Category Archives: Israel

“Gaza Strip is not occupied,” says Israel’s Supreme Court, as Gaza is thrown into darkness

I just read the Ahmed decision by the Supreme Court of Israel. This case involves a petition filed in 2007 by the Palestinians against the State of Israel regarding the reduction of fuel supplies and electricity to the Gaza Strip.  Recently, the American Friends Service Committee prepared a short description of the problem here.

In 2005, Israel removed its settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip. The Supreme Court concluded that “Israel no longer has effective control over what happens in the Gaza Strip” and so “Israel does not have a general duty to ensure the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip or to maintain public order in the Gaza Strip according to the laws of belligerent occupation in international law.”

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Israel, in part because

(1) Israel asserts it is monitoring the fuel supplies and electricity delivery to the Gaza Strip to meet the humanitarian needs of the people in Gaza;

(2) Israel says that the Palestinian officials have the capability to manage the load reduction;

(3) it’s better that the parties negotiate between themselves regarding the issue of fuel delivery and electricity; and

(4) there is a big distinction between the parties — one is fighting in the name of the law (Israel) and the other is fighting against the law (terrorists = Hamas).

Quick Facts • Less than half–only 45 percent—of Gaza’s power needs are now being met. Rolling blackouts leave residents with only six to eight hours of power each day. • Since 2013, the Gaza power plant has operated at less than half capacity. The plant regularly has to shut down, due to fuel shortages caused by Israeli restrictions on importing fuel. • Since 2010, at least 29 people—24 of them children— have died in Gaza from fires or suffocation directly linked to power outages. • Over 70 percent of Gaza households have access to piped water for only six to eight hours once every two to four days, because of the limited power supply.

I find the Ahmed decision troubling for several reasons:

(1) The Supreme Court’s rather cursory conclusion that Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip. No occupation = no duty under the international laws of belligerent occupation. This conclusion appears to have been reached without arguments proffered by the parties on this very important issue, and almost as a side note to the court’s decision.

(2) The Supreme Court’s characterization of the parties in the case — one is law-abiding and fighting to preserve the law, while the other is a terrorist organization fighting against the law — demonstrates the inherent bias and lack of judicial neutrality that permeates the decision. The Supreme Court also demonstrates its lack of objectivity when it cites with approval Israel’s statement that the Palestinians are capable of managing the load reduction so as not to harm hospitals, etc., while dismissing without discussion the contrary arguments made by the Palestinians.

(3) While the Supreme Court acknowledges that Israel has a responsibility to meet the “essential humanitarian needs of the civilian population” in Gaza, it doesn’t provide any guidance about what constitutes “essential humanitarian needs” and appears to defer to Israel’s assertion that the State recognizes its responsibility and will monitor the delivery of electricity and fuel so as to meet its responsibility. (That must be cold comfort to the civilians sitting in the dark on a cold winter night in Gaza, or to the children who have died in house fires due to the candles.)

(4) The issue of the nexus between Israel’s rationale for reducing the electricity and fuel to Gaza seems to be accepted carte blanche by the Court without any critical examination. Israel says its “decision to limit the supply of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip was made in the framework of the State’s operations against the ongoing terrorism.” Doesn’t Israel have a duty to show the Court a nexus —- that the reduction of electricity and fuel has some measurable impact on reducing the terrorism (rockets)? If there is no nexus, then isn’t it fair to say that Israel’s actions, in fact, constitute collective punishment against the civilian population?

• Hospitals provide only limited services because they rely on generators, which produce insufficient and unstable electrical supplies that can damage sensitive equipment. • Up to 90 million liters of untreated sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea each day in part due to electrical and fuel shortages. • Schools often function without electricity, leaving students in the dark, making many educational activities impossible, and negatively affecting students’ learning environments. • Businesses and industry can’t function without reliable electrical supplies, increasing unemployment and further destabilizing the Gaza economy.

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Passover Seder in Baltimore

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Tonight I joined a Passover Seder in Baltimore where Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered to read and sing the Haggadah prepared by Jewish Voice for Peace.

