al-Nakba Day on Capitol Hill

Lora squinting in front of the US Capitol

Lora squinting in front of the US Capitol

Today I visited Washington, DC where the Capitol Building is getting a facelift. My goal was to connect with staff in each of the offices of the New Mexico delegation to talk about al-Nakba.  It went something like this . . .

Staffer: Welcome to the office. We always like to hear from our constituents.

Lora: Thank you for taking time to meet with me. I have a personal interest in the Middle East (and I proceeded to share a bit about my background to set some context).  Have you heard of al-Nakba?

Staffer: Nope!

Lora: Maybe you know about Israel’s Independence Day which was celebrated yesterday.

Staffer: Oh sure.

Lora: When the Zionists declared the new State of Israel in 1948,  they began to forcibly expel over 750,000 indigenous Palestinians from their homes, businesses, and land. Many were killed. Over 500 Palestinians villages were destroyed. That expulsion is referred to as al-Nakba or “Catastrophe” in English, which continues to this day.

Staffer: <furiously scribbling notes>

Lora: What does the Senator / Congresswoman think about Israel & Palestine?

Staffer: Well, Israel has a right to defend herself, but we think Israel’s bombing of schools and hospitals last summer was over the top.

Lora: The situation in the Gaza Strip is dire. More than 2,000 Palestinians (most of them civilians) were killed last summer. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds of families remain without shelter today. The status quo cannot continue. In fact, the U.N. issued a report in the summer of 2012 that said the Gaza Strip would be unlivable by 2020!

Staffer: Yes, but the situation is complex. What do you think the Senator / Congresswoman should do?

Lora: Well, we could begin by recognizing the State of Palestine.  “Direct negotiations” between Israel and Palestine will not be fruitful if the international status of the parties remains unequal. This week Pope Francis recognized the State of Palestine.  And as of October 2014, 135 of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognized the State of Palestine.  I think it’s long past time for the U.S. to recognize the State of Palestine too.

Staffer:   Hmmmm! OK.

Lora: You know that the official U.S. policy regarding Israel/Palestine has been consistent for decades and under the Administrations of both parties. Carrots haven’t worked, it’s time to use sticks. Expressions of “concerns” about Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories (a violation of international law) have not resulted in any change.

Staffer: What kind of sticks?

Lora: Such as reducing the $3+ Billion/year the U.S. taxpayers give to Israel;  supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and refusing to shield Israel from criticism at the United Nations.

Staffer: What’s BDS?

Lora: <exacerbated but remaining calm> You know, like what we did with South Africa to help end the apartheid regime? And since Congress heard Netanyahu speak in March, maybe an invitation  to Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the U.N., and former President Jimmy Carter, to speak to Congress would be helpful. Shouldn’t Congress hear from both sides?

Staffer: When an important vote comes up, the Senator / Congresswoman always asks staff “who have we heard from in the District about this issue and what did they say?”

Lora in Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham's office sitting with the office dog - Mattie.

Lora in Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s office sitting with the office dog – Mattie.

Which leads me to the point of this blog post. Don’t take it for granted that your members of Congress understand the issues in the Middle East. Reach out to them, call or write, and tell them what you think. Although the AIPAC and J Street lobbyists are known to Congressional staffers, other groups (Jewish Voices for Peace) and individuals may be unknown. We need to be heard in Congress. It’s easy (check out this website) and there’s no excuse not to.

My hunch is that not a single member of Congress has heard of al-Nakba. I know the staffers of the New Mexico delegation hadn’t.

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6 Comments

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

6 responses to “al-Nakba Day on Capitol Hill

  1. Hallie Appel

    Thank you, Lora. We should all be talking with our representatives, or their staff, about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

  2. Thank you for all what you do for Palestine Ms Laura .. I am one of your followers and i repost your articles when I receive an email notice of your new ones
    In the middle of this article you wrote: ” Well, we could begin by recognizing the State of Israel.” … I think you mean Palestine not “israel”
    Thank you

  3. gypsytor

    Its a great piece of writing – and I’m visiting East Jerusalem right now, so know precisely how important the work you do is. Extraordinary that the staffer you spoke to could be so completely uninformed. Despite the evidence of heavily armed IDF on the streets, the attacks on Palestinians, the arrest of children and imprisonment of both children and adults without trial or any hope of justice we are seeing at the moment, I still believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Every day, more and more people in Europe and the US are beginning to realise how the well-organised and vocal israel-lobbyists have misled them and that the vast majority of Palestinians are peaceful citizens with heroic levels of patience and fortitude.

    On Sunday, there are 6000 Police expected in Jerusalem to control clashes between the settlers coming in to celebrate Jerusalem Day and the East Jerusalemites. It is a public holiday and there will be a ‘March of the Flags’ to and through the Old City. The route of this march passes through the Muslim quarter and is intended to taunt the Palestinians. If you wave a Palestinian flag, you risk immediate arrest. It is a deliberate ploy to cause anger and humiliation to Palestinians and there will be trouble of-course. Doubtless it will receive a very limited press in the rest of the world – and all of it in the mainstream press will be anti-Palestinian.

    I regularly direct people to Alternative Tours run out of the Jerusalem Hotel in Nablus Street, East Jerusalem for an overwhelming dose of reality about the Wall, the check-points, the tricks used to dispossess Palestinians of their land, their water, their homes, their citizenship, their culture, and their human rights. Nothing quite like seeing it for yourself ! If only all the Congressmen as well as the European and Australian politicians who visit Israel at the invitation of the Israeli government could take one of Abu Hassan’s tours and see the other side of the story. What a difference that would make.

    There’s a typo in your comments to the staffer however – you obviously mean “Well, we could start by recognising the State of Palestine” but you’ve written “Israel” instead. Although I think the Pope’s action is absolutely correct – and will be a clarion call to millions – I’m afraid that everything points to the two state solution being a dream now. Those settlements aren’t going to be torn down and the 1967 line is gone for ever. We need to demand that Israel gives freedom of expression, movement, land rights, civil rights and a fair distribution of taxes, infrastructure, housing and education to ALL citizens from the “River to the Sea” now. Its the delegitimisation of Israel’s claim to be democratic which will bring about the change the Palestinians so desperately need. And everyone, Jewish, Muslim and Christian should support BDS, which far from being anti-Semitic will eventually save Israel from the explosion which will have to come if they don’t release the pressure-cooker soon. I went to hear Ilan Pappe speak movingly about it when he introduced a new book by Cherine Hussein at the Kenyon Institute last week.

    Keep up the good work Lora – There is evidence that the Titanic is starting to turn.

  4. kthays

    Good work, Lora! Love, Kay

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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