I am standing with UNRWA

President Trump has decided to cut funding to the U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees from $350 million in 2017 to $60 million.

I’m standing with UNRWA. I’m condemning this US Administration. My members of Congress are going to hear loud and clear “restore the funding for Palestinian refugees NOW!”. #FundUNRWA

Statement of Commissioner-General:

Not for the first time in its proud history, UNRWA faces a formidable challenge in upholding its mandate – an expression of the will of the international community – and preserving key services like education and health care for Palestine Refugees.

Today, the US government has announced a contribution of $60 M, in support of our efforts to keep our schools open, health clinics running, and emergency food and cash distribution systems functioning for some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. While important, this funding is dramatically below past levels. The total US contribution in 2017 was above $350 M.

Since UNRWA began its operations in May 1950, every US administration – from President Truman onwards – has stood with and provided strong, generous and committed support to our Agency. The US has consistently been UNRWA’s largest single donor, something we sincerely thank the American people for, and countless American decision-makers – presidents, members of Congress, diplomats and civil servants, who embodied the commitment of assisting a vulnerable people through UNRWA.

Funding UNRWA or any humanitarian agency is the discretion of any sovereign member state of the United Nations. At the same time, given the long, trusted, and historic relationship between the United States and UNRWA, this reduced contribution threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle-East.

At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future. At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At stake is the access of refugees to primary health care, including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community.

Olive harvest and children

The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization.

In addition, the US government has consistently commended our high-impact, transparency and accountability. This was reiterated, once again, during my latest visit to Washington in November 2017, when every senior US official expressed respect for UNRWA’s role and for the robustness of its management.

 

Faced with the responsibility to preserve operations while now confronted with the most dramatic financial crisis in UNRWA’s history, as Commissioner-General, I am today:

• Calling on the Member States of the United Nations to take a stand and join UNRWA in saying to Palestine Refugees that their rights and future matter.

• Calling on our partners – the host countries and our donors including those in the region – to rally in support and join UNRWA in creating new funding alliances and initiatives to ensure Palestine Refugee students continue to access education in our schools and the dignity of Palestine refugee children and their families is preserved through all our services.

2013-05-05-21-01-541

• Calling on people of good will in every corner of the globe where solidarity and partnerships exist for Palestine Refugees to join us in responding to this crisis and #FundUNRWA to ensure that Palestine Refugee girls and boys can stand strong.

• Launching in the next few days a global fundraising campaign to capture the large-scale commitment to keeping our schools and clinics open throughout 2018 and beyond.

At this critical time, I also turn to:

• Palestine Refugees in all of our fields of operations and say: we are working with absolute determination to ensure that UNRWA services continue.

• the students in our schools for example in Aleppo and Damascus, Syria, in Burj El Barajneh and Rashidieh, Lebanon, in Zarka and Jerash, Jordan, in Jenin and Hebron, West Bank, in Jabalyia and Khan Younis, Gaza, to the boys and girls in all Palestine refugee camps and communities, I say: the schools remain open so you can receive your cherished education and remain confident that the future also belongs to you.

• the patients in our clinics, the recipients of our relief, social services, micro-finance and other forms of support, I say you will receive the care and assistance to which you are entitled.

• UNRWA’s full-time 30,000 professional and experienced staff – doctors, nurses, school principals and teachers, guards and sanitation laborers, social and psychosocial workers, administrative and support staff: be at your duty stations to serve the community with the same dedication and commitment that you have always shown. This is a moment for internal cohesion and solidarity. Times are very critical but we will do our utmost to protect you.

We see a Middle-East where conflict, violence and polarization remain ever present and impact the lives of millions of people. We observe a world in which anger reigns, not trust; a world in which power frequently rules, not justice; a world in which what divides is often valued more than what unites, includes and brings together.

The state of the world and the situation of Palestine Refugees is however far too serious and important, to allow ourselves to indulge in pessimism or despair. UNRWA stands for hope, for respect of rights and for dignity. When things are difficult, our determination grows. When the way seems lost, we invest all our energy in search of new paths, keeping our eyes on the horizon and looking for different solutions.

I recall the profound responsibility assumed by the international community of states to assist the Palestine refugees, until a just and lasting solution is found to their plight and the Middle East can finally put this cruel conflict behind it. I also give homage to people of good will around the world who have shown solidarity with Palestine Refugees when they need it most. Now more than ever, the refugees need your support.

