Tag Archives: Martin Heinrich

U.S. Senators tell Netanyahu to stop!

Dianne-Feinstein-with-Susiya-residents

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

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

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

Susiya-Tent

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

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

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

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

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

November 29, 2017

His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Al Franken
United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

Martin Heinrich
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Brian Schatz
United States Senator

 

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Words matter! S.Res.176

Dear Senators Udall and Heinrich,

Disappointment and frustration.

A half-century after the Six-Day War which culminated in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, it is extremely disappointing that the U.S. Senate continues to succumb to Israel’s revisionist history (propaganda).

Your support for S.Res.176, A Resolution Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem, along with your colleagues, is further evidence that the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may achieve by unilateral and incremental steps, what Israel failed to do in 1967-1968.

The Palestinians consider East Jerusalem the capital of their future state. The United Nations, the vast majority of countries, and international law, support this interpretation of history. Your resolution does violence to the truth and to international law.

Israel never “reunified” Jerusalem, as your resolution proclaims, but occupied East Jerusalem and then began drawing municipal borders to strengthen Israel’s sovereignty over the city by creating a Jewish majority. The legal status of the City of Jerusalem is clear. Under international law, Israel occupies East Jerusalem.

S.Res.176 fails to mention the occupation and the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem who are not even granted citizenship in Israel but rather permanent resident status. In a precedent-setting case, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled earlier this year that the permanent residents of East Jerusalem deserve better.

Last year I visited East Jerusalem. It’s like night and day between the Jewish settlements and the Palestinian neighborhoods. One has green lawns and swimming pools while the other struggles to live on about half the amount of water recommended by the World Health Organization.  One has new schools and playgrounds with equipment for their children, while the other hasn’t had any new classrooms built in many years. Mothers are now holding classes in their homes.

In 2011, the High Court of Justice ruled that over the next five years, the Education Ministry and municipality must build enough classrooms in the public school system for all East Jerusalem students.  … Yet the latest report by the Ir Amim organization says the problem has only gotten worse: East Jerusalem currently lacks 2,247 classrooms, compared to about 1,500 when the High Court petition was filed in 2007. Over the past five years, only some 35 classrooms a year have been built – less than the number needed to accommodate the population’s natural growth.”

The State of Israel has been creating its “facts on the ground,” moving Jewish settlers into East Jerusalem and forcibly displacing Palestinian families out of East Jerusalem.

I encourage you and your staff to watch these two short amateur videos about life in East Jerusalem. In the first, an Israeli activist talks about why she supports the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In the second, children show how settlers have taken over the front part of their home, and the family continues to live in the back.  Other families were thrown out into the street. Israeli, international and Palestinian activists, Sara Benninga among them, have started a growing solidarity movement and demonstrate there weekly to oppose the injustice of Israel accepting pre-1948 ownership claims by Jews, but not by Palestinians.

S.Res.176 reaffirms that it is the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States Government that the permanent status of Jerusalem remains a matter to be decided between the parties through final status negotiations towards a two-state solution; and yet the very title and preamble clauses state unambiguously that Jerusalem is undivided and belongs to Israel, with no mention of Palestinians and their aspirations for East Jerusalem.

Words matter!  Even nonbinding resolutions matter!  Please take note of that fact and don’t add your name to such propaganda in the future.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero

P.S. This Thursday, June 8, you have an opportunity to hear from experts at a briefing on Capitol Hill sponsored by Defense for Children International – Palestine & American Friends Service Committee. Congressional Briefing: 50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children. Please plan to attend or send a staff person.

Thursday June 8, 2017
9:30AM – 11:00AM EST

Cannon House Office Building, Rm 122
27 Independence Ave, SE,
Washington, DC 20003

UPDATE – June 9, 2017 – Response received from Senator Tom Udall. I wonder if writing to our elected officials in DC makes any difference.

