Tag Archives: Congress

Does Congress listen to average blokes?

Actually, it’s a fair question and I don’t have the answer.

In my long history of writing elected officials, I’ve rarely received anything more than a form letter in response, and more often then not, these form letters are nonresponsive.

dear_sir_formal_letter_istock_000004683049xsmall

But I keep writing because (1) the act of writing empowers me and I learn about the issue; (2) writing is a respectful way of telling my elected officials that I’m watching them and care about these issues; and (3) writing letters provides a paper-trail to share with other constitutents/voters/average blokes.

(I also routinely call the Congressional offices in DC to register my 30 second opinion on a current issue — their numbers are on speed dial.)

Given all the money flowing into Congress from special interests, drowning out our voices because corporations have free speech rights, ya’ know, it’s even more important for average blokes to write — write clearly and write often.

This week I wrote two letters to Congress — here’s the shorter one.

I’m writing on behalf of the members of the _____________ to ask you to reconsider your support as cosponsor of S.Res.6 – Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.  A copy of UNSC Res. 2334 is attached.

With the passage of UNSC Res. 2334, every member of the United Nations Security Council, save the United States, is urging the State of Israel to meet its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and end the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories. UNSC Res. 2334 is even-handed and balanced when it speaks to both Israelis and Palestinians to “act on the basis of international law” and to return to the negotiating table.

The United States Congress is standing on the wrong side of history when it stands alone among the community of nations, to denounce well-established international law. The United States is not being a friend to the State of Israel by trying to shield it from criticism, just as a good friend doesn’t turn a blind eye to the destructive behavior of someone he/she cares about.

We believe President Obama’s decision to abstain in the UNSC Res. 2334 vote was both courageous and correct. We urge you to seek amendments to S.Res.6 to ensure that it supports international law, and supports negotiations between the parties in a balanced and fair manner.

 

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

115th Congress: Israel’s BFF

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

In addition to H. Res. 11 mentioned in an earlier blog post, a number of other resolutions have been introduced in the House and Senate regarding Israel.

Reject the 2-state solution once and for all is what Representative Steve King (R-IA) is urging the new Administration to do with his H.Res. 27. Frankly, most Palestinians would agree that the 2-state solution is infeasible. Ramzy Baroud goes further and writes:

If the US was indeed keen on a two-state solution, it would have fought vehemently to make it a reality decades ago. To say that the two-state solution is now dead is to subscribe to the illusion that it was once alive and possible.

That said, it behooves everyone to understand that coexistence in one democratic state is not a dark scenario that spells doom for the region. It is time to abandon unattainable illusions and focus all energies to foster coexistence based on equality and justice for all. There can be one state between the river and the sea, and that is a democratic state for all its people, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs.

However, King’s proposal is not for one democratic state. Far from it, he again demonizes the Palestinians for a failed Palestinian state in “Judea and Samaria” (code phrase for “this land between the river and the sea only belongs to the Jews and anyone else should leave”) which he says threatens the people of Israel, and he urges the Administration to reject the “two-state solution” as the U.S. diplomatic policy objective and to advocate for a new approach that prioritizes the State of Israel’s sovereignty, security, and borders.

That pesky little problem of what to do about the legal, human, economic and moral rights of the Palestinians is not addressed.

Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) has 57 cosponsors for his asinine H. Res. 14 scolding President Obama for abstaining on the UN Security Council’s passage of  Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23, 2016. (Note: Don’t mistake this Dennis Ross for the other Dennis Ross, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.)

What’s got Rep. Ross’s knickers in a bunch?  The community of nations reiterated well-established international law — that Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal. Period. There’s no debate among legal scholars about that fact, but AIPAC wants to make sure Israel’s supporters in Congress stand firm and denounce these “one-sided, anti-Israel” measures.

It will be interesting to see how many members of Congress jump to attention to reassure Netanyahu that they have his back. It will also be interesting to see how self-identified “progressive” Democrats in the Congress defend their support of H.Res. 14.  Since when did opposing international law become a progressive value?

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) chastises the Obama Administration’s abstention decision at the U.N. in softer terms, but no less objectionable to any reasonable observer of politics in the Middle East. See, S.Res. 5.  Who can argue with bilateral talks – point 1?  Or with point 2? However, points 3 – 11 are so one-sided that they reveal the true intention of the sponsor. To illustrate the skewed nature of S.Res. 5, I’ve drafted some counter points.

