By Richard Edmondson
In the photo above we see US Congressman Ed Royce of California discussing HR 11, a resolution he introduced condemning the UN Security Council for its recent action on Israeli settlements. You’ll also notice, to Royce’s right, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen brushing her hair with a pink hairbrush.
The scene is from a debate in Congress which took place on January 5, 2017. Royce and a number of other congressional representatives (342 of them in all) became hot and bothered over the UN’s pointing out (correctly of course) that the settlements are illegal. The photo is a screen shot I took from a C-Span video. It’s a long video, more than eight hours, but if you advance it to about the 5:19:52 mark, you can watch the entire House debate on HR 11, which not surprisingly includes a lot of groveling to Israel (hat tip to Greg Bacon).
Just to refresh your memory, the Security Council, by a vote of 14-0 with 1 abstention, passed a resolution on December 23 “condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.” Voting in favor were Russia, China, Malaysia, Venezuela, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Uruguay, France, Angola, Egypt, Japan, UK, Ukraine; the lone abstention was by the US.
The Security Council action was welcomed by a good many people the world over, although Benjamin Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum, claiming to have “absolute” proof the Obama administration had been secretly behind it. Other critics accused the US of a “betrayal” of its longtime “ally,” and an enormous amount of controversy erupted over the issue in the waning days of 2016 and carrying over into the new year.
Of course, anytime a dispute emerges between the US and Israel, members of Congress can always be counted upon to side with the latter rather than with their own nation–and this time was no exception.
“Today we put Congress on record objecting to the recent UN Security Council resolution that hurt our ally, that hurt Israel, and I believe that puts an enduring peace further out of reach,” fretted Royce.
Let me call once again your attention to the image of Ros-Lehtinen brushing her hair, for throughout a good portion of Royce’s speech, the Florida congresswoman–apparently unaware she was on camera–seemed preoccupied with primping and applying makeup to herself, this presumably in an effort to make herself look “beautiful.”
In the first frame of the montage below we see her with the pink hairbrush, followed by a shot of her rummaging in her purse. In the third frame she pulls out what appears to be lipstick or eyeliner (I’m not an expert on women’s makeup), and lastly applying it with her right hand while still holding the container with her left hand.
In the following three frames we see a now cosmetically-adorned Ros-Lehtinen giving her speech before Congress and the C-Span cameras:
“Our closest friend and ally, the democratic, Jewish state of Israel, has been under constant attack by the United Nations,” she claimed.
The Security Council resolution that occasioned Ros-Lehtinen’s diatribe specifically is entitled UNSC Resolution 2334. I put up a post about it on December 24 that contains its full text. The measure expresses “grave concern” that settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, are “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.” It also:
1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
For Ros-Lehtinen, however, UNSC Resolution 2334 was nothing more than an execrable attempt to “delegitimize” Israel–and all the more reason why swift passage by Congress of HR 11 was needed to repudiate it!
This resolution, Mr. speaker, will not undo the damage that has been done at the Security Council, but it sends an important message to the world that the United States Congress resoundingly, and in a strong bipartisan manner, disapproves of the vote taken on resolution 2334, and it sends a warning to the nations that will gather in Paris next week to discuss the peace process that there will be repercussions if there is a move to introduce a parameters resolution before the 20th and in an effort to further isolate Israel. Our closest friend and ally, the democratic, Jewish state of Israel, has been under constant attack by the United Nations. Abu Mazen and the Palestinians have pushed a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, to undermine the peace process, to achieve unilateral statehood recognition.
For some reason–I’m not quite sure why–the sight of Ros-Lehtinen primping and then fulminating at the podium brought to mind a picture I once saw of an economically-impoverished elderly woman kissing a bird.
I first came across this image several years ago in a poem posted by Nahida the exiled Palestinian, whose website, Poetry for Palestine, can be found here. Her poem is entitled “Beauty.” It is not a lengthy poem at all. In fact, it contains a mere five very short, but very powerful, lines:
Sometimes, beauty is mistakenly understood;
If someone is beautiful, they are always good,
When truth is
When someone is good, they are always beautiful.
The woman whose picture accompanies the poem is beautiful in a way that Ros-Lehtinen is not. In addition to berating the Security Council, the Florida congresswoman also attacked the UN Human Rights Council.
“We’ve seen it at the Human Rights Council where Israel is constantly demonized and falsely accused of human rights violations while the real abusers of human rights go unpunished because that body has utterly failed to uphold its mandate,” she insisted. “This is a body that allows the worst abusers of human rights–like Cuba, Venezuela, and China–to actually sit in judgement of human rights worldwide. What a pathetic joke!”
It’s interesting that Ros-Lehtinen would single out Cuba, Venezuela, and China as being among “the worst abusers of human rights,” while saying nothing–zip–zero–about Saudi Arabia, a country that executes people by beheading and which currently holds the chair of the Human Rights Council.
Exceptions were taken to other UN deliberative bodies as well.
“We’ve seen this scheme to delegtimize Israel at the General Assembly where in its closing legislative session, the General Assembly passed twenty–twenty–anti-Israel resolutions and only four combined for the entire world!” Ros-Lehtinen bellowed.
“These institutions have no credibility, and now we have the unfortunate circumstance of the White House deciding to abstain from this anti-Israel, one-sided resolution at the Security Council,” she added. “Our ally was abandoned, and credibility and momentum were given to the Palestinians’ schemes to delegitimize the Jewish state, to undermine the peace process, and while the damage has been done, Mr. Speaker, by this act of cowardice at the Security Council, we will have an opportunity to reverse that damage.”
