Category Archives: Politics

Dear President Biden

May 13, 2023

Dear President Biden,

I’m writing today to express my alarm and outrage over Israel’s Operation Shield and Arrow in Gaza which the Haaretz editors have stated “raises moral and legal questions about Israel’s military”. (Haaretz Editorial May 10, 2023).  I assume (hope) that you are receiving daily briefings and so I won’t recap the statistics or the devastation. More than 2 million Palestinians are enduring the trauma of deprivation, fear and potential loss of life as Israel carries out its inhumane aggression against a civilian population trapped in the densely packed Gaza Strip by Israel’s decades-long occupation and siege.   

My specific requests of you are:

  1. Make a public declaration that the U.S. recognizes and supports international humanitarian law and does not condone Israel’s preemptive military actions in the Gaza Strip and call upon the Israeli government to end Operation Shield and Arrow immediately.
  2. Invoke the requirements of the Leahy Law which prohibits the U.S. government from funding units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights. As you probably know, the U.S. now provides Israel with more than $3.8 billion per year. Direct the State Department to investigate Israel’s conduct of Operation Shield and Arrow. Inform the Israeli government that U.S. funding will cease immediately until or unless the State Department’s investigation has cleared Israel of any wrong doing to your satisfaction.
  3. Release your Administration’s report on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli troops in Jenin a year ago, and publicly acknowledge the FBI’s investigation into her killing.
  4. Redirect the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who this week blocked the Security Council’s resolution condemning Israel’s current actions in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. must stand in solidarity with the community of nations who recognize and condemn Israel’s war crimes.

I’m making specific requests and would appreciate direct responses to my requests. I’m also mailing to you a copy of Light in Gaza – Writings Born of Fire (edited by Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Michael Merryman Lotze) published in 2022. These are stories written by Palestinians in Gaza about living under Israel’s decades long military occupation.  I believe I sent you a copy of this book late last year, but I hope this copy will make it into your hands.

I look forward to hearing from you or your staff.

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Filed under Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy

Emile Nakhleh

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

Emile Nakhleh

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

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

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

Responsible Statecraft – February 27, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

My questions for Professor Nakhleh:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Ending the ‘Special Relationship’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

DAWN – Democracy for the Arab World Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Filed under People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations

Two climate gatherings in Glasgow, Scotland

On the journey from Albuquerque, NM (USA) to Glasgow, Scotland (UK) to attend COP26 as a delegate for the League of Women Voters US, I became acutely aware that there were two climate gatherings happening side by side. The formal COP26 which anyone might watch virtually.  And the COP26 Coalition People’s Summit including youth-led actions and marches demanding action. Before I even arrived for the second week of COP26, Greta Thunberg had declared it a failure. “Just more blah, blah, blah.”

Greta has very good reasons to be skeptical. Since the first COP meeting in 1995 in Germany, there have been many reports warning us about the future, and many promises made to reduce our CO2 emissions to keep the Earth’s warming no higher than the critical 1.5 Celsius.  Clearly, many of the promises made in the 2015 Paris Agreement have not been kept. Greta and her generation are coming of age on a planet where a stable future is in doubt (assured) without serious action right away to change course.

Cognitive dissonance

I’ve been conflicted since learning about this opportunity to join the LWVUS delegation. Flying to a climate conference?! Aviation’s climate impact accounts for 3.5% of total anthropogenic warming. Passenger air travel is producing the highest and fastest growth of individual emissions, despite a significant improvement in efficiency of aircraft and flight operations over the last 60 years. By 2050, commercial aircraft emissions could triple given the projected growth of passenger air travel and freight. But I concluded that someone else would join the delegation in my absence, so I hopped on Amtrak to Chicago, and then a direct flight to London, and finally a bus to Glasgow.

Cognitive dissonance describes the discomfort from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. “This inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that will help minimize feelings of discomfort. People attempt to relieve this tension in different ways, such as by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding new information.” I suspect humans everywhere are experiencing a profound cognitive dissonance in this Anthropocene era. My personal COP26 goal is to learn how governments, the private sector, and individuals are negotiating this cognitive dissonance.  Are we acknowledging the disconnect and taking the necessary actions to restore the planet’s health?

The people in the halls of power don’t give me much hope. President Biden has the power to stop Line 3, a large oil sands pipeline project which has recently completed construction in northern Minnesota. “Line 3 will carry enough oil to produce about 170 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to about 50 coal power plants, or 38 million vehicles.” Although he could have withdrawn Enbridge’s permit for Line 3 without any action from Congress, President Biden has decided to support Line 3.  My own U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham have both spoken publicly about the dangers of climate change and their desire to be allies in the struggle to reduce CO2 emissions, while on the other hand they’re both cheerleaders for development of Blue Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. The biggest cheerleaders for blue hydrogen are the fossil fuel industry lobbyists because, just as with plastics, their future depends on not keeping fossil fuels in the ground. However, a report published in August 2021 has them scrambling. Cornell and Stanford University researchers believe blue hydrogen may harm the climate more than burning fossil fuel. The carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat, according to new research published in Energy Science & Engineering.  “Political forces may not have caught up with the science yet,” Howarth said. “Even progressive politicians may not understand for what they’re voting. Blue hydrogen sounds good, sounds modern and sounds like a path to our energy future. It is not.”