S. Res. 5 –

(1) urges the President and the international community to join in supporting bilateral talks between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(2) expresses support for individuals and organizations working to bring about peace and cooperation between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(3) opposes the use of the United Nations as a medium to unfairly impose external remedies to challenges between the Israelis and Palestinians;

(3a) Lora writes: supports the United Nations as the appropriate venue for resolving international conflicts, including the challenges between the Israelis and Palestinians.

(4) objects to the December 2016 abstention and declination to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 by delegates of the United States at the United Nations;

(4a) Lora writes: supports the December 2016 abstention and declination to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. 

(5) regrets and seeks to reverse the negative public criticism of Israel by United States diplomats;

(5a) Lora writes: applauds Secretary Kerry’s “Separate and Unequal” message on December 28 warning both sides that the end of the two-state solution is at hand.

(6) urges the President-elect to adopt a policy of opposing and vetoing if necessary one-sided United Nations Security Council resolutions targeting Israel;

(6a) Lora writes: urges the President-elect to adopt a policy of thoughtful review and consideration of all United Nations Security Council resolutions that address international law and the rights and responsibilities of the Israelis and Palestinians;

(7) rejects international efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist;

(7a) Lora writes: rejects any efforts that undermine the rights of Palestinians to self-determination;

(8) supports Israel’s right to self-defense;

(8a) Lora writes: supports the right of all people in the Middle East to live in peace and harmony;

(9) condemns acts of terrorism and violence targeted at Israeli civilians;

(9a) Lora writes: condemns acts of terrorism and violence targeted at any civilians, regardless of ethnicity, race, or religion;

(10) reiterates that Palestinian political goals will never be achieved through violence; and

(10a) Lora writes: reiterates that the political goals of the Israelis and Palestinians will never be achieved through violence; and 

(11) calls on all parties to return to negotiations and without preconditions, as direct discussions remain the best mechanism to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(11a) Lora writes: calls on the State of Israel to end its illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, so that all parties may return to negotiations, as direct discussions remain the best mechanism to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

S. Res. 6, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is similar to the others but probably has more steam with its bipartisan list of 59 cosponsors.  The take-away messages from S.Res. 6 are (1) damn the United Nations for meddling in the Middle East, (2) damn everyone else for unfairly boycotting or ostracizing Israel, and (3) lets return to the status quo of endless talking and searching for a two-state solution while Israel continues to build its settlements in the occupied West Bank. Sounds like Senator Rubio and his colleagues favor allowing Israel to eat the pizza while urging the parties to talk about how to divide the pizza.

S. Res. 6 also mentions the Paris Conference scheduled on January 15th – more about that in a later blog post.

The points itemized in S. Res. 6 are:

(1) expresses grave objection to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016);

(2) calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;

(3) rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;

(4) demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;

(5) notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);

(6) rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;

(7) urges the current Presidential administration and all future Presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;

(8) reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to continue to seek a sustainable, just, and secure two-state solution to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians; and

(9) urges the incoming Administration to work with Congress to create conditions that facilitate the resumption of direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving a sustainable agreement that is acceptable to both sides.

H. Res. 23 sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-NC) has 101 cosponsors, including my Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM), so it likely has alot of momentum. Although H. Res. 23 seems more benign than the others, it’s problematic for 2 simple reasons: it (1) opposes BDS, (“Whereas the United States steadfastly opposes boycotts, divestment campaigns and sanctions targeting the State of Israel”); and (2) favors the U.S. using its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to thwart the overwhelming global consensus on issues that impact Israel. H. Res. 23 provides:

(1) the United States should continue to support a durable and sustainable two-state solution to resolve the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians;

(2) a viable and sustainable two-state solution can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians;

(3) the United States should continue to oppose, and if necessary, veto future United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to impose solutions to final status issues, or are one-sided and anti-Israel; and

(4) the United States should continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for successful final-status peace negotiations.

Three other measures focus on Jerusalem. Both the Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem their capital, and that city has been the focal point of much of the conflict. Members of the U.S. Congress want to bully their way into this hot pot by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to the detriment of any legitimate claims the Palestinians might have.

H.R.265 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to relocate to Jerusalem the United States Embassy in Israel, and for other purposes.

H.R.257 – To recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer to Jerusalem the United States Embassy located in Tel Aviv.

S.11 – Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act

Time to write and/or call your member of Congress and let them know what you think about these resolutions.

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

#GoingtoGaza – March 2015

My previous posts in this series are Sept. 2014, Oct. 2014, Nov. 2014, Dec. 2014, Jan. 2015, and Feb. 2015.

