Tag Archives: John Kerry

The West Bank and International Humanitarian Law on the Eve of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Six-Day War

By Theodor Meron (The American Society of International Law, 2017)

Judge Meron’s 19-page article is available here to download.

Rarely does a jurist have the opportunity to render a legal opinion twice on the very same case or controversy fifty years apart.

Theodor Meron

Theodor Meron

Theodor Meron was 37 when he was appointed the Legal Adviser of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs shortly after the Six-Day War. He was asked to address some of the international legal implications that followed from that war.

He opined on September 14, 1967 that “the establishment of civilian settlements in the occupied West Bank and other conquered territories violates the Fourth Geneva Convention related to the protection of victims of war and, specifically, its prohibition on settlements (Article 49(6)).” This prohibition is categorical, he wrote, and “not conditioned on the motives or purposes of the transfer, and is aimed at preventing colonization of conquered territory by citizens of the conquering state.”

In March 2017, his opinion has not changed. Given the inexorable demographic change in the West Bank over the past fifty years; the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2334 on December 23, 2016; John Kerry’s unprecedented speech delivered on December 28, 2016; and Netanyahu’s immediate rejection of the “shameful UN resolution” — Judge Meron felt compelled to speak up again in support of international law and its requirements and application to the settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Judge Meron’s career is noteworthy and worth recounting here because his opinion carries weight, except with Israeli leaders.

Meron

Theodor Meron – President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Judge and President of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals; Judge and Past President of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; former Judge of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Charles L. Denison Professor Emeritus and Judicial Fellow, New York University School of Law; Visiting Professor, University of Oxford, since 2014; past Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal; past Honorary President of the American Society of International Law.

Settlements in the Occupied West Bank

What is the scope of the problem? The Palestinian president says there will be no negotiations until Israel ends the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli prime minister says the Palestinians must come to the bargaining table with no preconditions, but he demands that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. There have been no negotiations since 2010.

2016-mena-israel-overviewmap

Today there are nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerualem. There are 127 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements (not including East Jerusalem and Hebron), and approximately 100 “settlement outposts”. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the annual growth rate for the settler population (excluding East Jerusalem) in 2015 was more than two times higher than that of the overall population in Israel: 4.1% and 2% percent, respectively.  Translated: there are more Israelis today moving to Palestine than to the State of Israel.

Check out this segment on NPR from December 2016 about the settlements.

The Jewish settlements were illegal in 1967 and they remain illegal today.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted in 1949 to protect civilians in a war zone, is considered the “gold standard of humanitarian law.” While 196 countries have signed on, the United Nations concluded in 1993 that the Geneva Conventions had passed into customary law and therefore everyone is bound by them.

What does the Fourth Geneva Convention require of the occupying power (Israel) towards the protected persons (Palestinians) in the territories it occupies?

  1. No collective punishment (article 33) – including no pillage, intimidation, or terrorism. Collective punishment is considered a war crime.
  2. May not forcibly deport protected persons or transfer part of its own civilian population into the occupied territory (article 49).
  3. Must facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children (article 50).
  4. No destruction of property belonging to the protected persons or to public authorities (article 53).
  5. Maintain the public health and hygiene along with the medical facilities in the occupied territories (article 56).

Nakba refugees

Despite clear and strong opinions from the International Court of Justice, supported by a score of Security Council resolutions, the International Red Cross, and a rare consensus of the international community on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the occupied Palestinian territories, the State of Israel has built a 50-year record of parsing the Fourth Geneva Convention, applying provisions it likes while rejecting others. “This opacity is made worse,” Judge Meron writes, “by the reluctance of Israel to divulge in public the list of the Fourth Geneva Convention’s humanitarian provisions which it is prepared to apply.”

Disrespect for international law is, alas, not unusual in the affairs of states. It is rare, however, that disrespect of an international convention would have such a direct impact on the elimination of any realistice prospects for reconciliation, not to mention peace. And it is rarer still that such disrespect of internatioal law should subsist given the number of pronouncements on the matter.

Israeli leaders rejected Meron’s opinion in 1967 and, undoubtedly, reject it today. They hinge their position on the argument that the territories are not occupied because conquered territory only becomes occupied territory when it belongs to a legitimate sovereign that was ousted. This theory disputes the status of Jordan as such a sovereign of the West Bank in 1967 which, in the opinion of Israel makes the Geneva Convention inapplicable de jure. The government has simply decided, in the absence of an international obligation to do so, to act de facto in accordance with the humanitarian provisions of the Convention.