Dear Ms. Lucero,

Thank you for your comments regarding S. Res. 176, a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

On May 24, 2017, Senators Mitch McConnell (KY) and Charles Schumer (NY) introduced S. Res. 176. Upon introduction the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. On May 25, 2017, the resolution was passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. On June 5, 2017, the resolution was passed in the Senate by a vote of 90 to Zero, with my vote in favor. I value receiving feedback from my constituents, and I appreciate your taking the time to keep me informed. Your help allows me to more effectively represent you in the U.S. Senate.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please feel free to contact me with your concerns regarding any federal issue by visiting my website at www.tomudall.senate.gov.  For more information, you may also visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/senatortomudall and receive up to the minute updates through my Twitter page at http://twitter.com/senatortomudall.

Very truly yours,
Signature
Tom Udall
United States Senator

 

 

 

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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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Two more letters

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Tom Udall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Senator Udall,

I am writing to express my serious concern about the Senate’s priorities.

On July 10, S.Res.498 was introduced expressing support for Israel’s right to defend herself, calling on Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel, and calling for the Palestinian unity government to be dissolved. I’m pleased to see that neither you nor Senator Heinrich have signed on as co-sponsors as of July 14. I urge you to vote against S.Res.498 if it comes for a vote.

The only way Israel will find peace and security with its neighbors (including the Palestinians in Gaza) is to end the 66 year military occupation. As the occupier, Israel cannot claim the right of self-defense against actions of resistance by the Palestinians.

An analogy might bring this point home. If the United States invaded Mexico and held it under a long-term military occupation, would the U.S. be able to claim self-defense if the Mexicans decided to resist the occupation with whatever was at their disposal? Of course not.

End the occupation and then the right of self-defense is a legitimate argument if Israel is attacked in the future.

I’m also concerned with the action today by the Senate Appropriation defense subcommittee approving $621.6 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This is in addition to the $3+ Billion we give to Israel each year.  The Senate can find over 1/2 trillion dollars for Israel but can’t find the resources to put people back to work repairing our country’s aging infrastructure? What is wrong with this picture?

I urge you to speak with your colleagues and your constituents about our country’s misguided priorities. We can be a better friend to Israel by helping her disengage from the military occupation which is against her best interests as well as ours.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero


 

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

 

 

 

US Senator Martin Heinrich

Dear Senator Heinrich,

I’m writing to express my grave concern about the Senate’s recent actions concerning Israel and Gaza.

Both S.Res.498 (expressing support for Israel’s right to self-defense) and the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee’s decision approving $621.6 million for Israel’s Iron Dome are ultimately counterproductive for both Israel’s future survival and for ending the occupation of Palestine.

You and I met early in your first term as a new Congressman to discuss Palestine and the Israeli occupation. I recall showing you a picture of a young Palestinian from Gaza and asking you to keep him in mind when you voted on issues related to Israel and Palestine. I also recall your response — that you support Israel’s right to defend herself.

I’ve come to the conclusion after watching your votes closely in the House and now in the Senate, that you are solidly in the pocket of AIPAC and uneducable about the issue. That’s why I will be working to defeat your reelection efforts.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero

 

 

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88 US Senators

This week, a bipartisan group of 88 US Senators signed a letter to Obama expressing their concern about Palestine’s new unity government.  Check out the letter here.

“The recent formation of a Palestinian Authority unity government supported by Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that has never publicly accepted the Quartet principles, represents a serious setback to efforts to achieve peace,”the Senators wrote. “By its actions and inaction, Hamas has demonstrated it is not a partner for peace.”

The letter conforms to AIPAC’s position on the unity government (see here and here) and was undoubtedly drafted and circulated by AIPAC for Senators’ signatures.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when those discussions occurred between AIPAC lobbyists and my two US Senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. I’m very disappointed that they signed.

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Tom Udall

 

US Senator Martin Heinrich

Senator Martin Heinrich

The Palestinian unity government (Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza) threatens Israel’s strategy to divide and conquer the Palestinians.