Let us draw our strength from the Palestine Refugees who teach us every day that giving up is not an option. UNRWA will not give up either. I ask you to stand with us.

Change Things

I am standing with UNRWA

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Filed under Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy

Why I Am Angry by Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, an Israeli peace activist, journalist and writer, began his life in Hitler’s Germany, arrived in Palestine with his family in 1933, joined the Irgun underground in 1938 to fight the British but quit after three years in protest of the Irgun’s anti-Arab attitudes and its terrorist methods. His biography is very interesting, check it out here.  I haven’t read any of his books, but pledge to correct that deficiency this year.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery credit – Veterans Today

Avnery wrote the following message on January 6, 2018.  I share it here in full because the history of the two branches of Jews (the Mizrahim and Ashkenazim) is currently playing out in Israel’s politics, with deep implications for the future of the region and the Palestinians. This internal division may be more consequential than the Israeli-Arab divide that dominates the news.

Why are we (humans in general) so predisposed to see our neighbors as “the other” and to cast “the other” in such disparaging terms?  What is the antithesis of “the other”?            

Why I am Angry

I AM angry with the Mizrahi elite. Very angry indeed.

Mizrah is the Hebrew word for East. Eastern Jews are those who lived for many centuries in the Islamic world. Western Jews are those who lived in Christian Europe.

The words are, of course, misnomers. Russian Jews are “Westerners”, Moroccan Jews are “Easterners”. A look at the map shows that Russia is far to the East of Morocco. It would be more accurate to call them “Northerners” and “Southerners”. Too late, now.

Westerners are generally called “Ashkenazim”, from the old Hebrew term for Germany. Easterners were usually called “Sephardim”, from the old Hebrew term for Spain. But only a small part of the Easterners are actually descended from the flourishing Jewish community in medieval Spain.

IN TODAY’S Israel, the antagonism between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim is growing stronger from year to year, with vast political and social repercussions. It is no exaggeration to see this as the determining phenomenon of current Israeli society.

Before I continue, allow me to state (once again, I am afraid) my personal part in this.

My last few years in Germany, before we fled, were spent in the shadow of the ascent of the Swastika, the last half year already under Nazi rule. I came to hate Germany and everything German. So when our ship reached the port of Jaffa, I was enthusiastic. I was just ten years old, and the Jaffa of 1933 was in every respect the exact opposite of Germany – noisy, full of exotic smells, human. I loved it.

As I learned later, most of the early Zionist “pioneers” who arrived in Arab Jaffa hated it on sight, because they identified themselves as Europeans. Among them was the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl himself, who did not want to go to Palestine in the first place. On his only visit here, he hated its Oriental character. He vastly preferred Patagonia (in the Argentine).

Fifteen years later, during Israel’s war of independence, I was promoted to the lofty rank of squad-leader and had the choice between new immigrant recruits from Poland or Morocco. I chose the Moroccans and was rewarded by them with my life: when I was lying wounded under fire, four of “my Moroccans” risked their lives to get me out.

It was then that I got a foretaste of things to come. Once, when we got a few precious hours of leave, some of my soldiers refused to go. “The girls in Tel Aviv don’t go out with us,” they complained, “for them we are blacks.” Their skin was just a little bit darker than ours.

I became very sensitive to this problem, when everybody else still denied its very existence. In 1954, when I was already the editor-in-chief of a news-magazine, I published a series of articles that caused a huge stir: “They (expletive) the Blacks”. Those Ashkenazim who did not hate me before, started to hate me then.

Then came the riots of “Wadi Salib”, a neighborhood in Haifa, where a policeman shot a Mizrahi. My paper was the only one in the country to defend the protesters.

A few years later the small group of Mizrahim started an unruly protest movement, expropriating the American term “Black Panthers”. I helped them. Golda Meir famously exclaimed: “They are not nice people”.

Now, many years later, a new generation has taken over. The Internal conflict dominates many aspects of our life. The Mizrahim make up about half the Jewish population of Israel, the Ashkenazim form the other half. The division has many manifestations, but people don’t like to talk about them openly.

For example, the great majority of Likud voters are Mizrahim, though the party leadership is predominantly Ashkenazi. The opposition Labor Party is almost completely Ashkenazi, though they just elected a Mizrahi leader, in the vain hope that this will help them to overcome the profound alienation of the Mizrahim.