When words and actions don’t align themselves, there’s serious cognitive dissonance. I’ve passed my daily COVID-19 test and I’m headed to the large venue where I hope to see ACTION and not merely words.

Day #1

The League found a flat just a mile away from the COP26 venue for delegates to share. I’m expecting that the entire COP26 experience will be improved by sharing and debriefing with colleagues from the US. We walked in the rain to the venue the first morning and arrived looking like soaked rats. There were very long lines for the early folks but by the time my pal and I arrived, there were very few lines. Covid-19 precautions are in full display, and along with the typical security measures, I certainly feel safe in this large venue with thousands of people around. Everyone is wearing a face mask, without exception, and everyone has proof of vaccination. I wonder about the millions around the world who either don’t have access to the vaccine or don’t trust the science and refuse to take the vaccine. They are not part of this global event, by choice or not. Another of my personal COP26 goals is to learn how to communicate effectively about climate change and the work of COP26 with people who are not yet engaged in the issue. I’m convinced that the world “leaders” will not lead unless they are pushed from a groundswell of youth and others who make demands. Engaging with and motivating the grassroots is probably the best use of my time.

Everything about the day’s activities and events were spelled out on the COP26 online platform which I found very confusing. Navigating the app was bewildering but I’m encouraged when I heard others were having difficulty too. It’s not just my old age. There are sessions & agendas, as well as events & schedules.  There’s a blue zone (which hosts the negotiations) and the green zone (where the youth groups, civil society, academia, etc. host events and exhibitions). My first day was spent wandering in the green zone without a plan of action. Learning the layout and the schedule of activities is mindboggling, but I soon realized that COP26 is a marketing extravaganza for countries, institutions and businesses. Each wants to draw you in to learn more about their achievements. I saw a Co-Creative Reflection & Dialogue Space #reflectCOP26 with a small group sitting in a circle. The agenda looked interesting – spiritual and religious perspectives on the climate emergency; breaking the silos for planetary health; artistic expression as non-verbal channel to our experience at COP26; and climate change and collective trauma. Climate Change and its Threats to Takistan was well attended. The International Bamboo and Rattan Organization had items displayed and elaborate posters. I was alarmed when I passed the Nuclear for Climate exhibit — “Nuclear is a proven low carbon source of energy.” #NetZeroNeedsNuclear   Qatar was presenting to a full house about “filling the enforcement gaps”. And there was a good crowd listening to the presentation by the representative of the Republic of Congo. China may not be attending COP26 but that country didn’t miss an opportunity to market itself in the China Corporate Pavilion – “Facing the Future, Daring to Initiate.” Turkey, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UAE and many others have elaborate displays and presentations for anyone they might lure into their spots.

I stood awhile and watched the panel discussion at the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, as well as the presenter in the Multilevel Action Pavilion – the home for subnationals (cities, towns and regions). After walking for hours, I was beat. I found a place to sit and watched Obama online speaking to an audience in the building next door. I was pleased that one of my League colleagues actually got into the room to see Obama. Her perseverance paid off.  What I heard from Obama was the closest to an apology that I was hoping to witness at COP26. I encourage you to watch Obama’s speech if you haven’t heard it yet. He spoke about the urgency of the climate crisis, and then spoke directly to the youth, which I found relevant and very important.  “Vote” and get the leaders into positions that know and understand the climate urgency, he said.  I left the venue shortly after Obama’s speech. The first day was discouraging because I couldn’t find the events that I wanted to see. I was hoping to connect with the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) formal event and press conference. Both the LWVUS and the Progressive Democrats of America signed onto WECAN’s Call to Action last month at my request. I passed activists outside drumming and shouting urging action, not Blah, Blah, Blah, and walked back to the flat. Everyone at COP26 seems either engaged with their laptops or with each other. But I have no clue whether the decision-makers and high-level negotiators are making any progress or whether they’re even listening to the youth who are making very clear demands.

I can learn more about the substance of COP26 from reading Interfaith Power & Light’s summary online or the daily Glasgow Dispatch from EESI or the COP26 Coalition’s reports.

Day #2

I attended three sessions today which gave me a clue about how disparate the topics, people and attitudes about COP26 might be, unlike national conferences that I’ve attended in the U.S. during my career. The first was a discussion with a panel of indigenous people from Nepal, Chad, Peru and elsewhere, organized by and  In response to a question “Will market mechanisms kill the 1.5 C goal?” the Nepali representative noted (paraphrasing) that ‘carbon capture’ and the other tools that the governments are counting on don’t exist. Carbon markets have many limitations. It will depend on how these mechanisms are implemented in the future. The recent Forest Action (Nov. 2) where 130 countries pledged to protect forests and indigenous lands with $1.7 Billion — these pledges are not enough. There needs to be meaningful participation by Indigenous peoples at the table, not mere lip service. Don’t prepare a plan and then bring it to the Indigenous people for their blessing. They also need to be part of the implementation.”  The African delegate said “we’re seeing lots of promises but little action. We should keep our expectations down.”  A question from the audience resonated with me. “Do the people negotiating at COP26 see the planet as a living being or a machine?” The answer touched me deeply. She said “We need to raise our voices louder so they reach the heart, not just the head.” The climate activist from Chad said “the government keeps trying to silence our voices; governments are not doing what the people need.” The discussion ended with an unanswered question: “How can nomads around the world be included in these negotiations?”

