Tag Archives: Israel

U.S. Senate to consider S.Res.6 opposing international law – January 17, 2017

loss-of-landAs the US Senate considers S.Res.6 condemning the UN and specifically asking for the repeal of UN Resolution 2334, the Palestine delegation addresses the UN Security Council today. It’s worth reading the Ambassador’s statement in its entirety, here.

In comparison to Senator Marco Rubio’s language in S.Res.6, Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour sounds like an adult.

“Resolution 2334 (2016) is not anti-Israel; it is anti-settlements, anti-violence, anti-human rights violations. As such, resolution 2334 (2016) is clearly pro-peace, pro-international law, pro-two-States and thus pro-Palestine and pro-Israel.
Moreover, resolution 2334 (2016) cannot by any sense of reason be characterized as one-sided. The law – on which the resolution is firmly based – is universal and fair and can never be biased. This is a fact and is the lifeline of our international system.”

What is so striking to me is that one speaks of the facts, while the other obfuscates the facts in rhetoric that is clearly Orwellian.  You can guess which is which.  Have we truly descended into a post-factual world where the truth doesn’t matter any more?

After the UN Security Council’s approval of UNSC Res. 2334 in December 2016, NPR prepared a short piece — 7 Things To Know About Israeli Settlements.

When the Israelis and Palestinians first began peace talks after a 1993 interim agreement, the West Bank settlers numbered a little over 100,000. Today they total around 400,000 and live in about 130 separate settlements. That number does not include East Jerusalem.

Peace Now keeps a pretty good record of Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Check it out here.

Unsuspecting Americans might not realize that S.Res.6 is defending Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory which has long been held illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Why are our Senators even voting on a resolution premised on support of illegal activities?

The practical effect of S.Res.6 is that it encourages the status quo, where Israel’s settlement expansion continues. Should the U.S. Senate really encourage Israel to continue eating the pizza while urging the parties to talk about how to divide the pizza?

I’ll be watching closely to see how “my” two Senators from New Mexico vote today. They have heard my opinion about S.Res.6. If they vote in the affirmative, I’m going to ask them for an explanation of their vote.

 

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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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Congress genuflects again

Just like clockwork, the U.S. Congress has disgracefully genuflected again to the State of Israel.

Every January, one of the first resolutions introduced in our august Capitol is AIPAC‘s loyalty test to determine which members of Congress might be straying from Israel’s tight leash.

Just like clockwork, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats lined up this week, including New Mexico’s three members of Congress. Representatives Steve Pearce (R-NM), Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) each want you to know they are unwavering in their loyalty to Israel.

This week, H. Res. 11 provided the litmus test. H. Res. 11 condemns the United Nations for passing Security Council Resolution 2334 in December which stated:

Israel′s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity”. It demands that Israel stop such activity and fulfill its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The substance of the U.N. resolution was not remarkable because the international community has recognized the illegality of Israel’s settlement activity for decades. What WAS notable is that the United States did not exercise its veto to thwart the Security Council’s resolution.

In a remarkable display of independence, President Obama broke with our country’s track record of providing diplomatic protection for Israel at the United Nations. The news sent shock waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Netanyahu gave the U.N. his proverbial finger and said Israel would continue to build settlements in the occupied West Bank, while the Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) expressed support for Obama’s abstention.

Statement by Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson on UN Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements.

There is an increasing understanding among U.S. political leaders, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law.

The U.S. abstention from this resolution is a welcome sign in that regard. As the only country that abstained, the evidence of the U.S.’s isolation from the global consensus during the vote was stark.

Unfortunately, JVP’s optimism about U.S. political leaders was premature, as we learned on Thursday, January 5, 2017.  The final vote on AIPAC’s creepy resolution was 342 to 80.

Why is it creepy?  Because the votes of a clear majority of both Republicans and Democrats (including the three from New Mexico) indicate they oppose international law, oppose holding Israel accountable for breaking international law, and oppose President Obama’s tepid action (a mere abstention) which only reflected the official U.S. foreign policy of past Presidents.