MY OPPOSITION to the treatment of the Mizrahim was primarily a moral one. It sprang from the desire for justice. It also sprang from my dream that all of us, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, would eventually be submerged in a common Hebrew nation. But I must confess that there was another motive, too.

I have always believed – as I believe now – that there is no future for Israel as a foreign island in the Oriental sea. My hopes go much further than just peace. I hope for Israel’s becoming an integral part of the “Semitic region” (an expression I invented long ago).

How? I have always entertained a monumental hope: that the second or third generation of Mizrahim will remember its heritage, the times when Jews were an integral part of the Muslim world. Thus they would become the bridge between the new Hebrew nation in Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and indeed the entire Muslim world.

Being despised by the Ashkenazim as “Asiatic” and inferior, would it not have been natural for the Mizrahim to reclaim their glorious heritage, when the Jews in Iraq, Spain, Egypt and many other Muslim countries were fully integrated partners in a flourishing civilization, at a time when Europeans were mainly barbarians?

Jewish philosophers, mathematicians, poets and medical doctors were partners of that civilization, side by side with their Muslim counterparts. When the persecution and expulsion of Jews and the inquisition were facts of life in Europe, Jews (and Christians) enjoyed full rights in the Muslim world. They were accorded the status of “Peoples of the Book” (the Hebrew Bible) and fully equal, except for being exempted from army service and paying a tax instead. Anti-Jewish incidents were rare.

When all the Jews were expelled from Christian Spain, only a small minority immigrated to Amsterdam, London and Hamburg. The vast majority went to Muslim countries, from Morocco to Istanbul. Curiously enough, only a handful settled in Palestine.

HOWEVER, WHEN masses of Oriental Jews arrived in Israel, my hopes were dashed. Instead of becoming the bridge between Israel and the Arab world, they became the most ardent Arab-haters. The centuries of Muslim-Jewish culture were erased, as if they had never existed.

Why? Being despised by the “superior” Ashkenazim, the Mizrahim started to despise their own culture. They tried to become Europeans, more anti-Arab, more super-patriot, more right-wing.

(Though one Mizrahi friend once told me: We don’t want to be a bridge. A bridge is something people trample on.)

Yet no one can escape from himself. Most Mizrahim in Israel speak with an Arab accent. They love Arab music (presented as “Mediterranean” music), and have no love for Mozart and Beethoven. Their features are different from European ones. All the more reason to hate the Arabs.

The erasing of the Eastern-Jewish culture is all-encompassing. Israeli children of Eastern descent have no idea of the great writers and philosophers of their heritage. They don’t know that the Christian Crusaders who conquered the Holy Land butchered Muslims and Jews alike, and that Jews defended Jerusalem and Haifa shoulder to shoulder with their Muslim neighbors.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides – the great Rambam – is well known, but only as an important rabbi, not as the friend and personal physician of Saladin, the greatest of Muslim heroes. The many other medieval Sephardic intellectuals are hardly known at all. None of them appears on our paper money.

YET I am an optimist, in this respect also.

I believe that a new Mizrahi intelligentsia will search for its roots. That with the rise of its social status, social complexes will give way to a normal patriotism. That a fourth or fifth generation will come forward and struggle not only for equality, but also for peace and integration in the region.

As our Arab friends would say: Inshallah.

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Filed under Israel, Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion, Uncategorized

How mainstream media gets Palestine wrong

Mariam Barghouti

Mariam Barghouti – credit Al Jazeera

Thanks to Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian American writer based in Ramallah, for lifting the veil from the mainstream media’s reporting on Palestine. Her piece in Al Jazeera (Dec. 30, 2017) is a must read for anyone who cares to understand the context behind the “news” and how the mainstream media can get so much, so wrong!

I like to think that I’ve become a more critical consumer of the news media since living in Gaza (2012-2013). I admit I was certainly fooled for many years, or perhaps just a lazy news consumer who had no reason to question the “accepted” narrative.

When the New York Times deletes reference to “occupied Gaza” as it did here, and NBC pulls its veteran reporter from Gaza after he witnessed and reported the killing of four Palestinian kids on the beach, it’s clear to any thinking adult that the mainstream media is massaging the narrative. The questions we should be asking ourselves are why? for what purpose? for who?  The following answers are my own formulations; I’d like to hear from more experienced media analysts.

