May 2015

Thirteen Things I Learned in Iran

 [This piece originally appeared at Huffington Post.]

Istanbul, Turkey -- I just experienced the blessing of visiting Iran for the first time. Here are some things I learned.

1. If you are visiting someone's office and you appear very sleepy, you may be asked if you want to take a nap. If you say yes, a comfortable place to take a nap may be immediately prepared. I want to state categorically for the record that no country in which you can take a nap any time you want should ever be bombed by anyone.

Senate action TODAY on Fast Track, pro-settlements provision

Sometime this afternoon, the Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on whether to move the Fast Track trade package a step closer to becoming law.

Among the many reasons to oppose Fast Track is a measure that aims to discourage foreign governments from boycotting, divesting from, or sanctioning companies that do business in "Israeli-controlled territories." This provision is aimed at pressuring the European Union to reverse course on the steps it's taken in recent years to oppose Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The provision also erodes the distinction between Israel and Israeli settlements, seemingly endorsing the Israeli annexation of the West Bank. For these reasons, groups such as J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and Jewish Voice for Peace oppose the measure.

Interestingly, Republicans are working closely with the White House to try to pass Fast Track — but they are having trouble gathering enough Democratic support. Just last night, Senator Dick Durbin said "it's very questionable" whether Republicans have the 60 votes necessary to pass the procedural hurdle to bring the bill to a vote on the floor.

Call your Senators NOW at (202) 224-3121 and say:

I urge Sen. __________ to oppose S. 995, the Trade Promotion Authority Bill, and to vote NO on today's procedural vote to move the bill forward. I particularly oppose the provision in the bill that endorses the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and seeks to block Europe from limiting commercial relations with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

When you're done, report your call below.

Testify Online Against IL Anti-Boycott Bill!

On Wednesday morning, the Executive Committee of the Illinois House is scheduled to consider SB 1761, a bill that would force state pension fund administrators to blacklist companies that boycott businesses that operate in “territories under the control of Israel” — i.e., in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This legislation not only infringes on the rights of those making an ethical decision to boycott human rights abuses, it also legitimizes the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which official US policy opposes.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating about this bill in the State Capitol, which makes it even more important that your reps hear from you!

Here are two things you can do right now to stop this bill:

  1. Submit a witness slip in opposition to the bill. It’s easy and only takes a minute! When filling out the witness slip, indicate “opponent”, “record of appearance only”, and enter the organization you represent under “representation” or just enter “self”. Make sure to spell out your organization (don’t use abbreviations).
  2. Call Executive Committee Chair Dan Burke at (217) 782-1117 and say

    I am an Illinois resident and I oppose SB 1761, which would force state pension fund administrators to blacklist companies that boycott businesses that operate in "territories under the control of Israel." This bill infringes on the rights of those who choose to boycott human rights abuses and also legitimizes the Israeli annexation of the West Bank. I urge Rep. Burke to oppose this bill and stop it in committee.