Day #181 – Karen Armstrong writes that war is a psychosis caused by the inability to see relationships. Seems to me that Israel is trying its best to keep its citizens blind to what’s going on the occupied Palestinian Territories. Building a separation wall. Forbidding Israeli citizens from visiting the oPT.  Deleting the history of the Palestinians from Israeli textbooks. Is it official Zionist policy to nurture this psychosis?

#GoingtoGaza

armstrong

Karen Armstrong

Day #182 – Never before have I had any interest in Israeli elections. That’s changed. With the election about 3 weeks off, I’m pleased to see that Netanyahu’s polling numbers are dropping. A 4th term would be appalling. Netanyahu prides himself as the guardian of Israel’s security. He needs another assault on Gaza to help his polling.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #183 – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees with Obama’s negotiations with Iran. So Netanyahu will try to persuade Congress tomorrow. So imagine President Obama stopping by the Knesset tomorrow and sharing his two cents about the illegal settlements.  No disrespect intended.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #184 – Watched Netanyahu’s campaign speech to Congress this morning. My thoughts:

1) too bad members of Congress can’t vote in Israel – I lost count of the # of standing ovations.

2) Bibi must think Obama, Kerry, and most Americans are stupid. He recycled his previous scare threats from 2002 onward about the evil monsters devouring Israel. Looked like members of Congress proved Bibi right — they ARE gullible.

3) The lightbulb turned on for me when Bibi mentioned Moses and other religious passages. We have 2 leaders in the Middle East threatening an apocalyptic vision.  One has nukes and the other has global recruits. #Bibi #Isis

4) Pleased to see that the Editors of The New York Times and The Washington Post and others have panned Bibi’s speech.

#GoingtoGaza

Benjamin_Netanyahu_portrait

Day #185 – Watching members of Congress yesterday genuflect . . . er give standing ovations . . . to the Israeli Emperor . . . er Prime Minister, I was struck with how WHITE, MALE, and OLD our leaders in DC are. They were fawning all over the old, white, male lecturing them from the podium. Heaven help us!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #186 – After reviewing these graphs and charts about exports/imports and the movement of people and goods into / out of Gaza, how can the Editors at The New York Times claim with a straight face that “Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza”? If they are that myopic about Israel/Palestine, in what other ways is the NYT warping reality for its readers?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #187 – Thinking about the women in my life and that I’m a very lucky gal.  So many have had such a profound impact on the path I’ve journeyed. Especially thinking about Kay who turns 80 next week. She came into my life about 30 years ago and opened the entire spiritual universe to me through Beyond War. The key that unlocked the door.

Thinking about Luria who died in December. She came into my life about 20 years ago and shared with me her gift of listening without judgment, the first time I’ve experienced that. I hope I can model that with my friends and family. Thinking about Pam. She came into my life last year. She has shown me how the spark of an idea coupled with a ton of good will can make a big difference.  I’m looking forward to learning more from Pam.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #188 – News posted today that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will be open for two days in both directions. And an American friend reported that the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza is now open, at least for people trying to exit Gaza. Are things improving?

#GoingtoGaza

IsraelMidEastPrint

Middle East

Day #189 – Feeling the weight and burden of all of the mistakes I’ve made and — having reached 61 years — there are many, many mistakes to remember. I wonder if the State of Israel was a sentient being, would she be feeling the burden of her mistakes? 66 years old — she has made many. She acts like a teenager telling the world she knows everything and refuses to listen to anyone. Hopefully, I’m a bit wiser and have learned from my mistakes.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #190 – I really, really, REALLY want to meet Raja Shehadeh from Ramallah. Palestinian Walks – Notes on a Vanishing Landscape | لماذا غزة؟ Why Gaza?

#GoingtoGaza

Palestinian Walks

Day #191 – A felony, charge these 47 Senators with treason.  We clearly have at least 47 members of Congress who are aligning themselves with the extremists in both Iran and Israel — they are threatening the security of the U.S. Their letter to Iran is a violation of the Logan Act. How should Obama respond?

1) ignore them and hope that the public’s condemnation will bring them to their senses.

2) publicly rebuke them and hope that is enough to bring them to their senses.

3) direct Attorney General Holder to investigate and bring charges if he deems appropriate.

I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American.

#GoingtoGaza   #GettingthefuckoutoftheUSA

Day #192 – A friend shared a thought-provoking article that points out the danger that many social activists on the left succumb to – a sense of self-righteousness! I’m going to keep it and mull over it because there are valuable tidbits to digest.

