Date: April 7, 2021
Contact: Naomi Grant, Director of Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EMET CONDEMNS THE LEBANESE ARMED FORCES FOR UNLAWFULLY ARRESTING AND IMPRISONING KINDA EL-KHATIB FOR “ENTHUSIASM FOR PEACE WITH ISRAEL,” AND THANKS SENATORS BOOKER AND PORTMAN AND 15 COLLEAGUES FOR TRYING TO FIND A REMEDY FOR SUCH INJUSTICES
(Washington, D.C., April 7, 2021) As Lebanese activist, Kinda El-Khatib, approaches her tenth month spent in prison for communicating with an Israeli journalist, we have seen yet another reminder of the great need to pass “S. 1061: A bill to encourage the normalization of relations with Israel, and for other purposes.” This bill was introduced on March 25 by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 15 of their colleagues, including Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), James E. Risch (R-ID), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dick Durban (D-Ill.), Chuck Grassley, (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). EMET applauds them and their colleagues from both sides of the aisle for their work on this ncredibly important legislation.
The approximately $200 million American taxpayers spend annually on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has been appropriated annually since 2006, in order for the LAF to act as a bulwark against Hezbollah’s continuing encroachment on the Lebanese military. However, Hezbollah continues to overtake the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Lebanese government, its commerce and nearly every aspect of its civilian life.
The “evidence” against El-Khatib is simply text messages with an Israeli journalist, as Hezbollah was able to tap her phone. Ms. El-Khatib was summarily arrested by 16 Hezbollah thugs for the act of texting an Israeli journalist. She declined an interview with him, but had suggested a Lebanese-American citizen, and spoke enthusiastically of a day of “peace with Israel.”
Senate Bill 1061 will require the State Department to issue an annual report concerning the status of “anti-normalization laws” in each country within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Part of the Country Report on Human Rights, it will entail records of instances of persecution of their citizens or residents who engage with Israelis, call for peace with Israel, or visit the state of Israel; evidence of steps taken by these governments towards permitting or encouraging people-to-people relations between their citizens and Israelis and instances of Arab governments using their state-owned or state-operated media outlets to promote anti-Semitism.
Sarah Stern, the Founder and President of EMET, states, “The egregious treatment of Kinda El-Khatib by Hezbollah is an abject case study of just how necessary the passage of Senator Booker’s and Senator Portman’s legislation, S. 1061 is. No one knows how many other anonymous victims of arbitrary imprisonment, torture and brutality are rotting away in prisons throughout the Middle East for their “crime” of wanting to engage in normalization with Israel and with Israeli citizens. The only reason we are aware of Ms. El-Khatib is because she was active on social media. There may be hundreds, even thousands, more prisoners and victims of government-sponsored anti-Semitism out there who remain nameless and are suffering draconian fates, simply because of their idealism.”
We remain incredibly grateful to Senators Cory Booker and Rob Portman, as well as their 15 colleagues for introducing this extremely important legislation, and ask that others join them in supporting the “Strengthening Reporting of Actions Taken Against the Normalization of Relations with Israel Act of 2021.”
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