I followed my colleague to another session on the topic of data and transparency. Given the concern about COVID-19, each session is being tightly monitored for space limitations, keeping everyone spread out in the room, and turning people away at the door when the room is at capacity. My colleague and I were the last admitted to this session, and stood along the wall in the back. A few minutes into the panel discussion, a young woman sitting at the table turned around to me and offered her spot to me. The audience here looked very different from the audience in the previous session — young people multi-tasking with their laptops while listening to the panelists who talked about using data for better action. I’ll confess that the topic didn’t interest me much until I realized that without good data, what evidence do we have to demand action? Action is driven by data which must be accurate, complete, and transparent. Obtaining the data is only the first step, but then ensuring it is robust and high quality is important. Climate disasters have been responsible for the loss of massive amounts of data. Data for Better Climate Campaign launched this Spring with the hashtag #Data4BetterClimateAction.  One speaker noted “It’s not just about more data – or more accessible data – but also making it understandable to more people.”  “Having data gives you more ‘ammunition’ to demand more action to narrow the gap.”  They talked about the challenges in gathering the data, and noted that countries learn best from each other. The organizations represented on this panel are helping the countries network with each other. The final speaker focused on the need for experienced users.  It’s not just data, but the users who need to be knowledgeable to provide the explanation of the data.

I accidently walked into the tail end of a session where the moderator asked the panelists: “What would you say to your soon-to-be born grandchild about the future?” Since my second grandchild is expected in the Spring 2022, my head snapped to attention. “It’s going to be a wonderful world, beyond what our imagination can contemplate today. New technology always underperforms in the early years and exponentially grows in later years. Imagination leads to engineering. We need to have an exponential mindset…with our head in the clouds and our feet on the ground.”

As a retired lawyer, I’m really pleased I made it to the Law Session at the end of the day. This 90-minute session was divided into three segments – the judiciary, the movement lawyers, and the business/corporate sector. The discussions were uniformly strong, so I’m going to look for the recording of this session and post it later. It was very encouraging to hear the short video clips with appellate judges from around the world talking about their work on climate. (See Race to Zero where all of the videos, including the judges, should be posted later.) The judges just woke up to climate in the past few years and are forming a network of climate judges around the world. The Brazilian judge noted that her colleagues need to learn much more about climate and climate cases from other nations. In 2015, she issued a decision in a coal case without mentioning the word climate once. She thinks today that perhaps she made the wrong decision, but that’s when she woke up to the importance of climate law.

I learned about the Canary case from Pakistan and the Lamu case from Kenya, and the Shell case and plan to read more about each. I was surprised when Cesar Rodriquez Garavito (NYU School of Law) said that the law can change more rapidly than other areas of our society. He sounded very hopeful that climate litigation and the judiciary will be leading the way to protecting nature. Lawyers need to listen and understand the concern about the urgency of the climate reality. “Listen to the young people who are bold and creative.” Match these challenges with legal tools (Lora adds — such as the Green Amendment many states are considering in the US.) Advocates in the Amazonian case have been fighting for the past 30 years and making arguments about nature’s rights. Now we have laws to support their arguments. Movement lawyering is growing, check out Net Zero Lawyers Alliance. The session ended with a discussion about how businesses need to have a social contract, as well finance from the north to the south needs to be in the form of grants, not debt-building loans. A young man (22 yrs old) was beamed in from Australia to conclude with a hopeful message. As a university student, he asked the pension fund what their plans and investment criteria are regarding climate, and the fund couldn’t provide any answers. He was stubborn and took them to court and won. Now investment firms and pension funds in Australia have changed their modus operandi regarding climate factors. The youth around the world are doing the same — going to court about our failure to deal with the climate realities.

These three sessions have given me a lot to chew on — more than I can summarize here.  But the overarching take-away message is that there are very different people, cultures and traditions all focused on climate from their own vantage point (ie. Indigenous peoples, technology nerds, and lawyers) — and the intersection of all of them could be very powerful to make significant changes for a livable future. I have more confidence in these people, professions, and cultures than I do in the governments that represent them at the negotiating table.

Day #3

Wednesday is the “hump day” (the toughest day in the week) but honestly it was a very easy day for me at COP26.  The night before I learned from a native woman from Minnesota who is part of the Indigenous delegation in Glasgow that there was an action planned in front of Barclays Bank. Barclays Bank is the largest financier of fossil fuel projects in the world, and I’ve participated in similar protests in Minnesota and New Mexico, demanding that the bank divest from fossil fuels. Instead of going to the center where all of the activities are occurring, I walked to the large Barclays bank situated in a prominent spot near the river, but didn’t find anyone. I googled the locations of other Barclay Banks and walked to the one located nearer the center of Glasgow. (Google has been my best friend in Glasgow.) Thankfully, I found them.  For the next hour+ I watched the speakers and captured many of the signs and protesters with my camera. The Scottish police were filming protesters too. I noticed some media but I don’t know if the action was covered in the mainstream press. Lots of citizen journalists were hopefully sharing their photos on social media. There were indigenous peoples from around the world speaking with interpreters. The messages were clear and direct. “No net zero, no false solutions”. “Leave it in the ground.” “We (meaning indigenous peoples) are not the problem, we are the solution.” An estimated 200+ attended this action.

