Honoring the memory of Rachel Corrie

She died 20 years ago today. No, she was murdered 20 years ago today.

I visited the site of her murder about a year and a half later … in Rafah, Palestine.

That visit changed my life’s path forever; I wrote about it here.

Rachel was a remarkable young woman who touched many lives. I wrote about her in August 2012 here. Please read it.

She lived her short life thoughtfully, deliberately and consistently with her values.   Her parents have continued her work through the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice.

Rachel in her own words. Footage from Rachel’s interview conducted by Middle East Broadcasting Company on March 14th, 2003, two days before she was murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces. Listen. Feel. Act. Her life proves one person can make a difference!

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Filed under People, Uncategorized, Video

Emile Nakhleh

I just received an invitation from Veterans for Peace (Chapter 63) to hear Emile Nakhleh speak on zoom on Monday evening, March 13. Born in Galilee, Palestine in 1938, Professor Nakhleh is a former CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer, Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at UNM, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He writes and lectures on Israeli and Palestinian issues, political Islam, Islamic radicalization, climate disaster in the Middle East, and the Arab state of the Middle East.

Emile Nakhleh

On the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Professor Nakhleh published a paper entitled “The Iraq War was dominated by groupthink and absolutely no humility” in which he concluded:

Intelligence and policy expertise on Iraq were made available to policymakers at the highest levels, but such expertise and in-depth analysis were ignored. Groupthink and seemingly a lack of interest in what expert analysts had to offer underpinned the war decision, which in turn resulted in the debacle that followed.

As the country observes the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion and before our leaders embark on another regime change adventure, they should base their decision on deep expertise about the target country, strong and verifiable intelligence, a nationally acceptable rationale, and clear end-game objectives. Above all, they should display genuine humility regarding the limits of the United States’ ability to control the unfolding of events and the resulting outcomes and broader repercussions.

Responsible Statecraft – February 27, 2023

A year after President Biden took office, Professor Nakhleh shared his advice about how the Administration should respond to Netanyahu and the Israel-Palestine

Over the years, America’s unfettered support for Netanyahu’s anti-Palestinian policies have empowered him to jettison the peace process and continue his aggressive settlement projects in Palestinian areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank. With American support, Netanyahu has advanced the false narrative that the “Arab street” has gotten tired of the Palestinian issue, thereby giving him the excuse to ignore the core issue of the Israeli occupation and deep-seated Palestinian humiliation and misery. Arab reaction to the destruction in Gaza and the Arab uprising in Israel have unmasked the falsehood of Netanyahu’s narrative.

The Biden administration has the opportunity—and the support of a significant segment of the Democratic Party in Congress—to right this imbalance. Biden should tell Netanyahu, in word and in deed, that he sees a distinction between Israel as a state, which we support, and Netanyahu as a politician, whose policies we have the right to question. America’s support for Israel’s security doesn’t automatically extend to Netanyahu’s anti-Palestinian policies—domestically and regionally.

Netanyahu’s Obsession and the Palestinian Uprising, The Cipher Brief, May 20, 2021

This is certainly a man I want to hear from and I’m looking forward to the zoom gathering on Monday evening.

My questions for Professor Nakhleh:

  1. Given the current realities in Israel and Palestine, and the level of official state-sanctioned violence against the Palestinians, how would Professor Nakhleh advise President Biden if he had his ear and undivided attention?
  2. If President Biden took my advice to heart (see here) and spelled out the nature of the “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S., what would Professor Nakhleh recommend that Biden include on the list of actions, policies or norms that, if Netanyahu violated any of them, the Biden Administration would acknowledge that Israel has undermined these shared values, interests, and policy goals….and take appropriate action in response?
  3. Who are the loudest voices on foreign policy in the Biden Administration today? What role should the American public play in trying to shape U.S. foreign policy?
  4. What does Professor Nakhleh understand is the biggest impediment to the U.S. playing a constructive role in the Middle East?

I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot from Professor Nakhleh.


Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

A Pogrom the U.S. must not support!

The pogroms in Germany beginning in 1938 with the Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, caught many off guard. No one had seen this level of violence perpetrated so brazenly against the Jews. Given the current pogrom against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, I wanted to refresh my memory of the earlier pogrom. This brief history was a good place to start.

American newspapers across the country covered the Nazi assault on Jews in front-page, banner headlines, and articles about the events continued to appear for several weeks.

At his press conference on November 15, 1938, one week after Kristallnacht, President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced Nazi Germany’s terror attack on Jews, saying, “I myself could scarcely believe that such things could occur in a twentieth-century civilization.” FDR made an exception to his practice of off-the-record press conferences by allowing newspapers to quote this statement from his meeting with reporters that day.

The president also announced that he had recalled the US ambassador to Germany, Hugh Wilson.  The United States was the only nation to recall its ambassador and would not replace him until after the end of the war in 1945.