I’ve been surprised and shocked by the attitude of some activists working on peace & justice issues in the Middle East. Never thought of it in terms of “self-righteousness” but it fits. Now I’m worried if I exhibit some of the same behavior and attitudes.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #193 – There are international travelers getting across the Rafah border into Gaza. I wish I knew how they did it. I can’t think of another international border that is as difficult to cross. The border between Mongolia & China requires the train car be lifted by a crane and different gauge wheels be installed. But the government bureaucracy is a piece of cake compared to the two crossings into Gaza.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #194 – #AskHamas is Hamas’ attempt to use social media to answer questions from the civilized world. Uncivil Zionists are spewing venom and hatred on Twitter, exposing their deep ignorance about Hamas, Palestinians and the Occupation. People don’t realize the power their own words have in creating their reality.  I feel great pity and sadness for those Zionists.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #195 – Walked only 4 miles today. Planned to walk 8 miles but forgot to bring water and it was a hot 82 F. Also need to remember to wear sunglasses because the sun is bright. Maybe tomorrow.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #196 — About to board a plane. Leaving California with mixed feelings. The last 18 months have been some of the hardest, yet most fulfilling. I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I learned in Gaza. #Samud thank you!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #197 – I’m a Pilgrim in my hometown and it feels a bit strange. Good friends have taken me in and I accomplished some important tasks today. Felt very honored when one friend asked me if I was interested in putting my name in the hat to fill the vacancy left by Senator Griego’s resignation. The only vacancy I’m interested in filling is the one in my heart left when I departed Gaza in May 2013.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #198 – Election Day in Israel and I’m watching it closely this year. The exit polls say it’s very close. Commentators on public radio say it may be weeks before we know who the next Prime Minister is. But Netanyahu has already declared victory. Just like his delusional rants about the Hamas “terrorists” … he believes if he says it often enough, it will be the truth. On another note, a Hamas official has provided answers to questions about the #AskHamas Twitter campaign that Hamas launched 5 days ago.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #199 – Netanyahu has won either by the skin of his teeth or by fraud. Was anyone monitoring this election?

1) Bibi drove the nail in the coffin of the two-state solution

2) A single, bi-national state is the future for the Holy Land.

3) The only question remains: by violence or peaceful means? Given Bibi’s leadership—I predict the former.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #199 (again) – Couldn’t sleep last night because my mind won’t turn away from the Israeli elections. WAR CRIMES and WAR CRIMINALS get elected.  The institutions that I once had faith in bringing peace & justice to the Middle East (UN, ICC, EU, U.S. Congress) are incapable or uninterested.

#GoingtoGaza

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Day #200 – I must be back-tracking just like Netanyahu. The day before the election he said unequivocally that there will be no State of Palestine while he is Prime Minister. Two days after his election, he says he still supports the 2-state solution.

Likewise, before the election, I said it would be unbelievably horrible if Netanyahu won reelection. Two days after the election, I’m convinced his re-election was the best thing that could have happened for the prospects of long-term peace & justice in the region. Netanyahu has been unmasked. Alhamdulillah!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #201 – A good Arab-American friend and I were talking this morning about the Israeli election. Although she is very curious about my travel to Gaza and learning more about the occupation and the plight of the Palestinians, she admits she is not particularly political. But she says she now feels it’s time to go into the streets and protest. Bibi’s racist comment about “those Arabs coming by droves to vote” was the RED LINE for my friend.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #202 – Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to open one’s heart and mind to the injustices in Palestine? Are some pro-Palestine activists more worthy than others?  I’ve observed Palestinians condemning international activists. I’ve heard American activists criticizing their fellow activists and newbies. Seems to me, we need to treat each other the way we wish to be treated, and recognize that everyone has compassion in their hearts even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with them.

#Respect #GoingtoGaza

Day #203 – Friends today suggested I take a job teaching in Cairo so that I could be closer to lobby the Egyptian authorities for permission to enter Gaza. They also suggested I try to join an NGO like Doctors Without Borders who might be traveling to Gaza. Have you ever heard of anywhere else on the planet where visitors had to make such convoluted plans just to enter?

#GoingtoGaza

Day #204 – Smoking was considered acceptable in public at one time not so long ago. I recall sitting in the back row of an airplane with 3 middle seats for me and my two young children. On either side of us were men smoking! It was perfectly acceptable to smoke on planes and I couldn’t ask them to stop.  Same with Zionism I hope.