I was struck by how far apart the communication is between “inside” and “outside” of COP26.  Inside the halls where the negotiations are occurring, “Net Zero” is a given and I hear no debate about that term. Much of the public advertising around Glasgow includes “Net Zero” as a given. The Indigenous peoples, the youth and many of the activists on the outside are demanding “No Net Zero” because they say it’s simply a false solution, a mechanism to allow the extraction and development of fossil fuels to continue.  My heart and head tells me the activists outside are correct, but communicating that concept of “No Net Zero” is difficult. I tried in Glasgow, unsuccessfully.

Day #4 – Hydrogen, Networking and Indigenous Voices

One of the major conundrums for anyone attending COP26 is whether to attend meetings, events, actions at the center after taking a daily Covid-19 test, passing through two layers of security, and wandering the maze of corridors to find the spot you want. Or just sip a cup of tea in the apartment while watching the meeting online. On this particular morning, my colleague and I decided to take the second option and watched a presentation about hydrogen organized by industry and NGO folks who were clearly promoting the opportunities for investment in the future hydrogen market. The Hydrogen Council (see recently released two reports that I want to look up online. Hydrogen for Net Zero and the Hydrogen Policy Toolbox. The speakers never clarified whether they were talking about Green Hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen, or Gray Hydrogen . . . only referencing “low carbon hydrogen” once which refers to Blue hydrogen (made from fossil fuels). The take-away message is that we need to transition quickly to a hydrogen economy which will require 3 building blocks. (1) Political vision and ambition. (2) Supportive regulatory framework. (3) Investment for both research and innovation (development). There was a lot of talk about Fit for 55 which I need to explore further.  “Fit for 55 refers to the at least 55% emission reduction target which the EU has set for 2030. The proposed package aims to bring the EU’s climate and energy legislation in line with the 2030 goal.”  I learned that hydrogen (hopefully of the Green variety) can be a good alternative fuel for shipping and transportation. But an audience member from Africa asked (paraphrased) “The new hydrogen economy might work for Western countries but how can we be sure it will work for Africa?”  I didn’t hear a clear response.

A friend from New Mexico told me that one of the highlights for her from an earlier COP was the networking experience. Lunch on the 4th day of COP26 proved her correct. I met a woman in the lunch line who invited me to share her table. She was a delegate with the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) with which the League of Women Voters US (my group) has collaborated with at COP26. An American woman about my age teaching philosophy and military ethics in Idaho, born in Edinburgh, raised in Toronto, and lived in Africa for some time. We could have sat another hour talking but we exchanged contact information and agreed to explore an opportunity to write a paper / book together. I was certainly jazzed when I left the table.

I headed over to the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum – a small venue with a seating capacity of only 20-25 people – where I listened to an Ecuadorian discuss the added-value of bringing Indigenous Peoples’ voices to the negotiating table. A Peruvian young woman explained that the Indigenous movements in the Andes and Amazon have come together in recent years and are working collectively. The young people feel “closely connected to our ancestors’ roots” and come to COP26 to “demand our representatives respect nature and nature’s rights in these negotiations.” An older woman said that without the forests, “we have nothing, no food, no shelter.” When her grandmother traveled to the forest, she would dress up for the special occasion and speak to the forest. Women are the stewards of the forest – the ones conveying the knowledge. After 40 years educating the young people, she is pleased to see so many young people engaged today, and respecting nature. “We should create an Indigenous University.”

My last stop for the day was a presentation by the Land and Water Protectors which began with a #StopLine3 video. Since I had traveled to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in June and visited with the Water Protectors there, I was pleased to see people and places I recognized from my visit. GGM Mary Lyons (White Earth Nation elder) joined the conversation from zoom and said “our young people have to be at the table of justice.” Three younger women spoke about their experience as water and land protectors. “Sovereignty is not something we sign on the dotted line for; and we don’t fight for sovereignty. It’s something in our blood – something we need to remember.”  Fighting the colonizers within their system won’t work. “We will be here long after the colonizers are gone.”

Day #5 – Final Day for me at COP26

The constituencies planned to protest from inside COP today and I was excited as we walked over to the center. There are a number of different constituencies at this COP, including BINGO (business and industry NGOs), ENGO (environmental NGOs), Farmers (farmers and agricultural NGOs), IPO (Indigenous Peoples organizations), LGMA (Local Government and Municipal Authorities), RINGO (Research and Independent NGOs), TUNGO (Trade Union NGOs), WGC (Women and Gender Constituency) and YOUNGO (Youth NGOs).  The delegates from the LWVUS aligned with the WGC. My colleagues and I walked together to the COP center and sat in the back of the large plenary hall with perhaps 200 – 300 people safely distanced from one another. The youth began by summarizing the facts from the IPCC report and the urgency that the science demands. “Governments would be well-advised not to break their social contract with the people.” “The science has delivered, now it’s your turn!” The TUNGO representative (and many others) talked about how the constituencies were invited to COP26 but excluded from any meaningful discussions. “What happens here is shaped by capitalism and colonialism.” Organized workers want a safe future which requires that “we undo the wrongs of colonialism.” “A fair future needs jobs, jobs, jobs, and a just transition in every workplace.”  “We need to build power by working together.”  The WGC and YOUNGO showed powerful videos.  (I’m going to try to find them online and post.)  The RINGO representative said that her group does not advocate for any particular positions at COP and she’s usually sitting in the back of the room observing. But RINGO decided to speak up about the deficiencies in the COP26 process. “Most observers have not had access to negotiations.” “This is a treaty process and observers must be part of the process. It hasn’t been this bad since COP in Copenhagen in 2009.”  77% more people @ COP26 than COP25. 232% increase in the number of media organizations over COP25. 90% more parties participating and 60% more NGOs. RINGO says you can’t be inclusive by just inviting more people. Contrary to their advertisement, COP26 was not the most inclusive COP.  Nearly every speaker confirmed their disappointment in the lack of opportunities to participate and be heard in the work of COP26.

