Tag Archives: Michelle Lujan Grisham

Meeting with Representative Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

On Monday I’m meeting with my Congresswoman from New Mexico, Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM). This is quite an honor, and I’m especially thankful to be meeting her now because of her very busy schedule campaigning for Governor.

In April 2014, just a few months before Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza, Representative Lujan-Grisham met with friends of mine from Gaza who were on a book tour in the US at the time.  Israel killed Refaat’s brother in its military assault soon after our meeting.

RefaatandRawan

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

Representative Lujan-Grisham and her staff have always been accessible, and I appreciate that because I’ve heard that some other members of Congress are not so easy to connect with, especially on the issue that is important to me: Israel-Palestine.

I have three simple “asks” when I meet with her on Monday.

#1    Please cosponsor Rep. Betty McCollum’s H.R. 4391 (Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act).

#2    Please support UNRWA and pushback against H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act).

#3    Please do not support any future Anti-BDS legislation if it comes to her desk as Governor.

McCollum’s H.R. 4391 addresses a serious human rights problem. 

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15.

In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys. The United States Department of State and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have also raised serious concerns about the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military custody.

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

In December 2017, Rep. McCollum wrote in The Nation:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has persisted for decades, including 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands. To help sustain the occupation, Israel’s military and police forces have arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned thousands of Palestinian children, mostly for throwing stones. Israel’s military court and detention system is unique in the world in its systematic incarceration of children, in this case Palestinian children. It is a system that denies basic due-process rights and is cruel, inhumane, and degrading.

It should not require tremendous moral courage to stand up for the human rights of children. Sadly, the exception appears to be when those children are Palestinian. I firmly believe that Palestinian children deserve to be treated with the same humanity, dignity, and human rights as any child anywhere, including children in the United States or Israel.

For Israel, this means honoring its international commitments and ending the widespread and systematic cruel and inhumane treatment of Palestinian children. For the United States, it means prohibiting American funds from being used to support Israel’s abusive military detention of children and requiring the State Department to certify Israel’s compliance.

Rep. McCollum’s entire op-ed is here.  And she’s not alone in recognizing the damaging impacts that Israel’s military detention has on Palestinian children.

Representative McCollum provided a short explanation of H.R. 4391 in July 2018 on the Floor of the House.  See here.  As of September 2018, there are 29 cosponsors to H.R. 4391. I hope Rep. Lujan-Grisham will be #30.

UNRWA must be supported!

Trump’s assault on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is despicable and short-sighted. I wrote earlier about Trump’s decision to stop funding UNRWA here.  The New York Times’ Editorial Board agrees, noting that the “Trump administration’s decision to eliminate funding for the United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees is shortsighted.”

The Guardian noted that the impact [of Trump’s decision] will potentially be serious – and rapid – for the millions who rely on the agency. “Such a decision aims at closing schools, clinics, hospitals and starving people,” said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator.

He said any vacuum in services could be exploited by extremists, and said the Palestinian Authority has been helping UNRWA fund camps in Syria and Lebanon for several years.

That spending, he said, was “in order not to allow terrorist organisations such as Isis to recruit our people there because of their needs. Now, with this cut, what does this mean? … Those elements that want to achieve peace based on a peaceful, two state solution, are being destroyed”.

I hope Representative Lujan-Grisham will voice her support for UNRWA by joining with her colleagues in the House who are pushing back against the Administration’s decision, and also oppose H.R. 6451 (UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act) which, like many bills in Congress, is cynically misnamed. H.R. 6451 purports to change the internationally-recognized definition of Palestinian refugee in order to magically erase millions of people who are refugees under international law and entitled to return to their homes and villages from which they were forcibly removed in 1948.

I’m also going to ask her to support my #Gaza5K campaign to raise funds for UNRWA to provide critical mental health services to Palestinians in Gaza.  Tax deductible donations can be made online here.

Anti-BDS Legislation in the States is Bad News!

Twenty-five states have passed some form of anti-BDS legislation. New Mexico has not and I’m going to ask Rep. Lujan-Grisham to pledge that she will oppose any attempts to pass similar legislation when she is Governor.

These bills don’t directly prevent Americans from boycotting Israel, but they are just as sinister because they usually include one of the following three components:

1)      Blacklists. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws require the creation of blacklists of activists, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that are engaged in boycotts of Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”). It’s 21st century McCarthyism.

