Posted on February 16, 2017 in Countdown

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Welcome to the "Whatever They Want" Era for Israel and Palestine

We here at AAI are quickly learning the difference between "shock" and "surprise" when it comes to all the issues we deal with most seriously. We are SHOCKED that the President reversed decades of bipartisan U.S. policy with a grin and a giggle yesterday when he refused to endorse the two-state solution regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But were we SURPRISED? Nope. Alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump said he will support any deal - one state or two - that Israelis and Palestinians want. And when Netanyahu proceeded to describe the state Israel wants (one with "overriding security control" over the entire area, one that does not end the occupation, and one that does not guarantee Palestinians equal rights, and one that pedals in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry) our U.S. President stood by and smiled and promised "a lot of love" in the relationship between our countries. It was all incredibly shocking. Including the moment when President Trump shamefully could not clearly condemn anti-semitism. But this is where U.S. policy has been headed for years (save the anti-semitism debacle). Congress in particular is responsible for the room Trump has been given to enact this dramatic policy shift. Relentless reinforcement of Israel's right to have anything it wants (money, diplomatic cover, safety from any pressure to negotiate or compromise, anything) allowed the two state solution to die and seemingly lined the U.S. up firmly on the side of permanent occupation. Now today - in a ceremonial crowning of the Trump/Bibi apartheid inevitability - Trump's nominee for Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was questioned by our altogether terrible Senators who are in part responsible for where we are at today. It's all too painful to watch. But we are watching.


Flynn Flees But Can He Hide? Yes, if the Inconsistent Congress Has Its Way

President Trump's "Team America" squad lost one of its most notorious Islamophobes this week when General Michael Flynn was asked (or not asked?) to tender his resignation as National Security Advisor. Aside from basic competency issues that embarrassed the President, Gen. Flynn got himself into quite a pickle when the web of U.S. surveillance caught his phone call(s?) to Russian diplomats prior to Donald Trump's inauguration. With Russian malfeasance and abiding concern of those who care about the integrity of U.S. democracy, the bombshell revelations of Flynn's unsanctioned phone calls to Russian leaders have reopened the plentiful question marks about the relationship Russia has with the Trump campaign and White House. But here's what matters: Congressional action. And - ridiculously - we can't promise you Congress will choose to investigate the role of a adversarial foreign government in influencing a presidential election and shaping U.S. foreign policy favorably. Several key members of the House of Representatives who once thrived in their duties to oversee the Executive, are now sheepishly dithering on whether they want to formally investigate Flynn and the broader Trump-Russia connection. Members of Congress like Jason Chaffetz (R, UT-3) and David Nunes (R, CA-22) - who participated in the Benghazi investigation and are staunch supporters of vast surveillance powers - are now saying that they are more troubled by the intelligence community's surveillance of Flynn than the findings of the surveillance. So instead of investigating Flynn, they'll investigate leaks about Flynn. The Senate - ever the adult - is being more patriotic about the matter and promising a thorough investigation into Russian connections. But we're left trying to imagine how the Watergate scandal would have played out if Congress chose not to investigate the scandal itself, but the leak. It's a different world. 


Immigrant Raids & Drastic Cuts to Aid

Executive Orders keep coming and it's beginning to feel like a game of Red Rover where the whole concerned community of civil rights advocates are trying to find a weak link to break through. With legal challenges pending and public opinion continuing to rage against the Muslim Ban, we are holding our breath after President Trump said today that he is preparing a second, revised travel ban to be released next week. But while we wait and prepare, we're trying to be careful not to let other wildly offensive Executive Orders go without note and resistance. We are extremely concerned about rumors that the Trump administration is preparing one or maybe two orders that will further erode the immigration legacy of the United States. As if the surge in hate crimes, horrifying ICE raids and deportations, and the increasing climate of fear is not enough, these rumored orders seek to slow down and limit the legal immigration system in undemocratic ways.. They do that by making legal immigration subject to a determination that the person applying for a visa or a green card will not likely become dependent on federal assistance programs - like food stamps. This is wrong headed, factually off-base, and despicable, truly. Far from being a drain on the U.S. economy or costing American jobs, we know that immigrants massively contribute to thriving U.S. businesses and society, and immigrants are less dependent on federal assistance than U.S.-born individuals. This Executive Order - if it is issued or even if it isn't - is already being an effective dog whistle to nativists and pandering to Trump's many anti-immigrant campaign supporters. Today, on this #DayWithoutImmigrants, we not only stand for the immigrants that are currently in the U.S., but the future immigrants who will bring so much value, worth, and American spirit with them in the future.


Congress Can't Outrun the Chaos or the Protests

As Congress prepares to go back home for a 7-day recess starting on President's Day weekend, it is clear that Congress is more than a bit nervous about what awaits them at home. There has been no shortage of testy town halls across the country where citizens have gathered to hear (and sometimes yell) at their representatives for a whole variety of reasons. After two weekends of embarrassing scenes for Republicans, it's being reported that over 200 Republican members of Congress are skipping out on their fundamental duty to engage with, listen to, and faithfully represent their constituents interests. Just like the 2009 Tea Party town halls that launched the success of the populist movement in the Republican Party, progressive Democrats are also making a bit of a lasting splash at these town halls. But while the politics might be important to some, what's important to us is that Arab Americans across the country use this Congressional recess to demand your representatives hear your voice. So many of the issues - from the Muslim Ban to healthcare to changing U.S. policy on Palestine - require Congressional leadership to push back and help shape White House policy. You can request a meeting with your representative by clicking here, or see if your representative is one of the courageous few who will hold a town hall in your district by searching this online database. And before you do, check out AAI's resources on the issues we think matter most. #YallaEngage