Following these great presentations, the Indigenous Peoples led us outside the sprawling COP26 center holding on to a very long red ribbon. Later I learned that the red ribbon represented the red line that must not be crossed in these climate negotiations. The LWVUS members joined the march outside, with the media and security personnel following us on the other side of the red ribbon.  Outside we met up with activists and protesters with a lot of energy and strong speeches. I was lucky enough to find myself front and center next to the speakers, and tried to capture much of it. In the middle of it all, a single lone woman took the microphone and began yelling messages in favor of oil and gas. Everyone was confused and thought she was part of the program until it became clear that she was spewing nonsense. The police took her away and the activists continued with their speeches. We were shoulder-to-shoulder yelling and protesting the COP26 failures. The thought crossed my mind that this might have been a COVID-19 super-spreader event, but most people were wearing masks, and hopefully most were vaccinated.

After the protest I headed to the Green Zone with no particular agenda in mind but to see how that venue was organized. On this last full day of COP26 there were families and many people who didn’t appear to be associated with COP26 walking through the exhibits which surprised me. After getting a cup of potato and leek soup for lunch, I walked through the exhibits and then found a hall with a large TV screen where many were sitting and watching the plenary discussion happening in the Blue Zone.  I sat and watched one country after another be recognized by the COP26 President to “make an intervention” and speak about their disappointments about the process and the substantive provisions that were under consideration. “We need to handle finance inside COP, not outside.”  “We need a more balanced approach to Article 6.”  The delegate from Switzerland said “We won’t meet our 1.5 C goal without phase out of all subsidies for fossil fuels.” The Bangladesh delegate declared a “panic emergency” – the science is clear and our ambition must not end with COP26. (paraphrased) “We must think about the impacts of moving from 1.1 C to 1.5 C. We are not trying to just agree on text, but want to ensure these words are actually delivered.” “We are negotiating about our future, our existence.”

The representative from China spoke through an interpreter about the “common but differentiated responsibilities” from the Paris Agreement and said China wants to let the parties (countries) decide their own timetables.  The Philippines delegate mentioned this “unfortunate turn of events” with Article 6. He talked about risk management and that developing countries like the Philippines can’t do it on their own. They want to leapfrog and not repeat the mistakes that developed countries have made but the developing countries need $$ to do that. South Africa delegate said they need money not only to meet their NDCs but also for sustainable development. Brazil said “we don’t want small climate clubs but a large collective community” addressing these challenges. Perhaps the most compelling words came from the representative of Tuvalu (a country in the South Pacific I honestly had never heard of until COP26). “We’re not seeing the level of optimism that started the COP26 negotiations translated into this agreement.” “Tuvalu is sinking.” “We need to ensure a financial mechanism and modality of delivery is provided to be able to get the money to the countries that need it now.” Tuvalu wants strong language on loss and damage. (I’m going to look for a video of his words to post later.) The representative from Mexico said the current draft “doesn’t meet our expectations. We should know how to bring our NDCs in line with the 1.5 C goal.” The man from Panama said he couldn’t square the circle where developed countries declare “we understand the impacts of climate change on the global south” but “we don’t pay developing countries.” “All we ask is that you own your responsibilities.” “Get us to real zero.” “Keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

I stood up and decided to explore the Green Zone a bit more. I walked past a young man who stopped me to note the button I am wearing everywhere in COP26 “Free Palestine”. He is from Indonesia and is currently studying in the UK but has plans to return to his country when he completes his education to help his nation. We took each other’s photos and shared them on WhatsApp. Perhaps I’ve made a new friend in Indonesia.  Then I walked upstairs to check out the COP26 Cinema and walked into the middle of a film about the YMCA working with youth in six countries engaged in climate change projects. The YMCA in the US had financed the film with $250k and announced today that they were adding another $150k to continue the work of these youth groups. The goal is to raise $1 million by next year. Four young people in the film were on stage to discuss their work and their expectations. Rodrigo from Peru gave a shout out to a youth from Palestine who was not able to travel to Glasgow. I went up to him afterwards and learned that the Palestinian had waited and waited for his appointment to travel to the embassy for his Visa application but the appointment was only given to him TODAY. I found these four young people very inspiring and had tears in my eyes as I was taking notes. The young woman from Zambia said she wished we had more leaders like John Kerry whom they met earlier. She found Kerry to be “a humble person.”  And she was disappointed that the leaders from Zambia at this COP26 were not accessible to her or others from her country. She wants the leaders to be uncomfortable.  Check here to meet the YMCA delegation to COP26, including Atallah Danoon from Palestine.

Many are beginning to leave Glasgow now but the discussions at the plenary continue. I will catch a train to Edinburgh in the morning but stay glued to the proceedings online.