2)      Prohibition on government contracts. Some of the anti-BDS bills/laws aim to punish individuals, non-profit organizations, and/or companies that support BDS by prohibiting the state or local government from entering into contracts with them. So, for example, under some anti-BDS bills, the United Church of Christ or the Presbyterian Church (USA) could be prohibited from contracting with the state to run social services like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or youth programs because of actions they have taken in support of BDS.

3)      Pension fund divestment. Many of the anti-BDS bills/laws require state pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel (including, in some cases, “territories controlled by Israel”).

Esther Koontz Kansas teacher

Esther Koontz, Kansas teacher, credit to ACLU

These anti-BDS bills/laws are unconstitutional. The ACLU is challenging the Kansas anti-BDS law in federal court on behalf of a teacher who was denied employment when she refused to certify that she would not boycott Israel. I wrote about it here.

I hope Lujan-Grisham agrees that New Mexico must not pass one of these anti-BDS bills.

 

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

Shooting fish in a barrel

Life is unbearable in Gaza. It’s been unlivable for years for the 2+ million Palestinians trapped there, but now it’s at the breaking point. Many (most?) feel there’s nothing to lose by going to the eastern border and facing down the Israeli marksmen who are shooting them like fish in a barrel. Today 55+ Palestinians have been killed (including a journalist, a medic and a Palestinian with no legs) and hundreds wounded for demanding their rights enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.

Less than 100 miles away in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and others are in a celebratory mood as the U.S. flag is raised over the new U.S. Embassy. They don’t even acknowledge the slaughter occurring in Gaza.

Gaza slaughter

I’ve called my two U.S. Senators (Udall and Heinrich) and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham, demanding that they condemn the slaughter of innocent, unarmed Palestinians. I want them to join the other members of Congress who have spoken out against the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters, including: Senators Feinstein, Warren, Leahy and Sanders; as well as the following House members:

Barbara Lee (CA 13)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47)
Lloyd Doggett (TX 35)
Hank Johnson (GA 04)
Danny Davis (IL 07)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 09)
John Yarmuth (KY 03)
Jamie Raskin (MD 08)
Keith Ellison (MN 05)
Betty McCollum (MN 04)
David Price (NC 04)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 03)
Steve Cohen (TN 09)
Gerry Connolly (VA 11)
Peter Welch (VT 1)
Mark Pocan (WI 02)
Pramila Jayapal (WA 07).

My eyes are now focused on Udall, Heinrich and Lujan-Grisham.  I’m going to hound them until they come clean with a statement condemning Israel’s slaughter of innocents.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/269659083″>Voices of the Siege</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3079357″>The Palestine Chronicles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

The Artful Dodge in Politics

Betty McCollum

Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)

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

In January 2018, I delivered copies of a book (Dreaming of Freedom) about Palestinian children in Israel’s military detention to Representative McCollum and each member of Congress who has cosponsored her legislation. I also gave a copy to my Congresswoman, though she hasn’t cosponsored H.R. 4391. I asked her to sign on.  (I also gave copies to my two U.S. Senators with a cover letter but have never received a response.)

dreaming-of-freedom

I’m pleased that two additional members of Congress have signed on to the H.R. 4391. Beyer, Donald [D-VA8] (joined Jan 16, 2018) and Johnson, Henry “Hank” [D-GA4] (joined Jan 22, 2018).

Yesterday, I received Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s response. She didn’t acknowledge the book, and the letter is the most artful dodge I’ve received in many months. She is going to “monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.” This letter should win an award for the most polite, congenial, non-answer answer in Congressional history. Her staff has learned their trade-craft well.

March 15, 2018

Dear Ms. Lucero,
Thank you for contacting me with your views on the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act (H.R. 4391). The conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is highly complex and there are many strong opinions on both sides, so I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

     I am troubled by reports that approximately 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted since 2000, and that these children have been subject to abusive conditions. H.R. 4391 would prohibit U.S. assistance to Israel from being used to support the military detention, interrogation, and mistreatment of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law. Specifically, the bill would require the Secretary of State to certify that American funds provided to Israel are not used to support these practices.