In response to the news of Nazi terror against Jews, Americans protested in cities including New York and Los Angeles. Other Americans called for an increase in the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country.

My social media has been filled this week with images of burning buildings, destroyed vehicles and mayhem perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in a village in the occupied West Bank called Huwara. Given how the algorithms work, I suspected that many of my friends and family were oblivious.

Major General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, called it a ‘pogrom’. I wondered what the Biden Administration called it, and whether the U.S. President would do anything . . . finally . . . to end our country’s complicity in Israel’s 55-year long occupation of Palestine. Or is our “special relationship” with Israel sacrosanct?

The Biden Administration said:

We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for the loss of homes and property,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing, calling the Sunday night attack by hundreds of settlers in the northern West Bank town of Huwara “completely unacceptable.”

The comments were the most forceful yet from the US following the mass riot in which a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed, some three hundred were wounded — four seriously — and dozens of buildings and vehicles were torched.

Coincidently, Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and American officials were meeting in Aqaba, Jordan about the same time to discuss what steps they might take to “deescalate tensions” that have been building over months of increased violence. The Nablus slaughter on February 22, when Israeli sharpshooters killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 102 before withdrawing, was just the latest example. (BBC news coverage). But the duplicitous Israeli delegation can’t be trusted; hasn’t the Biden Administration learned anything?

Lora’s demands of President Biden:

Just to make it clear, the time for a “light touch” with Israel is over. It’s time for President Biden (not a spokesman) to denounce Israel’s attack on Palestinians perpetrated by both its military in Nablus and by its Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank against the Village of Huwara.

Biden should recall the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas R. Nides, just as FDR did in 1938. This would send a strong signal to anyone still listening in the Knesset that the U.S. abhors Israel’s current trajectory.

Biden should articulate his view of the ‘special relationshipso frequently mentioned, specifying the substance and policy dimensions of the two countries’ ‘shared values’. Only by clearly defining those values can the Administration make clear what would represent a departure from them by Israel, specifically as related to democracy, pluralism, respect for the rule of law, democratic institutions, and division of power, among other elements. After this list is prepared, Biden should inform the Israeli government in advance of the actions it will take if Israel undermines the ‘special relationship’. (Thanks to the proposal prepared by DAWN, February 13, 2023, available online here.)

Biden must comply with the Foreign Assistance Act (P.L. 87–195) which regulates all forms of U.S. assistance to foreign countries. It states that no assistance may be provided to a country “which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Israel’s apartheid laws and practices as well as its demonstrable violations of the basic human rights of Palestinians is well documented.

Biden must comply with the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90–629) which regulates U.S. military assistance and sales to foreign countries. It states that the United States can furnish weapons to foreign countries “solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defense,” and for a few other limited purposes. No credits, guarantees, sales, or deliveries of weapons can be given to a country if it is “in substantial violation” of these purposes. It’s well-documented that the State of Israel continues to use military force against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip in flagrant disregard for the lives and livelihood of Palestinians.

Biden must comply with the Leahy Laws which require the Departments of State and Defense to vet individual military units and individuals before they are eligible to receive U.S. equipment or training. The Department of State version of the law states that no form of assistance can be provided “to any unit of the security forces” committing “a gross violation of human rights.” The Department of Defense version states that no training or equipment can be given to a military unit that “has committed a gross violation of human rights.” Israel is the only country in the world for which the United States does not have tracking mechanisms to determine which weapons go to which military unit. This opacity makes it nearly impossible for the Departments of State and Defense to properly implement Leahy Law vetting requirements. WAKE UP! The State of Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip fit both definitions. (Thanks to Josh Ruebner, Salih Booker and Zaha Hassan for their informative article published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, entitled Bringing Assistance to Israel in Line with Rights and U.S. Laws (May 12, 2021) (available online here).

Mr. President, the settlers’ attack on the Palestinians in Huwara is much more than “completely unacceptable”, it’s a pogrom carried out with U.S. complicity if you don’t speak up now and take explicit actions required by U.S. law.


Filed under Israel, People

U.S. shields Israel at the U.N. — when is enough, enough?

Thank you to Michael Lynk for highlighting the U.S. role in shielding Israel from censure or criticism at the United Nations in his recent piece in DAWN.

Americans should pay attention. Lynk is the former United Nations Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, from 2016 to 2022. He taught in the Faculty of Law at Western University in Ontario from 1999 to 2022. He is, most recently, the co-author of “Protecting Human Rights in Occupied Palestine: Working Through the United Nations,” with Richard Falk and John Dugard.

The U.S. hypocrisy is laid bare with just a few facts in Lynk’s article.

