Category Archives: Israel

My Letter to Senator Rand Paul

November 24, 2018

Dear Senator Paul,

Although I don’t agree with you on many issues, I applaud your decision to place a hold on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which cements in the $38 billion weapons deal over the next 10 years that former President Obama struck with Netanyahu.  I suppose the proponents of this deal want it sealed into law (rather than merely an executive MOU) so that it won’t be subject to a change of heart in the future.  After all, $38 billion IS a lot of money and could pay for some big ticket items at home — healthcare, pre-K education, failing infrastructure, for example.

If American taxpayers only knew how our contributions to the U.S. Treasury are subsidizing the human rights violations and instability in the Middle East.

The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” written by Jeremy M. Sharp, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, dated April 10, 2018, provides the following:

According to the report, the United States gave Israel $3.1 billion for Fiscal Year 2018 in direct bilateral military aid (also referred to as Foreign Military Financing or FMF). Congress also authorized $705.8 million for “joint” U.S.-Israel missile defense programs (designed to protect Israeli territory from potential outside threats), bringing total military aid to Israel to more than $3.8 billion per year.

Put another way, American taxpayers give Israel over $10.5 million per day. Over the last 20 years, the U.S. has slowly phased out economic aid to Israel and gradually replacing it with increased military aid. In September 2016, the United States and Israeli governments signed a new ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) where the U.S. pledged to give Israel $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in FMF grants plus $5 billion in missile defense) over the course of 10 years (FY2019 to FY2028). This new MOU replaces the current $30 billion 10-year agreement signed by the Bush Administration that will expire in 2018.

Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid (see how other nations compare). According to the CRS report, the President’s request for Israel for FY 2017 will encompass approximately 54% of total U.S. foreign military financing worldwide. The report continues, ” Annual FMF grants to Israel represent approximately 18.5% of the overall Israeli defense budget. Israel’s defense expenditure as a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product (5.4% in 2015) is one of the highest percentages in the world.”

Contrary to ordinary U.S. policy, Israel has been and continues to be allowed to use approximately 26% of U.S. military aid to purchase equipment from Israeli manufacturers. According to CRS, “no other recipient of U.S. military assistance has been granted this benefit.”

Thanks in part to this indirect U.S. subsidy, Israel’s arms industry has become one of the strongest in the world. Between 2001 and 2008, Israel was the 7th largest arms supplier to the world, selling $9.9 billion worth of equipment. And it continues to grow stronger. In 2015, Israel sold $5.7 billion in military goodsto other countries.

The former assistant Secretary of Defense from 2007 to 2009 asked, “How inexplicable is it that we are competing against the Israelis in the Indian defense procurement market at the same time we are subsidizing the Israeli defense industry?”

A U.S. government source estimates that Israel is using approximately $1.2 billion each year (38.7% of the aid it receives from the U.S.) to “directly support its domestic budget rather than to build on its arsenal of advanced US equipment.”

By all accounts the United States has given more money to Israel than to any other country. The Congressional Research Service’s conservative estimate of total cumulative US aid to Israel from 1949 through 2015 is $127.4 billion (not adjusted for inflation).

Please hold firm on your decision to oppose the  U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

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

Hate kills, we kill

Hate kills. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, you and I kill.

We may not put our fingers on the trigger, but we must shoulder some responsibility for these killings. Until we do, they will continue, just like clockwork.

The names and ages of the most recent victims, killed within days of each other, are circulating on social media. #WeWillNeverForget

But we will forget; most of us with no connection to the victims will not be able to remember their names this time next year.

Gregory Bush

Gregory Alan Bush

Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Vickie Lee Jones (67) were both killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on Wednesday (October 24). Gregory A. Bush (51) has been arrested and the crime is being investigated as a hate crime. The innocent victims are black, the perp is white.

Robert Bowers

                       Robert Bowers

On Saturday (October 27), while praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joyce Fienberg (75), Richard Gottfried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), Cecil Rosenthal (59), David Rosenthal (54), Sylvan Simon (86), Bernice Simon (84), Daniel Stein (71), Melvin Wax (88) and Irving Younger (69) were shot and killed. Robert Bowers (46) faces 29 federal charges involving hate crimes punishable by death. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.  (Watch CNN videos here.) The victims are innocent Jews, the perp is white.

