Dem Party Platform Disappoints

climate march 1

What’s there to say about the 80-page draft Democratic Party Platform? There’s something in it for everyone, maybe that’s why it’s so long. It’s full of lofty goals and language that promises the moon.  As a life-long Democrat, I found myself agreeing with 90+% of it, and taking notes to tweak it here and there.

The light-bulb went on about half way through my review when I realized that my “tweaks” actually pointed to a much bigger problem.

Even if the Democratic Party could make good on its intentions — and we all know it will require the Democrats to regain control of the Senate, build a stronger majority in the House, and win the Presidency in 2020! — this draft platform reads like a well-worn, dusty paperback from the 1990’s with ideas that might have galvanized my parents’ generation.

Sadly it’s not a platform for the 21st Century, for the young adults and children who are going to inherit the mess that the Democrats and Republicans (MY GENERATION) have bequeathed to them.

As a political statement, it’s understandable that the Democratic Party wants to distinguish itself from the ghastly failures of the Trump Administration. Nearly every paragraph begins with a description of the evil that has befallen our nation in the past four years, followed by how the Democrats are going to do things much differently, and so much better. Certainly, a breath of fresh air. I suspect most Democrats (maybe even some Republicans) will read this draft Platform and cheer the drafters.

we are oneTHIS PLATFORM IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENT NOR BETTER THAN THE DEMOCRATIC PLATFORMS OF A BYGONE ERA.  It’s simply better than Trump, and setting the bar as low as that is not how the Democratic Party should be measuring itself. Instead, the Democratic Party needs to measure itself by the challenges facing future generations of Americans.

#1 Climate chaos is an existential threat.  The draft platform includes all of the talking points that any good Democrat wants to hear about climate change (with the exception of the inclusion of nuclear energy) but it falls flat in elevating climate decision-making to the central focus it must have in every aspect of our lives, and in our government.

#2 Global relationships and struggles are confirming the undeniable fact that we are truly one.  Yet, the Democratic Party leaders (as the draft Platform reveals) still believe in the 20th century paradigm of us versus them; with a top-down, hierarchical worldview that belies reality, and the next generation of leaders around the world knows it.

#3 The economy of the 21st century will not look like the economy of the 20th.  Yet, the Democratic Party doesn’t acknowledge how the future is evolving so rapidly and profoundly different from our recent past.  The global pandemic is opening up opportunities to recreate our lives and hasten towards a more just future for everyone (Americans as well as the global south), but the Democratic Party clearly doesn’t see it and can’t articulate that future, much less set us on a path towards it.

 

Lora and friendI wasn’t surprised when I came to the very last page of the draft Democratic Party Platform and found how the draft addresses Israel and Palestine.  It captures the fossilized thinking that permeates the Democratic Party leadership, and the inability of the Party to recognize and understand the new reality on the ground.

Democrats believe a strong, secure, and democratic Israel is vital to the interests of the United States. Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself, and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.

Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.

Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side—including annexation—that undermine prospects for two states. Democrats will continue to stand against incitement and terror. We oppose settlement expansion. We believe that while Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Democrats will restore U.S.-Palestinian diplomatic ties and critical assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with U.S. law. We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.

Women in Black Stop the OccupationI won’t dignify these last three paragraphs of the Democratic Party Platform with a critique because I honestly don’t believe the Party leaders are capable of hearing, much less understanding, a thoughtful response.

I’m going to work as hard as I can to get fresh new thinking into the halls of Congress and into the White House. The next Democratic Party Platform needs to be drafted by 20- and 30-somethings who will have a stake in the future of our country. Clearly, the old fogies don’t have a clue.

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Calling Americans to act NOW!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 —- Action needed before 2 pm EST

ACTION ALERT 🚨 🚨

Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania has filed an amendment to the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) portion of H.R. 7608 to prohibit funding to UNRWA.

H.R. 7608 includes funding for critical humanitarian and development efforts for Palestinians, including funding for UNRWA, and Perry’s amendment wants to strip all funding to UNRWA.