WHY?  Why is the mainstream media invested in perpetuating the colonial narrative in the Israel – Palestine story rather than standing back and providing a deeper, richer context?

Some believe in the conspiracy theory, that the Jews control the media and so the narrative of the Middle East is naturally designed to suit their interests. Hogwash!  I’ve heard this old canard repeated by nuts and also by people who should know better. While there may be some Zionists in high positions who are able to exert editorial control, the notion that Jews control the mainstream media is a broken record and should be resoundingly rejected once and for all.  Read this piece from 1996 in FAIR to understand how this conspiracy theory got started.

I tend to think that the mainstream media is simply stuck in its own cocoon of ignorance. Too many generations of western journalists have grown up inside the colonial narrative which says that Israel is fighting for its very existence surrounded by hostile neighbors. If that skewed notion forms the bedrock of their understanding of current events, then we shouldn’t be surprised with the mainstream media’s version of events.

Maybe western journalists need to be acculturated into narratives other than their own. I’m not suggesting that they adopt wholesale the narrative propounded by the Palestinians; that would be just as unprofessional as the dilemma they face today. But they must be made aware of narratives that challenge the dominant narrative.

What purpose?  For what purpose does the dominant colonial narrative about Israel – Palestine seem to stick despite abundant contradictory evidence?

Here’s where I tend to believe in a conspiracy theory. Israel has been the U.S. protectorate since before David Ben-Gurion, the head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel minutes later. The state of Israel has benefitted from U.S. largesse both in terms of money and protection from international condemnation at the United Nations.

The state of Israel has also benefitted from the U.S. government’s refusal to investigate or hold it accountable for its misdeeds. If Americans only knew how tight the U.S. government and the government of Israel really are, we might question those in power. As it currently stands, there’s very little questioning and a great deal of genuflecting when Israeli leaders call Washington.iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

For who?  Certainly, the fallacious facade of the U.S. as a neutral mediator for peace in the Middle East has been stripped away once and for all. Perhaps then-Secretary John Kerry was the last to believe he could carry such a mantle in 2013. Many of us knew years earlier which side the U.S. was beholden to.

The mainstream media’s dominant narrative serves one side, and one side only. It’s time for professional journalists and their editors to come to that realization. When Israel’s hasbara permeates our news diet so thoroughly and without question, we all suffer, and the media’s credibility suffers just as much as when Donald Trump yells “fake news”.

Please read Mariam Barghouti’s piece in Al Jazeera (Dec. 30, 2017). The lives of Israelis and Palestinians depend on more informed Americans.

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

Operation Cast Lead Nine Years Later

Today, December 27, 2017, is the ninth anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza. Operation Cast Lead was the first of three wars that Israel has initiated by choice. The two million Palestinian civilians in Gaza have no choice. Now Israeli officials are talking about a fourth “operation”.  Maybe the clinical terms help mask the inhumanity of this country and this illegal occupation, but the international community has awoken to Israel’s war crimes.  All eyes are on Gaza.

Some of my earlier blog posts about Operation Cast Lead.

The first moments of Operation Cast Lead (video).

Timing of Operation Cast Lead.

December 27, 2008 — A date to remember.

Getting the word out.

Killing the al-Samouni family – January 4, 2009.

White phosphorus rains on Gaza.

Israeli soldiers speak out (video).

America’s role in Operation Cast Lead.

This time we went too far.

9/11 and 12/27 – We will never forget.

Writing is resistance.

 

 

 

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

Listen with open hearts and minds in 2018

Five years ago tonight I joined friends at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza City to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

This year I attended midnight Mass in America’s First Cathedral — the Basilica in Baltimore — with Bishop Madden presiding.

Xmas Eve Mass Holy Communion 2

Holy Communion at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2017 in Baltimore’s Basilica

Bishop Madden is a very special man. I first met him in 2015 when a friend invited me to join his monthly “Bishop’s Walks” in different distressed Baltimore neighborhoods.

Bishop Madden October 2015

Bishop Madden and Lora – October 2015

He believes in putting words and prayer into action, and regularly leads groups (usually 30-50 people) around neighborhoods that have recently witnessed violence. I’ve probably joined a dozen or more of these “Bishop’s Walks” and participated in the songs and prayers for community peace and healing.

Bishop Madden leads walk

Bishop Madden leads a walk through a Baltimore neighborhood.

