Category Archives: US Policy

Shooting fish in a barrel

Life is unbearable in Gaza. It’s been unlivable for years for the 2+ million Palestinians trapped there, but now it’s at the breaking point. Many (most?) feel there’s nothing to lose by going to the eastern border and facing down the Israeli marksmen who are shooting them like fish in a barrel. Today 55+ Palestinians have been killed (including a journalist, a medic and a Palestinian with no legs) and hundreds wounded for demanding their rights enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.

Less than 100 miles away in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and others are in a celebratory mood as the U.S. flag is raised over the new U.S. Embassy. They don’t even acknowledge the slaughter occurring in Gaza.

Gaza slaughter

I’ve called my two U.S. Senators (Udall and Heinrich) and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham, demanding that they condemn the slaughter of innocent, unarmed Palestinians. I want them to join the other members of Congress who have spoken out against the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters, including: Senators Feinstein, Warren, Leahy and Sanders; as well as the following House members:

Barbara Lee (CA 13)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47)
Lloyd Doggett (TX 35)
Hank Johnson (GA 04)
Danny Davis (IL 07)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 09)
John Yarmuth (KY 03)
Jamie Raskin (MD 08)
Keith Ellison (MN 05)
Betty McCollum (MN 04)
David Price (NC 04)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 03)
Steve Cohen (TN 09)
Gerry Connolly (VA 11)
Peter Welch (VT 1)
Mark Pocan (WI 02)
Pramila Jayapal (WA 07).

My eyes are now focused on Udall, Heinrich and Lujan-Grisham.  I’m going to hound them until they come clean with a statement condemning Israel’s slaughter of innocents.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/269659083″>Voices of the Siege</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3079357″>The Palestine Chronicles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

When the superpower soils his pants

Have you read it, the Iran Nuclear “deal”?  I haven’t.

I don’t intend to either.

President Trump says it’s a bad deal for the U.S. …. the “worst deal he’s ever seen.”  One commentator agrees, and notes that the agreement contained the seeds of its own destruction. And, of course, Israel’s Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision to withdraw from the “deal.”

World leaders from around the globe disagreed. The UK, France, and Germany all tried to dissuade Trump from his dangerous course of a “mix of unilateralism and isolationism” — “unisolationism” — by withdrawing unilaterally from the Iran “deal”.

Even Russia and China support the agreement and scolded Trump.

China’s special envoy to the Middle East, Gong Xiaosheng, said in a press conference in Iran the agreement promoted peace. “Having a deal is better than no deal. Dialogue is better than confrontation.” he said according to Xinhua news agency.

Yevgeny Serebrennikov, first deputy head of the defense and security committee in the Russian Upper House of Parliament also told RIA news agency Trump’s decision could put the nuclear talks between the US and North Korea at risk

Putin warned of the threat of “aggressive nationalism” and “claims to exceptionalism” at a World War II victory parade in Red Square on Wednesday. “All humankind and countries need to recognize that the world is very fragile,” he said.

And Stephen Zunes, a political commentator from the University of San Francisco, opined that Trump’s decision to withdraw is a “win” for the Iranian hardliners.  “We told you so! You can’t trust those Americans.”

As a mother with years of experience cleaning up after toddlers with soiled diapers, my response to Trump’s mess is to give some parental advice to the rest of the world.

It’s time now to send the child to his room.

You can do that by boycotting the United States (and Israel too).  Don’t visit or vacation in the U.S. — don’t buy U.S. exports (predominantly weapons) — don’t invite U.S. leaders to speak or engage with your country — don’t talk about the U.S. in any forum. And certainly don’t entertain any discussions about the Trump brand.

I know it will be difficult because the U.S. has played such an out-sized role in the global economy and politics since WWII, but now it’s time to send the child to his room. Time out might knock some sense into him.