Flood Congress using UNRWA’s online advocacy tool and urge your reps to OPPOSE the Perry amendment before the House Rules Committee takes testimony on H.R. 7608 at 2 pm EST on Wednesday:

Please use the link below to urge your Representative to oppose Perry’s amendment and support humanitarian funding for Palestine refugees: unrwausa.org/contact-congress

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Congress is no longer in lockstep with Israel and AIPAC!

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum 

Israel used to be a “safe” bipartisan issue for members of Congress to rally behind.  Israel’s lobbying arm in Washington (AIPAC) proudly touted this broad support.

If any members of Congress had the courage not to join in AIPAC’s love-fest for Israel, they merely abstained from voting.  Certainly, a vote in opposition was unthinkable.

No more.

The support for the State of Israel has been slowly eroding over the years, but this summer it appears the dam has broken.

On June 30, thirteen members of Congress (all Democrats) sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo urging him to stop Israel’s planned annexation of a large part of the West Bank.

We write to you to express our deep concern over the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian territory by the government of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said annexation could begin as early as July 1, 2020. Should the Israeli government move forward with these plans, they would actively harm prospects for a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians can live with full equality, human rights and dignity, and would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state, as your predecessor John Kerry warned in 2014.

We call on you to take all necessary action available to reverse course on this proposal, which will cause more tension and conflict for decades to come. While the full scope and details of the plan are not yet public, Palestinians have overwhelmingly rejected the idea of annexation, and have understandably refused to participate in a process that is not grounded in a recognition of their national rights under international law.

Spearheaded by Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., they ended with strong words.

Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way. We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.

Read the entire letter here.  The other House signatories to the letter included Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., André Carson, D-Ind., Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Bobby Rush, D-Ill., Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., Danny Davis, D-Ill., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.  Reach out to thank them for their courage for standing up for human rights and international law.  I’m writing my Congresswoman from New Mexico and asking her to join them.

This simple letter didn’t happen without years of advocacy work by many groups and individuals, including IfNotNow, CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Rebuilding Alliance, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights and more.  AIPAC is no longer the behemoth I  thought it was!

Then a few days later, this happened . . . .

On July 2, thirteen Senators filed an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)  to prohibit Israel from using U.S. security assistance funds to unilaterally annex Palestinian territory in the West Bank. My two US Senators from New Mexico were part of this group.  I’m so proud of them!  I’m writing thank you letters today.

In addition to Senators Udall and Heinrich, the amendment was sponsored by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  The text of the amendment is here.  It’s short and sweet.

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, this Act, or any other Act enacted before the date of the enactment of this Act, or otherwise made available for the Department of Defense, may be obligated or expended to deploy, or support the deployment of, United States defense articles, services, or training to territories in the West Bank unilaterally annexed by Israel after July 1, 2020, or to facilitate the unilateral annexation of such territories.

I heard a strong organizer – activist, Raed Jarrar, speak on Friday about these recent actions in Congress, and I knew immediately the significance of this watershed moment. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting her back in.

If you’re interested in talking with your members of Congress about these issues, sign up for the Virtual: 6th Annual Palestine Advocacy Day (September 14-18, 2020) here.

And check out Raed Jarrar’s commentary on this Facebook livestream from Friday.

RefaatandRawan

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) in 2014

 

 

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Anti-Racist Resources

Black Lives Matter signJuly 13, 2020

I’m pulling together resources to help with my personal education on white supremacy, policing and related topics.

I believe the Zionist history of the founding of the State of Israel and its subjugation and occupation of Palestinians mirrors the colonization of the U.S. and subjugation of the Indigenous peoples and Africans brought to this country as slaves.

Neither Israelis nor Americans have come to terms with our past, nor honestly reconciled with the descendants that continue to bear the brunt of our cruelty to this day.

I will continue to add resources to this list as I come across them.  If you have recommendations to add to this list, please email me LoraLucero3@gmail.com   I hope you find this helpful.