The following day, Sunday (October 28), while playing near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, an Israeli airstrike killed three young Palestinian teenage boys. Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed (14), Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher (13), and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari (13) “were apparently involved in placing an improvised explosive device” near the fence, the Israeli military said. Their parents deny that the boys were involved with any militant activities.

Succumbing to the “he said, she said” arguments about what these boys were doing on the Gaza side of the fence on Sunday distracts from the fact that an extrajudicial killing took the lives of three young teenage boys who posed no danger to the Israeli military monitoring the fence. The victims were innocent young Palestinians, the perp was likely a white Jewish member of the Israel Defense Force perhaps acting on orders from other white Jewish members of the IDF. Since I can’t show you a picture of the perp, I’ll share a photo of the victims in Gaza. 3 boys killed

These killings on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday have much in common, although Americans might not understand the similarities after watching the mainstream media.

Let me explain.

  1. All of the perps are filled with irrational hate and fear of the “other”.
  2. All of the victims are innocents caught up in a larger hate-filled narrative.

Most thoughtful Americans will easily acknowledge that the perps who killed the two Blacks in Kentucky and eleven Jews in Pennsylvania are deranged madmen — White Nationalists consumed with hatred and fear of the “other”. Clearly, Robert Bowers is an anti-Semite. Some may not be able to draw the connection between all three massacres because (1) the US mainstream media portrays the victims in Gaza differently from the victims in the US, and (2) feeling empathy for the “others” in Palestine may be more difficult than feeling empathy for Americans.

“But that Israeli fighter pilot wasn’t acting out of rage or hatred,” you might say. “Presumably he was carrying out orders from above.” 

Hatred and fear of the “other” is not limited to the individual who pulls the trigger, it can rear its ugly head at the highest levels of government.  Call it Trickle Down Hatred (TDH).

Eleven Jewish community leaders have said that Donald Trump is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he decides to “fully denounce white nationalism”, following a shooting in a synagogue on Saturday.

The group are all affiliated with the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership, a liberal movement made up of “tens of thousands” of progressive Jewish members across the US, according to its website.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the leaders said in an open letter to Mr Trump. See here.

Americans have been watching in horror as Trump’s hate-filled nationalistic rhetoric eggs on his base. The same has been occurring at the highest levels of government in the State of Israel. For many years, Israeli leaders have openly expressed their fear and hatred of Palestinians. They regularly talk about the perceived demographic threat where Palestinians outnumber Israelis, and condone actions designed to dehumanize the Palestinians on a daily basis, and even openly call for the death of Palestinians (eg. an Israeli minister calling for the death of Palestinian mothers who give birth to little snakes).

Naftali-Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Most recently, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far right wing Minister of Diaspora Affairs, drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman and Hamas. (See here.)  Without any hesitation, Bennett casts Palestinians (ALL PALESTINIANS) as the “other,” a certain death sentence if a child is playing too near the fence.

 “Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot. They are not 12-year-old children — they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot . If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.”  (See here.)

The victims, whether Blacks and Jews in America or Palestinians in Gaza, represent the “other” that threatens the dominant narrative and must be eliminated. It makes absolutely no difference that a lone madman was the perp in two cases and the government of Israel sanctioned the perp’s airstrike in the third case. The same fear and hatred of the “other” motivated each of these killings.

“But how,” you might ask, “am I responsible for these hate-filled killings?” 

“I don’t hate Blacks or Jews, and I don’t have any feelings about those people in the Middle East.”

What is the opposite of hate?

Many will say it’s love, but I suggest that it’s really empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  And without empathy, we each run the risk of being complicit in the actions of those filled with hatred.

It takes real courage to empathize with another. I’m not Jewish, I’m not Black, I’m not a Palestinian. So at one level, I might think the hatred and violence perpetrated against them doesn’t touch me. Can I move beyond the superficial feelings of sympathy for these victims, and pull empathy from deep within my core? What does it take to fully and sincerely empathize with another?