Judge Meron rejects this argument summarily, asking “what would prevent every conquering state from contesting the sovereignty of every defeated state, even where no legitimate doubts about the sovereignty arise?” In a nutshell, the status of the lands conquered in the Six Day War has no bearing on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel, as the conquering power.

While the Fourth Geneva Convention bestows rights on the “protected persons” (Palestinians in this case), the Hague Convention No. IV establishes responsibilities on the occupying power, and Israel’s Supreme Court has recognized the applicability of the Hague Convention No. IV as customary law to the West Bank.

There is the requirement to respect private property (Article 46), and the property of municipalities, and that of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, and arts and sciences. (Article 56). The occupying power must also safeguard and administer the real estate in accordance with the rules of usufruct.

With the construction of the “security wall” encroaching on Palestinian lands, and a record number of housing demolitions in the West Bank in 2016, the reasonable question Palestinians and the rest of the world might ask is “Who is going to hold the State of Israel accountable for its violations of international law?”

12794787_10208838393703043_5184863994902971158_o Judge Meron concludes his 2017 opinion:

Those of us who are committed to international law, and particularly to respect for international humanitarian law and the principles embodied therein, cannot remain silent when faced with such denials or self-serving interpretations.

But if the continuation of the settlement project on the West Bank has met with practically universal rejection by the international community, it is not just because of its illegality under the Fourth Geneva Convention or under international humanitarian law more generally. Nor is it only because, by preventing the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian territory, the settlement project frustrates any prospect of serious negotiations aimed at a two-state solution, and thus of reconciliation between the Israelis and Palestinians. It is also because of the growing perception that individual Palestinians’ human rights, as well as their rights under the Fourth Geneva Convention, are being violated and that the colonization of territories populated by other people can no longer be accepted in our time.

 

 

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Day #38 – August 13, 2014 – Leading horses to water

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On my ride to DC this morning, I took my new book about the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer — “Gaza Unsilenced.”  Check out the Table of Contents here.

Laila El-Haddad

Laila El-Haddad, Editor

Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

Lora with Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

The Editors write: “How do you provide an accurate and humanistic — a real narration — of the Palestinian story that is Gaza?”

In Gaza Unsilenced, we attempt to do this. We set out to compile a compelling collection of some of the best writing, photography, tweets, art, and poems from that harrowing time and the year that followed, to depict as truthfully and inclusively as possible what was done to Gaza, what the impact has been on both the people and the land, and how they are coping under a still existent siege.

 

As Palestinians from Gaza who were watching the horror unfold from abroad, we were driven by a sense of urgency, despair, and obligation to curate ad edit this book, to be a conduit for voices writing from and about Gaza, as a means for changing the narrative and thereby changing public opinions, which we hope can help push the long-standing U.S. policy of blind alliance with Israel in a different direction, and ultimately let Gaza live.

I’ve met both editors — Laila and Refaat — personally, and you will too when you pick up their book. They introduce themselves in a very personal way. I won’t share the details, you will find them in the book’s Introduction, but my heart goes out to both Laila and Refaat, and to the thousands of Palestinians impacted by Israel’s brutal occupation, seige and war crimes.

By some estimates, Israel’s use of firepower on Gaza by land, sea, and air during Operation “Protective Edge” was equivalent to the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima. Concretely, some 23,400 tank shells, 20,4000 artillery shells, and 2.9 million bullets, or “almost two bullets for ever man, woman, and child in Gaza.”

I’ve decided this is a book my members of Congress must read. I’m ordering copies for Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich.  I’m also going to send copies to President Obama, former President Carter, and candidate Bernie Sanders.  I can lead these horses to water, but can’t force them to drink.  Their time will be well-spent reading Gaza Unsilenced.  You can order your copy here.

 By now, it should be clear that this story is not simply the story of a 51-day attack. Nor is it one about 2,200 people killed during the attack. It is not even a story of an Orwellian world where war is peace and victims are villains. It’s a story of what happens when, despite the ability to do so, powerful nations choose to remain silent or, worse, are complicit through financing the crimes being committed in the name of their taxpayers.