My take-away from COP26 in Glasgow

I’m not going to summarize the final COP26 agreement or its many deficiencies, nor regurgitate what the media coverage is sharing.  If you check out the Irish Times, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, and many more, it’s clear that COP26 didn’t live up to expectations. I also recommend opinion pieces from Christiana Figueres who was head of the UN climate change convention that achieved the Paris agreement in 2015, and George Monbiot calling for civil disobedience. While in Glasgow at COP26, I was following several groups who provided excellent coverage of COP26, including regular reports from Architecture 2030, Interfaith Power & Light, and EESI. There’s a lot of information for anyone who wants to get into the COP26 weeds.

Sitting in a youth hostel in Edinburgh after COP26 finished, I met a man from Normandy (33 years) visiting on a lark for the weekend because he found a roundtrip air ticket for €10. He works in international shipping, scheduling exports and imports. He understands the urgency of climate change but doesn’t believe we can repair the damage already done. “It’s only going to get worse, and leaders aren’t going to do anything fast enough because of their love of power and money.” He gave me concrete examples.

I passed a group of young girls (teens?) sitting in the park in Edinburgh and asked to take their photo. I told them I had just come from the climate meeting in Glasgow. It wasn’t the right time and place to engage with them on climate change; they were more excited about being seen and recognized on my Instagram account.

Communication is my take away from COP26. You and I know the science, and the urgency with which a profound transformation must occur if we’re going to leave a planet that our children and grandchildren can safely call home with confidence of a bright future. My new grandchild (expected in Spring 2022) will be my age in 2090; this is very personal for me. We have only a decade, or perhaps two, to avoid the catastrophic consequences of fossil fuels.

We must meet people where they’re at and arm them with the information which spurs them to act. We must engage in every venue where we believe we can make a difference. Some of us will engage with the politicians in Congress, state Capitals, and city halls pressing leaders to act consistent with the climate reality. Others will engage with students and audiences in different venues. Some will write. Others will protest and engage in civil disobedience. Perhaps the most important communication will occur one-on-one with our neighbors and family. None of these will be sufficient on their own, but each will lead us to the critical threshold where public engagement will tip the scales.

I didn’t see any strong presence of the fossil fuel industry at COP26 but they had the largest delegation there, and likely had better access to decision-makers than many others. Listening to many different voices (online and in person at COP26) about what we must do, I was particularly sensitive to the cacophony of ideas often not connecting with each other. (At one point I actually broke down in tears because of the cognitive dissonance.) 

People ask me if I’m an optimist or pessimist about the future. I’m neither. I consider myself a “possibilitarian.” The path we’re currently on is bleak, but I believe we can take another path towards a much better outcome, a future that looks very bright. This possibilitarian understands that switching to that new path could happen very quickly, but it will require (1) more people aware of the dangers of the current path and deciding to change course; (2) new and more effective ways to communicate about the dangers and possibilities; and (3) new leadership. The most encouraging part of COP26 was observing the youth inside and out pushing the status quo, making the leaders “uncomfortable.” I believe the old farts have to step aside or be removed, and the youth need to take the reins of power. They will certainly make mistakes, but don’t we all?  I witnessed their true leadership at COP26.

The 33-year-old from Normandy needs hope; the teenagers need to experience life free of fear; and the fossilized leaders in many countries need to feel the heel of our boots. Communication is the key.

Thank you for joining me on this COP26 journey. 

Lora Lucero

Facebook: LoraLucero

Instagram: loralucero3

Twitter: @LoraLucero

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Palestine: Law and Accountability in Bringing the Occupation to an End

Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur to Palestine, was featured in a special webinar on February 20, 2021 sponsored by the Canadian Voices for Palestinian Rights. This hour-long discussion is wide-ranging on many topics pertaining to Israel – Palestine, and I recommend it to anyone who especially wants to understand Canada’s role (past and present) on the occupation.

Beginning at about 48:00, in response to a question about what comes next, Professor Lynk says there are only 4 possible options. (1) Two-states, (2) One-state, (3) One-apartheid state or what Trump proposed, and (4) the status quo where nothing changes. He says there are no other options. I wonder what he would think of the concept of a confederation as Sam Bahour and Bernard Avishai spoke about today? I think I’ll ask him.

His last piece of advice at the very end of the program should be heeded by everyone who cares about making a difference in Palestine.

Professor Lynk’s strong understanding of international law and appreciation of the facts on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories make him a voice without equal for justice and dignity for Palestinians.

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Finkelstein dissects the ICC ruling about Palestine

Finkelstein and Lora in NYC (August 2017)

I first met Professor Norman Finkelstein in Albuquerque in 2012 when he spoke to a friendly audience about his book “This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion” about Operation Cast Lead. Several years later, I was serendipitously in the right place at the right time, and attended a course he taught over several weeks at the New York City public library dissecting John Stuart Mill’s classic ON LIBERTY. Finkelstein is a controversial figure in the best sense of the word. He thoroughly reads and researches before he expounds on a topic, and then he speaks his mind clearly and without reservation for the political correctness or sensibilities of his audience.

Norman  Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

On February 14, 2021, Finkelstein was asked his opinion about the recent ruling of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC concluded it had jurisdiction over the Palestinian occupied territories to investigate potential war crimes from Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014 as well as the 2018 Gaza border protests where Israeli sharpshooters maimed or killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protestors. Many of us have been waiting for the court’s decision for years.

