Countdown Vol 21 No 3

Posted on July 24, 2019 in Countdown

Click here to subscribe to Countdown, AAI's weekly take on news from Washington, around the country, and abroad.


Piling On the Victims

Israel’s slow-motion ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem continues, with dozens of Palestinian homes destroyed this week. The Israeli government, whose control of East Jerusalem is illegal in the first place, had the Orwellian audacity to declare Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem illegal. Meanwhile in Congress, the House voted to pass H.Res. 246, a resolution attacking the BDS campaign with distortions and flat-out fabrications. In more Orwellian audacity, the resolution condemned a campaign aiming to bring peace and justice to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for allegedly being destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” All in all, 22 House members had the courage to NOT support this ridiculous resolution (17 opposing and 5 abstaining). Some of them even slammed this resolution, from a powerful floor speech by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to a strongly-worded letter by Congresswoman Betty McCollum. But this isn’t just a time to express frustration (and, boy, are we all frustrated), this is a time to take action. Want to know what you can do to counteract this madness? Tell Congress to support H.Res.496,  a resolution introduced by Representatives Ilhan Omar, John Lewis, and Rashida Tlaib, affirming the First Amendment-protected right of all Americans to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad.


You’re in CONTEMPT! ... of Congress?

Last  week, it was reported that Congress voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress. Um, what exactly does that mean, you wonder? Here’s a simple breakdown: Congressional subpoenas are an important way for Congress to compel testimony from witnesses and conduct research and oversight, so it's a crime to ignore them. Here, Barr and Ross were held in contempt over failure to comply with subpoenas regarding the attempted, but failed, addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census. It only takes one Chamber to hold someone in contempt, and afterward Congress has four options: (1) Recommend the DOJ prosecute the individual, (2) Direct the House Sergeant-at-Arms to handcuff and detain the individual, (3) Grant legal standing to a specific Committee to file a civil lawsuit against the individual, or (4) Do nothing, and the vote becomes purely symbolic. Option 2 sounds pretty dramatic, but in the current climate, our money is on the do nothing option. Do you really expect anything else?


For the Love of Democracy

How many years does the average special interest group leader serve in prison for undermining our democracy with big money donations to politicians? Zero years, because special interest influence over politicians is 100% legal. But you know who was sentenced to 5 years in prison?  Crystal Mason, a Texas citizen and resident of Tarrant County, who is set to serve time for... trying to vote. Here’s what happened: In 2016, Mason cast a provisional ballot while she was on “federal supervised release,” a preliminary period out of federal prison for those who have completed their time of incarceration. Later, she was arrested for what the state considered illegal voting and sentenced to (we have to repeat this because it’s unbelievable) 5 years in prison. Mason, who maintains she wasn’t told that she wasn’t allowed to vote while on federal supervised release, is appealing the case and seeking a new trial - this time she’ll be represented by the ACLU and the Texas Civil Rights Project. By the way, did we mention she is black? Who knows, that might be relevant when considering that a white judge in the same county who “forged dozens of voter signatures to get on the ballot” last year somehow managed to avoid jail time. A judge who knows the law forging signatures to influence an election? No jail time. A woman voting when she may have not known she was not allowed to vote? 5 years in prison. Makes total sense!


Not a Counter-Terrorism Fight

Last week, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced a resolution calling on the federal government to designate Antifa and its affiliates as domestic terrorist organizations. This led many within the media to ask, “Yeah, well what about violent white supremacists?” They’re right, white supremacist violence is a far greater threat than anything posed by Antifa, but responding to that threat with new counterterrorism measures, like a list of designated domestic terrorist organizations, is not the answer. Any time we consider providing the federal government with new powers, even when the intentions are good, we have to think about how those powers could be used against targeted or vulnerable communities. After all, we know the federal government has already used existing counterterrorism powers to surveil nonviolent groups exercising their constitutional rights, not to mention entire communities through programs like Countering Violent Extremism. With a track record like that, how can we know that additional powers won’t be used to further exacerbate existing inequalities?



Who loves community advocacy? Duh, we do! Especially when we get amazing success stories like this one. Just this past month, the state of New Jersey agreed to provide voter registration forms in Arabic. Thanks to local efforts and the advocacy of the Palestinian American Community Center (PACC), Arabic speakers and readers will be able to register to vote in Arabic ahead of the 2019 New Jersey state elections and 2020 Presidential election, and beyond. The amazing new registration form can be accessed here! Want a piece of this in your community? Visit our blog to learn how you can be cool and reform voting rights in your state, too.