Then I learned that Bishop Madden had lived and worked in Gaza City many years ago, and my bond with him was cemented.  Every time I’ve prepared to travel back to the Middle East, I’ve ask him to pray for me. He does and he asks me to pray for him. I do.

Tonight on Christmas Eve his sermon focused (of course) on the birth of Jesus, emphasizing that Jesus came to live among humanity to provide hope and an example of how we must treat each other. Then he mentioned “September 23, 2017 in Albuquerque, New Mexico” and my ears perked up.

Bishop Madden spoke of a police officer in Albuquerque who responded to a burglary, and when he got to the scene he saw a man and woman both shooting up with needles in the yard outside. The woman was clearly very pregnant, it turned out later that she was 8 months pregnant. The officer talked with them and the woman said she didn’t want to keep her baby, she knew she couldn’t raise the child. At that moment, the officer knew that he could raise the child. He and his wife had 4 children at home, the youngest was 10 months old. He went home to confer with his wife, which drew chuckles from the people in the Basilica. They have since adopted the baby as their own.

Xmas Eve Mass nativity

Nativity scene at the Basilica

Bishop Madden shared a couple of other examples of how average people who have their hearts and minds open to possibilities, can hear the spirit lead them to do good things. In these troubled times at home and around the world, we must each keep our hearts and minds open to possibilities to do good.

His sermon resonated with me. At the end of the service, Bishop Madden told us he would pray for us to find the good that we are called to do, and then he asked the congregation to pray for him for the same reason.

Xmas Eve Mass Bishop Madden 2As everyone filed out of the Basilica, Bishop Madden stood outside greeting and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. I went up to him and gave him a card I made especially for him with a photo of the Christmas Eve Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City. Bishop Madden’s eyes twinkled as he thanked me. And I wished him a Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my family and friends, near and far!

May we each find the good that we are called to do in 2018.

Xmas Eve Mass card

 

 

 

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

U.S. Senators tell Netanyahu to stop!

Dianne-Feinstein-with-Susiya-residents

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) with residents of the Village of Susya

I’m really amazed that U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) — my Senator — added his name, along with nine other Senators, to a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu urging him not to destroy the Palestinian village of Susya. I haven’t seen Senator Heinrich’s support for Palestine in past years, but maybe I need to be looking closer. His signature on this letter certainly earns my appreciation.

In September 2017, I shared Rabbi Arik Ascherman’s testimony to Congress about Susya here.  Another very good summary of the history of the conflict pertaining to Susya was written by a religious Jew, Zionist and former IDF soldier — Shaiya Rothberg. Here’s the link to that Tikkun article in December 2016.

Susiya-Tent

Photo credit – Guy Butavia, The New York Review of Books – ‘I Am an Illegal Alien on My Own Land’ by David Shulman

Rothberg writes: “The Israel-Palestine conflict is complex, but Israeli policy in Susya is simple: It consists of destroying Palestinian Susya by dispossessing and expelling her residents, and in parallel building Jewish Susya, populated by Israeli Jews.

First, it is clear that this is not legitimate government. Why do we respect the authority of the state to plan our shared spaces? Because as citizens we can equally participate in the state’s decision making process and because the state is responsible for our wellbeing. But the Palestinians of Susya do not live in the State of Israel and are not Israeli citizens. They are denied any role in state decisions regarding them. And the state does not seek their wellbeing but rather to destroy their village and build a settlement for Israeli Jews in almost the same spot. This is not legitimate government but a form of organized crime. To argue that the homes of Palestinian Susya are “illegal”, because our discriminatory regime authorizes building for Jews but prohibits it for Palestinians, is a mockery of the idea of law.

Susya is a national test for Israel. I believe that anyone who cares about Israel or Judaism must help us break out of this immoral and self-destructive cycle. We need you to take a stand. Destroying Susya will cause terrible suffering, unjust and unnecessary, and endangers the lives of us all. If you care about Israel, this is the time to raise your voice in protest – and wake up your community to do the same – before our bulldozers are sent to destroy the homes of the defenseless residents of Palestinian Susya.”

The Senators’ letter is unusually strong but until Congress is willing to make demands of Israel that carry some consequences, I fear these words won’t stop Netanyahu from carrying out his plans.

