- Bipartisan opposition intensifies in Congress against admin’s reported plan to provide Iran additional economic benefits
Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to oppose the administration’s proposal to allow Iran access to the U.S. dollar and indirect access to the U.S. financial system. Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.) on Wednesday blasted the additional relief, stating, “Allowing Iran to access the U.S. dollar would be seen as additional concessions and rewarding poor behavior. Iran does not deserve this benefit, which I am worried could be used to further finance global terror.” Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) expressed his opposition, writing, “The Treasury Department should not allow Iran to conduct business with the U.S. dollar. At a time when Iran is funding terrorism across the region, pursuing a destabilizing ballistic missile program, and threatening Israel's existence, the Administration should not consider allowing it access to our financial system.” Opposition from members of Congress from both parties has been building over the past two weeks. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.) asserted in The Washington Post that Iran is “demanding additional concessions — above and beyond the [nuclear] agreement — in return for nothing.” He continued, “That’s why I’m working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle on legislation to put in place strict statutory prohibitions to keep Iran from receiving the benefits of accessing the U.S. financial system.” Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced a new bill on Wednesday prohibiting Iran from gaining access to the U.S. dollar.
Sanctions expert and executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) Mark Dubowitz and Eric Lorber, a former Treasury Department lawyer and senior advisor at FDD, explained in a call with the Foreign Policy Initiative the consequences of providing Iran with such a concession. Lorber made the case that providing Iran access to the dollar would undermine U.S. leverage against Iran, describing it as a “significant coercive tool that we have in our tool kit.” Dubowitz said that given the size of the concession, the U.S. should demand concessions from Iran in areas such as terrorism, ballistic missiles, and human rights. Previously, Dubowitz warned that if the administration allows this, “it is the end of U.S. sanctions on Iran.” Moreover, he, along with Annie Fixler, a policy analyst at FDD, concluded that “the next president’s ability to target Iran's malign activities with non-nuclear sanctions will be much more difficult if billions of dollarized transactions are green lighted. The next administration won’t easily be able to reverse this once it is in motion.”
A United Nations office has coordinated the donation of millions of dollars to NGOs that are highly critical of Israel, and has helped those groups disseminate their information, a new report by the watchdog group NGO Monitor has documented.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is responsible for “bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies,” as it describes on its website. In practice, its office that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (OCHA-oPt) has helped convene and fund numerous NGOs that almost uniformly are critical of Israel.
This year, OCHA-oPt requested $571 million from international donors to support controversial NGOs, including Islamic Relief Worldwide, which was outlawed by Israel in June 2014 for its alleged role in funneling money to the terrorist organization Hamas; multiple organizations like Norwegian Peoples Aid and the Ma’an Development Center that support and mobilize anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns; and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a leader of anti-Israel “lawfare” campaigns. The UN organization’s 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan alleges that “the primary responsibility [for the conflict] lies with the occupying power”—Israel. To solve this, OCHA wrote, its partners “will prioritize victims seeking accountability for [international law] violations.” But Israeli victims of Palestinian violence will not have access to these services, the report noted.
OCHA-oPt publishes scheduled reports, fact sheets, and other publications that “promote a narrative based solely on Palestinian victimization and Israeli aggression, while minimizing Palestinian terror, rejectionism, incitement, and legitimate Israeli national security concerns,” NGO Monitor wrote. For example, a February report documented the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, but did not specify how many of them were killed while attempting to attack Israeli civilians, soldiers, or police officers, as has happened repeatedly since the current wave of violence began in September. Much of OCHA-oPt’s reports contain data and information from pro-Palestinian NGOs, the PLO, and even Hamas, and yet almost never cite statistics from Israeli sources like the Israel Defense Forces or the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the NGO Monitor report alleged.
OCHA also organizes “Thematic Clusters,” which convene UN agencies, government donors, and NGOs to collaborate on activities. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, OCHA’s “Protection Cluster” designated groups like B’Tselem and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights to provide casualty statistics that were subsequently cited in UN reports, the media, and by government officials. These groups appeared to have been repeating information originating with Hamas officials in Gaza, NGO Monitor wrote.
OCHA’s politicization extends beyond Israel. Its 2016 humanitarian response plan for Syria was changed after OCHA “altered dozens of passages and omitted pertinent information to paint the government of Bashar al-Assad in a more favorable light,” Foreign Policy reported.
OCHA-oPt’s budget, which in 2013 was nearly five million dollars, is largely provided by the European Union and constituent states like Belgium, Spain, Norway, and Sweden.
The University of Haifa and East China Normal University (ECNU), the largest university in Shanghai, have announced plans to build a laboratory building on the ECNU campus for the joint Shanghai-Haifa Research Center. This is the first institution of its kind in which Israeli and Chinese researchers are working together. The agreement to establish the Shanghai-Haifa Research Center was signed 10 months ago but, at the time, the center was expected to be located in a room in the Global Education Park at ECNU’s international campus. The cooperative academic venture has now announced that the center will be housed in a new laboratory building. “The establishment of the joint building is a massive step forward in the academic cooperation, and evidence of the great importance ECNU attaches to cooperation with the University of Haifa. We are joining a very exclusive list of leading world universities, such as Cornell and NYU, that have reached this level of cooperation with ECNU,” said University of Haifa President Amos Shapira. The new center will serve as a joint base for researchers, as well as for training doctorate students from both ECNU and the University of Haifa. For Israeli researchers this means they will be allowed to compete, together with their Chinese colleagues, for research grants from Chinese research foundations. It is estimated that the Chinese government invested some $40 billion in academic research funds in 2013 alone. The new building will be funded entirely by the Chinese: the initial sum of $3 million has been provided by the Chinese government and the promoter who will construct the building. It will include laboratories in four research fields: ecology, big data, biomedicine, and neurobiology. (via Israel21c)