The mainstream media (including the United Nations) has framed the ICC’s recent ruling as “good news” for the Palestinians. I must admit that I’ve been on cloud 9 since reading this news, thinking that perhaps there would finally be a measure of justice for the Palestinians, as well as elevating the credibility of international law and of the ICC itself.

Unfortunately, I failed to read the opinion (or even digest the entire announcement made by the ICC on February 5, 2021). Although the ICC concluded it does have jurisdiction in Palestine, it went on to say:

In addition, the Chamber found, by majority, that the arguments regarding the Oslo Agreements, and its clauses limiting the scope of Palestinian jurisdiction, are not pertinent to the resolution of the issue of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine. Such matters and other further questions on jurisdiction may be examined when and if the Prosecutor submits an application for the issuance of a warrant of arrest or summons to appear.

In this interview, Professor Finkelstein dissects the ICC’s opinion better than many who are well-versed in the intricacies of international law in the context of Israel-Palestine. Every Palestine solidarity activist would be wise to spend the next hour listening to his explanation. Without giving the punch-line away, I’ll just say that the Palestine Authority shot itself in the foot when it responded to the ICC’s query regarding the Oslo Accords.


Filed under Book Review, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video


A Palestinian man has been arrested and held in detention in Gaza for the crime of participating in “normalization” activities with Israelis. His name is Rami Aman. For the past six months, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been charged or given an opportunity to respond in court.

To be clear, this is nothing new for either Hamas in Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the occupied territories, or the civil Israeli government in Israel. All four threaten to punish civilians who collaborate with the “enemy.” Israel forbids its citizens from visiting with Palestinians. The IDF routinely arrests Palestinian children and hauls them off to military detention. Some remain in detention for many months.

Rami Aman certainly knew what the risks were when he joined that Zoom call with Israelis, but he had nothing to hide. Unlike the “collaborators” who sneak around and work with the enemy to undermine the Palestinian military objectives, Rami wants Israelis to know Palestinians; and vice versa. He understands that the future depends on both sides understanding the other.

A former research consultant with Amnesty International in Gaza saw the zoom meeting and tagged Hamas officials to bring to their attention this forbidden “normalization” activity.

“So what’s wrong with talking? What’s normalization?”

Mike Merryman-Lotze with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) answers both questions in this excellent piece he wrote in 2018. My personal understanding of the subject was greatly improved after reading Mike’s story this Spring and his words of caution; I highly recommend it.

Mike ends with the following points:

“First, we should recognize that Palestinians and Israelis are getting together and cooperating but on their own terms. One of the key problems with many past people-to-people programs is that they were initiated and led by outside actors who imposed their own goals and terms on interactions. The normalization framework pushed forward by Palestinians is a reassertion of ownership of the terms of interaction by those most impacted by the systematic injustice of Israel’s occupation and inequality. Normalization principles transform interactions, moving them from coexistence-focused dialogue sessions to action-based interaction with the goal of transformation through co-resistance against injustice. If you are thinking about supporting dialogue or people-to-people programs, it is important to consider who “owns” the process and how it resists structures of injustice.

Second, we should understand that dialogue is not an end in and of itself and that dialogue can be harmful. Particularly in situations of ongoing injustice, attempts to bring people together can’t simply focus on building understanding if there is no corresponding effort by all involved to end the injustice and inequality that stands between people. While dialogue and exchange can be important parts of transformation, they can also be tools used to block change; reinforce existing imbalances of power; and erase legal, institutional, and structural injustices. Whether we are setting up panel discussions or working to pull people together, we always need to understand issues of power. Dialogue is not a neutral process, and we must carefully consider how dialogue pushes toward action for change.

Third, it is important to understand that the normalization discussion is largely not about us. Normalization concerns do not place blocks on Quakers listening to, interacting with, or dialoguing with any party. Challenging normalization initiatives is not aimed at silencing select viewpoints or limiting who is able to speak. Indeed, listening to and engaging with those with whom we disagree is an important part of building understanding as we push for change. The normalization discussion is about addressing power imbalances and injustice in relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, not shutting off all dialogue or ending conversations that build understanding.

Finally, the normalization conversation points to the fact that dialogue and listening are not enough. To achieve peace and justice there must be political change that ends the system of inequality and oppression that exists between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as U.S. complicity in that injustice. To address this, Quakers must then move beyond positions that express concern for both parties and that encourage dialogue and listening but that don’t lead to direct action. Quakers should support direct action to end injustice, such as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and AFSC-led No Way to Treat a Child Campaign. We can support discussions, but we must back up our support for talk with support for action.”

I agree with Mike’s observations and words of caution, with the exception of his conclusion. He writes: “It is political change and an end to injustice that will lead to dialogue and understanding, and it is political action that is needed to bring change.” Which comes first — the chicken or the egg? I believe dialogue and understanding are the precursors to a political change and an end to injustice. But the dialogue must occur with Mike’s caveats in mind.

Rami Aman – Gaza Strip

On September 9, 2020, a group of NGOS submitted a 24 page petition at the UN on behalf of Rami Aman. Check it out here.

The group that filed the petition — UN Watch — is an apologist for Israel’s crimes and human rights abuses in the occupation, and regularly calls out anyone or any country that stands up in support of Palestine in the United Nations. Sadly, Hamas’ actions in Rami Aman’s detention have given the UN Watch and the State of Israel fodder for their campaign.

Anyone familiar with the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians will find the following words from the petition hypocritical in the extreme coming from the UN Watch, but no less true.