The Truth about the Confederacy in the United States (1 hour 40 minutes video) available here – Jeffery Robinson, the ACLU’s top racial justice expert, discusses the dark history of Confederate symbols across the country and outlines what we can do to learn from our past and combat systemic racism. UPDATED 7/13/20

Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources available here.  Friends who are ready to get serious about our education on racism and white supremacy: There is a wealth of information included here for all ages. This resource has books, podcasts, videos and links to other resources, as well as many contacts on social media. The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work. These resources have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible. We will continue to add resources. UPDATED 06/12/20

Seeing White podcast (14 episodes) on Scene on Radio available here.

Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.

Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?

Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages — Cooke, N. A. (2020, May 30). [A project of the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the University of South Carolina]. Available here.

This project emerged out of the pain and frustration associated with the back-to-back deaths of #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTaylor and #AhmaudArbery in 2020.
We must do better as a global society! #BlackLivesMatter

This list is not a panacea. This compilation of resources is JUST A STARTING POINT to encourage people to do their own work and have their own hard conversations.

White Privilege Checklist compiled by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.  Available here.

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad   Available here.

Me and White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. The book goes beyond the original workbook by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and includes expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates was first published in The Atlantic in June 2014. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I first read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ opus magnum that summer — on my friend’s porch in Gilroy, CA. Today I listened to the audio version and was reminded of why reparations is a critical piece of the discussion Americans must have when we truly take stock of the evil of racism and white supremacy.

TheAtlantic · The Case for Reparations – The Atlantic – Ta-Nehisi Coates

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale, free E-book from Verso.

This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.

“Cops and the Klan”: Police Disavowal of Risk and Minimization of Threat from the Far-Right (article by Taimi Castle published February 15, 2020) Available online here.

Critical scholars argue that contemporary policing practices reproduce colonial logics through the maintenance of racial and economic inequality. In this article, I extend the framing of policing as a colonial project grounded in white supremacy to an analysis of police responses to white power mobilization during a heightened period of activity and violence (2015–2017). Borrowing from Perry and Scrivens (2018), I identify the two most common police responses—“disavowal of risk” and “minimization of threat”—in the official investigations into the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. Based on an analysis of newspaper reports from across the United States during the two-year period since then, I found that local and federal law enforcement consistently trivialized the presence of white power groups in the community, elevated the potential threat from protestors, concentrated intelligence efforts on activists, and provided differential protection to white supremacists.

Social Justice: Fifteen titles to address inequity, equality, and organizing for young readers | Great Books by Taylor Worley (March 5, 2020) Available online here.

Documentary film “Birth of a Movement” available here.

D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” was America’s first epic blockbuster, and the first feature film to screen at the White House.  The 1915 film’s plot glorified the Ku Klux Klan in a re-imagined post-Civil War America. Packs of white men wearing hoods thunder through “Birth of a Nation” on horseback while white actors in blackface play slaves who turn lawless and violent after being freed. The new documentary “Birth of a Movement” explores “Birth of a Nation” through a modern lens.

A large compilation of Anti-Racism Resources from Solsara includes:

  • organizations to consider making donations
  • black-owned businesses to support
  • black social justice leaders
  • Introduction to Being Anti-Racist (including the Seeing White podcast)
  • Next Steps for White People
  • Online courses
  • Short videos and movies
  • LONG list of books and articles

Check it all out here.

RESOURCES FOR TALKING ABOUT RACE, RACISM AND RACIALIZED VIOLENCE WITH KIDS (Center for Racial Justice in Education) includes:

  • Interviews/Advice from Experts
  • Compilation of resource lists from others
  • Articles
  • 2016 Election Resources, Teaching Tolerance
  • Affinity Spaces

Check it all out here.

No Longer Accepting

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Whose Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter

Sign in front of a Baltimore church

A not-so-imaginary conversation goes this way after I don my BLACK LIVES MATTER t-shirt.

Elderly white friend: “Why are you wearing that t-shirt? The message offends me because All Lives Matter.”