 

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#47Traitors

Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt

That’s a lesson that 47 GOP Senators need to learn, and quick.

Their temerity in sending a letter drafted by freshman Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, to the Iranian leaders is off the Richter Scale, way off. Their ignorance makes a mockery of the U.S. Senate. What a joke!

Except that  “Cotton is no fool; he is an Iraq war veteran with two Harvard degrees and has been called “the future of the GOP” and “Ted Cruz with a war record, Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree, Chris Christie with a Southern accent — a force to be reckoned with.”

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The New Yorker summarized the GOP letter this way: Dear Iran, Please don’t agree to halt your nuclear-weapons program, because we don’t like Barack Obama and, anyway, he’ll be gone soon.   Here is the letter — read it for yourself, and weep…..or laugh.

An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system.  Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them.  In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote.  A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate).  Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics.

For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.  As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades.

What these two constitutional provisions mean is that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.  The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations progress.

Sincerely,

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT
Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA
Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY
Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL
Senator John McCain, R-AZ
Senator James Inhofe, R-OK
Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS
Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL
Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY
Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID
Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC
Senator John Cornyn, R-TX
Senator Richard Burr, R-NC
Senator John Thune, R-SD
Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA
Senator David Vitter, R-LA
Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY
Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS
Senator Jim Risch, R-ID
Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL
Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO
Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS
Senator Rob Portman, R-OH
Senator John Boozman, R-AR
Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA
Senator John Hoeven, R-ND
Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL
Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI
Senator Rand Paul, R-KY
Senator Mike Lee, R-UT
Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH
Senator Dean Heller, R-NV
Senator Tim Scott, R-SC
Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX
Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV
Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA
Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO
Senator James Lankford, R-OK
Senator Steve Daines, R-MT
Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD
Senator David Perdue, R-GA
Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC
Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA
Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE
Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

________________________

These clowns will probably never be prosecuted for violating the Logan Act, a very old law (1799) that provides:

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

The last indictment under the Logan Act was in 1803, but if there was ever a fact-pattern screaming to pull that law from the dustbin, this is it. These 47 Senators have invited the scorn and ridicule that is being hurled at them now.  See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and much more.  More than 165,000 Americans signed a petition in 2 days calling on the government to prosecute these scoundrels. But they’re certainly not apologetic. Louisiana Governor Jindal urges aspiring GOP 2016 candidates to sign on to the letter and Texas Governor Rick Perry says he would be “proud and honored” to sign the letter.

iran11n-2-web

 

The best response by far came from the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who said: “In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.”

He added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.” 

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that “change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with ‘the stroke of a pen,’ as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.” He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 [Britain, China, France, Germany Russia and the United States] result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.”

Senator Cotton and his colleagues should take a look at the United States Institute of Peace website, a treasure trove of scholarly information about Iran, before their next foray into foreign policy.

On the lighter side, I have a humble suggestion.

The Iranian Foreign Minister could invite Secretary Kerry, President Obama and all thoughtful Americans who wish to see a nuclear-free world to go live in Iran.

Senator Cotton, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the other hawks in the U.S. and Israel who are itching for a war could invite the hard-liners from Iran and Israel to move to the U.S. where like-minded belligerents could fight to their hearts content and leave the rest of us in peace.

Obama would, of course, have to destroy the U.S. nuclear arsenal before boarding ship.  I would join him.

 

 

 

 

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Ceasefire conditions

Two friends — one a Hasidic Jew who supports Israel and the other a solidarity activist who supports the Palestinians — asked me for my recommendations to end the bloodshed in Gaza.

Here goes.

#1  Have a clear understanding of the current position of each side. 

Every Palestinian I’ve talked with says the same thing – “We would rather die together with our families than return to the status quo which was a slow death with no dignity. No ceasefire unless Israel lifts the 7-year siege.” Hamas makes the same demands.

Netanyahu can’t give Hamas a “win” by lifting the siege. He wants to eliminate the tunnels between Gaza and Israel and a demilitarized Gaza. He’s also stated he wants to eliminate Hamas altogether because he views Hamas as an existential threat to the State of Israel.

#2  The mediator must be neutral.

OK …. I know that’s an obvious point but apparently it’s beyond the comprehension of President Obama who has sent Secretary of State John Kerry to mediate a ceasefire. Kerry has no street cred with either side. I won’t explain the whole long sorry tale here but suffice it to say, the parties need a neutral mediator to help them hammer out a lasting agreement.

