Foreign Affairs Committee Unanimously Passes Rep. Zeldin Legislation to Combat Foreign Fighters, Violence in UN-Funded Palestinian Authority Led Education
WASHINGTON - Today, legislation introduced by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act (H.R. 630) and Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Educaiton Act (H.R. 2343), unanimously passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act (H.R. 630) establishes international border security standards developed in conjunction with all relevant U.S. governmental departments and agencies in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and Director of the FBI, to close security gaps that could allow foreign terrorist fighters to travel internationally. Under the legislation, U.S. resources would be utilized in the most efficient way possible with a special focus on high-risk and medium-risk countries to boost security, and a reporting system would also be established to monitor efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel and to suspend foreign assistance to countries not making significant efforts to comply.
In speaking in favor of the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act, Congressman Zeldin said:
“Since 2011, the situation in Iraq and Syria has presented significant challenges for the global community’s ability to track and combat foreign terrorist actors.
“In Europe, roughly 5,000 EU citizens have traveled to Syria or Iraq to become foreign fighters for the Islamic State or other foreign terrorist groups.
“Our foreign partners have employed various measures to combat foreign fighters to include increasing surveillance and prohibiting travel that have successfully thwarted a number of plots, but we need to do more.
“There is a very serious and well-recognized need for improved international border security and information-sharing between governments.
“This bipartisan legislation would ensure U.S. resources are utilized in the most efficient way possible to help international partners close loopholes in international airport security, better track these terrorists, and prevent them from traveling internationally, with a special focus on high-risk and medium risk countries.
“H.R. 630 would do this by requiring the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security to accelerate the delivery of certain surplus border security systems to countries of greatest concern and risk for foreign fighter or terrorist travel.
“The U.S. will attempt to collect reimbursement for transferred equipment and all equipment transfers will comply with existing regulations related to the export of sensitive technologies.
“This legislation would also establish a reporting system to hold our partners accountable, by monitoring efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel.
“It is essential that the United States work together with the global community to monitor and stop the movement of terrorists abroad.”
The Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act creates an annual report to Congress by the Secretary of State evaluating the curricula, provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) used in Palestinian Authority schools to determine if there is material inciting violence or intolerance and reporting on U.S. efforts to ensure such problematic material is eliminated from Palestinian textbooks.
In urging passage of the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act, Congressman Zeldin said:
“This was a bipartisan effort between Mr. Sherman and myself to maintain oversight over UNRWA’s educational activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
“Last year, Congressman Perry and I secured declassification of a shocking GAO UNRWA textbook report revealing what we suspected all along: the UNRWA textbook initiative was a sham.
“Textbook content in UNRWA schools did not mention Israel or Judaism and included regional maps that excluded Israel and content that incites violence.
“The GAO report found that supplementary material purchased using U.S. tax dollars to counter the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias injected by the PA, was being rejected and not utilized on the ground.
“The GAO report concluded that Congress has been unable to fully assess the nature and extent of the material in PA textbooks because of the State Department’s misleading reports to Congress.
“It is unacceptable the textbooks that are used delegitimize Israel and demonize the Jewish people.
“We must demand transparency over the anti-Israel textbooks in this program that are fueling another generation of hate.
“Our bill requires the Secretary of State to submit annual reports to Congress to determine whether schools operated by UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority have removed this offensive textbook content and determine whether any U.S. foreign assistance is being used to support this hateful curriculum.
“The United States cannot support a program that goes against the best interests of our greatest ally.”