 

 

 

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#GazaUnlocked #HeartlandtoGaza

The American Friends Service Committee organized an expert panel of witnesses to provide testimony about the current situation in Gaza as part of its Gaza Unlocked campaign. Check out the campaign here.

The expert testimony was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, April 21, 2018 in the format similar to a formal hearing in Congress. The delegation from Indiana was invited to attend, including Vice President Pence, but they didn’t show up. Representative Andre Carson was unable to attend, but one of his staff members was able to attend in his place and he sent his regrets.

I showed up and watched the livestream testimony and Q &A that followed from my perch in the library at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Gaza Unlocked

Jehad Abu Salim

The three experts were certainly very well qualified to speak about Gaza. Jehad Abu Salim is from Gaza and currently studying for his PhD at NYU.  Laila El-Haddad has lived in Gaza and written extensively about Gaza. She’s the author of Gaza Kitchen. Dr. Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies specializing in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They each spoke about the current conditions in Gaza as well as the political dynamics of Israel’s siege and long-term blockade on the Gaza Strip. The take-away message for me was that we must educate ourselves, our family, friends and communities, and especially our members of Congress.

Social media armchair activists are not making a difference if they stay within their bubbles and comfort zones behind the computer screens. We must get out into our communities and wake Americans up to the realities of the Israeli occupation. I hope a condensed and edited version of this testimony will be made available to help us educate others.

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Why Israel is a Sacred Cow for America

Professor Noam Chomsky has been educating Americans about Israel-Palestine for many years, most recently in his talk in Oakland in March 2018.

Thanks to my friend, Mohammed Awad, I met Chomsky in Gaza in 2012.

An American Jew traveling in Palestine might raise the eyebrows of some people who believe the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip is a hotbed of anti-semitic barbarism, but clearly Chomsky has been receiving the royal treatment here.  Quite the contrast to the reception he received two years ago when Israel denied him entry to the West Bank where he was scheduled to lecture at Birzeit, a Palestinian university.  Professor Chomsky’s visit to Gaza was sponsored by TIDA, a new homegrown institution founded by Dr. Eyad Sarraj. 

In this 12-minute video posted in 2015, Noam Chomsky answers the question: Why is Israel a sacred cow for America?

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Leahy Law requires vetting of Israel’s gross violations of human rights

Many human rights lawyers and NGOs (here, here and here for example) believe that Israel committed gross human rights violations on Good Friday, March 30, when IDF sharpshooters killed 17 Palestinians and wounded hundreds more during the beginning of the #GreatReturnMarch.

Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal, suppression of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of a trigger-happy policy.” Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told The Times that while the military probably decided to use lethal force as a deterrent, “In my opinion they should have planned from the beginning to use minimal force and to prevent casualties.”

The United Nations and others have called for a credible investigation but Israel says it won’t investigate.

Even the Editorial Board of the New York Times (Israel Courts Catastrophe in Gaza Protests” – April 2, 2018) has called for an independent and transparent investigation. (I say “even” because I’ve found the NY Times editors to be highly deferential to Israel’s point of view in the past.)

Americans should be calling for an investigation too, especially given the enormous military support the U.S. provides to Israel.

US military aid to Israel

Thanks to the “Leahy amendments“, both the Department of State and Department of Defense are required to discontinue military assistance to units of foreign security forces that have engaged in “a gross violation” of human rights.

“No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

“Of the amounts made available to the Department of Defense, none may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 10 USC 2249e

Amnesty International notes that the Leahy Law is a powerful, yet often overlooked tool to help prevent the U.S. government from directly arming human rights violators in the ranks of foreign security forces and to help the U.S. avoid complicity in the commission of human rights violations.  But it’s not a panacea!

In 2014, the Congressional Research Service published the “Leahy Law” Human Rights Provisions and Security Assistance: Issue Overview in 2014 available online here:

Implementation of Leahy vetting involves a complex process in the State Department and U.S. embassies overseas that determines which foreign security individuals and units are eligible to receive U.S. assistance or training.

