Tag Archives: Obama

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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Hashtags

The news these days from the Middle East is focused on the three Israeli teenagers who disappeared Thursday night when they were hitchhiking near their yeshiva in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. This is a part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank known as Area C. By agreement, Area C is under complete control of the Israel Defense Forces.

I deleted my first blog post about this news because, after reading and re-reading it, I realized it sounded too dry and matter-of-fact.  I was trying to discern the facts (which are few and far between) and wanted to discard the speculation. Almost everything I found online from sources on all sides was filled with speculation and innuendo.

So I’ll stick to my personal observations.

Netanyahu is playing a familiar role, casting blame on everyone – Abbas, Hamas, and even President Obama. Netanyahu has been warning the world of the terrible consequences of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and lo and behold, the unity government is to blame for the abduction!

In the process, he appears to be inciting fear and hatred. That’s his modus operandi.

Twitter and Facebook are amplifying the fear and hatred. People on both sides (Israelis and Palestinians) are jumping to conclusions based on no facts at all, but everyone trusts the almighty hash tags. Check out #BringOurBoysHome

More than 16,000 Israelis have joined a Facebook page that calls for the murder of a Palestinian every hour until three missing Israeli settler teens are located. The page is titled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist.”

The page was launched as the Israeli army continued violent raids, curfews and closures across the occupied West Bank and shot dead Ahmad Sabarin, a Palestinian youth.

The Palestinians are (again) paying the price in blood. Palestinian legislators in the West Bank have been rounded up, and there are reports that 120 Palestinians have been “kidnapped” by the IDF.

My friends in Gaza have been posting eyewitness accounts of Israel’s latest bombardment. Netanyahu’s strategy of collective punishment isn’t new and remains just as illegal under international law today as it did in 2008-09 (Operation Cast Lead) and in November 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense).

I would like to see the following happen:

  • The three Israeli teenagers returned to their families safe and sound.
  • The dead Palestinian youth resurrected and returned to his family.
  • Netanyahu exposed for the hatemonger, fearmonger and warmonger that he is, and shunned by world leaders.
  • A new hashtag adopted by everyone around the world #WeWillHateNoMore or #EveryChildReturnHome or #NoFearNoHate or #TreatOthersAsYouWishToBeTreated
  • The 100+ Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails begin to eat again, and are released along with the other resistance fighters sitting in jail.
  • The Fatah-Hamas unity government go to the International Criminal Court.
  • And above all, THE END OF THE OCCUPATION.

The kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers is merely a symptom of a much more dangerous condition that infects all of Israeli society. End the Occupation now!

 

 

 

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“We seek a new way forward”

Dear President Obama,

Five years ago, in the days leading up to your first inauguration on January 20, 2009, Israel was waging a horrendous bloodbath in the Gaza Strip. The bombardment, Operation Cast Lead, began on December 27, 2008 and ended just 2 days before you took the oath of office. In those 23 days, Israel indiscriminately slaughtered some 1,400 Palestinian men, women and children, the great majority of whom were innocent civilians.

This massacre was cynically timed with your inauguration in mind; Israeli officials knew they could count on President Bush to do their bidding, but they weren’t sure how you might respond. Israel began and ended the military operation on its own terms, according to its own agenda, callously dismissing overtures of peace from its neighbors. (Meshal offers 10-year truce for Palestinian state on ’67 borders)

Only 6 weeks earlier, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, had informed a delegation of European parliamentarians who had traveled to Gaza in early December 2008 that

“the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights.”

Israel rejected Haniyeh’s offer; it had other plans.

The Goldstone fact-finding mission from the United Nations provides the most authoritative compilation and review of the events and actions that took place during Operation Cast Lead. I hope you will read it. I urge you to read it.

Listening to your first inaugural speech again tonight, I clearly heard you say the following at 15:00:

“To the Muslim World, we seek a new way forward based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” 

Six months later you traveled to Cairo and your speech at Cairo University was so hopeful to many people in the world, including me.

“I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.  There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.”

That speech still gives me chills but your actions since have not inspired confidence. Are you still looking for a way forward or have you decided to tread the same old path of your predecessors?

I think you know the path forward but perhaps your advisers have counseled you against it. What role has AIPAC (the Israeli lobby) played in muting your desire to build bridges with Palestine? Does the military industrial complex have any sway?