Since most nations of the world have already taken sides in this match, I think the United Nations is the only party capable of serving in that capacity.

#3  Israel and Hamas must talk with each other.

I know, I know, I know. Israel doesn’t recognize Hamas and refuses to endow it with any legitimacy by talking or negotiating with Hamas. The mediator can ferry messages back and forth between the parties if the two can’t sit in the same room, but a viable ceasefire will not come through dictates (as Israel and Egypt attempted a few days ago). There must be honest and transparent negotiations and both sides must be treated as equals.

#4  The Rule of Law must govern.

This should be a no brainer but it’s not acknowledged, and it should be. Both sides must be held to the rule of law. Israel doesn’t want the responsibilities or legal duties that flow from the Law of Occupation. Israel claims the right of self-defense and Hamas claims the right of self-defense but both endanger innocent civilians in contravention of international law and the laws of war. Unless the world is descending into lawless anarchy, the mediator must stipulate the ground rules — and the Law of Occupation, International Humanitarian Law, Refugee Law, etc. must be the basis for any negotiation.

#5  Address the legitimate needs of both sides.

The State of Israel needs security but can’t bomb its way to a sustainable peace with its neighbors. The people in Gaza need the suffocating siege lifted. Each side has more demands that will require more trust before compromises can be made, but to end the bloodshed now, these two issues (Israel’s security and lifting the siege on Gaza) must be addressed immediately.

Since every indication is that Netanyahu is not inclined to lift the siege, he needs outside “help” to make the right decision. It’s time for sticks, not carrots. Ideally, President Obama should signal his intention to withhold $8.5 million per day that the U.S. sends to support Israel’s military. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not proven to be a very effective partner for peace in the Middle East despite Obama’s words to the contrary. So the EU and others who have already taken steps to wield some serious sticks at Israel should be counseled to do so now.

In exchange for lifting the siege, the tunnels between Gaza and Israel should be dismantled under the supervision of an international body. This must be documented to the satisfaction of Israel and the community of nations.

There’s much more that could be said —- should be said —- about the occupation and the long-term prospects of co-existence. For the time being, the bloodshed must end. The rule of law must prevail.

As international correspondent Jon Snow says — “We can each make a difference if we care.”

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Three Letters

What more can I do to stop the genocidal massacre occurring in Gaza today? Write letters, and more letters. Israel can only get away with this macabre slaughter of innocent civilians if the world remains silent.

The worldwide protests are encouraging, but are they enough? Take a look at these photos.

Today I sent the following three letters.

220px-President_Barack_Obama

Dear President Obama,

On July 12, the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Neither side wants to back down and so the U.S. must step in and stop this massacre.

Your earlier offer to mediate a ceasefire might have been well-intentioned but you should know by now that the U.S. is not viewed by Hamas or the Arab world as a neutral party in this conflict. You cannot support a “right of self-defense” for the military occupier, and condemn the people who have been suffering under a brutal military occupation for 60+ years  the right to resist and use self-defense.

The only way Israel will have peace and security is by ending its military occupation. You know that, and most of the community of nations understands that, but the current government of Israel does not.

Regardless of what Congress says about the situation, as commander in chief, I believe you have the authority to do the following:

  • Use your bully pulpit and condemn Israel’s attack on the besieged Gaza Strip — the civilians, the hospital and clinics, the schools, the charity centers, the water desalination plant, the Mosques, the homes and the innocent civilians (men, women, children and the elderly).
  • Send a US Naval ship to the eastern end of the Mediterranean with a warning to Israel that the U.S. is facilitating access to the Gaza Strip from the Sea to bring humanitarian supplies.
  • Notify Al-Sisi of Egypt that the U.S. will not restore diplomatic relations with his country until there is evidence that the Rafah border crossing is open and accessible in both directions.
  • Notify Netanyahu of Israel that you are blocking financial aid to Israel until the bombing in Gaza ends, and he issues a statement that there will be no further settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The U.S. has the power to dramatically improve the situation in the Middle East for millions of people if you step outside of the box that Israel and AIPAC have forced you and your predecessors in for many years. This is your final term in office. Be bold. Be courageous. Do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero


Secretary of State John Kerry

Dear Secretary Kerry,

Many people, including myself, believed your peace negotiations between Netanyahu and Abbas were doomed to failure from the start, but I want to thank you for trying. My proposal for reaching an agreement might have been a bit out-of-the-box thinking, but we desperately need creative ideas.