  • Vulnerability — I must be honest with myself and recognize my prejudices, biases and blind-spots. I’m not the epitome of acceptance, love and understanding that I might wish to cloak myself in. This may be the hardest part of nurturing an empathetic soul.
  • Inquisitiveness — I must be willing to question myself and others, to learn from others, to pay attention, and to continually reassess what I think I know about the “other”.
  • Stepping into the shoes of the other — I will never be Black or Jewish or a Palestinian, but making the attempt to understand and experience the world in their shoes is important and a necessary step for building the empathetic soul. At a minimum, it requires respect for the other.

I believe the atrocities we are witnessing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Gaza and elsewhere can be directly linked to mankind’s undeveloped empathy for the “other.” We may know how to put a man on the moon, but we haven’t evolved sufficiently to put ourselves in the place of the “other.”

And if you believe that the connections I’ve drawn between the victims in the three tragedies described above, are somehow a false equivalency, then I suggest you go back to step one and make yourself vulnerable to learn about the Palestinians and the horrific events occurring there daily with our tax dollars.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands

speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, People, Uncategorized

US police violence: the Israeli connection

Anyone questioning the horrific instances of police shootings in the U.S. (most recently in Dallas when a white police officer shot and killed a black man in his own apartment), must be asking themselves “why?”  Why is law enforcement trigger happy, especially with people of color? Why is law enforcement often dressed in military garb, brandishing military-style weapons, and using excessive force with peaceful protesters?

APD police

Albuquerque Police Department officers 2011

If you don’t know what I’m talking about —- you are undoubtedly white and living in an upscale neighborhood.

Mapping police violence in the U.S. provides a startling visual, but the numbers alone are nauseating. The Washington Post’s searchable database shows that as of August 30, 2018, the police have killed 707 people. And the stats clearly demonstrate that U.S. law enforcement has a much higher number of police shootings compared to their peers in other countries.  Much higher.  Off the charts.

The reasons behind this police violence are numerous and complicated, but one factor may certainly be the training that U.S. law enforcement agencies receive in Israel.

A new report released in September 2018 (Deadly Exchange -The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel) highlights the old and well-established practice of joint law enforcement training between the US and Israel.

September 12, 2018 – From the acting Deputy Director of ICE to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, since 2002 thousands of American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. And thousands more have participated in security conferences and workshops with Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the U.S. But despite their branding as top-tier counter-terrorism experts, Israeli police and security agents regularly violate civil rights, and implement racist and deadly policies.

This is not new.

In 2016, I wrote about LEEP (Law Enforcement Exchange Program) (see earlier blog post here).  I had asked the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission whether any of the APD officers were receiving joint training with their counterparts in Israel. As expected, I didn’t get an answer, and I never followed up with the promised FOIA request.

Now I have the answer.

Deadly-Exchange-Front-Cover-Mockup

In April 2011, the city of Albuquerque sent APD officers to Israel to learn from counter-terrorism experts. (See here.)

The intensive program incorporated formal presentations and briefings with site visits around the country to areas that have borne witness to terror attacks. They learned how Israel has prevented and responded to suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and how the nation protects its airports, shopping malls, and public events.

This searchable database shows which US law enforcement agencies have trained with Israeli law enforcement. The New Mexico State Police have also trained in Israel.

The State Police of New Mexico is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. Carlos Maldonado served as Chief of New Mexico State Police between 2003 and 2006. Chief Maldonado attended a training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program in 2005.

New Mexico State Police is also one of the departments that uses Israeli private-sector technology. Private Israeli security firms have contracts with both public and private security sectors. One of the private security companies that transfer technology to US police departments is the Israel-based Cellebrite. Cellebrite is a “mobile forensics” firm that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices for law enforcement, military and intelligence, and corporate customers.

The department spent $33,389.92 to crack into phones using Israeli tech firm Cellebrite, according to public record requests by Motherboard. New Mexico State Police uses Cellebrite’s technology to bypass phone passwords and security mechanisms to retrieve call logs, text messages, and in some cases even deleted data.

So if you thought the ongoing, daily violence perpetrated by the Israeli security and military on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has no relevance to Americans who have never set foot outside of the U.S. — think again.

CASE STUDY: On a police training exchange in Israel, the Boston Police Commissioner visited Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he learned about Israel’s passenger screening process, including racial and ethnic profiling of passengers. Shortly after, Boston’s Logan airport became the first American airport to pioneer the Israeli inspired Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Years later, SPOT not only came under fire for being ineffective and wasteful, but also for facilitating discriminatory racial profiling at airports around the country.

Revealed: Deputy Director of ICE was sent for training with the Israeli military.

CASE STUDY: Developed by Israeli police and manufactured by the Israeli company Odortec, “Skunk” is a foul-smelling liquid designed to cause nausea and linger for days when sprayed at high pressure onto protesters at demonstrations. Based on its proven effectiveness against Palestinian protests – particularly in West Bank village demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall – the American company Mistral Security began selling Skunk to U.S. police departments, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

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Filed under IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Uncategorized, US Policy

Family separation

The pain is unfathomable.

The pain of forced separation from family and loved ones.

I touched the edge of that pain when I visited a Palestinian family in Jericho in 2016. My good friend in Gaza connected us. This family was his family, but he hadn’t seen them in many, many years.

He was a young man now, and Israel wouldn’t give him permission to visit his family in Jericho, and travel in the opposite direction was equally difficult. He was a young boy the last time they had seen each other.

So he Skypes and emails with his family in Jericho, but I know the forced separation must be very painful.  When I arrived, his family took me in as if I was a family member. I was touched and felt safe. (When you’re traveling as a single woman, feeling safe can’t be taken for granted.)

upper west side

Upper West Side – NYC

Sitting in an Upper West Side diner last night in Manhattan, I think I felt a hint of that pain of separation when a family member told me that my Jewish family might move to Israel.  They’ve traveled to Israel over the years, but now they’re planning for their retirement years and Israel is a very attractive destination for an Orthodox Jewish couple.

I mentioned that if they decide to settle in Israel, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be able to visit because the Israeli government is making a big show of keeping people who support BDS out of the country. That’s not going to change anytime soon. With a knowing nod, they understood this dilemma but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Over the years, we’ve been able to gingerly tiptoe around each other’s strange proclivities – mine being Gaza and my advocacy and education efforts about Israel-Palestine; their’s being a Hasidic Orthodox life with everything that choice entails. I visit them regularly in Brooklyn, they allow me into a part of their lives to the extent that it feels comfortable for them. We avoid discussions about Gaza for the most part because I’m not interested in asking anyone “to commit psychological suicide.”

Last night I realized that Zionism is thicker than blood; and perhaps my desire to keep family connections intact is stronger than their desire to stay connected with me.

Now, I think I might understand a little bit better the pain of forced separation from family. The difference being, of course, my family might choose separation while the Palestinians have no choice in the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A wanderer

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

antonio-machado

Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939) was a Spanish poet

An American friend sent me these words a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling them over ever since. Undoubtedly, they reminded her of my elusive pilgrimage. I’ve been “on the road again” and walking for the past 7 years.

I always seem to be on the move, with my ultimate destination being Gaza. I certainly don’t have a well-defined plan or path which I suspect causes some concern or consternation to family and friends watching my journey.

Truth-be-told, I wake up in sweats some nights wondering if I’m on the path I’m suppose to be on, or have I lost my way? I never expected to be *here* when I turned 65.

Exactly where am I?

It doesn’t matter where I lay my head down tonight. What matters are my actions today, the people I’m meeting, the conversations I’m having, and the spirit I’m sharing with others.

It doesn’t matter what things are packed in my suitcase, or what ticket I have for my next travel plans.  What matters is that I travel as lightly as possible (for practical and spiritual reasons) and I travel safely, responsibly and with a good heart towards my fellow passengers.

Machado’s words can ring with different meanings for different people I suppose, but taking them literally, I think I’ve discovered the root of my “obsessiveness” over the Palestinians in Gaza. (Not my word, but the word of family and friends who have observed my attention directed towards Gaza over the past 5+ years.)

checkpoint

Israeli checkpoint for Palestinians posted by Husam Jubran on Facebook

Palestinian men, women and children in Gaza have been removed from life’s path through no fault of their own except for casting a vote for Hamas in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the government of Israel proclaimed Hamas a terrorist organization (probably as stunned by Hamas’ victory as Americans were shocked by Trump’s victory in 2016) and locked down the Gaza Strip in a suffocating siege and blockade that has tightened considerably year-by-year.

“You voted for the wrong guy!”