What exactly she meant by “we will have an opportunity to reverse that damage” is unclear. Possibly the Trump administration has some plan to introduce a new measure at the UN. In any event, Ros-Lehtinen clearly seems to be a person of both inner and outer ugliness–though of course she is not the only member of Congress with such attributes. Perhaps the most groveling speech of all those given in Congress on January 5 was that delivered by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“The cornerstone of our special relationship with Israel has always been right here in Congress, this institution,” said Ryan. “The heart of our democracy has stood by the Jewish state through thick and thin. We were there for her when rockets rained down on Tel Aviv; we were there for her by passing historic legislation to combat the boycott divestment and sanctions movement; and we’ve been there for her by ensuring Israel has the tools to defend herself against those who seek her destruction.”
“I am stunned! I am stunned!” the House speaker continued, “at what happened last month! This government, our government, abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most! Do not be fooled. This UN Security Council resolution was not about settlements, and it certainly was not about peace. It was about one thing and one thing only. Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state. These types of one-sided efforts are designed to isolate and delegitimize Israel. They do not advance peace, they make it more elusive.”
If Ryan was the supreme groveler in the debate, Royce would probably have to rank a close second. One thing which seemed terribly to incense the California congressman about the Security Council resolution is that it doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to steal East Jerusalem.
“This dangerous resolution effectively states that the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, are in the words of the resolution ‘occupied territory.’ Why would we not veto that?” asked Royce.
“It also lends legitimacy to efforts by the Palestinian authority to put pressure on Israel through the UN rather than to go through the process of engaging in direct negotiations, and it puts wind in the sails of the shameful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,” he added.
Royce also claimed that Israel, not Occupied Palestine, is suffering “bullying and harassment.” That may sound like the statement of someone living in a parallel universe, but it is a view shared by New York Congressman Eliot Engel, one of HR 11’s original cosponsors.
“Throughout its entire history the state of Israel has never gotten a fair shake from the United Nations,” insisted Engel. “Year after year after year member states manipulate the UN to bully our ally Israel, to pile on one-sided resolutions placing all the blame for the ongoing conflict on Israel.”
Even those representatives who spoke in opposition to HR 11, did so while expressing their support for Israel at the same time. One such member was Rep. David Price, a Democrat from North Carolina.
“The fact is, H Res 11 runs a real risk of undermining the US Congress as a proactive force working toward a two-state solution,” Price lamented. ” And in this period of great geopolitical turmoil and uncertainty, we must reaffirm those fundamental aspects of our foreign policy, including our strong and unwavering support for Israel, while also demonstrating to the world that we are committed to a diplomacy that defends human rights and promotes Israeli and Palestinian states that live side-by-side in peace and security, a formulation that has characterized our country’s diplomacy for decades.”
Another who voted against HR 11 was Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois who is also married to Robert Creamer, the Democrat Party operative who was seen in a Project Veritas video discussing plans to have protestors show up at Trump rallies during the campaign. Schakowsky feels that a little bit of criticism of Israel is allowable at times, and furthermore she holds to this belief as a “proud Jew,” as she stated to her colleagues.
“I stand here as a proud Jew and someone who throughout my entire life has been an advocate for the state of Israel, and I am standing here to oppose our H Res 11,” said the Illinois congresswoman. “And as a member of congress I have been committed to maintaining America’s unwavering support for Israel, which has lasted from the very first moments of Israel’s existence. The US-Israel bond is unbreakable, despite the fact that the United States administrations have not always agreed with the particular policies of an Israeli government.”
Yes, to be sure, our own government and Israel’s have not always seen eye-to-eye, but funny how that never seems to stop the billions in US tax dollars flowing into the Jewish state’s coffers each year. Schakowsky went on:
Presidents from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush have each vetoed, and sometimes voted for, a UN resolution contrary to the wishes of Israel’s government at the time, and only the Obama administration, until two weeks ago, never, ever cast a vote against what Israel wanted. But opposition to the building of settlements on land belonging to Palestinians before the 1967 war was, with the exception of the land, of course, that’s going to be swapped, agreed to by both parties, has been the official US policy for many decades, contrary, again, to the assertions of H Res 11. It has also been the policy of the United States to recognize that the only long term solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the violence, the loss of life, is to create two states, one for the Palestinians and one for Israel.
Exactly how a contiguous Palestinian state is going to be created in a West Bank splotched and dotted with all those settlements, is something Schakowsky left unaddressed. But having voiced a few mild criticisms of Israel, the congresswoman apparently felt an overwhelming need for balance–and so she tossed out a few criticisms of the Palestinians for good measure.
“A two-state solution is the only way Israel can continue as both a democratic and a Jewish state living in peace and security that has eluded her from the very beginning,” she said. “The building of settlements is an obstacle to achieving that goal–and of course settlements aren’t the only obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US resolution reiterates the Palestinian Authority security forces must continue to counter terrorism and condemn all of the provocations.”
Provocations? It’s an interesting word when referring to a people who have been resisting land theft and occupation for more years than most of us have been alive. It also gives rise to a question: How is it possible to carry out “provocations” against a country or governmental entity that technically speaking is in all likelihood guilty of the crime of genocide? Of course it’s unlikely you’ll get an honest answer to that question from Schakowsky or any other member of Congress.
At any rate, HR 11–a resolution which not only impugns the Security Council but even criticizes the United States–passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-80, with 4 abstentions. You can go here to see the roll call on the vote.
It was Jeffrey Blankfort who first coined the old saying about Washington being Israel’s “most important occupied territory.” I think it was sometime back in the late eighties or the nineties when Jeffrey made that comment, and if anything, over the years, it has become more profoundly true than ever.