As I understand it, this is a very special ritual for Jews to retell the story of how God liberated them from slavery and oppression under the Pharaohs in Egypt nearly 3000 years ago.

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Moses parting the Red Sea

This time we cannot cross until we carry each other, all of us refugees. All of us prophets. No more taking turns on history’s wheel. Trying to collect old debts no one can pay. The sea will not open that way. This time that country is what we promise each other. Our rage pressed cheek to cheek until tears flood the space between. Until there are no enemies left. Because this time no one will be left to drown and all of us must be chosen. This time it’s all of us or none. – Aurora Levins Morales

Many of us did not know each other before we sat down together tonight. We shared some of the social actions we’ve been working on — stopping an anti-BDS bill; passing a fracking ban; working on transgender issues; and others.

Tonight we have a powerful group of people gathering around this table telling the Exodus story as one way to gain a deeper understanding of oppression and refuel our work for liberation in our time. We are involved in many struggles, in our local communities and around the world, all intersecting and inseparable.

After we raised the first cup of wine (Kadesh) to education, we washed our hands before eating a green vegetable which we dipped in salt water (Karpas).

We dip a spring vegetable into salt water — the spring vegetable reminding us of potential and promise and the salt water reminding us of the tears and the pain along the way. This is an invitation to hold complexity — a reminder that change is possible even in what seems like endless darkness. As you dip the green vegetable into the salt water, affirm for yourself the potential for justice even as we hold the tears of oppression.

Then we broke the matzah.

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Systems of oppression break our world in so many ways large and small. They shatter bodies, families, communities, sometimes whole nations. The militarism we spread at home and abroad unleashes forces we cannot fathom or control. Rarely do we stop to comtemplate our own complicity in systems that wreak havoc in our name.

As we break the matzoh now, we ask ourselves: how do we benefit from the perpetuation of oppressive systems? What are we willing to do about it? And where might we start?

What is broken can never be what it once was. But it can be repaired.

I was really struck by the relevance of the words in this Haggadah to our world today.

As we begin the Exodus story, we read that the oppression of the Israelites resulted from Pharaoh’s fear that their growth would somehow overwhelm the Egyptian nation. These verses certainly have an ominous resonance for the Jewish people. Indeed any member of a minority faith or ethnic group knows all too well the tragedy that inevitably ensues when a nation views their demographic growth as a “threat”.

Today it is all too common to hear Israel’s leaders and supporters suggest that the “Jewish character” of Israel is threatened by the demographic growth of the Palestinian people. How should we react to the suggestion that the mere fact of this group’s growth necessarily poses a national threat to Israel? As Jews living in the Diaspora, how would we respond if our leaders raised questions about the “demographic threat” of a particular minority group to the “national character” of our country? In a multi-ethnic society, can a state’s identity ever be predicated upon the primacy of one ethnic group without the oppression of another?

Memories of Gaza flooded me, especially the olive harvest, as we read from this Haggadah.

The olive tree is one of the first plants mentioned in the Torah and remains among the oldest species in Israel/Palestine. It has become a universal symbol of peace and hope, as it is written in Psalm 52: “I am like a thriving olive tree in God’s house, I trust in God’s loyal kindness forever and ever.” We add this olive to our seder plate as a reminder that we must all be God’s bearers of peace and hope in the world.

At the same time, we eat this olive in sorrow, mindful that olive trees, the source of livelihood for Palestinian farmers, are regularly chopped down, burned and uprooted by Israeli settlers and the Israeli authorities. As we look on, Israel pursues systematic policies that increasingly deny Palestinians access to olive orchards that have belonged to them for generations. As we eat now, we ask one another: How will we, as Jews, bear witness to the unjust actions committed in our name? Will these olives inspire us to be bearers of peace and hope for Palestinians — and for all who are oppressed?

