Mon, May

Ted Lieu Among Prominent Democrats Supporting New $26 Billion Military Aid Deal Fueling Conflict from DC to Israel


GUEST OP/ED - On Saturday, 4/20/14, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) joined 366 other members of Congress to vote for a $26 billion dollar Israel supplemental war spending bill that includes $14 billion in unconditional military aid, five billion for missile defense, $3.5 billion for advanced weapons systems and one billion dollars for large caliber guns. 

Only 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted against the spending bill despite overwhelming public support for a ceasefire in Gaza, where to date Israel has killed or maimed over 100,000 Palestinians and destroyed every university to commit the crime of scholasticide--the destruction of centers of knowledge to erase a peoples history and culture. 

While Lieus vote to arm the slaughter in starving Gaza was soul-crushing, it was not surprising given his decades of patronage to the Israel lobby, which saw him sponsor legislation to collaborate with Israel to develop high energy directed weapons that can paralyze protesters by heating the molecules under their skin and vote in committee to punish South Africa for trying to hold Israel accountable for  violating the UN Convention on Genocide.

Moreover, only six out of Californias 51 House members opposed the additional military funding for Israel. The six dissenters, all Democrats, were congress members John Garamendi (CA-08/Richmond); Judy Chu (CA-28/Claremont); Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10 /Walnut Creek), Barbara Lee (CA-12/Oakland), Mark Takano (CA-39/Riverside), and Maxine Waters (CA-43/Hawthorne). 

Of the California congressional delegation, the largest in the country, Lieuwho emigrated from Taiwan at age three may be among the most influential Democrats on Capitol Hill, where in 2022 he was elected vice-chair of the Democratic Caucus.

For this reason, Lieus voting record not only on arms to Israel but also on scorn for South Africa as it accuses Israel of genocidewarrants scrutiny.

Lieus 36th congressional district runs from Torrance and the South Bay up through West Los Angeles, including Venice, where I taught at Venice High School and Santa Monica, where I lived for a decade in Ocean Park to become involved in city politics.

Congressman Lieu could use a refresher course in Santa Monica politics, home to over 89,000 of his constituents.

In 1985, the City of Santa Monica stood on the right or perhaps left”–side of history. Under the leadership of then city council member Jim Conn, the City Council voted unanimously to develop a policy for divesting city funds approximately $2 million from banks and companies profiting off of South Africas system of apartheid or enforced racial segregation. 

In moving forward on divestiture, Santa Monica stood in the vanguard of a powerful global movement that led to the dismantlement of apartheid. 

Congress member Ted Lieu, who has represented Santa Monica in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2014 was a young man at the time, a Stanford graduate pursuing a law career. A year after the dissolution of South African apartheid, Lieu joined the US Air Force to become an award-winning military prosecutor before entering politics.

At the cross section of law and politics sits South Africas current case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where a country South Africa with historical memory of oppression and racial violence seeks prosecution of Israel under the Genocide Convention for its actions in Gaza since October 7, 2023.  

As a legal scholar and practitioner, Lieu must know well the importance of international law to the maintenance of global security and conflict-resolution. Yet, Congressman Lieu was one of 10 Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee who recently voted for H.R. 7256 US-South Africa Bilateral Relations Review Act  to potentially punish South Africa for taking its case against Israel to the World Court, the highest judicial body of the United Nations. 

H.R. 7256 mandates a full review of US-South Africa relations, including its annual $25 billion dollars in trade, that could set the stage for imposing sanctions on South Africa for filing what the bill calls a politically motivated case.

Whatever ones world view on Palestine and Israel, today or at any point in the past, one must recognize the positive force international institutions and treaties have played in preventing and ending state-sponsored violence. One need only look at the UNs role in negotiating 170 peace settlements,, ending the civil wars in Central America, and advancing arms control treaties to reduce the threat of nuclear war.

In its preliminary ruling in January in South Africas case, the International Court of Justice  reviewed the factual evidence and concluded it was plausible that many of Israels acts - bombing schools, hospitals, refugee centers and escape routes, and denying water, food and medicine to a trapped population of 2.3 million people - could amount to genocide. The ICJ issued provisional measures ordering Israel to fulfill its obligations under the UN Genocide Convention to stop destroying in whole, or part, Palestinians as a national, racial or ethnic group.

For Lieu to effectively dismiss this ruling as politically motivated only gives further credence to the argument that the U.S. applies international rules and norms selectively. For Congress to overwhelmingly vote billions more for the Israeli military during a World Court investigation suggests a grave disconnect between lawmakers and international law.

Lieu can still withdraw his support for H.R. 7256, for the bill to punish South Africa has yet to reach the House floor for a full vote. He can still honor the South African people for their victorious struggle against apartheid. People can change their mind, just as cities, like Santa Monica, can make amends for its own century-long history of racial segregation.

And theres more that Lieu can do. He can pledge not to vote another nickel for Israels ethnic cleansing in Gaza and to mobilize Californias mighty-sized congressional delegation to stand on the righteous side of history, the side of equality and justice for all. 


(Marcy Winograd co-produces CODEPINK Radio, broadcast on KPFK, 90.7 FM, Los Angeles. She served as a 2020 delegate for Bernie Sanders to the DNC Presidential nominating convention.)

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