United States Ambassador, David Friedman, Tells State Department to Flout the Law

By Edith Garwood, Country Specialist — Israel/OPT/Palestine for Amnesty International USA

An influential, highly placed figure in the administration has written State Department staff telling them to flout the law — and it’s not gotten the attention it should.

Nahal Toosi, Foreign Affairs Correspondent at Politico, published an article June 15, 2018 saying she had seen emails written by United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, addressed to State Department officials, telling them to ignore U.S. law and basically “not second-guess the Israeli military”. This is a BIG deal.

There has been growing concern that U.S. military aid to Israel, currently estimated at over $3 billion USD annually, as well as aid to other countries in the Middle East, has been used to commit gross human rights violations. With growing concerns, the Department of State requested U.S. embassies in the region review more carefully, how U.S. security assistance was being utilized.

Ms. Toosi stated, “The goal was to ensure the department wasn’t violating a law barring U.S. security aid to foreign military units that commit serious human rights abuses.”

While Amnesty International USA has not seen the Ambassador’s emails just yet, any reports of a senior administration official encouraging the violation of U.S. law is extremely alarming.

Foreign Assistance Act measures, in particular the Leahy amendment, are important provisions aimed at making sure U.S. military aid is not used to commit gross violations of human rights.

Recently, Amnesty International identified US-made Remington M24 rifles as being used by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians during protests along the fence with Gaza. Over 100 Palestinians were killed and thousands critically injured, including paramedics, reporters, and children.

Amnesty International has documented the use of U.S. made weapons and munitions by Israeli forces in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law for years: Hellfire missiles, tear gas, Apache helicopters, white phosphorous — even militarized Caterpillar bulldozers.

In light of this record, the U.S. government must investigate how U.S. military aid to the country is being used, rather than trying to subvert our own laws to provide yet more military aid.

As the largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices, as well as training and techniques to Israel, the U.S. government bears a particular responsibility for the military aid it provides.

In addition to or instead of a more careful review, the United States should suspend transfers of munitions, weapons, crowd control devices, and military training to Israel immediately.

The arms transfers should not resume until and unless Israel stops violating human rights across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that these transfers will not be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Israel must also put in place credible accountability processes for past violations.

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