Under the Leahy amendments, the US has reportedly cut off military assistance from security and military units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia.

The Congressional Research Office continues:

The State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide have developed a system that seeks to ensure that no applicable State Department assistance or DOD-funded training is provided to units or individuals in foreign security forces who have committed any gross violations of human rights. This procedure, designed to comply with the Leahy laws, is known as “vetting” or “Leahy vetting.” Primarily a State Department responsibility with input from other agencies, Leahy vetting is a multi-step process that involves staff at U.S. embassies abroad; the State Department Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) in Washington, DC, which is the lead State Department bureau for vetting; State Department regional bureaus; and other government agencies as required. The State Department policy provides for two separate processes, one for training and one for equipment and other non-training assistance.

Now, it’s time for Americans to raise our voices in support of human rights.

  1. Write and/or call your two senators and your member of Congress with two specific requests, and ask for follow-up on each one:

a) they should join Senator Bernie Sanders to comment publicly on recent events in Gaza;

b) they must inquire of the State Department and the Defense Department if the department’s vetting procedures have cleared or implicated Israeli military unit in the deaths and wounding of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza in the last few days.

2. Since the Leahy vetting process typically begins at the U.S. Embassy in the country where the alleged violations occurred, write the U.S. Embassy in Israel and request that they initiate a credible investigation into the shooting and killing of unarmed, peaceful Palestinian protesters on March 30, 2018 pursuant to the Leahy Law.

Ambassador David Melech Friedman

U.S. Embassy Israel

71 HaYarkon Street

Tel Aviv 6343229, Israel

Email: JerusalemACS@state.gov

3.  David M. Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary , Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, using this contact form for the U.S. State Department.  https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform

My message to Secretary Satterfield:

I’m writing as an American citizen concerned about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shooting and killing unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip on Friday, March 30.

As you know, the Leahy Law says: “No assistance shall be furnished under this Act or the Arms Export Control Act to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” See 28 USC 2378d

Israel has rejected calls by the United Nations and others to conduct an independent and transparent investigation. I urge you to initiate the vetting process required by the Leahy Law, to determine if the IDF has committed gross violations of human rights.

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

 

 

 

 

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Two lives, two deaths, highlight Congress’ willful blindness

Taylor Force

Taylor Force

Taylor Force, 28 and a first-year student at Vanderbilt, was stabbed to death while visiting Tel Aviv in March 2016.  He was with 29 students and four staff members from the university who had gone to Israel to study global entrepreneurship.

Rachel Corrie, 23 and a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March 2003. She was standing with other ISM volunteers in front of a Palestinian home slated for destruction by Israel, along with other homes in the neighborhood.

Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie

 

The similarities in their deaths are striking.

Both Taylor and Rachel were Americans. Both were victims of deliberate attacks. Both were young, intelligent and, by all accounts, had tremendous gifts to give the world.  Both were unarmed and engaged in peaceful activities — Taylor was studying and Rachel was exercising Gandhian nonviolence resistance.

Taylor was killed by a knife-wielding Palestinian in the heart of Israel. Rachel was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer in the occupied Palestinian territory outside of Israel.

Both families grieved their inexplicable losses, and sought some measure of justice.

This week, (March 2018) Congress will pass S.1697 and H.R.1164 — the Taylor Force Act. The bill ends $300 million in direct US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it does not halt payments to the families of “terrorists” who are either in jail or were killed carrying out their crimes.

In March 2003, Rachel’s parents asked Congress to help them get a full, fair and expeditious investigation into their daughter’s death, but Congress took no action on H.Con.Res.111. They also sued Caterpillar, Inc. alleging liability for Rachel’s death because the company supplied bulldozers to Israel knowing that they would be used in contravention of international law. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit in 2009 based on the political question doctrine.

In 2005, the Corrie family also filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel. The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death, contending that she had either been intentionally killed or that the soldiers had acted with reckless neglect. They sued for a symbolic one US dollar in damages.

