation and intelligence-gathering have been of immense value to the United States and the U.S. armed forces. This is particularly so in the last decade during which U.S. forces have been battling murderous terrorist groups in different corners of the globe. The Israeli forces that have had the most experience of dealing with ruthless, blood-thirsty terrorists are precisely the elite units that Senator Leahy has specifically sought to defund.
“But I really shouldn’t be surprised as Leahy’s wrong-headed anti-Israel action. In 1994, I and another ZOA activist attended a 13-hour House-Senate conference committee meeting that lasted from 3 PM in the afternoon to 4AM in the morning where, during breaks, we urged the legislators to pass the Specter-Shelby-Lowey amendment, proposed by US Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). The amendment would hold Yasser Arafat’s PA accountable for its pro-terror, anti-peace actions by linking U.S. financial aid to their fulfilling their signed Oslo obligations to fight and end terrorism and incitement and abrogate the PLO covenant which called for Israel’s destruction. The amendment passed (it was one of 160 amendments discussed that night – and it passed with the help of U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)). Senator Leahy, who was chairing this meeting, was furious. (I must add that, during a break, as I was walking around the room speaking to legislators, I happened to see a note from the Clinton White House in front of Leahy’s seat, saying, ‘Kill the Specter-Shelby amendment.’) Senator Leahy, then, in his stockinged feet, rushed over to me and my ZOA colleague fuming and angrily proclaimed, ‘By fighting against U.S. aid to Arafat’s PA, which is in America’s interest, you’ve shown you’re not real Americans.’ My associate, a tough female lawyer, was so shaken by Leahy’s remark, she began to weep, whispering to me that Leahy has essentially accused us, as Jews, of not being loyal Americans. We were both shocked that Sen. Leahy seemed to raise the old canard against Jews of ‘dual loyalty’.
- “Senator Leahy has given grist to the mill of the world-wide movement to delegitimize Israel and we criticize him for it. He should immediately withdraw his disgraceful proposal to penalize legitimate acts of Israeli self-defense by defunding elite IDF units.”