The four questions followed, with each of us taking turns reading from the Haggadah. Then the Ten Plagues.  We raised a second cup of wine to solidarity!  Haggadah_15th_cent

Solidarity is hard work. It requires ongoing self-reflection, clear accountability structures, continual learning and critical thinking. Also: humility, empathy, commitment, hope and love. True solidarity unites communities with different levels of oppression and privilege in the common struggle for liberation. It involves community building, support in struggle, awareness of our own relationship to different forms of oppression, and commitment to action that is accountable to those most directly affected by injustice.

So as we join together tonight to celebrate liberation, we recommit to struggling together for a world where everybody can have their voices heard.

We raise our glass and re-ignite our commitment to the work, responsibility and the joy of solidarity.

L’chayim to solidarity!

Jews will find the following rituals familiar, but it was a first for many at this Seder.

Rach’tzah: washing hands before eating matzah

Motzi & Matzah: blessing over matzah as food and as a special mitzvah

Maror: eating the bitter herbs

Korech: eating a sandwich of haroset & bitter herbs

Shulchan Orech: Then we shared the potluck dishes that everyone contributed.

Tzafun: eating the afikomen

Barech: grace after meal

Third Cup of Wine – L’chayim to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions!

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In the long and varied history of Jewish experience, we are inspired by those who have resisted injustice and fought for freedom. At JVP, we strive to live up to those values and extend that history. This is why we proudly support the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government:

Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real. By supporting the Palestinian call, we follow in the footsteps of those who supported similar calls to support struggles in the Jim Crow South and apartheid South Africa. In so doing, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all.

As we raise our third cup of wine, let us rededicate ourselves to the call!

Hallel: praise — torgether we sing songs of peace & hope.

Lo yisa goy el goy cherev

Lo yilmedu od milchama

Nation shall not war against nation,

and they shall study war no more.

And then it was my turn to read from the Haggadah when we raised the fourth cup of wine to community. It was absolutely the perfect spot for me. Very meaningful!

We come together to envision the world we want to live in: a world where every individual has the right to self-determination by participating in shaping our future together. In this world, we look out and care for one another; we practice trust and kindness; we respect each other’s personal (physical and emotional) space; we lend an ear or ask for a helping hand; we believe that everyone comes to do this work with good intent; and, we hold each other accountable when we err.

We will affirm each other in our spectrum of identities. We will model our shared vision of the world by creating a space that is safe, inclusive and supportive as possible for all of us. This includes having thoughtful coversations with each other if/when we hear language used pejoratively or language that perpetuates stereotypes. We all feel the stress of the present state of affairs, and it is physically and emotionally draining. Though it is sometimes difficult to see, we know there is a rainbow on the other side of the storm cloud of injustice; if we didn’t know this, we wouldn’t be participants in the movement for peace and justice. It is because of the rainbow, not the storm cloud, that we act. We raise the fourth cup to the rainbow.

(Adapted from the JVP 2011 National Membership Meeting: Building a Community of Respect and Trust, a note from Stefanie Brendler, JVP Board member)

L’chayim to community!

Nirtzah: Conclusion

Next year in Jerusalem! Next year in al-Quds! Next year in a City of Peace!

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#AIPAC2017

IMG_20170326_141847221I’ve never attended the annual protest at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC, and I was ambivalent about attending this year.

AIPAC is the notoriously strong Israeli lobby that successfully (from its perspective) bamboozles our members of Congress into towing Israel’s objectives, even when they arguably may not be in the US interest to do so.  I’ve written about AIPAC here, here and here (among other posts).

I hopped on the train in Baltimore and arrived at the Convention Center in Washington, DC a couple of hours after the protest was announced to begin. I decided to go as an observer, wearing my keffiyeh but not carrying a sign.

IMG_20170326_142521260The protest was noisy (YEAH!) and there appeared to be a number of different groups involved (YEAH!).

I was left with two big impressions: (1) The large number of American Jews standing and yelling outside the convention center must have given the Jews inside a moment of pause. I hope that fact also makes our elected officials stop and think.

