Thursday, August 04, 2022

By Daled Amos

Representative Andy Levin's defeat in the Democratic primaries has brought out his defenders, who staunchly defend his Jewish bonafides.

Like Mehdi Hassan, for example:

Because nothing establishes the unassailability of your position on Israel like being a synagogue president.

Sheesh, indeed.

If you do a search on Twitter, it seems that everyone knows that Levin was a synagogue president, and thinks it actually means something. Twitter doesn't track how many tweets come up, but in a Google search, over 9,500 hits come up.

More dishonest is Hassan's deft little twist that the opposition to Levin must be based on his support for Palestinian human rights -- a nice touch.

Peter Beinart certainly agrees:

Left unsaid is the fact that Jewish opposition to Levin was not about his support for Palestinian human rights.

Israel-supporters were more concerned with backing for the rights of Israelis in their homeland.

After all, Levin is the one who introduced the H.R.5344 - Two-State Solution Act, which if passed would have established (among other things):

o  It is the policy of the United States that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza are occupied territories and should be referred to as such consistently in official United States policies, communications, and documents.

o...the United States should maintain diplomatic relations with the Palestinians, including by reopening a United States consulate in Jerusalem and allowing for the reopening of the Palestine Liberation Organization foreign mission in the District of Columbia. [emphasis added]

So according to Andy Levin -- the Congressman and former synagogue president -- Jerusalem should once again be a divided city.

And according to Levin's bill, the Western Wall belongs to the Palestinian Arabs.

But the problem with Levin's stand goes beyond his wanting to undo Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem.

On November 18, 2019, Secretary of State Pompeo announced a change in US policy on Israeli settlements:

After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan: the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.

On November 21, Levin responded with a letter he initiated, signed by such Israel-haters as Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan, Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal, Henry Johnson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others.

A copy of Levin's letter, with the signatures, is available online.

Pompeo wasted no time in responding and rebutting Levin's claims, writing:

I am in receipt of your letter of November 21 in which you criticize the State Department’s determination that the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not categorically inconsistent with international law - a decision which you contend reverses “decades of bipartisan US policy on Israeli settlements.” You further argue. in conclusory fashion, that this determination “blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

While I appreciate your interest in this important issue, I could not disagree more with those two foolish positions. [emphasis added]

In response to Levin's claim that "the State Department's decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank," Pompeo wrote:

First, the State Department’s determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements. Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by Secretary Kerry made during the waning days of the Obama Administration, that the establishment of settlements was categorically inconsistent with international law. That determination was made in a failed attempt to justify the Obama Administration’s betrayal of Israel in allowing UNSCR 2334 — whose foundation was the purported illegality of the settlements and which referred to them as “a flagrant violation” of international law — to pass the Security Council on December 23, 2016. [emphasis added]

In response to Levin's claim that the US policy on settlements, as reflected in UN Resolution 2334 had bipartisan support, Pompeo reminded him:

Secretary Kerry’s determination did not enjoy bipartisan consensus. Rather, it received bipartisan condemnation, including from leading Democrats in both chambers of Congress. Indeed, an overwhelming number of Senators and House Members, on both sides of the aisle, supported resolutions objecting to the passage of UNSCR 2334. 

...No less a Democratic spokesman than the Senate Minority Leader [Schumer] publicly stated at his AIPAC address on March 5, 2018, that “it’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.” [emphasis added]

Levin goes so far as to challenge Pompeo on The Geneva Convention, "This State Department decision blatantly disregards Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which affirms that any occupying power shall not 'deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.'" -- which Levin apparently is taking literally, as if the Israeli government was actually transferring Israelis to these areas, a claim Pompeo rebuts with a reference to Eugene Rostow, former Dean of the Yale Law School and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the Johnson Administration. He was responsible for the draft of UNSCR 242, a foundation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Pompeo quotes Rostow, who stated in 1983 that “Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank.”

Former Ambassador David Friedman writes in his book, Sledgehammer:

I was deeply grateful that 106 members of the House, led by Congressman Andy Levin of Michigan, wrote to Pompeo to condemn his decision. Without that letter, the record supporting the decision might have been incomplete insofar as some members of the Legal Department at State were reluctant  participants.. But the letter created a platform for a more fulsome response. [p. 165]

Hassan, Beinart and other defenders of Levin will of course continue to attempt to muddy the waters on the reaction against Levin's attempt to impose his leftwing politics on Israel.

But the fact remains that Andy Levin no more represented support of the Democratic Party for Israel than did the Israel-haters he found it convenient to ally himself with.

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