November 29, 2017

His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

We write today to urge your government not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susiya and the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar. The displacement of entire communities would be an irreversible step away from a two-state solution, and we urge your government to abandon its efforts to destroy these villages.

As you know, Susiya sits atop private Palestinian land in “Area C” of the West Bank, and has existed in the South Hebron Hills since at least since the 1830s. Today, approximately 45 families—including 85 children—call Susiya their home and survive through subsistence farming and shepherding.

Khan al-Ahmar is a Bedouin community of 170 people situated east of Jerusalem and adjacent to the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. It has a mosque and a local school built of recycled tires and mud, which serves more than 150 children from the surrounding area. Because of the community’s location, demolishing Khan al-Ahmar would make it increasingly difficult to establish a contiguous Palestinian state as part of any future two-state solution.

Earlier this year, we were alarmed by the public comments of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said that “work was being done to implement plans to evacuate the Palestinian villages of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills and Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim within a few months.”

Instead of forcibly evicting these communities, we encourage your government to fairly re-evaluate Susiya’s professionally-developed master plan and provide the residents of Khan al-Ahmar equal building rights. Your government’s threats to demolish these communities are particularly distressing in light of the Israeli Civil Administration’s efforts to dramatically expand settlements throughout the West Bank.

According to the Israeli non-government organization Peace Now, in 2017, Israel advanced 88 plans that include 6,742 housing units in 59 separate settlements, a 258 percent increase in the number of housing units proposed in 2016. Further, your government officially approved the construction of the new settlement of Amihai, which is in addition to the 19 settler outposts that have been retroactively legalized since 2011.

We have long championed a two-state solution as a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, your government’s efforts to forcibly evict entire Palestinian communities and expand settlements throughout the West Bank not only directly imperil a two-state solution, but we believe also endanger Israel’s future as a Jewish democracy. We urge you to change course so that you do not foreclose the possibility of establishing two states for two peoples.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Al Franken
United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

Martin Heinrich
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Brian Schatz
United States Senator

 

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

Palestinian child prisoners – H.R. 4391

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

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

GovTrack predicts it has less than a 5% chance of passing. So why would she subject herself to the inevitable vitriol from Zionists and ardent supporters of Israel with those odds?  Because real leaders don’t do what’s expedient, they do what’s right.

 

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?

Expediency asks the question – is it politic?

Vanity asks the question – is it popular?

But conscience asks the question – is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Twelve other members of Congress acting from a place of conscience have cosponsored the bill as of this date. I’m going to ask my Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham to sign on.

Blumenauer, Earl [D-OR3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Carson, André [D-IN7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Conyers, John [D-MI13] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Davis, Danny [D-IL7] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
DeFazio, Peter [D-OR4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Grijalva, Raúl [D-AZ3] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Gutiérrez, Luis [D-IL4] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pingree, Chellie [D-ME1] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Pocan, Mark [D-WI2] (joined Nov 14, 2017)
Jayapal, Pramila [D-WA7] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Johnson, Eddie [D-TX30] (joined Nov 15, 2017)
Khanna, Ro [D-CA17] (joined Nov 15, 2017)

In a world where the Rights of the Child should not be controversial, and protecting those rights should be as easy as protecting Grandma’s apple pie, the U.S. Congress will be avoiding H.R. 4391 like a hot potato.

The bill is short and reads like a homework assignment in human rights.  Share it with your member of Congress and ask where they fall on Martin Luther King, Jr’s spectrum. Are they a coward or a person of conscience?

A BILL

To require the Secretary of State to certify that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children, and for other purposes.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.

Findings

Congress finds the following:(1) Israel ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 3, 1991, which states—

(A) in article 37(a), that no child shall be subject to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(B) in article 37(b), that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(C) in article 37(c), that every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age; and

(D) in article 37(d), that [e]very child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

(2) In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, there are two separate legal systems, with Israeli military law imposed on Palestinians and Israeli civilian law applied to Israeli settlers.

(3) The Israeli military detains around 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year and prosecutes them before a military court system that lacks basic and fundamental guarantees of due process in violation of international standards.

(4) Approximately 2,700,000 Palestinians live in the West Bank, of which around 47 percent are children under the age of 18, who live under military occupation, the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence by the Israeli military, and the threat of recruitment by armed groups.

(5) Since 2000, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system.

(6) Children under the age of 12 cannot be prosecuted in Israeli military courts. However, Israeli military forces detain children under the age of 12 and question them, for several hours, before releasing them to their families or to Palestinian authorities.