Today it is perfectly acceptable for people to proudly announce they are Zionists, and the community accepts it (even applauds them in some circles).  I hope in the not-too-distant future, Zionism will be a stigma and no one will make a public announcement even if they continue to believe such things privately at home.

#GoingtoGaza

sumud_logo_summer_2010

Days #205-206: As a wandering nomad / pilgrim, my friends and family may find it challenging to keep track of me. We want to tie people to a place — and that is one reason “place” is so important.  Today, Bernalillo County Commissioners will consider a proposal which I believe will irretrievably ruin this place in central New Mexico.  I hope they deny Santolina Master Plan.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #207 – Feeling very frustrated. ABQ-Bernalillo County screwed up and commingled “planning” and “zoning” many years ago. We’re all paying the price today. This #Santolina master planning process is so screwed up. And those who should know better (the public planners) are clueless because they grew up with this dysfunctional system. Years ago, I tried to educate key players. Now, I just want to throw up my hands.

Thankful I’m #GoingtoGaza

Day #208 – The colonoscopy went well. Same doctor who performed it 10 years ago was my doc today. He told me he’s grown older. I told him I have too. Lolol Glad I’m in good health for my pilgrimage to Gaza.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #209 – Sometimes I feel sorry for myself when I tell people how difficult it is to get into Gaza. Then I think about Palestinians in Gaza who have been unable to leave, and I feel ashamed for my own troubles.  Middle East Children’s Alliance is arranging a U.S. speaking tour for Dr. Mona, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but she may not be allowed to leave Gaza. This situation is so diabolical. I want to scream.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #210 – I must be very, very careful (and probably a lot more circumspect) about jumping to conclusions when I read the “news” from Palestine/Israel.

Case in point: several different sources are reporting that an aide to President Abbas announced that Arab countries should attack Gaza. The “aide to Abbas” is a Muslim cleric using his bully pulpit to rouse antipathy towards Hamas. Yikes!

When I was in Gaza (2012-2013) I remember hearing about the political sermons coming from the Mosques every Friday. Since nearly every male goes to listen to these Friday sermons, I wonder how much influence/power/authority these clerics have over the population.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #211 – When I decided to become a pilgrim months ago, I thought my travels required that I leave behind many of my passions and interests. I realized this week that that’s not true. I don’t have to physically be in ABQ to remain actively engaged in some of the issues I’m concerned about, like the Santolina master plan. It’s much easier to be a pilgrim in the 21st century than it must have been in the 18th or 19th centuries.  Al-hamdulillah!

#GoingtoGaza

Day #212 – I’m hearing reports that a third flotilla will be sailing to Gaza during the first half of 2015.  I wonder if I could join it.

#GoingtoGaza

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Day #18 – July 24, 2014 – What does Congress know?

Today marks the 18th day of Israel’s genocidal assault against the men, women and children in Gaza last summer.

No doubt, “purists” will object to this characterization, but I have no doubts that the intent and the impact was genocidal.

I visited Capitol Hill yesterday to speak with my member of Congress about Israel and Palestine.  She knows of my interest (and hopefully my expertise) because we have talked about it many times, both in DC and in Albuquerque.  I was disappointed but understand why she wasn’t in her office yesterday when I arrived. Her daughter went into labor early and delivered her first grandchild, so she was on a plane headed back to Albuquerque. Congratulations!!

I sat with her legislative assistant for foreign affairs. John and I have talked several times, and I felt the meeting was a success because we’re building bridges.  I may not agree with every vote, but I believe in my Congresswoman’s sincerity when she says she wants to do the right thing. My job is to help her (and John) understand what is the right thing.

I shared the following letter and we discussed these points for nearly an hour.  My shock and dismay came when I asked whether Congress and/or staff have received any briefings about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. John said they were briefed last summer during Israel’s military assault, but he’s not aware of any follow-up briefings since then.

WE MUST INFORM CONGRESS ABOUT THE IMPACTS

OF THEIR DECISIONS TO FUND & SUPPORT ISRAEL’S MILITARY!

