Palestinian Flag in front of City of Houston City Hall

End Houston’s complicity in the Palestinian Genocide

Three weeks ago, I attended a Houston City Council public comment meeting and heard concerned citizens talk about a six-year-old girl named Hind Rajab, who was killed by Israeli troops in Gaza.

According to reports from BBC, Hind and her family were fleeing to safety when an Israeli tank fired on their car. All of her family members were killed, and little Hind was stuck in a state of complete panic. Audio recordings show her pleading for help, fearing for her life, in shock over the deaths of her loved ones. She was trapped in a car with her dead family for over three hours, while the Israeli tank roamed nearby.

Palestinian ambulance workers contacted the Israeli army to secure safe passage to rescue her. But as they tried to make their way to Hind, Israeli troops shot and killed her and bombed the ambulance. Hind is one of over 12,000 children killed by Israel in Gaza since October 2023, more than have been killed in all global conflicts over four recent years.

But what do Mayor John Whitmire and Houston City Council have to do with Hind and the unfolding moral and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza? 

As it turns out, the City of Houston has invested millions of dollars over the last 10 years in Israel bonds, according to the City’s published annual financial reports. Most recently, City financial documents show that until August 2023, the city held a $10 million Israel bond. City Council member Edward Pollard acknowledged in a public meeting in January that Houston has previously invested in Israel bonds.

When the City of Houston purchases an Israel bond, it is giving Israel cash in the form of a low interest loan. Houston’s most recent bond investment provided a lower rate of return than the City’s average investment in municipal bonds or US Treasury bonds, according to the City’s Quarterly Investment Report

Israel bond purchases directly support Israel’s conduct against Palestinians. In an interview from last October, the president and CEO of the company underwriting Israel bonds explicitly encouraged bond purchases for the purpose of supporting the country’s active war campaign in Gaza. 

Investment Policy

Each year, the Mayor and City Council approve the City of Houston Investment Policy, which details how public funds directly controlled by the City should be managed. Currently, Israel is the only foreign government explicitly authorized to receive Houston’s investment funds through bond investments. This allows the City Controller’s office to purchase Israel bonds at its discretion without additional City Council approval or opportunity for public comment. 

The current Investment Policy is a moral failure. Israel has spent the last several decades constructing a system of discrimination and domination over Palestinians, and is now killing children at a record rate. It is no coincidence that a recent AP-NORC poll found that an increasing number of Americans believe that Israel’s military campaign has gone too far. As Houstonians continue to learn more about Israel’s shocking conduct, we cannot in good conscience lend our hard-earned money to drop more bombs on innocent people.

Every week for over three months, dozens of concerned citizens from all backgrounds have lined up to speak to the Mayor and City Council, many of them pleading for an amendment to the Investment Policy. At the last meeting I attended, speakers read aloud Hind’s last known words, hoping to appeal to the humanity of their elected officials. Their demands have so far landed largely on deaf ears. Mayor Whitmire in particular hasn’t said a word about the City’s financial entanglements with Israel, nor has he made any public statements calling for a ceasefire.

As Gazans continue to starve and face the brutal Israeli assault with no end in sight, Mayor Whitmire and his colleagues on City Council must ensure that Houston does not financially support foreign aggression by purchasing Israel bonds as it has in the past. City Council must amend the Investment Policy to remove authorization for investments into Israel bonds. Instead of lending money to Israel, the City of Houston should instead invest in domestic priorities to ensure a prosperous future for our communities.

Houstonians were unknowingly complicit in the murder of Hind. It is time for our elected officials to make the morally responsible choice.

Section: Government
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