(7) Human Rights Watch documented, in a July 2015 report titled Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children, that such detentions also included the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15 years.

(8) The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) concluded, in a February 2013 report titled Children in Israeli Military Detention,that the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized through­out the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.

(9) The 2013 UNICEF report further determines that the Israeli system of military detention of Palestinian children profoundly deviates from international norms, stating that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.

(10) UNICEF also released reports in October 2013 and February 2015 noting that Israeli authorities have, since March 2013, issued new military orders and taken steps to reinforce existing military and police standard operating procedures relating to the detention of Palestinian children. However, the reports still found continued and persistent evidence of ill-treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces.

(11) In 2013, the annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (Annual Report) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.

(12) The 2013 Annual Report also stated that signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read, continued to be used as evidence against them in Israeli military courts.

(13) The 2016 Annual Report noted a significant increase in detentions of minors in 2016, and that Israeli authorities continued to use confessions signed by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew. It also highlighted the renewed use of administrative detention against Palestinians, including children, a practice in which a detainee may be held indefinitely, without charge or trial, by the order of a military commander or other government official.

(14) The nongovernmental organization Defense for Children International Palestine collected affidavits from 429 West Bank children who were detained between 2012 and 2015, and concluded that—

(A) three-quarters of the children endured physical violence following arrest;

(B) under Israeli military law, children do not have the right to a lawyer during interrogation;

(C) 97 percent of the children did not have a parent present during their interrogation;

(D) 84 percent of the children were not properly informed of their rights by Israeli police;

(E) interrogators used stress positions, threats of violence, and isolation to coerce confessions from detained children; and

(F) 66 children were held in pre-trial, pre-charge isolation for interrogation purposes for an average period of 13 days.

(15) Amendments to Israeli military law concerning the detention of Palestinian children have had little to no impact on the treatment of children during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest, when the majority of their ill-treatment occurs.

(16) In 2002, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reviewed Israel’s compliance with the Convention and expressed serious concern regarding allegations and complaints of inhuman or degrading practices and of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children during arrest, interrogation, and detention.

(17) In 2013, the Committee declared that Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces continue to be systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture and that Israel had fully disregarded the previous recommendations of the Committee to comply with international law.

Purpose

The purpose of this Act is to promote and protect the human rights of Palestinian children and to ensure that United States taxpayer funds shall not be used to support the military detention of Palestinian children.

Sense of Congress

It is the sense of Congress that the detention and prosecution of Palestinian children in a military court system by the Government of Israel—

(1) violates international law and internationally recognized standards of human rights;
(2) is contrary to the values of the American people and the efforts of the United States to support equality, human rights, and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis;
(3) undermines efforts by the United States to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians; and
(4) should be terminated and replaced with a juvenile justice system in which Israeli authorities do not discriminate between the treatment of Israeli and Palestinian children and that adheres to internationally recognized standards of human rights and obligations.

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the United States not to support the military detention of Palestinian children, a practice that results in widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinian child detainees and is inconsistent with the values of the United States.

Prohibition on United States funds to support military detention of Palestinian children

(a) Prohibition

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds authorized to be appropriated for assistance to Israel may be used to support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law or to support the use against Palestinian children of any of the following practices:

(1) Torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.
(2) Physical violence, including restraint in stress positions.
(3) Hooding, sensory deprivation, death threats, or other forms of psychological abuse.
(4) Incommunicado detention or solitary confinement.
(5) Administrative detention, as described in section 2(13).
(6) Denial of access to parents or legal counsel during interrogations.
(7) Confessions obtained by force or coercion.
(b) Certification

Not later than October 15, 2018, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate—

(1) a certification that none of the funds obligated or expended in the previous fiscal year for assistance to the Government of Israel have been used by such Government to support personnel, training, lethal materials, equipment, facilities, logistics, transportation or any other activity that supports or is associated with any of the activities prohibited under subsection (a); or
(2) if the Secretary cannot make such a certification, a report describing in detail the amount of such funds used by the Government of Israel in violation of subsection (a) and each activity supported by such funds.
(c) Additional matter in existing reports

The Secretary of State shall include, in each report required under section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n), a description of the nature and extent of detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli military forces or police in violation of international humanitarian law.

Olive harvest and children

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