I just sent the following message to the staff of my two US Senators and Representative.
Gaza One Year Later:
The Quest for Accountability
WHERE: 121 Cannon House Office Building, 
27 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003
WHEN: Wednesday, July 29, 12:00 PM
One year has passed since “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and devastated its infrastructure. Today Gaza remains under Israeli blockade, unreconstructed, and teetering on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe.  Join us for this discussion on Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable through domestic judicial proceedings, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.
Featuring:
Nadia Ben-Youssef, USA Representative, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Eman Mohammed, Gaza photojournalist; contributor,  Gaza Unsilenced
Brad Parker, International Advocacy Officer, Defense for Children International Palestine
Moderated by:  Josh Ruebner, Policy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
A light lunch will be served. Please RSVP by  email or by phone at 202-332-0994.
Sponsored by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Cosponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just World Books, Middle East Children’s Alliance, US Palestinian Community Network.
Lora in front of Library of Congress - July 2015

Lora in front of Library of Congress – July 2015

My letter to my Congresswoman:

Thank you for meeting with me on the anniversary of Operation Protective Edge (July 7th and August 26th, 2014) when Israel’s vastly disproportionate military campaign in Gaza killed over 2,250 Palestinians, including over 500 children and over 1400 civilians (73 Israelis also lost their lives, including 1 child and 6 civilians). Because the United States, and Congress specifically, directly supports Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s military operations, I wanted to share some facts from the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report.

  1. During the 51 day operation last summer, the IDF launched more than 6,000 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. (para. 111) The IDF said it was supplied with more than 5,000 tons of munitions, a 533% increase over the weapons and munitions the IDF used in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. (para. 408)
  1. 142 families had 3 or more members killed in the same incident (742 fatalities) because of destruction of residential buildings. (para. 111)
  1. 2251 Palestinians were killed, including 551 children, and 11,231 people were injured. (para. 574)
  1. A significant % of civilians killed during the conflict died inside their home as a direct result of air-strikes or artillery shelling of their neighborhoods, making attacks on houses a key-feature of the conflict. (para. 243)
  1. The IDF refused to allow Red Cross ambulances to help victims. In one example, the IDF opened the road to finally allow the ambulance in but then closed the road again and did not allow the ambulance to leave, and so the medics had to carry the injured out on their shoulders. (para. 332)
  1. The family of a 70-year old woman left her behind in her wheelchair when they evacuated the home because they couldn’t take her. When they returned to the house, they found her dead, shot in the head at close range. The IDF posted a picture on Twitter showing a soldier offering water to this same old woman, a sadistic act of propaganda. (para. 333)
  1. The IDF destroyed entire neighborhoods (Beit Hanoun, Shuja’iya, Khuza’a).
  1. Despite the fact that the International Red Cross coordinated with the IDF in its rescue efforts, the IDF clearly targeted ambulances and medical personnel, killing 23 health professionals. (para. 458 – 462)
  1. 18,000 homes were destroyed, and an estimated 80,000 homes and properties damaged. (para. 576)
  1. During the fighting, approximately 500,000 people were displaced, which is 28% of the population in Gaza. (para. 577)
  1. As of May 2015, approximately 100,000 remain displaced. (para. 579)
  1. At least 4 young children died last winter in Gaza because their families were without shelter. (para.578)
  1. 63 water facilities in Gaza were damaged, and 23 were completely destroyed. Sewage treatment plants and pumping stations were also destroyed. (para. 584)
  1. One hospital and 5 clinics were destroyed. Fifteen hospitals and 51 clinics were damaged. (para. 591)
  1. More than 1,500 children were orphaned. (para. 594)
  1. Almost 800 women were widowed last summer. (para. 596)

The full report is available online. The Commission makes very specific recommendations primarily focused on addressing the structural issues that fuel the conflict and have a negative impact on a wide range of human rights, including lifting the siege and blockade of Gaza, and stopping the settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. (para. 681) The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to cooperate with the U.N. investigation and has rejected its report and recommendations.

REQUEST No. 1 —- Please invite former President Jimmy Carter to speak to Congress about his recent visit to Israel and Palestine. His deep knowledge and current experience would be invaluable to the Congress.  (Attached is my petition to Congress signed by 290 people who have sent 682 letters and emails to their members of Congress making this same request.)

REQUEST No. 2 —- Please call upon your constituents for advice and counsel when you are considering legislation that impacts Israel and Palestine. Many New Mexicans oppose Israel’s brutal occupation and deadly military actions. Since last summer, there’s been a growing movement of Albuquerque and Santa Fe activists, nearly half of them Jewish activists, who have joined forces and raised nearly $18,000 for humanitarian projects in Gaza, including a well and kindergarten destroyed by Israel. This alliance is called Friends of Khuza’a New Mexico, named for a village in Gaza practically obliterated by Israel last summer. They’re planning a musical event and fundraiser in September featuring Issa Maluf, a world renowned Palestinian musician, and asked me to invite you. The date is TBD.

Thank you.

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

Congress: Invite Jimmy Carter to the Capitol!

