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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) supports "crushing sanctions" against Russia for violating international law in Ukraine—while remaining one of Israel's staunchest supporters in Congress. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

US Lawmakers Slammed for Double Standard on Russian, Israeli Crimes

"While U.S. politicians have jumped over themselves to sanction Russia back to the Stone Age, widespread anti-BDS sentiment among politicians has advocates iced out of public debate."

Brett Wilkins

Rights advocates this week accused U.S. lawmakers of hypocrisy for backing severe sanctions to punish Russian aggression in Ukraine while unconditionally supporting Israel and condemning efforts to hold it accountable for violating international law in Palestine.

"Members of Congress have shown their hypocrisy on this issue by supporting anti-BDS legislation when it comes to demanding accountability for Israel's human rights violations."

"We are watching at this moment a really horrific set of violations of international law and human rights in Ukraine, and we're seeing an international response that is unified, robust, and also completely hypocritical," Yousef Munayyer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, D.C., told Politico.

Munayyer—who supports the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights—stressed that "Russia should be held accountable" for its invasion of Ukraine, while noting the disparate treatment by U.S. lawmakers of Palestinians and Ukrainians resisting aggression.

"Members of Congress have shown their hypocrisy on this issue by supporting anti-BDS legislation when it comes to demanding accountability for Israel's human rights violations," he said, "but now they are all for these kinds of efforts" targeting Russia.

Before Russian troops even invaded Ukraine, lawmakers from both parties supported stringent sanctions in response to what Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called Russia's "brazen violation of international law" for declaring Moscow-backed separatist enclaves in Donetsk and Luhansk independent.

Russia's actions constitute flagrant violations of international law. So do Israel's, according to prominent international organizations and human rights groups. The nearly 55-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the construction and expansion of exclusively Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities, the blockade of Gaza, the killing and of wounding of civilians during military operations ranging from wars to protest suppression, and other policies and actions—including what prominent Israeli and international rights groups call apartheid—all run afoul of international law.

As the Biden administration and an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress support severe sanctions targeting the Russian government and economy, they remain steadfast supporters of Israel—which receives $3.8 billion in unconditional annual U.S. aid—and vocal opponents of efforts to boycott the nation.

In 2019, House members approved a resolution condemning BDS by a vote of 398-17. Last week, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) reintroduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act—which in a previous iteration threatened violators with up to $1 million in fines and as many as 20 years' imprisonment—on the same day he called for an immediate end to Russian oil imports.

Politico fellow Joseph Gedeon noted Monday that "while U.S. politicians have jumped over themselves to sanction Russia back to the Stone Age, widespread anti-BDS sentiment among politicians has advocates iced out of public debate."

Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Politico that "the U.S. has sanctions against many countries that haven't invaded their neighbors. But whereas the international community mobilized swiftly to confront Russia's occupation of Ukraine, it has done very little to roll back Israel's occupation." 

"It's exactly this lack of any real accountability or constraint on Israel that ultimately led to the BDS movement," he added.


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