The Applicant is a Palestinian peace activist who resides in Gaza. He was arrested by Hamas security forces on 9 April 2020, three days after his peace group, the Gaza Youth Committee, held a two-hour video call with Israeli peace activists via Zoom. He is accused of holding a “normalization” activity with Israelis. Normalization refers to cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, including peace dialogue. According to both the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) and Hamas, normalization is a crime which is tantamount to treason. The criminalization of peace dialogue is a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association pursuant to Article 19 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”). Likewise, detention on that basis is a violation of ICCPR Article 19.

The Applicant has now been in Hamas detention for more than four months. His due process rights are being egregiously violated. He has not yet been charged and has never had an opportunity to challenge his detention in court. Moreover, he is a civilian who will be subjected
to trial in a Hamas Military Court in violation of ICCPR Article 14.

Then the petition begins its propaganda campaign against Hamas by equating “collaboration” with “normalization” which I will not recite here. These are two very different activities but even many Palestinians can’t tell the difference!

Consistent with the above, the PA and Hamas reject any “normalization” with Israel. Normalization includes joint economic activities, joint sports activities and meetings to promote peace. As detailed below, Hamas considers “normalization” to be a form of treason and uses various provisions of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979 to prosecute that crime.

Mr. Aman was held incommunicado for at least one week. According to a statement published by Amnesty International on 6 May 2020, Mr. Aman was permitted to speak with his family for the first time by telephone on 26 April 2020—more than two weeks after the arrest. According to information provided to us, he has had one visit with his family since then. Also, Mr. Aman has had three visits with his lawyer, the first on 16 April 2020—one week after the arrest. The Amnesty International statement added that Mr. Aman was likely to be charged under Article 164 of the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, which refers to “propaganda aimed at weakening the revolution” and that he was likely to be tried in a military court. In addition, Mr. Aman has not yet been charged or brought before a court.

I’d like to know why Amnesty International, the American Friends Service Committee, the National Lawyers Guild, and other groups that often stand up for Palestinians have not voiced their objections to Rami’s arrest and detention. Clearly, Rami has become a political football in the international arena now. Dialogue and understanding of the “other” will likely be the victim.

Coalition of NGOs that signed the petition.

University College Dublin (Ireland)

Global Human Rights Defence (Netherlands)

African Agency for Integrated Development (Uganda)

Global Vision India Foundation (India)

Help People Foundation (Italy)

Sisters of Charity Federation (United States)

Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines (France)

Geneva International Model United Nations (Switzerland)

Forum Méditerranéen pour la Promotion des Droits du Citoyen (Morocco)

Women’s Voices Now (United States)

Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech (Japan)

African Heritage Foundation (Nigeria)

Romanian Independent Society of Human Right (Romania)

ONG Association Internationale Des Droits De L’Homme (France)

Vision GRAM International (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda)

Structural Analysis of Cultural Systems (Germany)

Public Organization “Public Advocacy” (Ukraine)

Association un Enfant Un Cartable du Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)

International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization (United States)

Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia Wira Tata Buana (Indonesia)

Godwin Osung International Foundation Inc. (Nigeria)

Centre for Youth and Literacy Development (Ghana)

Hape Development and Welfare Association (Pakistan)

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (France)

Women Educators Association of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Chia Funkuin Foundation (Cameroon)

Save the Climate (DRC)

Association pour le Développement Culturel (Chad)

Business Innovation Research Development (France)

World Organization of Building (Canada)

Amis de l’Afrique Francophone (Benin)

Observatorio Nacional De Seguranca Viaria (Brazil)

Organization Earth (Greece)

GreenPlanet (India)

Foundation of International Servant Leadership Exchange Association (South Korea)

European Union for Jewish Students (Belgium)

Association of Christian Counselors of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Fudnação Antonio Meneghetti (Brazil)

Shola Mese Foundation (Nigeria)

Ideal World Foundation President (Ghana)

Groupe d’économie solidaire du Québec (Canada)

Haiti Cholera Research Funding Foundation Inc. USA (United States)

Future Hope International (Ghana)

Les œuvres sociales pour les actions de développement (DRC)

Festival de Théâtre pour la Santé (Togo)

Ingénieurs du Monde (France)

Association de Solidarite d’Aide et Action Mali (Mali)

International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (United States)

Somali Help-Age Association (Somalia)

Kuchlak Welfare society Balochistan (Pakistan)

Kathak Academy (Bangladesh)

Moorish Holy Temple of Science (United States)

Safe Society (India)

Conglomeration of Bengal’s Hotel Owners (India)

World Kabaddi Federation (India)

African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (Rwanda)

Amis des Étrangers au Togo (Togo)

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. (United States)

Association pour la Défense des droits, de développement durable et du Bien-Etre Familial (Rwanda)

Project 1948 (Bosnia)

United Nations Watch (Switzerland)

Les Amis du Projet Imagine (France)

Earthquake and Megacities Initiative (EMI) (Philippines)

Coupe de Pouce (DRC)

ONG Credo Action (Togo)

Noahide Institute (United States)

Ekta Welfare Society (India)

Generation Initiative for Women and Youth Network (Nigeria)

Association Build Africa (Cameroon)

Update: ALLMEP joins PCHR, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch in a renewed call for their immediate release from nearly six months in detention. #FreeRamiAman Read more: English – –

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