The passing of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act in the Senate on Tuesday “will make America and the world safer,” Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, said in an op-ed published in The Hill on Saturday.
Block argued that the bipartisan nature of the bill and the widespread support that it had received meant “there remains an unshakable commitment at the heart of American democracy to strengthen our allies and defend U.S. interests in the Middle East.”
The Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, known as S.1, was approved in Congress’s upper chamber by a vote of 77-21.
The legislation includes provisions — supported by both Republicans and Democrats — to impose new sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria and guarantee security assistance to Israel and Jordan. The bills also include the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Combating BDS Act, legislation that are both supported by most major Jewish organizations.
To become law, the legislation would need to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where it is likely to face significant opposition due to concerns that the BDS bills could stifle free speech in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Block, however, observed that, “Rather than being a vehicle to infringe on First Amendment rights, it is a tool against hate and intolerance that has no place in America. It is still legal for individuals to boycott anything they like, just as no one is prevented from criticizing Israel.”
Instead of watering down legislation to confront anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate, Block said Congress should “pass legislation codifying the working definition of anti-Semitism, which 31 countries, including the United States, have been employing since 2016 through the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.”
Block also charged that the legislation “was more than just an act of solidarity with Israel.” Instead, he said, the bills will strengthen Arab allies in the Middle East and target the criminal regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
“Supported by Russia and Iran, Assad has unleashed a rampage against his own people, including the use of chemical weapons and the bombing of hospitals and schools,” Block noted. “Iran has used the chaos in Syria to finance, arm and train Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, and is doing the same with Shiite-militia groups in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen.”
Israel, he said, has made it clear it will not allow Iran to build a permanent military presence in Syria to use the country as a base for its nefarious activities across the Middle East.
“The bipartisan support witnessed in the Senate should be heartening to those who support a strong America,” Block concluded. “In the House of Representatives, a bipartisan majority is ready to echo the statement made by their Senate colleagues. We hope for swift passage in the House as well.”
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