Israel wants to divide Palestinian Christians from Palestinian Muslims. Why? Israel wants to frame the conflict as Muslims vs. Jews, rather than the occupation of Palestine. “Occupation” has legal consequences; a religious conflict sounds righteous.

Israel wants to divide the Palestinians in the West Bank from the Palestinians in Gaza. Why? Israel wants Palestinians to focus on infighting among themselves; a unified leadership is more challenging for Israeli negotiators. A fractured Palestinian leadership can be more easily manipulated.

Israel wants to divide Palestinian communities in the West Bank from each other. Why? Israel prefers many disconnected bantustanin the West Bank, divided by Israel settlements, so there will never be a viable State of Palestine.

palestine_oslo_areas

My government is complicit in this “divide and conquer” strategy as evidenced by its support for the suffocating 7-year siege of the Gaza Strip.

Either my U.S. Senators don’t understand the complexity of the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, or they believe their chances of reelection might be endangered if they don’t follow AIPAC’s wishes, or they sincerely believe that Hamas is a foreign terrorist organization which threatens US interests in the Middle East.

  • If they don’t understand the complexity of the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, then constituents need to educate them, because Palestinians don’t have paid lobbyists in Washington, DC like Israel.
  • If they’re fearful about their reelection chances, not sure there’s much ordinary Americans can do. We certainly don’t have the $$ to throw around like AIPAC does.
  • If they sincerely believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization (which many Americans believe too), then they need to be consistent and designate the current government of Israel as a foreign terrorist organization subject to the same restrictions they’re asking President Obama to impose on Palestinians. The hypocrisy of labeling Hamas an FTO and not recognizing Israel’s tactics and actions as terrorism is beyond the pale.

 

 

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Dear Heinrich, Udall and Lujan-Grisham

 

Representative Lujan-Grisham

US Representative Lujan-Grisham

 

 

 

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Tom Udall

US Senator Martin Heinrich

US Senator Martin Heinrich

Dear Senator Heinrich (ditto Senator Udall and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham),

By now, the book I ordered for you should have arrived at your office – GAZA WRITES BACK, Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, Just World Books, 2013.

Despite your busy schedule of meetings, briefings, and committee hearings, you would be wise to put this book on the top of your pile.

I know you pride yourself in being prepared, doing your homework, and thoughtfully examining issues from all sides before forming your position. I commend you for your diligence.

On the matter of the Middle East, and specifically the Israel-Palestine conflict, Israel obviously has a distorted influence and the power of persuasion over many members of Congress through its well-greased lobbying campaign waged by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, otherwise known as AIPAC. I wonder how many times you’ve met with AIPAC lobbyists.  Wish I could be a fly on the wall during those meetings.

Do other countries deploy such influential lobbyists in the halls of Congress?  I doubt it.  Certainly, the Palestinians don’t have the resources or the political acumen to compete with the AIPAC minions.

That’s why GAZA WRITES BACK is crucial to your education.

Undoubtedly, much of what you’ve learned about Palestine comes through the distorted lens of AIPAC, the Israeli government, perhaps a Zionist organization spewing well-tested hasbara, or the unquestioning mainstream media.

Have you ever spoken with a Palestinian?

Palestinians are certainly neither monolithic in thought nor unified in their political opinions, just like Americans, but the most relevant voices for the future are those of the Palestinian youth who are well-educated, intellectually curious, and possess wisdom well beyond their years.

GWB-cover

GAZA WRITES BACK includes 23 short stories written by young adults from Gaza, most have never left this tiny enclave because of the suffocating Israeli siege. Their stories are written in English, not translated from Arabic, and tell about the ordinary and extraordinary events of life under Occupation.