“We refuse to talk or engage with your elected leaders.”

“If we squeeze you tight enough, you’ll kick Hamas out.” 

“We believe you’re all terrorists, and this blockade is a legitimate security measure.”

Israel’s blockade has disrupted the lives of Palestinian students trying to travel a path towards their academic studies abroad; it’s prevented Palestinian scholars from traveling abroad to accept international awards; it’s stopped Palestinian poets and artists from presenting their talents to audiences overseas; it’s kept Palestinian soccer players from competing in FIFA tournaments; and it’s killed Palestinian men, women and children who were denied permission to travel outside of Gaza for life-saving treatment because they were deemed a security risk.

I know people personally in each of these categories. I’m sure there are many more categories.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-While there are many reasons why the state of Israel should be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague and prosecuted for war crimes, I believe Israel’s decision to prevent men, women and children in Gaza from following their path, and denying them their right to travel, is the most heinous of all of Israel’s crimes, and that government must be held accountable.

 Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that:

  • a citizen of a state in which that citizen is present has the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others,

  • and that a citizen also has the right to leave any country, including his or her own, and to return to his or her country at any time.

Israeli officials may argue that Palestinians aren’t citizens of Israel, and certainly they don’t have a state of their own to which they can claim citizenship, and so Article 13 doesn’t apply to the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel and the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine should go head-to-head with their arguments on that issue before a U.N. body.  Keeping innocent civilians locked up in the world’s largest open air prison with no due process has turned the State of Israel into a putrified petrie dish. The experiment is rotting Israel from the inside out.

Day 1 Lora shadow

“Wanderer, there is no path,

the path is made by walking.”

— Antonio Machado

One day every Palestinian in Gaza will walk their path right back to the homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed 70 years ago. Until that day, they’re teaching all of us by the humanity they model for us day after day.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Elections, Gaza, Hamas, Islam, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Peaceful, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Gaza Facts vs. Propaganda – Shame on the Washington Post

Mike Merryman-Lotze is the Middle East Program Director at the American Friends Service Committee.  When the Washington Post published an opinion piece (7/19/2018) about Gaza which begged for some facts and objectivity, Mike responded.  His response is reprinted below with permission. Mike headshot

The Washington Post has given Jason Greenblatt, Jared Kushner, and David Friedman room to write about Gaza. What they have written has to be one of the most dishonest and transparently propagandistic pieces I’ve read on Gaza.

I’ve therefore taken a few minutes to add my own quick comments into the text of the article:

WP Article: At the end of a productive six-day trip to the region recently, one reality was painfully clear: The nightmare of Hamas’s leadership is continuing and needlessly prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

WP Article: Despite the billions of dollars invested for the benefit of Palestinians in Gaza over the past 70 years, 53 percent of the people there live below the poverty level , and the unemployment rate is a crippling 49 percent. The Palestinians of Gaza are stuck in a vicious cycle where corrupt and hateful leadership has provoked conflicts leading to reduced opportunities and the poverty and hopelessness that follow.

Mike’s Comment: Most of the investment in Gaza is reconstruction money given to rebuild infrastructure and homes destroyed by Israeli bombings. The economy has been devastated by the blockade. If you want to deal with employment the issue is the blockage of imports, exports, and goods needs to produce economic output. There has been a conscious decades long policy of dedevelopment implemented by Israel in Gaza. The unemployment and poverty rates in Gaza are not linked to the Palestinian leadership but to Israeli policies. If you are concerned about this push for an end to the blockade.

WP Article: International donors are conflicted: Should they try to help the people directly, at the certain risk of enriching terrorists, or withhold funding to Hamas and watch the people it is supposed to govern suffer? In the past, investments in badly needed infrastructure have been diverted for weapons and other malign uses, and even the projects that are built are often destroyed as a consequence of Hamas’s aggression.

Mike’s Comment: The vetting procedures for foreign aid going into Gaza are more restrictive than in any other place in the world. There is no money going from foreign governments to Hamas. Foreign aid goes to help people. If you consider rebuilding electrical infrastructure and water systems assistance to Hamas and not repair of basic infrastructure that people need then there is something wrong. No money for basic infrastructure is diverted for weapons. While Hamas does spend a portion of its money on weapons, even Israeli government sources report that it spends 80% or more of its funds in Gaza on governance. Even if it moved the $100 million it spends on weapons towards infrastructure it could not meet needs, and it also could not get the supplies needed to repair infrastructure with that money because of the blockade and international sanctions. The issue again is not Hamas but the blockade and Israeli and international policies that deny Gaza access to the world.