In August 2012, an Israeli court rejected their suit and ruled that the Israeli government was not responsible for Corrie’s death. Former U.S. President Carter and some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticized the ruling. 

I met Rachel’s parents in Gaza in November 2012 and asked if they were going to file an appeal. They both looked weary and said they didn’t know because of the costs and emotional toll it might entail. However, they did appeal and learned in February 2014 that it had been rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel.

The Corrie family established The Rachel Corrie Foundation to honor her memory, and to spread the values that their daughter embodied in her short life. In 2006, Alan Rickman’s play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” debuted in New York City. And every year, Palestinians remember Rachel and honor her as a martyr.

Congress continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence and trauma in Israel-Palestine that ultimately ended the young lives of Taylor Force and Rachel Corrie.*

They can’t stand back and view Israel-Palestine objectively, primarily because of the outrageous influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington (AIPAC). This is not in the best interests of the U.S., and I wonder how many more Americans, not to mention innocent Palestinians and Israelis, will pay the ultimate price by Congress’s willful blindness.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

* Enacting Israel’s legislative agenda, funding Israel’s military to the tune of $3 billion+ each year, parroting Israel’s framing of the occupation which is contrary to international humanitarian law, and

 

 

 

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The Artful Dodge in Politics

Betty McCollum

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)

A brave Congresswoman from Minnesota (Betty McCollum) has introduced a bill to end the Israeli military detention of Palestinian children.  I wrote about H.R. 4391 here.

In January 2018, I delivered copies of a book (Dreaming of Freedom) about Palestinian children in Israel’s military detention to Representative McCollum and each member of Congress who has cosponsored her legislation. I also gave a copy to my Congresswoman, though she hasn’t cosponsored H.R. 4391. I asked her to sign on.  (I also gave copies to my two U.S. Senators with a cover letter but have never received a response.)

dreaming-of-freedom

I’m pleased that two additional members of Congress have signed on to the H.R. 4391. Beyer, Donald [D-VA8] (joined Jan 16, 2018) and Johnson, Henry “Hank” [D-GA4] (joined Jan 22, 2018).

Yesterday, I received Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s response. She didn’t acknowledge the book, and the letter is the most artful dodge I’ve received in many months. She is going to “monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.” This letter should win an award for the most polite, congenial, non-answer answer in Congressional history. Her staff has learned their trade-craft well.

March 15, 2018

Dear Ms. Lucero,
Thank you for contacting me with your views on the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act (H.R. 4391). The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is highly complex and there are many strong opinions on both sides, so I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

     I am troubled by reports that approximately 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted since 2000, and that these children have been subject to abusive conditions. H.R. 4391 would prohibit U.S. assistance to Israel from being used to support the military detention, interrogation, and mistreatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law. Specifically, the bill would require the Secretary of State to certify that American funds provided to Israel are not used to support these practices.

It is important for the United States to promote human rights across the globe. I am committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for successful peace negotiations. Having travelled to this region, I understand how important it is to work toward a long-term plan that will ensure sustained peace and stability. I will keep your thoughts in mind, and will monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.

It is my honor to serve the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico. Your thoughts and comments on this and other issues are important to my work in Congress. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with me. I encourage you to visit my website, www.lujangrisham.house.gov, where you can find updates on my work in Congress and sign up for my e-newsletter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you in any way.

Sincerely,

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Member of Congress

Rep. Lujan-Grisham is leaving her Congressional seat to run for Governor of New Mexico. I suspect her talented staff-writers will be following her to Santa Fe if she succeeds.  New Mexicans can expect more artful dodging.

I hope the next Congressperson representing New Mexico’s CD-1 will hire and train staff-writers to provide direct tough answers to constituents’ questions. Constituents deserve respect and deserve to know (Yes or No) how their elected representatives feel about the issues.

Change Things

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