Israeli leaders have waged a very deliberate campaign since the State of Israel was founded in 1948 to erase the history and memories of the indigenous Palestinians from popular discourse, just as they erased hundreds of Palestinian villages in a matter of months. They have carefully framed the conflict to divert the world’s attention away from the Occupation – you will never hear AIPAC lobbyists speak about the Occupation.

Since the US government is funding Israel’s brutal Occupation – to the tune of over $3 billion each year – you should know what Americans are getting for this investment. AIPAC will tell you “security” but, if you read between the lines, these young Palestinian writers will make you think twice about the impact of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

In their own words, with the clarity of uncensored feelings and dreams, these Palestinians eschewed rockets and stones, and decided to pick up their pens to call for justice. Read their stories. Feel their stories. And then lets talk.

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Paying terrorists a salary

I caught my breath when I read this piece in The Times of Israel — How American taxpayers are funding Palestinian terrorism, by Edwin Black, November 10, 2013.  The takeaway message is that the Palestinian Authority, the author asserts, is using donations from the US and other countries to pay monthly salaries to Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails for “acts of terrorism”.

Under a sliding scale, carefully articulated in the Law of the Prisoner, the more heinous the act of terrorism and the longer the prison sentence, the higher is the salary. Detention for up to three years fetches a salary of almost $400 per month. Prisoners incarcerated between three and five years will be paid about $560 monthly — a compensation level already higher than that for many ordinary West Bank jobs. Sentences of 10 to 15 years fetch salaries of about $1,690 per month. More severe acts of terrorism, those punished with sentences between 15 and 20 years, earn almost $2,000 per month. These are the best salaries in the Palestinian territories. The Arabic word ratib, meaning “salary,” is the official term for this compensation. The law ensures the greatest financial reward for the most egregious acts of terrorism.

My first response was disgust and outrage! Killing, maiming, and butchery should never be rewarded regardless of who the perpetrator and victim might be.  In a very impoverished community, won’t poor young men and women be enticed to commit acts of violence just to provide a monthly salary for their families?  I think it’s very likely.

I’ve heard the average salary for attorneys in Gaza is about $500 USD per month.  If this journalist is correct, it appears to be much more lucrative to commit “an act of terrorism” and draw a salary of $2000 USD per month. Think of it —- the prisoner could be making 4 times what his lawyer brings home.

Then I paused and thought about this horrific transaction.

MaskedTerrorist3(1)

Palestinians consider these people “freedom fighters” or “resistance fighters”.  If these fighters are killed, they are “martyrs”. Large posters are plastered all over the Gaza Strip with pictures of martyrs who are highly respected by everyone. One young Palestinian in his late 20s – early 30s has memorized the name, date and circumstances of martyrdom for each and every martyr. This is quite a feat since there have been thousands.

2012-09-30 20.52.56

Freedom fighters = soldiers. Resistance fighters = military (albeit with less hardware and munitions at their disposal).

Stripping away the uniforms, weapons, and the power structure from the soldiers in the Israeli army, what remains? Young men and women fighting for a cause they believe in, willing to kill, maim and butcher the enemy as directed by their superiors.  And each is drawing a salary. I doubt that American taxpayers are directly contributing to the Israeli soldiers’ salaries, but there’s no doubt that we’re subsidizing Israel’s military to the tune of $3 Billion/year, in equipment and armaments. My U.S. Senator, Martin Heinrich, is very proud of his support for these expenditures of US tax dollars. He’s bought the AIPAC mantra hook, line and sinker — “Israel has a right to defend herself.”

If we feel disgust at paying salaries to Palestinian freedom fighters, than we must be intellectually honest and feel disgust at subsidizing Israel’s military. Americans are fueling this savagery (perhaps on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide) and only our military industrial complex is the winner because much of the $3 Billion/year actually stays in the United States in the form of contracts for purchase of weapons.

I consider our transactions on both sides of this conflict disgusting. Americans should be helping to create a new world, not paying for the killing occurring on both sides of the Green Line.

Billboard Albuquerque

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