Fortunately, there are some thoughtful members of Congress (both Ds and Rs) who rejected AIPAC’s H.Res. 11, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), and others. The messages from constituents who want the U.S. government to break with its lapdog fealty to Israel are finally making a difference.

Now it’s time to turn our attention on the other AIPAC-sponsored measures introduced in the first week of the new Congress.  Constituents need to be heard loud and clear.

H.Res. 27 – Rejecting the “two-state solution” as the United States’ diplomatic policy objective and calls for the Administration to advocate for a new approach that prioritizes the State of Israel’s sovereignty, security, and borders.

S.Res.6 – A resolution objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and to all efforts that undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement.

H. Res.14 – Disapproving of President Obama and his administration’s refusal to veto the anti-Israel resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council on December 23, 2016.

S.Res.5 – A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate in support of Israel.

S.15 – Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act

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

H.Res.23 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives and reaffirming long-standing United States policy in support of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

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The Israeli Occupation Comes to the UN Security Council

Hagai El-Ad’s address in a special discussion about settlements at the United Nations Security Council on October 14, 2016

(The following transcript and short videos are located on the Btselem website.

Members of the Security Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I begin, I would like to express my deep thanks for this unique opportunity of speaking at this distinguished forum and engaging with the members of the UN Security Council.

What I’m about to say is not meant to shock you. It is, however, meant to move you.

For the past 49 years – and counting – the injustice known as the occupation of Palestine, and Israeli control of Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, has become part of the international order. The first half-century of this reality will soon be over. On behalf of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, I implore you today to take action. Anything short of decisive international action will achieve nothing but ushering in the second half of the first century of the occupation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What does it mean, in practical terms, to spend 49 years, a lifetime, under military rule? When violence breaks out, or when particular incidents attract global attention, you get a glimpse into certain aspects of life under occupation. But what about the rest of the time? What about the many “ordinary” days of a 17,898-day-long occupation, which is still going strong? Living under military rule mostly means invisible, bureaucratic, daily, violence. It means living under an endless permit regime, which controls Palestinian life from cradle to grave: Israel controls the population registry; Israel controls work permits; Israel controls who can travel abroad – and who cannot; Israel controls who can visit from abroad – and who cannot; in some villages, Israel maintains lists of who can visit the village, or who is allowed to farm which fields. Permits can sometimes be denied; permits must always be renewed. Thus with every breath they take, Palestinians breathe in occupation. Make a wrong move, and you can lose your freedom of movement, your livelihood, or even the opportunity to marry and build a family with your beloved.

Meanwhile, ever present, are the settlements and the settlers. They are Israeli citizens living, ostensibly, in a first-world democracy, that somehow exists only for them, beyond the borders of their country. This ever-expanding venture, its illegality notwithstanding, is to be found everywhere throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Settlements encompass the built-up areas as well as the generous allocations of land around them, meant for future expansion or “special security zones”; they mean checkpoints for Palestinians, and bypass roads for settlers; they mean the Separation Barrier; and finally, they mean the fragmentation of Palestine into hundreds of isolated communities, floating – or rather I should say, slowly sinking – in a sea of Israeli domination. Who could possibly deserve to endure such conditions for half a century?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Almost all aspects of this reality are considered legal by Israel. Israel’s control of Palestinian lives is unique in the careful attention the occupying power gives to the letter of the law, while strangling its very spirit. The occupation has so perfected the art of watering down International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law as to render them virtually meaningless. Once military lawyers, State Attorneys and Supreme Court justices are done masterfully chiseling out legal opinions, all that remains is raw injustice.

Show me a dead Palestinian whose killing must be explained away to ensure impunity, and there you will find a learned opinion by the Military Advocate General. Show me the 100,000 Palestinians ignored and neglected on the other side of the Separation Barrier built inside East Jerusalem, and I will remind you that even this glaring injustice has been pre-approved by Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Show me a plot of Palestinian land you wish taken over, and the Civil Administration will come up with the appropriately tailored legal mechanism – of course, it must all be legal! – to achieve that end: military training zones, nature reserves, archeological sites and, above all, declaring thousands of acres “State Land” – what “State” exactly? All these are successfully used in order to forcibly displace Palestinians and justify denying them access to running water or the power grid. Of course, such Israeli actions aren’t successful 100% of the time. That would be too transparent. So once in a long while, maybe once a decade, a low-ranking soldier might be put on a show trial; and once in a blue moon a master plan for a Palestinian village will be approved. These extraordinary cherry-picked rarities provide useful distractions from the big picture.