(2) The youth are not only the future of this movement to end the occupation, they have stepped up and are now the leaders.  It’s time for the old folks to take a back seat.

A woman holding the sign of a martyr killed in Ramallah by Israel last week really moved me. I don’t know if she was a family member or someone raising awareness of the ongoing killing of Palestinians, almost daily. Can my Congresswoman and two Senators not see the horrible nature of this occupation?

The young man was known as Abu Saleh, his nickname. He was the only child in the family.

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Does Congress listen to average blokes?

Actually, it’s a fair question and I don’t have the answer.

In my long history of writing elected officials, I’ve rarely received anything more than a form letter in response, and more often then not, these form letters are nonresponsive.

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But I keep writing because (1) the act of writing empowers me and I learn about the issue; (2) writing is a respectful way of telling my elected officials that I’m watching them and care about these issues; and (3) writing letters provides a paper-trail to share with other constitutents/voters/average blokes.

(I also routinely call the Congressional offices in DC to register my 30 second opinion on a current issue — their numbers are on speed dial.)

Given all the money flowing into Congress from special interests, drowning out our voices because corporations have free speech rights, ya’ know, it’s even more important for average blokes to write — write clearly and write often.

This week I wrote two letters to Congress — here’s the shorter one.

I’m writing on behalf of the members of the _____________ to ask you to reconsider your support as cosponsor of S.Res.6 – Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.  A copy of UNSC Res. 2334 is attached.

With the passage of UNSC Res. 2334, every member of the United Nations Security Council, save the United States, is urging the State of Israel to meet its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and end the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories. UNSC Res. 2334 is even-handed and balanced when it speaks to both Israelis and Palestinians to “act on the basis of international law” and to return to the negotiating table.

The United States Congress is standing on the wrong side of history when it stands alone among the community of nations, to denounce well-established international law. The United States is not being a friend to the State of Israel by trying to shield it from criticism, just as a good friend doesn’t turn a blind eye to the destructive behavior of someone he/she cares about.

We believe President Obama’s decision to abstain in the UNSC Res. 2334 vote was both courageous and correct. We urge you to seek amendments to S.Res.6 to ensure that it supports international law, and supports negotiations between the parties in a balanced and fair manner.

 

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115th Congress: Israel’s BFF

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America and Israel flags

In addition to H. Res. 11 mentioned in an earlier blog post, a number of other resolutions have been introduced in the House and Senate regarding Israel.

Reject the 2-state solution once and for all is what Representative Steve King (R-IA) is urging the new Administration to do with his H.Res. 27. Frankly, most Palestinians would agree that the 2-state solution is infeasible. Ramzy Baroud goes further and writes:

If the US was indeed keen on a two-state solution, it would have fought vehemently to make it a reality decades ago. To say that the two-state solution is now dead is to subscribe to the illusion that it was once alive and possible.

That said, it behooves everyone to understand that coexistence in one democratic state is not a dark scenario that spells doom for the region. It is time to abandon unattainable illusions and focus all energies to foster coexistence based on equality and justice for all. There can be one state between the river and the sea, and that is a democratic state for all its people, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

However, King’s proposal is not for one democratic state. Far from it, he again demonizes the Palestinians for a failed Palestinian state in “Judea and Samaria” (code phrase for “this land between the river and the sea only belongs to the Jews and anyone else should leave”) which he says threatens the people of Israel, and he urges the Administration to reject the “two-state solution” as the U.S. diplomatic policy objective and to advocate for a new approach that prioritizes the State of Israel’s sovereignty, security, and borders.

That pesky little problem of what to do about the legal, human, economic and moral rights of the Palestinians is not addressed.

Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) has 57 cosponsors for his asinine H. Res. 14 scolding President Obama for abstaining on the UN Security Council’s passage of  Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23, 2016. (Note: Don’t mistake this Dennis Ross for the other Dennis Ross, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.)

What’s got Rep. Ross’s knickers in a bunch?  The community of nations reiterated well-established international law — that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal. Period. There’s no debate among legal scholars about that fact, but AIPAC wants to make sure Israel’s supporters in Congress stand firm and denounce these “one-sided, anti-Israel” measures.