April Fool’s Day came early to the U.S. Capitol this year. March 3 to be exact. That’s the day that Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress, denouncing Obama’s nuke talks with Iran. Without even consulting the White House or following proper protocol, Speaker Boehner had the audacity to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to the Capitol only days before Israeli elections were held, making good campaign material for Bibi back home.

By many accounts, Netanyahu didn’t do himself any favors with his American benefactors, but he won reelection, and that’s all that really mattered.

After promising Israeli voters that there would be no Palestinian state established under his watch, he proceeded to form “an extreme right-wing coalition that represents a danger for the Arabs of Israel and the entire region”, said Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List in the Knesset.

Maybe Congress will forget the egg on their faces, and move beyond this embarrassment, but I think it’s the perfect time to remind them that what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

I started an online petition to Congress urging them to invite former President Jimmy Carter to speak to a joint session about the Middle East.  In less than a week, more than 400 letters have been generated and sent to Congress, in support of the petition.  Check it out here and add your name if you agree.  If you wish to remain anonymous, you have that option.

Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu’s talk focused on the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union).

Security and peace for all people in the region appears to be more elusive than ever before.

No other American leader has more experience in the Middle East than former President Jimmy Carter, who has spent decades working for peace and security in the region.

In early May 2015, President Carter visited Israel and the West Bank and spoke with Israelis and Palestinians about the current situation. Members of Congress would benefit greatly from Carter’s vast experience and insights about the Middle East.

If an invitation to address Congress can be extended to a foreign leader without Presidential consent, then surely a former U.S. President, a Nobel Laureate, and one of the most respected humanitarians in the world, should receive Congress’ warmest welcome.

We ask Speaker Boehner to coordinate with other leaders in Congress and with the White House to extend an invitation to President Carter to speak to a joint session of Congress on the topic of peace and security in the Middle East. We also ask that Carter’s speech be televised for the public.

Lets tell Congress loud and clear, “INVITE PRESIDENT CARTER and hear from a wise elder with considerable experience in the Middle East.”  Check out the petition here.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border May 2015

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al-Nakba Day on Capitol Hill

Lora squinting in front of the US Capitol

Lora squinting in front of the US Capitol

Today I visited Washington, DC where the Capitol Building is getting a facelift. My goal was to connect with staff in each of the offices of the New Mexico delegation to talk about al-Nakba.  It went something like this . . .

Staffer: Welcome to the office. We always like to hear from our constituents.

Lora: Thank you for taking time to meet with me. I have a personal interest in the Middle East (and I proceeded to share a bit about my background to set some context).  Have you heard of al-Nakba?

Staffer: Nope!

Lora: Maybe you know about Israel’s Independence Day which was celebrated yesterday.

Staffer: Oh sure.

Lora: When the Zionists declared the new State of Israel in 1948,  they began to forcibly expel over 750,000 indigenous Palestinians from their homes, businesses, and land. Many were killed. Over 500 Palestinians villages were destroyed. That expulsion is referred to as al-Nakba or “Catastrophe” in English, which continues to this day.

Staffer: <furiously scribbling notes>

Lora: What does the Senator / Congresswoman think about Israel & Palestine?

Staffer: Well, Israel has a right to defend herself, but we think Israel’s bombing of schools and hospitals last summer was over the top.

Lora: The situation in the Gaza Strip is dire. More than 2,000 Palestinians (most of them civilians) were killed last summer. Thousands of homes were destroyed and hundreds of families remain without shelter today. The status quo cannot continue. In fact, the U.N. issued a report in the summer of 2012 that said the Gaza Strip would be unlivable by 2020!

Staffer: Yes, but the situation is complex. What do you think the Senator / Congresswoman should do?

Lora: Well, we could begin by recognizing the State of Palestine.  “Direct negotiations” between Israel and Palestine will not be fruitful if the international status of the parties remains unequal. This week Pope Francis recognized the State of Palestine.  And as of October 2014, 135 of the 193 member states of the United Nations have recognized the State of Palestine.  I think it’s long past time for the U.S. to recognize the State of Palestine too.

Staffer:   Hmmmm! OK.

Lora: You know that the official U.S. policy regarding Israel/Palestine has been consistent for decades and under the Administrations of both parties. Carrots haven’t worked, it’s time to use sticks. Expressions of “concerns” about Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories (a violation of international law) have not resulted in any change.

Staffer: What kind of sticks?

Lora: Such as reducing the $3+ Billion/year the U.S. taxpayers give to Israel;  supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; and refusing to shield Israel from criticism at the United Nations.