In order to uphold the guise of legality, Israel applies “due process” in just about everything: to potentially force-feed hunger strikers, as recently approved by the High Court; to routinely approve and renew administrative detention orders, or extend prolonged imprisonment without trial, of hundreds of Palestinians; to demolish the homes of the families of Palestinians who perpetrated attacks – yes, that too has happened hundreds of times, with due process and a seal of approval by the High Court. Since the year 2000, more than 4,400 Palestinians have lost their homes in this way.

Yes, Israel has professional lawyers, attorneys and judges. It is, indeed, a highly “professional” occupation. We have had plenty of time to work towards a more perfect occupation. But you don’t need to be a lawyer in order to recognize injustice. Look at the occupation and all the legal pretense surrounding it, and call it for what it is: a legal guise for organized state violence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Israel has systematically legalized human rights violations in the occupied territories through the establishment of permanent settlements, punitive home demolitions, a biased building and planning mechanism, taking over Palestinian land and much, much more. Israel’s military law enforcement system – if one can call it that – routinely whitewashes hundreds of cases in which Palestinians were killed or abused.

Here are some figures: Israel has declared 20% of the West Bank “State Land”; Israel “generously” allows Palestinians to build on one-half of one percent of Area C, the 60% of the West Bank placed “temporarily” under Israeli control a generation ago; over the past decade, Israel has demolished some 1,200 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, thereby rendering homeless over 5,500 people, half of them minors; East Jerusalem figures would raise these by roughly another 50%; in April 2016 there were about 7,000 Palestinians in Israeli custody, a quarter of them individuals remanded for the duration of their military court proceedings, and roughly 10% administrative detainees. One final figures: in a quarter of the 740 plus complaints referred by B’Tselem to the military authorities since 2000, no investigation was even opened; in another half, the cases were eventually closed with no action taken; and only in 25 cases, were indictments served. And get this: during that time, the military authorities have physically lost track of 44 cases – more than the 25 cases that went to court. Israel insists that all of this is legal, under both Israeli law and international law.

It is not.

But this fact is of little practical significance in terms of keeping Israel from carrying on implementing its policies because, regrettably, international law lacks any effective enforcement mechanisms. And so, Israeli policies are implemented and advanced with ever greater domestic support. Despite broad international agreement – including previous Security Council resolutions – that the settlements are illegal, the only measurable change in this area is the growing number of settlements, of settlers, and of Palestinians living in their shadow, facing demolitions or displacement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

B’Tselem has worked for 27 years to document and publish violations of human rights in the occupied territories, to analyze and interpret data, and advocate locally and internationally on these issues. We are not advocating for any specific political outcome: we are fighting human rights violations. In fact, we realize how Israel has effectively used the “peace process” itself to buy time – a great deal of time – while it further establishes more facts on Palestinian ground. B’Tselem’s mission to tell the Israeli public about the ways in which the state oppresses Palestinians will continue as long as the occupation does. We were and will always remain relentless in this effort, for it is our basic moral obligation. But after so many years, one has to draw certain conclusions. Moral principles alone will not be enough. Israel will not cease being an oppressor simply by waking up one day and realizing the brutality of its policies. Decades of false pretexts and genuine fears, economic interests and political dogma, have come together to prevent that eventuality, while too few convincing reasons to change course were presented. And globally?

Six-and-a-half years ago US Vice President Joe Biden warned that “the status quo is not sustainable”. Clearly he was at least six-and-a-half years too early in voicing such a warning. The “status quo” – that ever progressing vector of Israeli interests at the expense of Palestinian rights – has proven not merely sustainable, but in fact thriving.