It will be interesting to see how many members of Congress jump to attention to reassure Netanyahu that they have his back. It will also be interesting to see how self-identified “progressive” Democrats in the Congress defend their support of H.Res. 14.  Since when did opposing international law become a progressive value?

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) chastises the Obama Administration’s abstention decision at the U.N. in softer terms, but no less objectionable to any reasonable observer of politics in the Middle East. See, S.Res. 5.  Who can argue with bilateral talks – point 1?  Or with point 2? However, points 3 – 11 are so one-sided that they reveal the true intention of the sponsor. To illustrate the skewed nature of S.Res. 5, I’ve drafted some counter points.

S. Res. 5 –

(1) urges the President and the international community to join in supporting bilateral talks between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(2) expresses support for individuals and organizations working to bring about peace and cooperation between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(3) opposes the use of the United Nations as a medium to unfairly impose external remedies to challenges between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(3a) Lora writes: supports the United Nations as the appropriate venue for resolving international conflicts, including the challenges between the Israelis and Palestinians.

(4) objects to the December 2016 abstention and declination to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 by delegates of the United States at the United Nations;

(4a) Lora writes: supports the December 2016 abstention and declination to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. 

(5) regrets and seeks to reverse the negative public criticism of Israel by United States diplomats;

(5a) Lora writes: applauds Secretary Kerry’s “Separate and Unequal” message on December 28 warning both sides that the end of the two-state solution is at hand.

(6) urges the President-elect to adopt a policy of opposing and vetoing if necessary one-sided United Nations Security Council resolutions targeting Israel;

(6a) Lora writes: urges the President-elect to adopt a policy of thoughtful review and consideration of all United Nations Security Council resolutions that address international law and the rights and responsibilities of the Israelis and Palestinians;

(7) rejects international efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist;

(7a) Lora writes: rejects any efforts that undermine the rights of Palestinians to self-determination;

(8) supports Israel’s right to self-defense;

(8a) Lora writes: supports the right of all people in the Middle East to live in peace and harmony;

(9) condemns acts of terrorism and violence targeted at Israeli civilians;

(9a) Lora writes: condemns acts of terrorism and violence targeted at any civilians, regardless of ethnicity, race, or religion;

(10) reiterates that Palestinian political goals will never be achieved through violence; and

(10a) Lora writes: reiterates that the political goals of the Israelis and Palestinians will never be achieved through violence; and 

(11) calls on all parties to return to negotiations and without preconditions, as direct discussions remain the best mechanism to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(11a) Lora writes: calls on the State of Israel to end its illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, so that all parties may return to negotiations, as direct discussions remain the best mechanism to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

S. Res. 6, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is similar to the others but probably has more steam with its bipartisan list of 59 cosponsors.  The take-away messages from S.Res. 6 are (1) damn the United Nations for meddling in the Middle East, (2) damn everyone else for unfairly boycotting or ostracizing Israel, and (3) lets return to the status quo of endless talking and searching for a two-state solution while Israel continues to build its settlements in the occupied West Bank. Sounds like Senator Rubio and his colleagues favor allowing Israel to eat the pizza while urging the parties to talk about how to divide the pizza.

S. Res. 6 also mentions the Paris Conference scheduled on January 15th – more about that in a later blog post.

The points itemized in S. Res. 6 are:

(1) expresses grave objection to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016);

(2) calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;

(3) rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;

(4) demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;

(5) notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);

(6) rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;

(7) urges the current Presidential administration and all future Presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

(8) reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to continue to seek a sustainable, just, and secure two-state solution to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians; and

(9) urges the incoming Administration to work with Congress to create conditions that facilitate the resumption of direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving a sustainable agreement that is acceptable to both sides.

