Category Archives: Occupation

“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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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Occupation, Uncategorized, Video

We don’t have to choose violence

In a follow-up to my post on September 6, Choosing Violence, I’m mailing letters to the President, and my members of Congress, with a copy of the article from the Boston Review.

(L to R – President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham)

September 14, 2016

An Open Letter to President Obama, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham:

We need to address someone who might actually listen, even if at present they cannot hear. They might be distant, but we must believe, if our conviction is to make sense to us, that there is a real chance they will receive our message. Conviction relies on a community, real or really possible, that subscribes to different standards than those of the majority.” — Oded Na’aman in Choosing Violence (Boston Review, August 15, 2016)

This letter is about choosing a different path.

I am writing because I believe each of you may hear my message. If you can’t hear it today, I’m convinced you will in the near future because each of you has shown intelligent compassion mixed with creative thinking in actions that you’ve taken in the past.  Those are the qualities we need today more than ever before.

I’m referring specifically to the tragedy in Israel-Palestine unfolding for all sides there, but my message is just as germane in every conflict the U.S. is engaged in abroad, as well as conflicts at home.

Oded Na’aman, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, was a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 2000s, and he’s written an insightful article entitled Choosing Violence which I’ve enclosed and encourage you to read.

The take-away message from Mr. Na’aman’s article is that violence and war are not tragedies that befall us but rather a choice we make. We choose war as a tool to respond to difficult challenges. I’m convinced we can make other choices using our compassionate intelligence and creative thinking.

The common wisdom in the United States, in Congress, and in the mainstream media, is that we must use violence to fight the terrorists. We must defend ourselves and our values with violence. We believe that our violence, as abhorrent as we may agree it is, is not by choice but by necessity.

I’ve wondered (especially after returning from my 9-month teaching sabbatical in Gaza three years ago) whether I’m a kook for believing that we can choose another path. In 2012-2013, while I was teaching young people about climate change in Gaza, I didn’t find the terrorists that my government warned me about before I traveled. I met with Hamas officials at their offices and in their homes, and I found humans struggling to lead under a long-term siege and occupation. I found humans making mistakes, as all leaders do, but trying to make life better for their people. Hamas’ tactics might be ill-advised, just as I would argue that many of Israel’s tactics are ill-advised, but I didn’t meet any terrorists.

Certainly each side argues why its use of violence is one of necessity and is justified. I’ve heard justifications ad nauseum from people in both Israel and Palestine. The truth, however, is that regardless of which side initiates the violence or defends itself against violence – both are trapped in a cycle of violence which must stop. Neither can get off the treadmill by himself. The United States must help.

Given our significant military aid to Israel, the U.S. has leverage to hold each side accountable for choosing a different path.  Why aren’t we using our leverage?

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The MOU expected to be signed this week embodies our decision to choose violence once again by pledging to give Israel $38 billion in military aid over ten years. The agreement might speak about “security” but the weapons do not represent future security for Israel but rather prolong Israel’s illegal occupation and humiliation of Palestinians.

Israel’s “qualitative military edge” undermines the possibility of building a just and long-term peace with its neighbors. Instead, we should be helping Israel build a “qualitative peaceful edge.” Israel must remain strong militarily but even stronger as a role model for respecting human dignity and human rights. What path would the U.S. be forging if our financial aid to Israel was directed towards sustainable development projects for both Israel and Palestine?

There may be quiet, private reasons for Congress’s decision to add fuel to the fire in the Middle East. I understand the historical relationship between Israel and the United States; the powerful influence that AIPAC wields in Congress and in elections. I understand how the military aid package to Israel benefits our laboratories and jobs in the U.S., which translates into votes each election cycle. There is no justification, however, for the tremendous pain and destruction perpetrated by the violence we support.

We have a choice.  Violence doesn’t choose us, we choose violence.  

I may sound like a “deluded crank” to you, but I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that true justice and the moral high ground will prove me right, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I simply ask that you step on the right side of history.  Please choose a different path away from violence.

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Filed under Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

Lawfare – Using Law as a Weapon of War

Professor Orde F. Kittrie (Professor of Law at Arizona State University) has made a strong contribution to the field of international law with his new book “Lawfare – Law as a Weapon of War” published by Oxford University Press (2016).  Order information available here.

Lawfare is “the strategy of using—or misusing—law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve a warfighting objective.” — Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., USAF (ret.)