Almost exactly a year ago the European Union embarked on a six-month “structured dialogue” with Israel, seeking to end administrative home demolitions in Area C. Six months later, the dialogue was going nowhere and demolitions were on the rise, yet the EU decided – to extend the dialogue. If an unprecedented number of demolitions goes hand-in-hand with an unlimited timetable for international dialogue, why stop demolitions?

Clearly, the occupation is internationally sustainable. It is so, because so far the world refuses to take effective action.

Recent years have made that realization even more painful. Israel’s long-term project to maximize its benefits from Palestinian land while minimizing the nuisance of Palestinian presence there has become even more palpable than perhaps ever before. Admittedly, even just half a day spent in the West Bank has long been more than enough to realize the permanence sought for the enterprise that Israeli governments right, center, and left have been advancing there since 1967. Similarly, retired Israeli officials have openly said so – most recently it was put quite simply by a former OC Central Command who said: “The army is there because the State of Israel has no intention of leaving.” But now that Israeli leaders currently in office, from the Prime Minister down, have been skipping the lip-service in real time and openly admitting this – with such a level of official clarity – it seemed that surely, finally, there would be implications. Was one naïve to have that expectation?

Perhaps. While unprecedented clarity in Israeli language has narrowed the divide between Israeli actions and the empty rhetoric on negotiations and diplomacy, the global response to it was, well, yet another report. Demolitions have been stepped up, making 2016 the worst year on record in this sphere. I feel compelled to ask: how many more Palestinian homes must be bulldozed before the realization sinks in that words that are not backed up by action do no more than indicate to Israel that it may carry on?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The realization of human rights need not wait any longer. Palestinians have the right to life and dignity, the right to determine their own future. These have all been delayed for far too long – and justice delayed is justice denied.

As Martin Luther King Jr taught us, “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor”. So the reality facing the international community is this: absence of action not only effectively gives the oppressor a license to proceed without having to suffer too many repercussions, but also gives the oppressor the power to decide when will be the right time to start considering alternatives. “Wait,” demands Israel, “now is not the right time”. But “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’,” responds Martin Luther King Jr. “The time is always right to do what is right.” That time is now: the time to, at long last, take action. The UN Security Council has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility – and a real opportunity – to act with a sense of urgency, before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins, to send to the world, to Israelis and to Palestinians, a clear message, backed by international action: Israel cannot have it both ways. You cannot occupy a people for fifty years and call yourself a democracy. You cannot violate the rights of millions and claim international perks justified by hollow words about commitment to shared human rights values.

Israel is a sovereign country established through international legitimacy granted through a historic decision by this very institution in 1947. I am a citizen of that country. It is my homeland. For most of my country’s existence, the world has allowed it to occupy another people. I have lived my entire life, every single day of it, with that reality. Millions of Israelis and Palestinians know no other reality. We need your help. Fifty years of “temporary” occupation are too long for even a single person on this planet to accept such a contradiction in terms. The rights of Palestinians must be realized; the occupation must end; the UN Security Council must act; and the time is now.

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An Epic #BDS Apology

A performance? A work of art?  Not an apology?   When is an apology not an apology?

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-wont-norway-theater-apologize-embracing-israels-war-crimes

It is not immediately apparent that this isn’t the real thing.

But in fact, the video and a written “apology” were published as a work of art on Friday, onlineand in the national newspaper Morgenbladet.

The ambiguity was deliberate and those who didn’t pay attention to the small print might not have noticed that it was a performance.

The woman in the video is Gjertrud Jynge, a nationally renowned actor in Norway.

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We don’t have to choose violence

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

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

September 14, 2016

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

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

This letter is about choosing a different path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

this-way-that-way-signpost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing Violence

Sometimes, the best laid plans get side-tracked when something more pressing comes along. That happened today when a friend shared an article with me from the Boston Review.  Choosing Violence by Oded Na’aman (August 15, 2016). I dropped everything, read it from beginning to end, more than once, and then printed several copies to send to friends and to my members of Congress.

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Oded Na’aman

The author, Oded Na’aman, is a Jewish Israeli who grew up in Israel and served in the Israeli Defense Forces in the early 2000s. My hunch is that his insights are shared by many more veterans, certainly by the Israeli soldiers in Breaking the Silence.