Since 1973, the United States has cast 81 vetoes at the U.N. Security Council, far more than any other permanent member; Russia and the former Soviet Union is in second place with 38 vetoes during that time period. More than half of these American vetoes, 42, have been used to skuttle resolutions critical of Israel: 32 vetoes dealt with the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the other 10 defeated resolutions critical of Israel’s invasions and occupation of Lebanon. In each case, the U.S. was the only permanent member of the Security Council casting a veto. No other permanent member of the Security Council has ever vetoed a resolution critical of Israel or the Israeli occupation of Palestine over the past 50 years. In his 2020 memoir, Barack Obama lamented the discomforting position that the U.S. regularly found itself in during his presidency when defending Israel at the United Nations and other international forums:

“… just about every country in the world considered Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories to be a violation of international law. As a result, our diplomats found themselves in the awkward position of having to defend Israel for actions that we ourselves opposed.”

To be sure, the U.S. has still regularly enabled the Security Council to adopt resolutions critical of Israel—77 in total since 1967. These resolutions have condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights; emphasized the legal principle that the acquisition of territory by force or war is inadmissible; and stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which protects the civilian population in occupied territory, applies in full to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza. In 1980, the Security Council, with the Carter administration abstaining, adopted Resolution 476, which “reaffirms the overriding necessity for ending the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967” and “strongly deplores the continued refusal of Israel, the occupying power, to comply with relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly.” One might ask, if the Security Council and even the U.S. deemed the Israeli occupation to have already been “prolonged” and requiring a swift conclusion by 1980, after only 13 years, how should it be labeled in 2023, after almost 56 years?

Lynk, Michael, What Does the U.S. Get Out of Shielding Israel From Accountability at the U.N.? – February 24, 2023 – DAWN

Americans of conscience must use these facts that Professor Lynk has laid bare and press our members of Congress and the Biden Administration to end our country’s indefensible position at the U.N. Security Council. Even those skeptics who don’t care a twit about Palestine should be concerned about the future viability of the institution of the United Nations when one member (the U.S.) can so tragically muck up the wheels of justice.


Filed under Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, United Nations

Nablus slaughter – Israel’s “FUCK YOU” moment!

Israel’s military entered Nablus in occupied Palestine to “preemptively” “neutralize” three “suspects” who were allegedly “planning attacks in the immediate future.” The timing was exquisite, coming on the heals of Secretary of State Blinken’s diplomatic visit.

The Israeli military’s daytime raid began at around 10:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m. ET), Ahmad Jibril, the local director of Red Crescent, told CNN. It is “a time when everyone is out shopping in the open market of the old city. No one expects an invasion at this time of the day,” he said.

There were Israeli snipers on the rooftops shooting live ammunition, he said. “That’s why many people were shot in the head, shoulders and backs,” he said. Most of the dead were shot in the head, he added.

“People who were unarmed and even away from the old city were also shot. Bullets were everywhere!” he said.

Even by Israel’s standards, this was a brazen affront against international law and a big “FUCK YOU” to the Biden Administration.

The IDF killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 102 before withdrawing from Nablus.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Jan. 30. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

Blinken just concluded a meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and, as recently as this week, they talked with each other by phone. [Blinken’s Civic Lesson for Netanyahu, Axios, Feb. 1, 2023]

Summary of call: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today (Feb. 18) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reiterate our support for a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability. The Secretary underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm and our strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions. The Secretary and Prime Minister also discussed broader regional challenges, including the threats posed by Iran, and the Secretary underscored our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.

My message to President Biden: Netanyahu doesn’t give a flying FU*K about your diplomacy, about a two-state solution, or any damn “shared values” between the U.S. and Israel. You’d better tell the American public what you consider our ‘special relationship’ to be, specifying the substance and policy dimensions of the two countries’ so-called ‘shared values’. Only by clearly defining those values can you set the U.S. apart from Israel’s flagrant violations of human rights and international law, such as the slaughter in Nablus this week. And you should make clear what would represent a departure from those ‘shared values’. Otherwise, you and your Administration are joined at the hip with a country that “preemptively” assassinates Palestinians with impunity. (Israel has murdered 62 Palestinians so far in 2023.)

It may just be time to end the “special relationship” with Israel.


Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, People, Politics

Ending the ‘Special Relationship’

The ‘special relationship’ between the U.S. and Israel has been on the rocks for years, but only now does it appear to be kosher to speak about ending it.

Most recently, David Rothkopf in Haaretz (January 19, 2023) talked about when, not if, the ‘special relationship’ will end, placing the blame on Netanyahu and his new fascist government. See, Netanyahu Is Breaking Apart America’s ‘Special Relationship’ With Israel

Netanyahu, like Trump and the American right, like Orban and Bolsonaro, like Modi, Le Pen and Italy’s neo-fascists, has for years now promoted an ethno-nationalist authoritarian agenda that is now calling into doubt all the values that once bound Israel and the U.S.

