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December 23, 2022 2:04 pm
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Congress Passes $1.7 Trillion Omnibus; Jewish Groups Tout Billions for American Jewish Community, Israel

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses reporters during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The House of Representatives Friday afternoon passed a massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which includes billions of dollars in expenditures supporting Israel and the American Jewish community at a time of rising antisemitism and emboldened anti-Israel activity across American society.

Jewish advocacy groups touted “critical” provisions like the $305 million appropriated for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which improves synagogue security. The 22 percent increase in spending on that program from last year fell short of the $360 million many Jewish groups had sought, but was nonetheless welcomed as a much-needed improvement, particularly after a terrorist attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, in January of this year.

“At a time when hate and extremism continue to threaten the safety of our communities and undermine our democratic values, appropriations for these programs can provide critical security and strengthen civil rights,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on the passage of the omnibus.

The sprawling bill, which funds the government through the end of September 2023, had previously passed the Senate on Thursday 68-29. It now heads to President Joe Biden for final signature.

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Funds For Synagogue Protection and Hate Crime Tracking

Other measures funded by the bill include tens of millions of dollars for programs such as the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act designed to prevent, report on, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes. Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), author of the bill, has in recent weeks slammed the effectiveness and methodology behind the FBI’s annual hate crime statistics, calling the agency’s 2022 annual report “extremely disappointing.”

“As supporters of the NO HATE Act, we are gratified by the additional funding for the program, which will enhance how law enforcement tracks and combats hate crimes against the Jewish and other communities, and how it works with those communities,” Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs Rabbi Abba Cohen told The Algemeiner.

The omnibus will also increase funding for the offices of the US special envoys for combating antisemitism and Holocaust issues, as well support and expand Holocaust education in public schools nationwide by funding $2 million of a total $10 million authorized over five years in the Never Again Education Act of 2020.

Billions in Israeli Security Upgrades

In line with the 2016 US-Israel security memorandum of understanding signed during the Obama administration, the omnibus package also includes $3.3 billion in US security assistance to Israel and an additional $500 million for cooperative missile defense programs like Iron Dome.

New to the bill is the Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses (DEFEND) Act of 2022, increasing air defense cooperation between the US, Israel, and Arab partner nations against the threat of Iranian attack.

This bill would create a US-led shared air and missile defense system in the Middle East, to counter Iran,” a spokesperson with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) told The Algemeiner. “At a time when huge strides have been made toward lasting peace in the Middle East thanks to the Abraham Accords, it is essential that our partners in the region have the necessary tools to keep their countries safe from a nation that foments instability and unrest.”

While welcoming security provisions of the bill, the conservative Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) rejected the omnibus’s funding of the United Nations and a provision that would allow the United States to rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the grounds that they were anti-Israel.

“Another terrible provision in the omnibus lets the US rejoin another anti-Israel, antisemitic UN body, UNESCO, which consistently seeks to deny the connection of Jews to our ancient and eternal homeland,” ZOA President Morton Klein said. “US law prohibits funding an organization that gives state status to non-states and UNESCO absurdly granted the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization the same status as Israel or the United States. They don’t deserve American taxpayers’ hard-earned money.”

The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 2017 during the Trump administration citing anti-Israel bias.

Ukraine Gets A Boost

Other foreign aid provisions of the bill include a total of $45 billion in funding for Ukraine following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Wednesday address to Congress. In his first foreign visit since the start of Russia’s further invasion in February, Zelensky told Congress that Ukraine needed more to defeat Russia.

A report issued by the US State Department in July charged Russia with having invoked “Nazism and the horrors associated with World War II and the Holocaust” as justification for its invasion of Ukraine, asserting that Moscow’s bid to tar the Ukrainian leadership as “neo-Nazis” in the eyes of the world had unleashed a revival of antisemitic conspiracy theories.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) highlighted its support for increased provisions for Ukrainian weaponry.

“Over the past year, AJC has stood in strong support with the Ukrainian people and has advocated for robust funding to combat Russian aggression,” an AJC spokesman said. “We were pleased to see $14.5 billion in the omnibus for humanitarian and security needs in Ukraine and in countries impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Other elements of the $45 billion Ukraine supplemental include $2.47 billion in humanitarian assistance, $13.37 billion in economic assistance, and $11.88 billion to replenish US stocks of equipment already sent to Ukraine.

 

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