M014 Application of the Leahy Laws to Israel

Proposed by

Diocese of Vermont

At the 2018 Convention of the Diocese of Vermont, the delegates adopted a resolution titled, “Application of the Leahy Laws to Israel.” Delegates at the 2021 convention adopted a resolution to forward that resolution to the 80th General Convention in the form of a memorial, with the hope that it might support resolutions submitted by deputies, bishops, or other dioceses on the same topic.  

The 2018 resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, That the 185th Convention of the Diocese of Vermont request the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Vermont congressional delegation to urge the United States Departments of State and Defense to apply the Leahy Laws to Israel.”

The explanation provided delegates in 2018 read in part:

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has received nearly $125 billion in aid from the US; the current rate amounts to over $10 million a day.  

The Leahy Laws, or Leahy Amendments, are U.S. human rights laws that prohibit the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security force units that engage in “gross violations of human rights” (GVHR). The laws are named after their principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). A recent State Department fact sheet on the Leahy Laws notes that, “The U.S. government considers torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape under color of law as GVHR when implementing the Leahy law. Incidents are examined on a fact-specific basis.” (https://www.state.gov/key-topics-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/human-rights/leahy-law-fact-sheet/)

On May 15, 2018, The Center for Constitutional Rights joined a coalition of Palestinian and U.S.-based human rights groups in submitting a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo demanding that the State Department investigate Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinians in Gaza and halt any further assistance to Israeli military units involved in the shootings. (The text of the letter may be found at https://ccrjustice.org/human-rights-groups-demand-us-halt-military-aid-israeli-military-units-killed-and-injured-gaza)  

The focus of the letter was the demonstrations leading up to May 15, Nakba Day, which marked 70 years since more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes. It notes that human rights organizations documented that since the protests began, the Israeli military killed 103 people and injured almost 7000 others, including children, paramedics, journalists, and people with disabilities. Over 3,500 people were reportedly shot with live fire.  

On Nakba day itself, Israel reportedly killed 57 protesters and injured over 2000 more, while they demonstrated against the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, stressed their internationally recognized right of return to their homes, and demanded an end to the 11-year closure of Gaza. The letter notes that Israeli military units were likely using U.S.-made Remington M24 sniper rifles to fire on Palestinian protesters.

Respectfully submitted,

The Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. Voted and affirmed at the November 2021 Vermont Convention