Palestinians have been waiting for 60+ years for the State of Israel to end the military occupation and treat them with respect, dignity and equal rights. The failure of the latest “peace talks” confirmed their belief that Netanyahu and the current leaders in Israel do not want a viable State of Palestine created side-by-side with Israel. They don’t want to acknowledge the injustices that have been hurled on Palestinians for generations.

No one, least of all you, should be surprised that an oppressed population would defend their rights through acts of resistance. Peaceful, nonviolent actions have been the cornerstone of this resistance for many years, but have gone virtually unacknowledged by the West. It appears that Israeli leaders only understand terms of strength and violent resistance.

Surely, your advisers must have forewarned you about the consequences of a failure in the peace negotiations. Netanyahu doesn’t want to see the Palestinians unified. If he can’t win on the diplomatic front, he can prove his strength on the battlefield. Strength and violence are the only messages he values.

As a concerned American who deplores the fact that the U.S. is subsidizing this belligerent occupation to the tune of over $3 billion/year, I urge you to break the impasse by doing the following:

  • Call your counterpart in Israel and tell him that the U.S. government will not sit on the sidelines. Israel must understand not only our concern about the escalating violence but, more importantly, the actions we will take to intervene in this humanitarian crisis. Your words thus far have been unhelpful.
  • Call former President Carter and seek out his advice. No U.S. President has more knowledge and experience in the Middle East than does Jimmy Carter.
  • Shine a light on the atrocities occurring in Gaza by speaking publicly about the failure of the peace talks and condemning this slaughter of innocent civilians. “Never again” means never again will the free world turn its back as innocent civilians are indiscriminately murdered, as is occurring today in Gaza.

Please use your final months in office to show the world that the United States is a moral leader for what is right and just. Be bold. Be courageous. Do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero


Representative Lujan-Grisham

Representative Lujan-Grisham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Representative Lujan-Grisham,

Thank you for meeting with me and my friends from Gaza, Palestine in your office in March. We appreciated the opportunity to share with you information about the Israeli military occupation that few members of Congress understand.

When Netanyahu launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8, he claimed he was protecting Israeli citizens from Hamas’s rockets launched from the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman stated in a tweet at the beginning of the operation that “IDF has commenced Operation Protective Edge in Gaza against Hamas, in order to stop the terror Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis.”

Israel cannot bomb its way to peace and security. The only way to end terror in Israel is for that country to end the military occupation that has terrorized 3+ generations of Palestinians for 66 years. With no end of the occupation in sight, it should come as no surprise that the oppressed would resist. Peaceful, nonviolent resistance has been the hallmark of their actions for years, but has largely gone unacknowledged in the West. With the failure of the peace talks, and continued extrajudicial assassinations of Palestinians by Israel, and a suffocating 7-year siege, we should really be asking how the U.S. can play a more constructive role in ending the occupation.

H.Res.657 is not a constructive message, in my opinion. Reaffirming that Israel has the right to defend itself is a ludicrous statement given the fact that Israel is the occupying power over land (the occupied west bank and Gaza) that doesn’t belong to it. The right of self defense belongs to those whose lives and land are being threatened by the occupier. If Israel agrees to end its belligerent occupation, then it will have the right of self-defense if attacked in the future. Here is a primer about the history of the occupation which I have found very helpful in understanding current events.

Please use this opportunity to raise questions about the military occupation with your colleagues in the House. If I can answer any questions, or put you in touch with people who can answer your questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero

 

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Letter-writing campaign to Marc Sievers

There are only two ways in and out of the Gaza Strip.

Israel controls the Erez border crossing in the north and effectively slammed that door shut in 2006 for Palestinians and visitors.

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The Rafah border crossing in the south with Egypt has been a difficult option for many but at least an option, until the military coup in July 2013.  Now Rafah is effectively closed, trapping 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and preventing many Palestinians and others from entering Gaza.

Recently Egyptian authorities have forcibly deported international visitors who indicate their purpose of travel to Cairo is to proceed to Gaza.