Everyone can agree that fighting our battles in the courtrooms, boardrooms, and national & state legislatures is far preferable than on the kinetic battlefield.

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The author asserts that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is foreshadowing lawfare strategies and tactics that will soon be replicated in other conflicts.

As a relatively new legal strategy —(I don’t recall “lawfare” even being mentioned in my international law class 30 years ago)— and also because Israel and Palestine appear to be leading the way in developing lawfare strategies —(four of the nine chapters of this book are focused on the Israel/Palestine conflict)— this book caught and held my attention from cover to cover. I highly recommend the book to both lawyers and lay people interested in this new arena where the Israel-Palestine conflict is being fought. It should definitely be on the shelf of every law school library.

With that said, the book has a gaping hole. The author never explicitly asks “why are the two sides engaged in lawfare?”  Very subtly, the western U.S./Israeli narrative surfaces.

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Palestinian Bar Association – new offices in May 2013

I would never expect an academic book, such as this, to advocate for one side or the other, and Professor Kittrie very carefully presents these various lawfare strategies from both sides, Israel and Palestine. He also describes the strengths and weaknesses of each side. However, the context within which these lawfare strategies are deployed is a valid inquiry which he apparently has chosen to avoid.

Correction: Nearly avoid.  On page 275, the author lets slip that he believes Hamas is using lawfare to “promote the destruction of Israel.”  On another page, he writes about the “armies of terror” in reference to the Palestinians. He has adopted the “terrorists” lens through which the U.S. government and others from the West view the conflict. There’s no mention of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; nor the economic, political and travel siege on Gaza which might provide the context in which Hamas, the PA and the Palestinian NGOs are waging a lawfare battle.

Our Western colonialist narrative of the Israel/Palestine conflict is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that most of us can’t step out of it, be apart from it, and actually acknowledge it. In all fairness, however, the author was an attorney in the U.S. Department of State for over a decade and so was likely steeped in the “terrorism” perspective of the Israel/Palestine conflict from his earlier career.

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Legal aid office in Gaza.

Would I have a bias, in reverse, if I wrote a book about lawfare strategies in the Israel/Palestine conflict? Yes, probably I would. Hopefully, my colleagues would gently point out my bias. Is it possible to step away from the conflict and write completely objectively? Maybe not, because we go in search of information that confirms our bias. Suspending our disbelief is hard to do.

However, in the study and practice of law, it’s doubly important that we challenge ourselves and each other about our blind spots. For what’s even more important than being right or wrong is the ability to learn to think like a lawyer.

Thinking like a lawyer is thinking like a human being, a human being who is tolerant, sophisticated, pragmatic, critical, and engaged. It means combining passion and principle, reason and judgment.   “On Thinking Like A Lawyer” Anne-Marie Slaughter,  Harvard Law Today, May, 2002.

So if I had the chance to sit with Professor Kittrie and talk about the gaping hole in his book, I would ask him to suspend his disbelief and consider the following questions:

  1. Does the offer of an extended ceasefire (hudna) as proposed by Hamas and the other Arab nations contradict your conclusion that Hamas wants to destroy Israel?
  2. Is there any evidence, aside from what the New York Times and the State of Israel report, that Hamas actually advises Palestinians to martyr themselves by staying in homes that Israel has threatened with demolition?  I lived in Gaza during Israel’s attack in November 2012, and never heard any such declarations by Hamas. Based on the members of Hamas that I know personally, I can’t fathom them asking anyone to risk their lives or the lives of their children. But I’ll suspend my disbelief if there’s any factual basis other than the New York Times or the State of Israel.
  3. If Hamas issued a five-minute warning to the people living in Siderot about their plans to launch a rocket, would that exonerate Hamas as the knock-knock attempts to exonerate the IDF?
  4. Is your comparison of Israel’s fight against Hamas with the U.S. fight against the Taliban and ISIS an accurate comparison?
  5. Your description of Hamas’ deployment of “compliance-leverage disparity lawfare on the kinetic battlefield” is based on your stated assumption that Israel is the more law-sensitive adversary of the two, but couldn’t the Palestinians make an argument in reverse that the State of Israel has little regard for international law?  Collective punishment, which is prohibited under international law, is ongoing. Noura Erakat’s law review article is another example.
  6. You write that there are many shades or interpretations of international humanitarian law, and that Israel is trying to build support for its interpretation of international law. Is it beyond the realm of imagination to factor in the occupation into the equation and consider how the battlefield (both lawfare and kinetic) would be changed if Israel ended the occupation of the Palestinian territories? That’s the elephant in the living room that warrants serious discussion by the politicians, as well as by the lawyers advising them.

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The book’s take-away message for me:  Governments and NGOs can use lawfare strategies both offensively and defensively to accomplish goals that might otherwise be played out tragically in the battlefield. So far, lawfare tactics used against Israel have been damaging but not disastrous, according to the author. Lawfare appears to hold the potential to become significantly more damaging. (p.279)

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Occupation, People, Uncategorized

Obfuscating “occupation”

The Democratic Party bosses don’t want to include any mention of Israel’s occupation of Palestine in the party’s platform. Why?

Isn’t the occupation a well-established fact, just as climate change is today?

Unfortunately, there are climate change deniers and occupation deniers. Facts mean little to either.

The State of Israel has a very clear strategy to obfuscate their occupation of Palestine in order to escape legal responsibilities as the occupier, and to shift the burden of the plight of the Palestinians onto the Palestinians themselves and the international community. Attorney Noura Erakat educated me about Israel’s legal strategy in her law review piece that I summarized here.

The New York Times, in this respect, is Israel’s handmaiden by deliberately avoiding the term “occupation” in the context of Gaza, as I wrote about here.

Most members of Congress have sipped AIPAC’s koolaid and refuse to touch anything with the term “occupation” attached. Thankfully, 20 members had the courage last month to call it what it is.  See here.

The lawmakers sent the president a letter on June 20, urging him to appoint a “special envoy for Palestinian youth” in order to monitor the Israeli government’s violation of Palestinian children’s human rights.

The letter notes that Palestinian children are “growing up under military occupation with very few opportunities to improve their lives.”

The letter describes the occupation as “an unimaginably difficult and at times hopeless environment,” where children “live under the constant fear of arrest detention and violence at the hands of the Israeli military.”

Even pro-Palestine activists are confused about the term. Some label the creation of Israel and the ensuing Nakba that displaced thousands of Palestinians from their homes, businesses and villages as an occupation dating back to 1947. I completely understand their feelings, but wish we could use the term precisely and correctly. Activists only play into Israel’s strategy when they throw the term “occupation” around; just as unhelpful as politicians indiscriminately labeling everyone a terrorist.

We should be absolutely clear about the term “occupation” and use it correctly. Under international law, Israel has occupied portions of Palestine since 1967 and must be held accountable as the occupier. That doesn’t mean Israel shouldn’t be held accountable for the Nakba, but the Nakba does not equal “occupation“……not legally.

And the Democratic Party bosses must wake up and smell the coffee. “It’s an occupation, stupid.”

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Filed under Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

Join the Postcard Brigade to Gaza

Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is Israel’s manufactured prison for the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians who live there, of whom more than 1,258,000 are refugees. Their parents or grandparents were forcibly removed from their homes and villages in present-day Israel in 1948. Many have lived in Gaza their whole lives, never getting permission from Israel to cross the border, jump on a plane, train or board a cruise ship.

Unbelievably, Israel even controls the mail that goes to Gaza. Packages, letters and postcards all get stopped in Tel Aviv, then scanned, sometimes opened, and forwarded on to Gaza weeks later.

In August 2011, I mailed a box from the main post office in Cairo to Gaza (217 miles as the crow flies) and it arrived more than 2 months later. In March 2016, I tried to mail a package from the main post office in Cairo to Gaza, and was informed that they no longer accept packages addressed to Gaza.

Back in the U.S., I tried to mail a letter from Baltimore to Jericho, Palestine in the occupied West Bank. The postal clerk found “Palestine, Texas” in her computer, but not Jericho, or Palestine, or the occupied West Bank. She was stumped until I told her we could try sending it to Jericho via Israel.  My friend in Jericho finally received her letter more than 2 months later.

In Brindisi, Italy last week, I tried another experiment. I mailed a postcard to my friend in Gaza. Again, the postal clerk had no idea how to handle my request. Her computer just couldn’t find Gaza or Palestine. She passed me to another clerk who had the same problem. She finally decided to put the same amount of postage as if my card was going to the USA …. and then dumped it into her bag.

What if people from all over the world sent a postcard to Gaza?  