H. Res. 23 sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-NC) has 101 cosponsors, including my Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM), so it likely has alot of momentum. Although H. Res. 23 seems more benign than the others, it’s problematic for 2 simple reasons: it (1) opposes BDS, (“Whereas the United States steadfastly opposes boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the State of Israel”); and (2) favors the U.S. using its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to thwart the overwhelming global consensus on issues that impact Israel. H. Res. 23 provides:

(1) the United States should continue to support a durable and sustainable two-state solution to resolve the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians;

(2) a viable and sustainable two-state solution can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians;

(3) the United States should continue to oppose, and if necessary, veto future United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel; and

(4) the United States should continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for successful final-status peace negotiations.

Three other measures focus on Jerusalem. Both the Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem their capital, and that city has been the focal point of much of the conflict. Members of the U.S. Congress want to bully their way into this hot pot by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to the detriment of any legitimate claims the Palestinians might have.

H.R.265 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel, and for other purposes.

H.R.257 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer to Jerusalem the United States Embassy located in Tel Aviv.

S.11 – Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act

Time to write and/or call your member of Congress and let them know what you think about these resolutions.

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Congress genuflects again

Just like clockwork, the U.S. Congress has disgracefully genuflected again to the State of Israel.

Every January, one of the first resolutions introduced in our august Capitol is AIPAC‘s loyalty test to determine which members of Congress might be straying from Israel’s tight leash.

Just like clockwork, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats lined up this week, including New Mexico’s three members of Congress. Representatives Steve Pearce (R-NM), Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) each want you to know they are unwavering in their loyalty to Israel.

This week, H. Res. 11 provided the litmus test. H. Res. 11 condemns the United Nations for passing Security Council Resolution 2334 in December which stated:

Israel′s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The substance of the U.N. resolution was not remarkable because the international community has recognized the illegality of Israel’s settlement activity for decades. What WAS notable is that the United States did not exercise its veto to thwart the Security Council’s resolution.

In a remarkable display of independence, President Obama broke with our country’s track record of providing diplomatic protection for Israel at the United Nations. The news sent shock waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Netanyahu gave the U.N. his proverbial finger and said Israel would continue to build settlements in the occupied West Bank, while the Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) expressed support for Obama’s abstention.

Statement by Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson on UN Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements.

There is an increasing understanding among U.S. political leaders, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law.

The U.S. abstention from this resolution is a welcome sign in that regard. As the only country that abstained, the evidence of the U.S.’s isolation from the global consensus during the vote was stark.

Unfortunately, JVP’s optimism about U.S. political leaders was premature, as we learned on Thursday, January 5, 2017.  The final vote on AIPAC’s creepy resolution was 342 to 80.

Why is it creepy?  Because the votes of a clear majority of both Republicans and Democrats (including the three from New Mexico) indicate they oppose international law, oppose holding Israel accountable for breaking international law, and oppose President Obama’s tepid action (a mere abstention) which only reflected the official U.S. foreign policy of past Presidents.

Fortunately, there are some thoughtful members of Congress (both Ds and Rs) who rejected AIPAC’s H.Res. 11, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and others. The messages from constituents who want the U.S. government to break with its lapdog fealty to Israel are finally making a difference.

Now it’s time to turn our attention on the other AIPAC-sponsored measures introduced in the first week of the new Congress.  Constituents need to be heard loud and clear.

H.Res. 27 – Rejecting the “two-state solution” as the United States’ diplomatic policy objective and calls for the Administration to advocate for a new approach that prioritizes the State of Israel’s sovereignty, security, and borders.

S.Res.6 – A resolution objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and to all efforts that undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement.

H. Res.14 – Disapproving of President Obama and his administration’s refusal to veto the anti-Israel resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council on December 23, 2016.

S.Res.5 – A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate in support of Israel.

S.15 – Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act

H.R.265 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel, and for other purposes.

H.R.257 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer to Jerusalem the United States Embassy located in Tel Aviv.

S.11 – Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act

H.Res.23 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives and reaffirming long-standing United States policy in support of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

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Our Shared Disgrace

Lands of the Indigenous Peoples confiscated by the colonial power of the United States

The bonds that tie the United States and Israel together are tighter than most Americans understand and appreciate. Even President Obama needs a history lesson.