Michael Rosen’s review of Walter Russell Mead’s book — The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People — in the National Review (October 13, 2022), describes some of the history and events leading up to the ‘special relationship’.

“The development of America’s special relationship with Israel enabled the special relationship with the Arab oil producers without which the American political, economic, and foreign policy revival from the crisis of the early 1970s could not have taken place,” writes Mead.

A lot of ink has been spilled on this ‘special relationship’ — explaining it, defending it, opposing it and trying to change it. Harvard professors Mearsheimer and Walt really opened my eyes about the role of Israel’s lobbyists and strong influence over the U.S. Congress after my first visit to Palestine in 2004. [Mearsheimer, John J., and Stephen Walt. “Is It Love or The Lobby? Explaining America’s Special Relationship with Israel.” Security Studies 18.1 (January-March 2009): 58-78. And Walt, Stephen and John J. Mearsheimer. “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP06-011, March 2006.]

“Although most Americans have a favorable image of Israel, surveys show that they also favor a more even-handed Middle East policy and a more normal relationship with Israel. Thus, the special relationship is due primarily to the lobby’s influence, and not to the American people’s enduring identification with the Jewish state.”

Few Americans may actually understand how generous American taxpayers have been with their support for Israel. Since 1976, Israel has received more U.S. foreign aid each year than any other country, totaling about $100 Billion since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979. (Egypt receives the 2nd highest amount of U.S. foreign aid.) Although this aid included significant economic assistance at the beginning, its now almost all in the form of military aid. A great boondoggle for America’s military industrial complex.

The U.S. government has also sheltered Israel from international criticism — as illustrated with the numerous U.S. vetoes at the U.N. Security Council on resolutions critical of Israel. [An excellent summary of the information shared here can be found in The Rocky Future of the US-Israeli Special Relationship, by Dov Waxman and Jeremy Pressman, The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2021]

The U.S. ‘special relationship’ with Israel has become domestically contentious as the debate over how the U.S. should support Israel has ramped up and become a partisan issue. The GOP generally expresses unequivocal support for Israel while the Democrats are engaging in a conversation about the terms of our country’s conditional support for Israel. The progressives are challenging their party’s leadership to think anew about the ‘special relationship.’

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) co-sponsored a resolution attempting to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel — the first-ever break from the typical genuflecting that occurs on Capitol Hill. In March 2020, 64 Democratic members of the House wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing their “grave concern” about the Israeli violations of international law. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg publicly expressed a willingness to either cut, condition or restrict U.S. aid to Israel during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race. In April 2021, Rep. Betsy McCollum (D-MN) introduced a bill, cosponsored by 15 Dems, to prohibit Israel from using U.S. aid for the detention of Palestinian children, the destruction of Palestinian property, or the unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory. [H.R. 2590]

All of this is to say that the momentum is growing for a serious debate on Capitol Hill about our ‘special relationship’ with Israel. Now a proposal has been published which spells out in some detail how to transform the Biden Administration’s Israel Policy and end the ‘special relationship.’ I urge you to read it in its entirety here — DAWN, February 13, 2023.

To summarize: the authors recommend that the Biden administration articulate its view of the ‘special relationship’ publicly, specifying the substance and policy dimensions of the two countries’ ‘shared values’. Only by clearly defining those values can it make clear what would represent a departure from them by Israel, specifically as related to democracy, pluralism, respect for the rule of law, democratic institutions, and division of power, among other elements. DAWN (Democracy for the Arab World Now) proposes that Biden compile a list of actions, policies or norms that it considers to undermine its shared values, interests, and policy goals. DAWN has prepared a long list of ideas that might be included in such a list.

After the list is prepared, Biden should inform the Israeli government in advance of the actions it will take if Israel undermines the ‘special relationship’. Again, DAWN has provided a list of recommended actions.

These steps need not cut away the historical core commitments the united States and President Biden have made to Israel’s security. They should, however, revisit the blank-check nature of American security assistance and political support for successive Israeli governments. While DAWN believes that the United States should end all military support for Israel as long as it does not meet its human rights and other international legal obligations vis-a-vis every person living under its effective control, we acknowledge that such an ask is not one the Biden administration will pursue.


Filed under Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

DAWN – Democracy for the Arab World Now

Sometimes I go down rabbit holes. You know — scrolling online from one article to another which leads to a third and it never ends. Today I explored a gold mine instead.

I started with Michael Lynk’s article about the history of the U.N. partition 75 years ago of Israel and Palestine. Prelude to Partition: 75 Years Ago, a U.N. Committee Determined Palestine’s Fate (April 30, 2022). I really respect Professor Lynk, a Canadian law professor who served as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestine for a number of years. (See here and here and here.) His recounting of the history is magnificent in its global context as well as focus on details.