Your vetoes at the UN Security Council shield Israel from any accountability. The predictable “Israel has a right to defend herself” message coming from you in November 2012 while Israel’s drones and F-16s were again targeting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, made my stomach churn.

The decision to send Secretary of State Kerry to wrestle with Netanyahu and Abbas might have been made with good intentions, but the current peace talks are fatally flawed. I wrote to Kerry about that in April and expressed more concerns in August.

Here’s my suggestion, short and sweet with no guarantee of success, but it can’t hurt.

TALK WITH HAMAS.

Forget for a moment that Hamas is designated an FTO (foreign terrorist organization). Recall that Nelson Mandela was also designated a terrorist. . . until he wasn’t. The U.S. is good at labeling people and groups, but not so good at engaging in simple conversations.

No agenda is needed. I’m sure your secret service can manage security issues. Just listen to Haniyeh, don’t try to persuade him to do anything. At the end of the talk, you may be convinced that he’s a terrorist and the U.S. should continue to support Israel’s blockade of 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip.

Or you might not.

You might see a man who is struggling under tremendous challenges and obstacles (aka blockade) to govern his people. You might learn about some of his attempts to reconcile with Abbas. You might hear some of his ideas for ending the Occupation.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

Young Palestinians learning to speak English.

If he’s full of BS, you’ll know it soon enough. If Haniyeh genuinely wants peace, you’ll know that too.

The U.S. cannot be an honest and neutral peace broker in the Middle East if we’re seen sucking up to Israel 24/7.  A lasting peace will never be achieved by ignoring a leader democratically elected in free and fair elections.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

You have nothing to lose — no third term to worry about, nothing to prove to anyone. Despite the horror stories that your political advisers might be sharing, the path forward with the Muslim world involves sitting down with Haniyeh.

You can do it, I know you can!

Sincerely,

Lora A. Lucero

Albuquerque, NM

LoraLucero@aol.com

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A simple question about chemical weapons

President Obama’s speech last night focused on the scourge of chemical weapons.  He noted that “in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.”  Read the full transcript of his speech here.  However, he failed to mention something important.

Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993, but never ratified it. Egypt and Syria have neither signed nor ratified the CWC.

The CWC aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons.  Read more about the details of the convention here.

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama

Obama continued:

On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity.

He presented his case for a limited air strike in Syria, and then acknowledged the potential for a diplomatic solution.

I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom, and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st. And we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas — from Asia to the Middle East — who agree on the need for action.

Why isn’t President Obama seeking to bring Israel and Egypt into the CWC, along with Syria?  His silence is as loud as the sonic booms that Palestinians regularly hear over Gaza — if people were only listening!

Middle East

Middle East

I’m writing to President Obama today and asking that he consider revising the resolution that he is proposing to the UN Security Council.  He should be presenting a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad, Netanyahu, and Adly-Mansour to give up their chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. 

Has the United States destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons?

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Senator Heinrich supports airstrikes in Syria

US Senator Martin Heinrich

US Senator Martin Heinrich

I know that we are a nation that is not only rightfully weary of war, but also jaded by the dishonest use of cooked intelligence reports that led to terrible mistakes in Iraq. But this is not Iraq and we have a moral obligation to deter Assad and every regime watching him from thinking that they can gas their people with impunity, commit genocide, or employ internationally prohibited weapons. 

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will support President Obama’s request for the authorization of use of military force. 

Dear Senator Heinrich:

Your decision disappoints me and I want to tell you why.

  • Your words sound sincere but unconvincing.  A week ago when President Obama first proposed limited air strikes against Syria, I was sitting on the fence. I understand your desire to take action to stop these atrocities in Syria, but I started doing my homework and reading as much as I could about the situation.  I came to the conclusion that air strikes in Syria would do more harm than good, and listed my reasons here.
  • I’m troubled that you and President Obama and Secretary Kerry make references to the intelligence information you have seen, but you share none of it to support your decision.  Your constituents deserve more.

From my position on the Intelligence Committee, I have been briefed regularly for eight months now on developments in Syria. Those developments have been very difficult to watch. Most people only hear about these things on a news report, where it is difficult to imagine the scale and intensity of this violence. I have had a much closer view.