Lora: “Of course all lives are important and deserve equal respect and love. BLACK LIVES MATTER doesn’t mean the lives of African Americans are more important than the lives of white people. It simply means we (all of us) need to pay attention to what’s happening to black people. It’s a wake up call.”

Elderly white friend: “Well, the phrase (BLACK LIVES MATTER) is so divisive. I think it undermines what protesters are trying to do, to bring justice to the victims and heal wounds. BLACK LIVES MATTER is not a healing or unifying message.”

Lora(thinking, but not saying, that the sensibilities of white folks doesn’t really matter in this context) “Think of it this way. All the houses in your neighborhood are equally important but the house at the end of the block is on fire. Should the fire department respond to all of the houses, or to the house on fire?”

Elderly white friend: “That’s a silly analogy and doesn’t fit what we’re talking about.”

Lora: “Yes it does! In every aspect of life in America (family wealth, real estate, educational achievements, criminal justice, health outcomes, etc.) the objective measurements show that African Americans don’t matter as much as white Americans. Their house is on fire while the rest of us are oblivious.”

Elderly white friend: “It’s complicated and there are many reasons for the disparities you’re talking about.”

Lora: “It boils down to systemic racism that permeates our institutions, our laws, even the way we think and act. It goes deep, it goes wide, but healing begins by talking about it.”

Women in Black circle

Women in Black in Baltimore

This not-so-imaginary conversation happens every day in every community but most Americans prefer to avoid it. If we can’t even talk about the reality of the black experience in the United States, how do we begin to address the systemic injustices?

I’m trying to learn how to talk about it, to educate myself, to not shy away from having the tough, uncomfortable conversations.

No Longer Accepting

My education begins with this podcast recommended to me by a friend from Malaysia. Seeing White on Scene on Radio. All 14 episodes are available here. I’m half way through and plan to listen to the entire production. I highly recommend it to all of my white friends, whether you think you’re “woke” or not.

Seeing White — Just what is going on with white people? Police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Acts of domestic terrorism by white supremacists. The renewed embrace of raw, undisguised white-identity politics. Unending racial inequity in schools, housing, criminal justice, and hiring. Some of this feels new, but in truth it’s an old story.

Why? Where did the notion of “whiteness” come from? What does it mean? What is whiteness for?

Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen took a deep dive into these questions, along with an array of leading scholars and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, in this fourteen-part documentary series, released between February and August 2017. The series editor is Loretta Williams

 

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Honoring healthcare workers in Gaza – June 1

On June 1, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will be honoring Razan al-Najjar, the 20-year old medic who was killed two years ago on June 1 by Israeli sharpshooters as she tended the wounded at the Great Return March in Gaza.

If you don’t know Razan, please take a moment to learn her story. Gaza Fights for Freedom is Abby Martin’s film that I highly recommend.

The documentary tells the story of Gaza past and present, showing rare archival footage that explains the history never acknowledged by mass media. You hear from victims of the ongoing massacre, including journalists, medics and the family of internationally-acclaimed paramedic, Razan al-Najjar.

In March 2019, a UN mandated Commission of Inquiry (CoI) found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli military snipers had intentionally shot at health workers, children, persons with disabilities and journalists at protests in Gaza.

Three medics were among the more than 200 people killed during two years of Israel’s use of force at the Great March of Return demonstrations. A further 845 medics were injured. No one has been held to account for this. 

Killing healthcare workers, destroying ambulances and hospitals, and deliberately targeting unarmed civilians is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Customary International Humanitarian Law but that has never deterred Israel.

Rule 25. Medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances. They lose their protection if they commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.

AFSC has planned a day of action, and provided ideas about how everyone can participate. I plan to join them. Look here for more information and resources.

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The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian

ICRC building on the hill

International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva

There’s a saying in Gaza (at least among some) that the Palestinians are living under THREE occupations.

The first, of course, is the Israeli military occupation. The United Nations and nearly the entire international community recognize this occupation. It’s been going on for so many decades that at least one scholar prefers to call it colonization, not an occupation. It’s perhaps the best documented occupation in world history.

The second is the internal political occupation.  Palestinians in Gaza are living under Hamas, and Palestinians in the West Bank are living under the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Living under” is the correct terminology in both cases because there haven’t been elections in more than a decade (no concept of “term limits” in the Arab world as far as I can tell) and both Hamas and the PA rule with an iron fist.

I learned about the third type of occupation when I was in Gaza in 2012-2013 and met with local city officials to discuss planning issues in the community. They told me bluntly, “What plans? It’s whatever the NGOs are willing to fund. Their plans get implemented, ours stay on the shelf.” So I call this the NGO occupation. Donors’ good intentions can actually backfire because they disempower the local communities they’re meant to serve. US-AID projects are a good example.

Amid the turmoil and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new challenges and opportunities for both nation-states and the private sector attempting to address the serious needs of the most vulnerable. Things are changing rapidly.

ICRC Museum

ICRC Museum Entrance — Geneva

Focusing on humanitarian action, as it has since its beginning in 1863, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked the following question in this new COVID-19 world we’re entering:

How then should aid organizations anticipate and prepare for this new reality, still opaque in many ways, and balance it against the expected overwhelming needs? Better yet, rather than adapting and anticipating to this new reality, how can aid organizations lean in and embrace the present crisis as a conduit for radical change, proactively reshaping and repositioning an aid sector that is fit for purpose to protect and address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized?

The question is important, the answers that follow may profoundly change the way NGOs address the needs of the most vulnerable.

This 18 minute audio of a blog posted by Raphael Gorgeu provides a good explanation of how the NGO landscape may be changing. The world tomorrow: COVID-19 and the new humanitarian.  Have a listen.

A public health crisis to begin with, the COVID-19 pandemic has quickly metastasized to nearly all fronts of society. Considered one of the biggest crises in modern history, the pandemic’s effects will deeply impact the lives of billions of people, shake the foundations of our solidarity models and redesign parts of the international humanitarian sector. The way aid actors move forward now will shape the future of the humanitarian landscape: pre-existing trends are speeding up as new ones are brought into play, all while the overall balance is placed under scrutiny. In a myriad of ways, many still unforeseeable, the intensity of the present period is accelerating change.

 

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Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

The Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster, catastrophe).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) was (is?) the world’s beacon of hope, an aspiration for a better life for every person.

 

Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).

How does the unbearable status quo change?

In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.

In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.

In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.

In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.

There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?

Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.

Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:

We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.

In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo.  (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.

In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.

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One Democratic State

About ten or twelve years ago I had an interesting conversation with an American Jew in Albuquerque, New Mexico about the future of Israel and Palestine. He expressed the view shared by many Americans at the time that the Palestinians were getting the short end of the stick but Israelis really had no choice but to maintain the occupation in order to protect themselves.

He knew I’d visited Gaza for a week or two in 2004, and had traveled through the West Bank and Jerusalem as a tourist.  So he asked me what I thought the future held in store for both peoples, intimating that his vision of two states with a permanent occupation of one was inevitable.  Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied “one country between the river and the sea where every person is treated equally”. I’m not sure where I got that idea, whether reading or talking with someone more knowledgeable than me.  But even then I knew that a big part of the problem was a failure of imagination.  My Jewish American friend thought I was nuts; we haven’t talked since.

Now, thankfully, there are many so-called nuts traveling around the world promoting the idea of a one democratic state in Israel – Palestine.  Last week I listened in to a Zoom meeting with some of the leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign. Check out their website in Arabic and English. I learned that this one state idea is not new. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the Nakba of 1948 and after, had promoted this vision in the PLO’s National Charter, abandoning it for the two-state solution only in 1988.Loss of Land

The proponents of the One Democratic State (ODS) campaign believe that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a good strategy but the Palestinians lack an end goal. To paraphrase what I heard on the Zoom call: “If you don’t have a political goal, all of the strategies in the world won’t accomplish anything.” The One Democratic State campaign provides the goal.