In its detailed coverage of the UNSCOP report, The Economist in early September 1947 called the majority plan “both unjust and unworkable.” The majority plan recommended that the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine, which made up 34 percent of its population, be given almost two-thirds of the country’s land area, both of its ports, most of its primary water sources and most of its valuable citrus plantations. At the time, the Yishuv only owned 7 percent of the land in Palestine. Almost all of Palestine’s industries—Arab, Jewish and foreign—would be in the new Jewish state. Yet, under this plan, the Jewish state would still be demographically a binational state, with almost an equal population of Jews and Palestinian Arabs. For their part, the Palestinians were asked to accept a rump statelet with little of the country’s economic wealth, and a heavy dependence upon the goodwill of the new Jewish state to make the proposed economic union functional.

With modifications, the UNSCOP majority plan was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 29, 1947 in Resolution 181. The General Assembly vote was delayed several times because the United States and the Jewish Agency representatives were not confident that they had gathered the requisite two-thirds of U.N. member states to support the partition resolution. Only after significant diplomatic arm-twisting, and an abrupt change of mind by several developing countries, was the final vote conducted. While slightly more territory was assigned to the proposed Arab state by the General Assembly, the lopsided features of the UNSCOP majority plan remained largely intact. The rest has been a calamitous history for the Palestinians. 

We should each return to the beginning and remember this history which unleashed the trauma that persists to this day. And if you don’t know this history, Professor Lynk’s essay is a good place to begin.

The partition of Palestine as recommended by the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine, Sept. 1, 1947. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

Then I started wondering about the website/publication/organization that had published Professor Lynk’s essay. DAWN – Democracy for the Arab World Now – was founded in early 2018 by Jamal Kashoggi just months before his brutal murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. I had never heard of DAWN.


The deliberate de-development of democracy and the erosion of human rights in the Arab world are detrimental to its peoples, economies, and future prospects for peace and prosperity. Since the brief flowering of the Arab Spring in 2011, the region has seen a harsh crackdown against democratic dissent and youth activism. Many tens of thousands have been forced into exile. Many more have been killed, jailed, and silenced at home. Repressive governments – often with powerful United States backing – have joined forces to block the democratic aspirations of their peoples.

Friends, colleagues, and supporters are now carrying on Kashoggi’s legacy – establishing DAWN with the mission of advancing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in member nations of the Arab League through an integrated program of monitoring and research, advocacy and publicity, publications, and broad-based coalition-building.

I explored the DAWN website and found the most recent essay published February 13, 2023. Ending the ‘Special Relationship’: A Proposal for Transforming the Biden Administration’s Israel Policy. See here. WOW! Stay tuned!


Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations

Is Israel’s occupation of Palestine ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’?

LEGAL OPINION by Dr. Ralph Wilde (https://bit.ly/ralph-wilde-oPt) November 29, 2022

Israel has occupied Palestine (including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) since 1967. FULL STOP. No debate, no counter factual, no denial. Palestinians have been living under a military occupation for 55 years. Several generations have been born and died under military rule.

Map of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip), marked by the Green Line. Based on Reference Map: occupied Palestinian territory: Overview Map, as of December 2011. Published by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHAoPt), 25 January 2012

The previous U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, S. Michael Lynk, argued (persuasively in my mind) that Israel has crossed a red line with its decades-long occupation in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2017 which I summarized here. He urged the General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the question of the legality of the occupation. Lynk posited a four-part legal test that should be applied to the question of the legality of Israel’s lengthy occupation. (1) Prohibition against annexation, (2) Occupations must be temporary, and not indefinite or permanent, (3) Best Interest/Trust Principle, and (4) Good Faith.

Israeli checkpoint for Palestinians posted by Husam Jubran on Facebook Nov. 2, 2017

In September 2022, the current Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese, noted that the three main approaches commonly used to examine Israel’s occupation of Palestine (namely, the humanitarian approach, the political approach, and the economic development approach) are inherently flawed because “they conflate root causes and symptoms, and focus on Israel’s lack of compliance with international law as a siloed phenomenon, rather than a longstanding structural component of the prolonged disenfranchisement of the Palestinians under occupation.” Albanese spelled out Israel’s actions during the past 55 years of occupation, including the territorial fragmentation of Palestine – preventing unity, the exploitation of natural resources – preventing economic prosperity for Palestinians, erasing Palestinian cultural and civil rights – preventing identity, preventing political existence (and resistance), and preventing statehood – “negotiating the illegal”? Her report is a must read, available online here.

Special Rapporteur Albanese called for a paradigm shift, starting with —

the recognition of the current reality in the occupied Palestinian territory as that of an intentionally acquisitive, segregationist and repressive regime, which has enabled, for 55 years, the disenfranchisement of the Palestinians, caging them into Bantustans of disrupted memories, broken ties and hopes, pursuing the ultimate goal to consolidate minority rule over a native majority on lands usurped through force, abusive and discriminatory policies and pillaging of resources. A prolonged occupation maintained for ostensible “security reasons” disguising Israeli settler-colonial intentions to extinguish Palestinian people’s right of self-determination while acquiring their receding territory as its own, as explicitly indicated by Israeli political figures, is something that the international community can no longer tolerate. This must be addressed in a holistic fashion. (Link to report.)

Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese

The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations in September 2022 included — 1) Israel complies with its obligations under international law and ceases to impede the realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, ends it settler-colonial occupation immediately and make reparations. 2) All states condemn the intentional violations by Israel of the Palestinian right to self-determination; deploy an international protective presence to constrain the violence routinely used in the occupied Palestinian territory and to protect the Palestinian people; investigate and pursue accountability through both the ICC and universal jurisdiction mechanisms; prevent, investigate and redress human rights abuses by all business enterprises in their jurisdiction, including disengaging from the colonies. 3) The High Commissioner for Human Rights should immediately release the updated database of businesses involved in the settlements. 4) Encourage the Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate the status of the right to self-determination and Israeli settler-colonial endeavors in more depth. (Full Report)

Just like clockwork, the messenger faced a horrific smear campaign following the release of her report. Illustrating the perverse and damaging role of the U.S. in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, several Democratic and Republican members of Congress have called on the U.N. Secretary General to fire Special Rapporteur Albanese. (Here and here.)

Lynk opined that Israel’s long-term occupation is illegal because of its duration (50+ years). Albanese urged a paradigm shift in how the international community examines the occupation. In November 2022, Dr. Ralph Wilde issued a legal opinion that explains why Israel’s occupation as a system of control and domination is without a valid legal basis from its inception.

Dr. Ralph Wilde, Associate Professor, Faculty of Laws, University College London, University of London. (bio)

Dr. Wilde’s opinion reads like a legal brief intended for a court, certainly not for the general public. Having a legal education, reading Noura Erakat’s work, and completing a couple of international law classes online, I felt prepared to read the 79-page opinion. What I wasn’t prepared for was the comprehensive recitation of international humanitarian laws, international human rights laws, and international criminal laws all focused with laser precision on the question of whether Israel’s occupation of Palestine is legal or illegal? And the conclusion? The occupation is existentially illegal and must end immediately without preconditions. Every day the occupation continues is a violation of international law.

Listen to Dr. Wilde explain his legal opinion in his own words — minutes 25:40:00 to 39:00:00.

At the end of December 2022, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to ask the the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a legal opinion on the legality of Israel’s occupation. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. voted against the resolution. Although the ICJ’s opinion, if it accepts jurisdiction, will be binding, the court has no enforcement mechanism.

Summary of Dr. Ralph Wilde’s Legal Opinion (full opinion available online here)

This Opinion clarifies what the terms ‘legal’/‘illegal’ mean, in relation to the occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, according to the relevant, multiple areas of applicable international law. It explains how the different forms of ‘legality’/ ‘illegality’ relate to each other, and how they apply to the occupation. In each area of law, it explains what difference ending illegality would make (e.g., ending abuses, preventing annexation, ending the occupation itself). The meaning and significance of the following terms/areas of international law are explained: self-determination; settler colonialism; the jus ad bellum/law on the use of force/aggression; (belligerent) occupation/prolonged occupation; statehood; sovereignty; title to territory; annexation; apartheid; jus in bello/law of armed conflict/international humanitarian law (IHL)/laws of war/occupation law; international human rights law (IHRL); international criminal law (including the crime of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of apartheid, the crime of torture); United Nations law and the law of treaties.

Legality/illegality can refer to the existence of the occupation, or its conduct, or both.

As to existential legality/illegality, the occupation, simply by virtue of exercising control over the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, and consequently preventing the Palestinian people from full and effective self-governance, constitutes a fundamental impediment to the realization of the right of self-determination enjoyed by the Palestinian people in international law. The only basis such an impediment could be legally justified is according to the law on the use of force—the jus ad bellum.

Assuming, hypothetically, that Israel had a right of self-defence in 1967 that justified, legally, the introduction of the occupation then, this justification has not persisted, nor has an alternative legal justification arisen. There has been no actual or imminent armed attack justifying, as necessary and proportionate, the occupation as a means of self-defence. And the doctrine of preventative self-defence, justifying the occupation as a means of stopping a threat from emerging, has no basis in international law. Neither United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, nor the so-called Oslo Accords, provide an alternative legal basis for the existence/continuation of the occupation. Indeed, the Oslo Accords are themselves violative of international law, because ‘consent’ to them by the PLO was coerced through the illegal use of force, and, relatedly, they conflicted with norms of international law that have a special non-derogable/jus cogens status (the prohibition on the use of force other than in self-defence, and the right of self-determination). More generally there is no international law right to maintain the occupation pending a peace agreement, and/or as a means of creating facts on the ground’ that might give Israel advantages in relation to such an agreement, and/or as a means of coercing the Palestinian people into agreeing a settlement to the situation that they would not accept otherwise.