Staffer: What’s BDS?

Lora: <exacerbated but remaining calm> You know, like what we did with South Africa to help end the apartheid regime? And since Congress heard Netanyahu speak in March, maybe an invitation  to Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer to the U.N., and former President Jimmy Carter, to speak to Congress would be helpful. Shouldn’t Congress hear from both sides?

Staffer: When an important vote comes up, the Senator / Congresswoman always asks staff “who have we heard from in the District about this issue and what did they say?”

Lora in Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham's office sitting with the office dog - Mattie.

Lora in Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s office sitting with the office dog – Mattie.

Which leads me to the point of this blog post. Don’t take it for granted that your members of Congress understand the issues in the Middle East. Reach out to them, call or write, and tell them what you think. Although the AIPAC and J Street lobbyists are known to Congressional staffers, other groups (Jewish Voices for Peace) and individuals may be unknown. We need to be heard in Congress. It’s easy (check out this website) and there’s no excuse not to.

My hunch is that not a single member of Congress has heard of al-Nakba. I know the staffers of the New Mexico delegation hadn’t.

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

An opportunity for Congress to mature

This might be a watershed moment in US-Israel relations, despite the pronouncements from both sides of the aisle in Congress that our relations are rock solid.

Netanyahu will be speaking to Congress on Tuesday, undoubtedly to a packed chamber. Those 30-40 members who have decided not to attend in protest will find their seats warmed by young interns and pages who, of course, will be clueless to the grand theatrics unfolding around them. Maybe they’ll have something to share with their grandchildren in 40-50 years. “I remember where I was that day the United States matured and left its adolescence behind.”

As he was boarding the plane to D.C., Netanyahu told reporters, “I feel that I am an emissary of all Israel’s citizens, even those who do not agree with me, and of the entire Jewish people.”  To which, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) retorted: “He doesn’t speak for me.”

Taking him at his word, Netanyahu believes he’s fighting for the survival of the State of Israel. His worldview is based on fear, and his fear he believes justifies his actions (whether bombing civilians in Gaza or bombing, figuratively speaking, the long-term historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel). His fear has blinded him to the real threats to Israel’s security.

Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee described the planned speech as “political theatre” that has “caused a breach between Democrats in Congress and Israel as well as the administrations of the United States and Israel”.

“While Americans and members of Congress may disagree on anything, even foreign policy, providing a forum of such immense prestige and power to the leader of another country who is opposing our nation’s foreign policy is beyond the pale,” he said.

Some history:

From the very first day of Israel’s existence, the U.S. has been its primary benefactor. In fact, some could argue that the State of Israel owes its existence to President Truman and some in his Administration who lobbied the United Nations in 1948 for recognition of this new state, rather than a UN trusteeship that the majority of UN diplomats favored at that time.

Regardless of which party has sat in the Oval Office, or controlled the Congress, the United States government has had Israel’s back for the past 66 years —- providing Israel with the largest slice of the annual foreign aid appropriations, access to the best weapons technology, diplomatic cover at the U.N. and abroad, and vetoes at the Security Council whenever a resolution critical of Israel surfaced.

Even when the Israeli military deliberately attacked the U.S.S. Liberty on June 8, 1967, killing 34 U.S. servicemen and wounding at least 173, our government’s support of Israel was unwavering.

Our unquestioning support and advocacy on behalf of Israel in the face of incontrovertible evidence of Israel’s illegal and inhumane occupation of Palestine has, arguably, done as much to enrage the extremists (Al Qaeda and Daesh aka ISIS) and bring instability to the Middle East than any of our other foreign policy misadventures, including our disastrous war and occupation of Iraq.

Israel’s perceived security needs and threats have come to overshadow our own. Just as an adolescent struggles to find its own identity and detach from its parents, both Israel and the United States need to cut the umbilical cord.

Time for the United States to mature. 

We can forge a new, healthy relationship with Israel — one of mutual respect and support, but one with firm boundaries. “You continue the illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank, we will withhold foreign aid.” 

“You kill 1000s of innocent Palestinian civilians, we won’t veto those Security Council resolutions condemning Israel.”

“You fail to negotiate in good faith to end the occupation, we will break the siege ourselves by sending in the 6th Fleet to bring the necessary humanitarian supplies to Gaza.”

Morton Klein, director of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), called the boycott of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “anti-American, anti-patriotic”.

“We will, of course, be publicly condemning any Democrats who don’t show up for the speech—unless they have a doctor’s note,” he told Politico.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy