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On a Party-Line Vote, House Democrats Reject Sanctions on Overseas Hamas Supporters

Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in 2017. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

Another sterling moment in American legislative history: “Democrats blocked a bid to bring the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act up for consideration in a 217-209 vote along party lines. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., would impose sanctions on foreign entities known to have provided financial assistance to Hamas, among other measures.” The same bill passed the House unanimously in 2019, but was not taken up for a vote in the Senate. The U.S. currently has sanctions against Hamas itself and some limits on business dealings with the Palestinian Authority.

Still, there’s some evidence that Democrats who took this stance, opposing sanctions against Hamas supporters, are simply listening to their base. A new Trafalgar Group survey indicates that 38.5 percent of self-identified Democrats blame Israel for the current violence, 15.5 percent blame Hamas, about 6 percent each blame Iran and the Palestinian Authority, and 34.4 percent aren’t sure.

Meanwhile, 12.5 percent of self-identified Republicans blame Israel for the current violence, 42.5 percent blame Hamas, 14.6 percent blame Iran, 10.5 percent blame the Palestinian Authority, and 19.8 percent aren’t sure.

The Mast proposal forced Democrats’ hand. They could either take this action, and offer the potential of a genuine financial squeeze on Hamas, boxing in the Biden administration. Or the Democrats could look soft against a group launching rockets into civilian areas. (Maybe those Democrats saw an old photo of a Hamas rally and thought it was just Robert Byrd and Ralph Northam.)

I know, I know, it’s just the “militant wing” of Hamas launching rockets into civilian areas. As I wrote seven years ago, militant wings are the evil twins of geopolitics. If your organization has a military wing — as opposed to an actual, declared, uniforms-and-everything-military — you’re probably a troublemaker.

We keep getting told by foreign-policy poohbahs that Hamas is winning public-relations victories and the global messaging battle even as it loses the military battles. At some point, shouldn’t those public-relations victories and global messaging wins add up to something tangible? Israel and its enemies fight, Israel inflicts more damage on Hamas than Hamas does to Israel, we’re told that Israel has really stepped in it this time, and yet . . . the situation remains the same.

Bad publicity and international condemnations for Israel? Israeli leaders get denounced 20 times before breakfast. A lot of Europeans are always up for some rhetorical Israel-bashing, but how often do they really take action to improve life for Palestinians? Just what does Hamas think the rest of the world is willing to do to Israel?

When does shooting rockets at Israel ever turn out well for the average Palestinian?

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