The consequence of the foregoing is that there is no valid international law basis for the existence of the occupation. In consequence, the occupation is an unlawful use of force, an aggression, and a violation of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, on the part of Israel and, in the case of aggression, also a crime on an individual level for senior Israeli leaders. As a result, the occupation is existentially illegal and must end immediately. Legally, the requirement of termination is not contingent on particular circumstances being present. Specifically, the following factors or conditions cannot be, by themselves, a pretext for delaying termination: willingness/consent by Israel; the adoption of a peace agreement; the adoption of standards within or the giving of undertakings by the Palestinian people; approval by the UN, the Quartet, other states etc. In consequence, every day the occupation continues is a breach of international law.

The existential illegality of the occupation arises out of the simple fact of the occupation as a system of control and domination without a valid legal basis. This is then compounded by the occupation’s prolonged duration, its link to de jure and de facto annexation, and the egregious abuses perpetrated against the Palestinian people. The use of military force to annex territory is also an independent basis for existential illegality: also a violation of the international law on the use of force, and so also an aggression at both a state level and in terms of individual criminal responsibility. (By contrast, the prolonged length of the occupation, and its abusive nature, are not independent bases for existential illegality, but are relevant, as aggravating factors, to the question of existential legality as a matter of the law on the use of force; the abusive nature is also relevant to the separate matter of legality/illegality of conduct). Any purported annexations are also without legal effect, because in international law Israel is not and cannot be sovereign over any part of the West Bank or Gaza, including East Jerusalem, through the assertion of a claim to this effect based on the exercise of effective control enabled through the use of force, and in the absence of consent to such annexation freely given by the Palestinian people.

As to the legality/illegality of the conduct of the occupation, there are multiple, egregious breaches of the relevant areas of applicable international law: the laws of war/law of armed conflict/jus in bello/international humanitarian law including occupation law, international human rights law generally, and, within this, the prohibition of racial discrimination generally and the prohibition of apartheid in particular. These are breaches at the level of the state of Israel, and also, in some cases, individual crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of apartheid and the crime of torture.
The occupation is thus illegal in both its existence and its conduct, and in both cases this gives rise to both state and individual criminal responsibility.

(All the main areas of international law violated—the prohibition on the use of force other than in self-defence/the prohibition of aggression; the right of self-determination; the prohibition of racial discrimination generally and apartheid in particular; a sub-set of the protections in IHL; the prohibition of torture—are norms that have the special non-derogable/jus cogens status mentioned above in connection with the Oslo Accords. Jus cogens is not a separate category of substantive international legal rules but is, rather, a way of characterizing certain rules as being of a special character when it comes to their interaction with other rules of international law.)

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Erasing history and context

The official U.S. response to the escalating violence in Palestine and Israel demands condemnation for its clear and obvious attempt to rewrite history. Seen side-by-side, there’s no better example of the U.S. government’s utter failure to be an independent broker of peace in the Middle East.

On January 26, in a Press Statement entitled The Situation in Jenin, the U.S. Department of State spokesman, Ned Price, announced:

“Today in Jenin, at least nine Palestinians, including militants and at least one civilian, were killed and over twenty injured during an Israeli Defense Forces counterterrorism operation against a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell.  We recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against civilians.  We mourn the loss of innocent lives as well as injuries to civilians and are deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the West Bank.  We underscore the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.  Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely.”

The following day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, issued a Press Statement entitled Condemning the Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem:

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the horrific terrorist attack that occurred today outside of a synagogue in Jerusalem.  We mourn those killed in the attack, and our thoughts are with the injured, including children.  The notion of people being targeted as they leave a house of worship is abhorrent.  It is particularly tragic that this attack occurred on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On behalf of the United States, I express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish those injured a full recovery.  We are in close contact with our Israeli partners and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

Jenin refugee camp. © 2015 UNRWA Photo by Dominiek Benoot

The facts must not be recast to support a false narrative.

The Situation in Jenin was initiated by Israel when its leaders sent the military into the crowded Jenin Refugee Camp in the Occupied Palestine Territories. Palestinian fighters responded and the Israeli soldiers killed 9 Palestinians, including a 61-year old woman. Many news outlets are referring to the action as a “raid.” Almog Cohen, a member of the Israeli parliament and “Jewish Power” party, celebrated the operation, tweeting: “Nice and professional work by the fighters in Jenin. Keep killing them.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that they were looking for terror suspects connected to the Islamic Jihad. The army confirmed that three of them were “neutralized” during an exchange of gunfire. Sick children in the hospital in Jenin were suffocated when the soldiers fired teargas into the hospital. A 10th Palestinian was shot and killed during a confrontation with Israeli troops in the town of al-Ram, near Jerusalem, as residents protested against the Jenin raid.