Affirming that the United States could be an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama told Al Arabiya television in Dubai a few days after his inauguration in January 2009: “We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power.

Say it again?!

Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz spells out the sordid history of our colonial conquest of the Indigenous peoples who lived on this land centuries before the Anglos arrived in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. She notes that “[t]he affirmation of democracy requires the denial of colonialism, but denying it does not make it go away.”

From the day Columbus set foot in what is present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1492, and returned to Spain with Indigenous slaves and gold, the putrid stench of colonialism has wafted over these lands we call the United States, and it lingers to this day.

Colonialism: the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Our forefathers, and many historians, have tried to obscure this stench with noble explanations of “manifest destiny” and the “doctrine of discovery” but the reality of our founding story and its legacy is catching up with us on the streets of Ferguson, in Baltimore, and in the huge protests today in the Dakotas and beyond.

“Our nation was born in genocide … We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Obviously, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t know (or forgot) that the State of Israel is trying as a matter of national policy to follow our lead and wipe out its Indigenous population.loss-of-landDunbar-Ortiz’s history of the United States doesn’t talk about the State of Israel, but the similarities are too striking to ignore.

  • Origin myth. While all modern nation-states claim a kind of rationalized origin story upon which their citizens can fashion patriotism and loyalty to the state, the U.S. is one of the few states founded on the covenant of the Hebrew Torah, or the Christian borrowing of it in the Old Testament. Other covenant states are Israel and the now-defunct apartheid state of South Africa, both founded in 1948. According to the myths, the faithful citizens come together of their own free will and pledge to each other and to their god to form and support a godly society, and their god in turn vouchsafes them prosperity in a promised land. (p.47)
  • Exceptionalism and the chosen people. Most Americans believe our country is exceptional among all nation-states, and this exceptionalist ideology has been used to justify appropriation of the continent and then domination of the rest of the world. (p.47)  The Zionists believe they are the Chosen People. I don’t know if that equates to the Americans’ belief in exceptionalism but both strains have a connotation of entitlement which permeates throughout their actions in both the domestic and international spheres.
  • Create laws to support land confiscation. Many laws and programs in the United States encouraged settler squatters to take the land of the Indigenous people for their own, such as the Land Ordinance of 1785. The Zionists did the very same thing with their Absentees Property Law.
  • Ethnic cleansing aka as forced relocations. The U.S. government forced the Indigenous population off of their ancestral lands and onto reservations. The early Zionists forced the Indigenous population off of their ancestral lands in Palestine, refused to allow them to return, and cast them into small bantustans in the West Bank and a large open-air prison in the Gaza Strip.
  • Violence against the civilian Indigenous population. “The Anglo settlers organized irregular units to brutally attack and destroy unarmed Indigenous women, children and old people using unlimited violence in unrelenting attacks.” (p.58)  Scalp hunting for bounties became a means of exchange, a form of currency, and the mutilated corpses left in the wake of the scalp hunts were known as the redskins. The violence of the early Zionists against the Indigenous population in Palestine has been well-documented by historians, such as Ilan Pappe. The forced expulsion from their lands, which the Palestinians call the Nakba, is seeping into the mainstream consciousness of the Israeli public. Jewish settlers continue to perpetrate violence against the Indigenous population to this day.

 

The similarities go on and on……confiscation of natural resources, humiliation and racist laws, treatment of the Indigenous population as subhuman, and failure to recognize, apologize and begin a meaningful truth and reconciliation process. In fact, both countries actively ignore and dismiss their brutal colonial past.

Times are changing, too slowly, but people are beginning to recognize the stories they’ve been told are false. Many Americans and Israelis need to make peace with their true origin story before their communities can heal.  For Americans on that journey, I recommend An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon Press 2014).  For Israelis, I recommend The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe (Oneworld Publications 2006)

defend_the_sacred_-_courtesy_indigenous_environmental_network

 

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