“The only way forward to a genuine and viable political settlement is to dismantle the colonial apartheid regime that has been imposed over historic Palestine, replacing it with a new political system based on full civil equality, implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and the building of a system that addresses the historic wrongs committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist movement.”

The One Democratic State campaign has ten key points:

  1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as one country belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, stand for office and contribute to the country’s governance.
  2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from where they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property of the refugees and/or compensate them. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those choosing to immigrate to the country.
  3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among its citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
  4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
  5. Moving from Decolonization to Post-Colonialism. The genuine liberation of Palestinians and Israelis requires a process of thorough decolonization through which we may reach collective justice, peace security and reconciliation. A new national narrative must be constructed that “writes the native Palestinians back in.” Israeli Jews must acknowledge both the national rights of the Palestinian people and past colonial crimes. In return, and based on an egalitarian democracy, Palestinians will accept them as legitimate citizens and neighbors, thereby ending Zionist settler colonialism and entering into a new postcolonial relationship of accommodation, normalization and reconciliation.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in a Middle East that respects its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies, yet strives for equality, freedom of thought and innovation. Achieving a just political settlement in Palestine, followed by a thorough process of decolonization, will contribute measurably to these efforts.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.

I personally know some Israeli Jews and many Palestinians who reject this notion of One Democratic State. In a nutshell, the Israeli Jews (the ones I know) believe it’s a security issue and (the hard core Zionists) believe their right to the land supersedes the Palestinians’ rights. On the other hand, the Palestinians (the ones I know) believe the past and present injustices are so horrendous that the occupation must be dismantled before they will even talk or entertain a One Democratic State.

Of course, I know many Israeli Jews and Palestinians who would gladly embrace the One Democratic State, but I don’t know if there’s a critical mass on either side to move this program forward.

I hope no one closes the door on the One Democratic State campaign until they’ve read the Ten Points mentioned above, and talked about the future they want to leave their children.

I suspect it will take a lot of friends from the international community to help, but InshAllah it will happen.

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Two deaths

Peace cranes 1

Origami Peace Cranes

My family and friends know I’m a prolific letter writer. I must send several notes to elected officials each week about one issue or another. Yesterday I realized I’m now sending more condolence cards than my standard fare of political action notes, a sign of the new Covid-19 times we live in.

Two deaths this week hit me hard, not because of who had died (I didn’t know either man personally), but my heart is broken for their families left behind. Both deaths seem so unfair.

One was a young healthy man who died of COVID-19 in NYC. Very successful in business with a tremendous future in front of him, he left behind a wife and young daughter and parents who are all grieving his loss.  A ZOOM memorial can’t cover the distance the hearts must travel to make any sense of the senseless.

The second death was a well-respected Palestinian physician in Gaza who had been suffering from cancer for some time. Israel has prevented essential medical supplies and medicines from entering Gaza for years now, and routinely denies permission for patients to leave Gaza to seek medical attention elsewhere.

His son in the U.S. has left no stone unturned to get the critical medicines and vitamins to his father, even though he could never travel to Gaza himself to visit, that was verboten by the Israeli authorities. I was pleased to play a minor role in that transit process a year ago. Today his son is mourning his father’s death, unable to join his mother in Gaza and grieve together as a family.

I don’t know the religious traditions of each man, but I suspect one was Jewish and one was Muslim. It really doesn’t matter at all. Both are gone and have left huge holes in the hearts of many.

Argentine cactus bloomIf there’s such a thing as heaven (I’m not at all sure about that) then they are probably both sitting there, digesting their new surroundings where all of the superficial differences have disappeared. The “other” is an unfathomable idea.

They both recognize the pain and sorrow they left behind, and likely want to comfort their family and friends.

In my own musing about these two families’ unbearable sadness, I want to touch their hearts with my heart and ease their burdens.

We are one, there is no other.

 

 

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Filed under COVID-19, Spiritual - Religion