WP Article: Until governance changes or Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, abides by previous diplomatic agreements and renounces violence, there is no good option.

Mike’s Comment: Hamas has repeatedly indicated that it is willing to consider a state in the areas occupied in 1967 and that it will talk with Israel. This has been the case for years. At the same time, the Likud Party platform formally rejects two states and nearly every other party in the ruling Israeli coalition formally rejects two states. Israeli actions also move to materially change the situation so that two states are not possible. The Nation State Law passed this week furthers the settlement enterprise and violates previous diplomatic agreements. Israeli has not rejected violence.

Further, if we really want to get technical it should be pointed out that according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, in 2015 a total of 21 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2016 a total of 15 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2017 a total of 35 rockets were fired from Gaza. Between January 1 and May 29 of 2018 only 10 rockets were fired from Gaza, with none fired during March, April, and the first weeks of May. At the same time, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2015, 2016, and 2017, Israel killed 64 Palestinians in Gaza, injured over 2,700, and carried out attacks on Gaza nearly every day. Also, between January 1, 2018 and March 26, 2018 the Israeli military entered the Gaza buffer zone nine times to destroy property and clear land. During the same period, the Israeli military opened fire in the Gaza buffer zone 181 times, killing 2 people and injuring 13. These actions occurred before the start of the Great Return March. So where should we look if we are concerned about violence?

WP Article: Seventy years after the founding of Israel, it would be wise for Hamas to acknowledge that the existence of Israel is a permanent reality. Almost all in the Middle East have come to accept this fact, and many even embrace it. At the expense of the Palestinian people, Hamas is fighting a morally bankrupt, decades-old war that has long been lost.

Mike’s Comment: Equally, it might be important for the Israeli government to recognize the rights of Palestinians to a state. As noted above, no party in the ruling Israeli coalition supports two states. The Israeli government is taking action to make two states impossible, and the Israeli government just passed a law declaring that Palestinians have no right to self-determination.

WP Article: Peace will provide opportunity to break this stalemate, and peace will be achieved only by embracing reality and dismissing a flawed ideology. Life could significantly improve in short order for the Palestinian people if Hamas allowed it. There are engaged, interested parties with resources who are ready to get to work. Yet without real change accompanied by reliable security, progress is impossible. If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions — not just by word but, more importantly, by deed — then all manner of new opportunities becomes possible.

Mike’s Comment: If you want change from Hamas engage with Hamas. Don’t write a mendacious article in the Post full of lies that the editors seem unable to fact check. Stop the blockade, end sanctions, allow Hamas to engage with the PA without that triggering new sanctions that would collapse the PA. All of this is meaningless if what is really demanded is one-sided capitulation and surrender.

WP Article: There is no reason the Palestinians (in both the West Bank and Gaza) can’t enjoy economic success and integrate into a thriving regional economy — if they let us help. As President Trump has said so many times, economic security is national security. By encouraging economic recovery in the region, we can enhance our efforts to increase stability as well.

Mike’s Comment: Economic prosperity under occupation is not possible, economic growth without rights and self-determination is meaningless. The issue isn’t economics, it is freedom.

WP Article: Hamas must immediately cease provoking or coordinating attacks on Israelis and Egyptians, and on infrastructure projects sponsored by donor nations and organizations. Rather than looking for opportunities to weaponize everything from kites to mirrors in order to attack Israel, Hamas should focus its ingenuity on improving the Gazan economy.

Mike’s Comment: What attacks on Egyptians and donor projects? These types of attacks simply haven’t occurred. Where are our fact checkers? What is the context of actions against Israel? Are those actions proactive or reactive? What is Israel’s role in all of this? Where do Israeli attacks on Gaza fit in and should they also stop? What about the blockade and the systematic denial of Palestinian rights? What about the continued loss of Palestinian life in Gaza? Is any of that a concern?