  • A simple exercise that might educate a local postal clerk about Gaza and Palestine.
  • An ingenuous way to get the attention of the Israeli authorities. Imagine their consternation with postcards addressed to Gaza flooding their office.
  • The simple joy of receiving a picture postcard from a stranger – a new friend – somewhere in the world.

If you want to join the postcard brigade, send a postcard to:

Alamal Orphanage

Wehdaa Street

Gaza, Palestine

If you care to share your experience at your local post office, please write me at LoraLucero3@gmail.com

You can send your postcard anonymously if you wish. If you’d like to hear about the reaction from the children in the orphanage, please send me your contact information.

Thank you!  And pass it along. The more postcards, the merrier!

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Lora with orphans in Gaza in 2012.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, Uncategorized

Israel & Italy block travel for Palestinians

I’m making plans to visit Italy in mid- June to attend the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Rome.  I’m excited.  I’ve never been to Italy.

Two colleagues from Gaza, an engineer and an architect, worked with me earlier this year to research and write a paper for the conference.  We submitted it, and we’re very pleased that it was accepted. We’ve been invited to present our paper to this group of academics, planners, urbanists and architects.

As an American, I can travel to Italy without first securing a Visa, so I’m busy looking for the cheap flights, cheap accommodations in Rome, and a cheap rail pass while traveling in Italy. There are many bargains.

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My colleagues from Gaza must apply for a Visa from the Italian officials, and for permission to exit the Gaza Strip from the Israeli officials. A double whammy. Here’s what Italy wants:

  • Entry visa application form
  •  recent passport-size photograph
  •  valid travel document whose expiry date is three months longer than that of the visa requested
  •  return ticket (or booking) or evidence that the applicant has their own means of transport
  •  proof that the applicant has sufficient means of subsistence as required by the Directive of the Ministry of the Interior dated 1st March 2000
  •  supporting documentation in relation to the applicant’s social and professional status
  •  health insurance covering a minimum of €30,000 for emergency hospitalisation and repatriation expenses, valid throughout the Schengen area
  •  proof of accommodation (hotel booking, Declaration of hospitality, declaration whereby accommodation costs shall be borne by the person inviting)

My colleagues have complied with these onerous requirements. One was rejected by Israel, the other was rejected by Italy.

I’m traveling to Italy with a heavy heart, angry that this bureaucratic red-tape and BULLSHIT are preventing my colleagues from joining me. This presentation will not be the same without them.

I’m trying to think of ways to use my privileged status as an American to highlight this unfairness and injustice.  Any ideas?

 

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Fairness and Justice

Rabbi Baltimore

Rabbi Oberstein in the middle. Credit: Baltimore Jewish Life

Rabbi Oberstein in Baltimore wrote a letter to the Baltimore Sun (5/19/2016) to point out that “the onus [to make peace] is too much on Israel and not a little bit on the Palestinians. That is not fair or just.”

The Rabbi failed to mention these tangible signs of how Israel is treated so unfairly:

  1. Total U.S. aid to Israel is approximately one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though Israel comprises just .001 percent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes. See here.
  2. The Congressional Research Service writes: “Since the establishment of limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, the U.S. government has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians, who are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid.”  Lora adds: compare this to the $3+ billion that U.S. gives to Israel annually.  A conservative estimate is that the U.S. has given more than $130 Billion in direct aid to Israel.
  3. Israel has access to some of the most advanced weaponry and defense systems in the world, including the Iron Dome and nuclear weapons.

    After five decades of pretending otherwise, the Pentagon has reluctantly confirmed that Israel does indeed possess nuclear bombs, as well as awesome weapons technology similar to America’s.

    While the BBC notes the assymetrical firepower between Israel and Palestine.  Palestinian militants have “Grad and Qassam rockets with ranges of up to 48km (30 miles) and 17km respectively.  … They also have the longer range Fajr-5, sometimes also designated the M75. It can reach up to 75km, threatening major population centres like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

    Iron dome

    Israel’s iron dome missile defense system. Credit: abcnews.go.com

    We might also mention the unfairness of Israel’s economy versus Palestine’s economy; the unfairness of Israel’s freedom of movement versus Israel’s control of movement of every Palestinian; the number of civilian deaths in Israel due to violence between the two sides versus the number of civilian deaths in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The story of the injustices and unfairness goes on and on, but then most everyone knows the difference between an occupying power and the people who are occupied.  Except Rabbi Oberstein.

 

 

 

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