  • I met an FSA freedom fighter in Cairo earlier this year. His words continue to resonate with me.  I learned first-hand about the atrocities that have been occurring in Syria for the past 2 1/2 years. I also learned there is a big difference between the FSA freedom fighters and the extremists (Al Qaeda-linked) which you have linked together as “rebels”.  You write that you oppose arming the Syrian rebels which leads me to believe that you do not know the difference. Please take time to review this report released this month by the Arab Reform Initiative entitled Empowering the Democratic Resistance in Syria.
  • What is the end game? Assad has promised to retaliate if the U.S. attacks. You support limited action with no American boots on the ground, but what about the Syrian people on the ground (with or without boots)? Have you asked about the potential “collateral damage”? Have you considered what happens after Assad responds? James Fallows from The Atlantic makes a good case for not intervening here.
US Senator Martin Heinrich

US Senator Martin Heinrich

  • I know you’re not a lawyer but the legal arguments might interest you. International law Professor Jennifer Moore from the University of New Mexico is an authority on the topic and writes that:

The 1949 Geneva Conventions do not justify US missile strikes in Syria in response to chemical weapons attacks on the civilian population. The humanitarian principle of distinction prohibits the targeting of civilians, but does not sanction the decision to launch a military campaign responding to such attacks.

  • Professor Moore spells it out here.  She is joined by many other law professors from around the country who oppose military intervention in Syria in this letter dated Sept. 6, 2013.
  • I understand your desire to take action — to confront Assad and his brutality. You are a father just like President Obama.  It is brutally painful to think about innocent children being gassed to death. President Obama asks:  “At what point do we confront actions that are violating our common humanity?” And you talk about our “moral obligation”. On this point, you and I agree.  The U.S. must take action but it must be the right action. Here are the steps I recommend President Obama take.
  • The situation in Syria should not be viewed in isolation from the turmoil in Egypt, Palestine, Israel and the rest of the Middle East. The human brain likes to compartmentalize issues, especially difficult challenges, but this leads to wrongheaded actions. You and I have sat together and talked about the situation in Gaza. I would like to sit with you again to provide an update on what I learned during my extended visit in Gaza (September 2012 – May 2013). I believe I can help connect some of the dots between the Israeli Occupation, Palestinian injustices, and what you see in Syria today.

You’ve cast your vote with the wrong side of history I fear.  I hope you will reconsider.

P.S.  And is it true that you are against funding food stamps and against regulating assault weapons?  Your voting record alarms me. 
US Senator Martin Heinrich

US Senator Martin Heinrich

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Obama in his own words

I’m trying to get inside President Obama’s head to understand why he’s pressing so hard for an airstrike against Syria.

On September 4, a Swedish reporter asked Obama how he reconciles being a Nobel Peace Laureate (’09) with his current plans to attack Syria. Noticeably, he didn’t mention strategic ‘balance of power’ issues or a direct U.S. national security interest. Here’s his answer.

Obama is speaking emotionally — like a father — about the 400 dead children killed by gas, and he posits the issue as one for political leaders and all citizens to ask.

“At what point do we confront actions that are violating our common humanity?”

Framing the issue that way is profoundly shocking, at least to me, and it gives me hope.  I agree with Obama, that is exactly how we should be looking at Syria. We should be looking through that lens at every atrocity, not simply when chemical weapons are deployed against defenseless civilians.

Obama’s framing of the issue demands that we consider:

  • How do we define what constitutes “our common humanity”?
  • What actions are appropriate to respond to such violations?

The President is really challenging Americans to have that discussion, and I suspect he is wrestling with the answers himself.

In 2007, I visited city hall in Oslo, Norway where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year.  I think it’s the most magnificent city hall in the world.

Oslo City Hall

Oslo City Hall

Two years later Obama donned the mantle of Nobel Peace Laureate in that very same room.

Today I watched his 37-minute Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to see what I might gleam about his thinking in the current situation in Syria. Of course, he never once mentioned Syria or chemical weapons, but much of his 2009 speech is poignantly prescient to the situation in Syria today.

Obama’s speech begins as a university history lecture talking about “just war theory” and he notes that  the old architecture of peace-keeping is buckling. He mentions the new types of war (sectarian civil wars as an example) and acknowledges that he does not have the answers about how to meet these new challenges in the 21st century, but he knows it will require us to “think in new ways”.

I’m going to watch it again.

Mr. President: You are grappling with finding a new way of thinking while holding onto the tools of the old way of thinking (a military response). Perhaps the two are incompatible.

You are one of the brightest Presidents America has had — at least in my lifetime — and if anyone can find a new way of thinking and responding to this crisis facing our common humanity, you can!

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