WP Article: Rather than cynically attempting to exploit its barbaric holding of Israeli soldiers and citizens, Hamas must return them to their families.

Mike’s Comment: Hamas holds a couple of Israeli soldiers captured while in Gaza and a few bodies of soldiers killed while fighting in Gaza. I agree with the idea that they should be returned home. However, also note that Israel holds literally thousands of Palestinian prisoners and hundreds (if not more) bodies of Palestinians it has killed. Israel has set up whole graveyards to hold the bodies of Palestinians that it refuses to return to families. The holding of bodies is a policy that Israel developed. All bodies should be returned.

WP Article: Instead of exploiting crossings such as Rafah and Salah al-Din to smuggle weapons and siphon off tax revenue for illicit purposes and personal enrichment, Hamas must hand those functions over in their entirety to the Palestinian Authority so that badly needed materials can get through to the people of Gaza. The international community stands ready to work with the Palestinian Authority on this vital effort.

Mike’s Comment: This is simply misinformation. Weapons have never been smuggled through formal crossings. While Hamas may have limited control of one side of the crossing, Egypt and Israel control the other sides of the crossings. This means that weapons must be smuggled through Israel and Egypt and it is those states that control what goes into Gaza. The PA does control crossings in Gaza and the US knows this. The PA is the force in Gaza that coordinates with Israel at crossings and Hamas has allowed that control. The issue is not changing who controls borders, it is the Israeli enforced blockade.

WP Article: The cycle is clear: Rockets, mortars, terror tunnels, kite bombs and other weapons of aggression lead only to stricter constraints on the people of Gaza. Hamas’s acts of aggression have only produced misery for the people of Gaza. The true victims of this terrible situation are the many Palestinians who are not rioting but whose futures are dimmed by Hamas’s radical approach.

Mike’s Comments: Again, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, in 2015 a total of 21 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2016 a total of 15 rockets were fired from Gaza. In 2017 a total of 35 rockets were fired from Gaza. Between January 1 and May 29 of 2018 only 10 rockets were fired from Gaza, with none fired during March, April, and the first weeks of May. Tunnels may exist but simply haven’t been used to attack Israel. Burning kites didn’t start flying until long into the Gaza Return March and after more than 50 Palestinians had been killed and thousands injured.

If, over a period of three and a half years you have, on average, two to three rockets fired towards Israel each month and they don’t cause significant damage and at the same time you have daily attacks by Israel on Gaza and the maintenance of a brutal blockade, it seems clear that the cycle is not starting with rocket fire.

WP Article: It is evident that the leaders in this region are tired of being on this hopeless treadmill and are hungry for real change. There is a clear divide between the bad actors looking to cause destruction, violence and human misery, and the responsible leaders trying to create a better and sustainable future for their citizens. The world is moving forward, but bad choices are causing Palestinians to fall further and further behind.

Mike’s Comment: So the link included here in the original article notes that the world is moving beyond two states. I’m perfectly OK with that, but let’s be clear that closure of the two state possibility is only due to Israel actions. Palestinians can be intransigent and can say no, but they can’t change the situation on the ground in any material way that changes what a possible solution will look like.

What has changed the situation? Settlements, and the authors should know this since Greenblatt served as a guard on a settlement and both Friedman and Kushner were major donors to settlements. Hey wait a minute, isn’t that relevant information that the editors should consider?

WP Article: The international community also bears some blame. More countries want to simply talk and condemn than are willing to confront reality, propose realistic solutions and write meaningful checks. The United States has invested more money in helping the Palestinian people than has any other country in the world.

Mike’s Comments: Damn right the international community bears much of the blame. Countries want to simply talk, condemn, not confront reality, and not propose realistic solutions? Really? Here is a mirror.

WP Article: For far too long, Gaza has lurched from crisis to crisis, sustained by emergency appeals and one-time caravans of aid, without dealing with the root cause: Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive. This problem must be recognized and resolved or we will witness yet another disastrous cycle.

Mike’s Comment: We can agree, Gaza has existed in crisis for far too long. And the authors are a major reason why that crisis continues. To give them a platform to put forward such garbage is indefensible. To simply let them write without any editorial oversight is wrong. The Post should be ashamed for publishing such transparent propaganda, although the post editorial page itself is pretty atrocious on this issue.

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