Predictably, Gaza fighters fired rockets into Israel in response to the massacre in Jenin. A day following the massacre, seven Israelis were killed outside a synagogue in Jerusalem, and then a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire in east Jerusalem on Saturday, wounding two Israelis. The AP reported the attack in Jerusalem was the deadliest attack in the city since 2008. I’m reminded of Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010) explaining blowback but I don’t think he considered it in the context of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.  

Killing to preserve the occupation.

More than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, were killed across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem last year. In January 2023 alone, at least 29 Palestinians including five children have been killed. The UN said that 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2006, but 2023 is already on course to surpass that, if the number of deaths stay at the same level, and there is now the potential for a full-scale uprising among Palestinians, particularly in the wake of Israel’s new far-right government, which came into power at the end of December.”

People of conscience must resist attempts to obscure the histories and experiences of oppressed people, including the Palestinians. [1] One crucial step is to recognize the erasure of context. The U.S. State Department calls Israel’s actions in Jenin “a counterterrorism operation against terrorists,” without a peep about the 1948 Nakba, the decades-long military occupation of Palestine, or the present-day indignities, depravation and brutality which the Palestinians are subjected to by Israel.

Jehad Abusalim writes: “Regimes of oppression work tirelessly to render the historical context of oppressed people irrelevant and obscure. Their final goal is to portray oppressed people and their struggles for reclaiming their rights as irrational and, at worst, reduce them to a threat against those who built their privilege at the expense of others.” [2]

The U.S. Department of State is erasing the context of the current violence and selectively condemning the violence perpetrated by the Palestinians (the victims of this illegal military occupation) while patting the Israeli government (the occupier) on the back. The U.S. government has demonstrated over the years that it’s incapable of serving as a neutral mediator or power broker in ending Israel’s occupation and bringing peace to all people in Palestine and Israel. I’m writing to President Biden, Secretary Blinken and the New Mexico delegation in Congress and requesting them to (1) enforce the Leahy Act which prohibits the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights; and (2) to formally withdraw from any role in negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

[1] Light in Gaza – Writings Born of Fire, Edited by Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing and Michael Merryman Lotze, American Friends Service Committee (2022) available at https://www.afsc.org/newsroom/afsc-and-haymarket-publishes-light-gaza-writings-born-fire

[2] Id.

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Everything is so predictable!

What difference does a rally make? Even a noisy and well-attended rally in mid-town Manhattan where we gathered to protest Israel’s bombardment of Gaza?

(Rally in midtown Manhattan August 8, 2022)

Everything is so predictable. The “precision” missiles and airstrikes killing “terrorists” in Gaza along with scores of innocent children. Just witness 2008-09, 2012, 2014, 2021 and now again, the latest operation (Operation Breaking Dawn) began August 5th.

Everything is so predictable. The crude, home-made rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s Iron Dome knocking the vast majority of them out of the sky.

Everything is so predictable. U.S. officials spout the “Israel has a right to defend itself” bullshit to provide an excuse for the inexcusable, and urge both sides to “restore calm” while at the same time arming Israel’s military. A grotesque picture comes to mind — a master telling a slave to lay still and take the abuse and rape calmly.

(Rally in midtown Manhattan, August 8, 2022)

Everything is so predictable. An army of social media activists frantically try to wake up the world to what’s happening (again) in Gaza with hashtags like “GazaUnderAttack”. Israel has its own social media activists trying to reframe the damaging reality and cleanse Israel’s reputation from all the spilt blood.

(Rally in midtown Manhattan, August 8, 2022)

Everything is so predictable. I’m debating whether attending another rally is worth my time and effort. It’s hot and humid in NYC. Holding my sign “I stand with Gaza” really makes no difference in the big scheme of things. I write letters to Secretary Blinken, to President Biden, to the local newspaper, but even those small gestures feel so futile.

Then the unpredictable happened!

I arrived at the rally and was handed a picture of Mohammed Salah Naijm, 17 years old, one of 46 Palestinian martyrs, including 16 children since Friday. I don’t know Mohammed or his family but tears welled up and I was filled with grief. A week ago, Mohammed was going through the routine of a difficult life in Gaza with some expectation of a future. Israel took his dreams, his hopes and future away. He had survived each of Israel’s military operations (2008-09, 2012, 2014 and 2021) and likely believed he would survive another.

I held Mohammed’s picture and saw others holding pictures of child victims. At that moment, I realized that I don’t attend these predictable rallies to change the world or to “educate” Americans about our complicity in these atrocities. I don’t attend these rallies to express anger or outrage, although I feel both.

I attend rallies such as this one to stand in solidarity with the victims and their families. To share their grief and to let them know they’re not alone. If I could travel to Gaza and stand with them in person, I would. But my spirit is with them. Today and forevermore.

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