It is important for the United States to promote human rights across the globe. I am committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions for successful peace negotiations. Having travelled to this region, I understand how important it is to work toward a long-term plan that will ensure sustained peace and stability. I will keep your thoughts in mind, and will monitor H.R 4391 as it makes its way through the legislative process.

It is my honor to serve the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico. Your thoughts and comments on this and other issues are important to my work in Congress. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with me. I encourage you to visit my website, www.lujangrisham.house.gov, where you can find updates on my work in Congress and sign up for my e-newsletter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you in any way.

Sincerely,

Michelle Lujan Grisham
Member of Congress

Rep. Lujan-Grisham is leaving her Congressional seat to run for Governor of New Mexico. I suspect her talented staff-writers will be following her to Santa Fe if she succeeds.  New Mexicans can expect more artful dodging.

I hope the next Congressperson representing New Mexico’s CD-1 will hire and train staff-writers to provide direct tough answers to constituents’ questions. Constituents deserve respect and deserve to know (Yes or No) how their elected representatives feel about the issues.

Change Things

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Filed under People, Politics, US Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE MUST INFORM CONGRESS ABOUT THE IMPACTS

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

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

Lora in front of Library of Congress – July 2015

My letter to my Congresswoman:

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

Day #14 – July 20, 2014 – The Massacre in Shuja’iya

I have a friend from Shuja’iya.*  Not a Facebook acquaintance.  Not an anonymous Tweeter on my Twitter feed.  An honest to goodness flesh and bones friend who I consider as close as my own family. His mother is about my age. His wife could be my daughter. His younger brother lost an eye when he was shot by an Israeli sniper. Together we visited the Pyramids outside of Cairo in September 2012, where he was seeking medical attention for his eye.

When I visited the family at their home in Shuja’iya in the Fall of 2012, I was struck by the neighborhood’s very high density. Tall concrete buildings (4-5 floors) sitting side-by-side, along very narrow sandy roads. No trees, lawns, parks or open space. Even by Gaza-standards, Shuja’iya was very densely populated.

I never would have found my friend’s home without the aid of a young friend who knew where he was going.  To my untrained eyes, all of the buildings looked the same, all of the roads looked the same. No signs or house numbers.

Shuja’iya sits on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, near the no-man’s zone which Israel has arbitrarily designated as a “shoot-to-kill” perimeter around the Gaza Strip. Farmers’ lives are at risk if they go into their fields in this no-man’s zone. The Israeli military keeps guard from watchtowers along the perimeter fence.

_76448369_gaza_shejaiya_22.07.14_624map

I walked up several flights of stairs to my friend’s home. As is typical in Gaza, extended families live on different floors in the same building. (I would love to have my granddaughter living upstairs from me!)

They greeted me with open arms, the younger children looking at me with great fascination. They served me tea and sweets, and we chatted. I don’t recall what we talked about in that first meeting but I remember it was easy because my friend’s wife spoke English.  (I don’t speak Arabic.)

One thing in the room caught my eye. A piece of rock sitting on the table next to me. The wife told me it was from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, of special significance to Muslims.

dome_of_the_rock13235570190061

SUNDAY – JULY 20, 2014

I suppose Israeli military commanders didn’t think their buffer zone was large enough. On the 14th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, the IDF decided to flatten Shuja’iya. No precision bombing. No strategic targets. Just flatten the entire neighborhood.

The U.N. committee charged with investigating the war in Gaza concluded that the “IDF followed a pre-calculated pattern of widespread razing of neighborhoods” and the “vast scale of destruction [in Shuja’iya] may have been adopted as tactics of war.”  The Guardian — ‘Death and horror’ in Gaza as thousands flee Israeli bombardment.

Shujaiya

419.        Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations[1] prohibits the destruction of property unless such destruction is required by imperative military necessity. A similar provision in Geneva Convention IV prohibits an occupying power from destroying private or public property.[2] The extensive destruction carried out by the IDF in Shuja’iya, Khuza’a and other localities situated in proximity to the Green Line, in particular the razing of entire areas of these localities by artillery fire, air strikes and bulldozers indicates that the IDF carried out destructions that may not have been strictly required by military necessity. Article 147 of the Geneva Convention IV qualifies the extensive destruction of property “not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” as a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. The wholesale levelling of certain areas of Gaza by the IDF, should it qualify as “unlawful” and ”wanton”, may amount to a war crime.