As the title suggests, Mr. Na’aman believes that Israel chooses violence, rather than the common ethos that violence chooses Israel. He writes:

I believe that we, Israelis, did and do have choices. But how might a whole society be mistaken about such a fundamental aspect of its existence? Conversely how can individual members of society, such as me, come to doubt widespread, deeply seated belief? Sometimes actions most see as entirely reasonable are, in fact, abhorrent. At times, imperatives to which whole societies subscribe amount to mere prejudice; communities commit grave injustices while fully believing they are in the right.

These questions, perhaps not stated quite so clearly, have been rummaging around in my head ever since I returned from Gaza in May 2013.

How could my previous assumptions and understanding about the “conflict” between Israel and Palestine be so wrong? How did I come to doubt the “truth” that my country’s leaders, my family and many colleagues, and most everyone in the U.S., have absorbed as easily as the sun’s rays on a beautiful afternoon?

Am I a kook? ———- Seriously, I have wondered sometimes.  Oded Na’aman writes:

How, then, could men and women who face moral isolation tell whether they are, to use [Bernard] Williams‘s phrase, solitary bearers of true justice or, instead, deluded cranks? Put another way, how might such persons be not only just but sane, not only moral but reasonable?

He doesn’t actually answer his question —- my question —- but I’m rejoicing that someone has so eloquently given voice to my fear.  And I know I’m not a kook.

Please read his article.

Consider Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza, which continue to escalate in spite of obvious errors. Any reasonable review of these engagements reveals a consistent, perhaps obsessive, repetition of mistaken estimates, failures of foresight, unjustified use of force, and lack of clear objectives. If anything, strategic mistakes and moral failures have worsened with every campaign. The number of casualties illustrates this most poignantly. In the Gaza War (December 2008 – January 2009), more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. During the last campaign, the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict (July – August 2014), more than 2,200 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed. A comparison helps to clarify just how disproportionate Israeli actions were: in the first three weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the American military destroyed 1,600 armored vehicles; in Gaza in 2014, Hamas had no armored vehicles, yet, on average, an Israeli tank fired seven times more shells per day than did an American tank in the invasion of Iraq. Israeli helicopters loosed twiced as many Hellfire missiles as American helicopters did in those three weeks of 2003. Yet no one in Israel doubts that another war in Gaza, probably harsher than the last, is in the offing.

I read those words and my heart rate jumps, I feel a silent scream rising inside, and I want to shake everyone out of their complacency.

Indifference to pain and loss — one’s own and others’ — is a prerequisite to war. Entire societies must grow numb to suffering.   … [War] punishes sanity and rewards insanity.

In the second half of his article, Mr. Na’aman writes about conviction, and maybe that IS the answer I’m looking for.

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a-Shuhada Street in Hebron, also called Apartheid Street.

He shares a true story of an incident when he and two of his friends were walking late at night up a-Shuhada Street in Hebron towards the home of a Palestinian friend. They passed a group of Jewish teens who asked them where they were going. They replied “Tel Rumeida” – the Jewish neighborhood next to their friend’s home – and walked on. One of them yelled, “Are you crazy? What are you doing walking here, in Hebron, in the middle of the night, without any protection? The Arabs will kill you! You will be slaughtered!”

They were not worried and continued walking. Observing the reaction, the kid turned to his friends and exclaimed victoriously, “I told you they are leftists!”

You see, as young as he was, the boy understood that, within Israeli society, only settlers and activists know Hebron for what it really is. Neither group subscribes to the Israeli ethos of necessary violence. The settlers condone violence and choose violence in the service of religious and ethnic causes; the activists condemn and reject it for moral and religious reasons. But both settlers and activists act from conviction rather than fear. For only conviction—the inward and full persuasion of the mind—can withstand the capriciousness of politics.

I must find a way to give voice to my conviction that the violence we see in the Middle East — Israel and Palestine — in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — is and has always been a violence of choice. And we can choose another path. I’m convinced.

 

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