Would the Rafah border open if U.S. authorities demanded that it open?

I think there’s a good chance it would. The U.S. still has some clout in Egypt, maybe not as much as it had when President Mubarak was in office, but Secretary Kerry talks as though the U.S. has leverage to impact the actions of the military junta in Cairo.

Early this month, Kerry spelled out some conditions that Egyptian authorities must satisfy if the U.S. is going to resume military aid to that country. What if one of those conditions was opening up the Rafah border?

(I can already hear my friends who are more experienced than me in the quirks of Middle East foreign policy, telling me I’m naive. The U.S. wants that Rafah border closed as much as Israel and the Egyptian military junta do.)

Of course, Secretary Kerry has never explicitly shared that position, but our “special relationship” with Israel makes it a foregone conclusion.

I recently sent a letter to Kerry and Marc Sievers, the man in charge of the US Embassy in Cairo, about my concerns. My letter is here.  I was surprised that it cost only $1.50 or so to send the letter to Cairo with an expected transit of 10 days.

What would happen if Sievers received lots of letters from Americans urging him to put pressure on Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah border?

He might dump them in the circular filing cabinet. He might get on the phone and request advice from Secretary Kerry. He might respond to the letter writers.

So I’m going to send Marc Sievers a letter every week for the foreseeable future with a different message focused on the Rafah border crossing. If my fellow Americans want to do the same, here’s his address.

Charge d’Affaires to Egypt Marc J. Sievers
The Embassy of the United States of America
5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo
Egypt
US Embassy in Cairo

US Embassy in Cairo

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Egypt: a rogue state

Ambassador Marc Sievers

U.S. Charge d’Affaires to Egypt Marc Sievers

Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry

Dear Secretary Kerry and Mr. Sievers,

On March 3, an American citizen was detained at the airport in Cairo, placed in a holding cell with other detainees, and held for hours without being given any information for the reasons for her detention. Egyptian security personnel later came into the cell, threw her to the floor, dislodged her shoulder and fractured her arm, handcuffed her and then deported her to Turkey, where she finally received medical attention.
 
Medea Benjamin, 61 years old, co-founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, was on her way to the Gaza Strip to meet a delegation of 100 women traveling from abroad to visit with women in Gaza. Although she was never informed by Egyptian authorities, her staff learned that her name was on a black list maintained by Egyptian security.
Medea Benjamin

Medea Benjamin

 
Ms. Benjamin’s treatment is standard fare for many Palestinians traveling to and from Gaza. When they are permitted to exit the Gaza Strip, they are herded onto buses and treated like criminals. Many have spent days in Cairo airport’s detention cell, treated no better than prisoners.
An official from Egypt’s Interior Ministry, Brigadier Alaa Mahmoud, said Ms. Benjamin was denied entry, not detained. He said the reason for her deportation was because she had stated her reason for traveling was a trip to Gaza, but the Rafah crossing was closed and so they would not allow her entry into Egypt.
As you know, Israel’s blockade (East, North and West) has effectively severed travel to and from the Gaza Strip. Palestinians are caught in the largest “open air prison” in the world, according to John Holmes, the United Nations under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (2010).
Egypt’s new government is collaborating in this blockade. Reports indicate the Rafah crossing has been open only 9 days in 2014.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) – Article 13 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; and everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”  Israel and Egypt are violating international law and imposing collective punishment on 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, alarming reports are coming out of Egypt about the incarceration of children, students, peaceful protesters and credentialed journalists. The country appears to be a rogue state without respect for the rule of law. 
What is the U.S. government doing about this?
1) Are you aware of Egypt’s “black list” of travelers prohibited from entering Egypt and traveling to Gaza?  I would like a copy of this black list.
2) Are you informed about Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border gate?  What actions are you taking to open the border consistent with international law?
3) What action is your office taking to ensure the safe passage of Americans traveling through the Cairo airport?
4) What action is your office taking to facilitate the release of Mr Greste, an Australian al-Jazeera English reporter, Egyptian-Canadian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed and Egyptian al-Jazeera Arabic reporter Abdallah Elshamy?
I’m requesting a written response to my inquiry. Thank you.
Mailed to the Honorable John Kerry
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520 
Charge d’Affaires to Egypt Marc J. Sievers
The Embassy of the United States of America
5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City, Cairo
Egypt

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