My friend’s brother lost his life that day, killed in his home. The story of his life and death still bring me to tears. The family fled with thousands of others, their home was flattened. Among their possessions destroyed that day was my friend’s personal library. Books and books and books collected over many years. He will replace his books, but his brother will always be a hole in his heart.

Hamada Alareer

Hamada Alareer holding his daughter.

I’m meeting with my Congresswoman later this week in her DC Office. I’m going to remind her of the massacre in Shuja’iya, and my friend and my friend’s brother.

Meeting with CongresswomanMichelle Lujan-Grisham

Meeting with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham

* Many different spellings for Shuja’iya.  Shijaia, Shujaya, Shojaya, Shujaeya, Shejaiya etc.  I’m using Shuja’iya because that’s how the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry spells it in its report investigating the war last summer.

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Elizabeth Warren is a rock star!

Senator Elizabeth Warren came to Albuquerque yesterday to help Senator Tom Udall with his challenging fundraising campaign.  Following their upscale reception in a ritzy home with 70+ large donors, they stopped by Morningside Park to hob nob with the rest of us — the solidly 99%.

200-250 Dem supporters gathered at Morningside Park

200-250 Dem supporters gathered at Morningside Park in Albuquerque – October 1, 2014

I attended because I was hoping to present Denny Cormier’s letter to both Warren and Udall, but I failed. Couldn’t get close enough to either of them. So I gave Denny’s letter to Udall’s staff and I hope it will get into his hands, and he will read it.  You can read Denny’s letter here. And if you want to help get his letter into the hands of your member of Congress, check-in here.

Debra Haaland, running for Lt. Gov., introduced Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham, who introduced Senator Udall, who introduced Senator Warren. There was no mistake — everyone was there to hear Senator Warren.

Debra Haaland, candidate for Lt. Gov.

Debra Haaland, candidate for Lt. Governor of New Mexico 

Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham running for reelection.

Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham running for reelection.

Senator Tom Udall (l.) running for reelection

Senator Tom Udall (l.) running for reelection and Gary King on far right running for Governor

Senator Warren shared a very populist message, repeating her themes about holding Wall Street bankers accountable, and returning America to the country that works for everyone, not just the wealthy powerful elites. The audience cheered and applauded many times (I lost count!).

10483071_10205000601640640_766394619132657794_o

While Senator Warren was speaking, two men with (Un)Occupy Albuquerque walked in front of her with a large sign. “Israel Out of Palestine!”  They were shouting but quickly removed by security.

Protesters carry large banner in front of Senator Warren

Protesters carry large banner in front of Senator Warren

Senator Warren continued unflustered, but she couldn’t unring a bell that has rung. I saw many people in the audience who nodded in approval and support of the two demonstrators who had the courage to confront Warren for her recent comments defending Israel’s shelling of hospitals and schools in Gaza. Liberals, at least some that I talk with, are very disappointed with Warren’s apparent lockstep with AIPAC’s position. Here’s what Warren said in August:

“I think the vote was right, and I’ll tell you why I think the vote was right,” [Warren] said. “America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”

Warren said Hamas has attacked Israel ‘indiscriminately,’ but with the Iron Dome defense system, the missiles have “not had the terrorist effect Hamas hoped for.” When pressed by another member of the crowd about civilian casualties from Israel’s attacks, Warren said she believes those casualties are the “last thing Israel wants.”

“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself,” Warren said, drawing applause.

These are words straight from AIPAC’s messaging this summer, straight as an arrow — “Hamas was the aggressor.”  “Hamas was using its women and children as shields to protect its rockets.”  “Hamas is the terrorist in this combat, and Israel is merely defending herself.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if she heard some of this same baloney in Congressional briefings by the State Department.

She’s a smart woman, an independent thinker. I think she’s still educable on the issue. I recently sent her a letter and a book “Gaza Writes Back” — I haven’t given up on her . . . yet.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

But I certainly have given up on Hillary Clinton. She will never get my vote for anything even if The Atlantic thinks her hawkish views won’t upset the Democratic base.  Maybe I’m no longer part of that base, or maybe someone is just making a serious miscalculation. It’s time for the Democrats to stand for justice, not just in words but in deeds and in how we allocate our federal budget.

And KUDOS to those two young men who stood up with that pro-Palestine banner. It takes courage and I applaud them.

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