Tag Archives: Palestinian

Rep. McCollum is my super-heroine

Don’t let anyone tell you that one person can’t make a difference!  

Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) is the embodiment of a one woman tidal wave washing over Congress.

For the past four years, she’s been raising the issue of the persistent and gross human rights violations perpetrated on Palestinian children by the Israeli military.

The arrest and detention of Palestinian children in Israeli jails has been well-documented by human rights organizations. Israel is the only country in the world that prosecutes children in military court, a stark example of its double standard and apartheid system of justice.

Children are taken from their beds and arrested in the middle of the night; they’re arrested on their way to school with their backpacks yanked from their shoulders; and they’re even pulled out of the arms of their teachers in classrooms. All of this has been documented and reported, thanks to Amnesty International and other Human Rights groups, but it hasn’t stopped Israel.  An estimated 500-700 children are arrested, detained and prosecuted in Israel’s military court system each year, according to Defense of Children International – Palestine.

UNICEF’s 2013 reportChildren in Israeli Military Detention, while somewhat dated still remains one of the most thorough reviews of the pattern and practice Israel employs against Palestinian children in detention.

No Way To Treat a Child — The No Way to Treat a Child campaign seeks to challenge and end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system. It is a joint project of Defense for Children International – Palestine and American Friends Service Committee.

And we even have the personal interviews of 24 Palestinian child prisoners held in Israeli jails compiled in a 2016 book “Dreaming of Freedom“, edited by Norma Hashim and translated by Yousef Aljamal. I delivered a copy of the book to Rep. McCollum in January 2018 as a ‘thank you’ for her unwavering support and advocacy on behalf of Palestinian child prisoners. dreaming-of-freedom

The United States has a big stick it could use to bring pressure to bear on Israel —- it’s annual $3.8 billion appropriation to the Israeli military. Representative McCollum doesn’t believe that U.S. taxpayers want their dollars supporting gross human rights violations of children.

In 2015, she wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State John Kerry which 19 of her Democratic colleagues signed, asking him to make this issue a top priority.  But nothing came of it.

The following year she wrote a letter to President Obama which 20 of her colleagues signed, asking him to appoint a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth to collect “vital information necessary to actively promote human rights.”  But again nothing happened.

So in 2017, she drafted a bill, H.R.4391, to prohibit any funds from being used by Israel to “support the military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.” It also required the Department of State either to certify that funds were not used in this manner or report how Israel expended them to ill-treat Palestinian children.

In July 2018, Rep. McCollum explained why H.R. 4391 was necessary.

When it didn’t pass in the 2017-2018 session, Representative McCollum strengthened the bill and reintroduced it on April 30, 2019 where it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Check out the committee membership here, and if your representative is listed, consider calling and writing and telling him/her why you think H.R. 2407 is important and should have a hearing.

On May 1, her office issued a press release explaining the bill.

The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation ActH.R. 2407 — amends a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act known as the “Leahy Law” to prohibit funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.

The bill also establishes the “Human Rights Monitoring and Palestinian Child Victims of Israeli Military Detention Fund,” authorizing $19 million annually for non-governmental organization (NGO) monitoring of human rights abuses associated with Israel’s military detention of children. The Fund also authorizes qualified NGOs to provide physical, psychological, and emotional treatment and support for Palestinian child victims of Israeli military detention, abuse, and torture.

The full text of the bill can be found here. Additional resources can be found here.

“Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.”

More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been arrested, detained, abused, and prosecuted by Israeli security forces in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem have repeatedly documented that children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation. Just weeks ago, CNN broadcast video showing armed Israeli soldiers entering a primary school in Hebron to arrest a 9-year-old who was then “frog-marched away and taken to an army vehicle.”

“Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye to the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

“I strongly believe there is a growing consensus among the American people that the Palestinian people deserve justice, equality, human rights, and the right to self-determination. It is time to stand with Palestinians, Americans, Israelis, and people around the world to reject the destructive, dehumanizing, and anti-peace policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump.”

McCollum is front in center on one of the most important human rights issues facing our country —- how we treat children. I’m going to have her back, and help her as much as I can.   Please write your member of Congress and ask him or her to cosponsor H.R. 2407.

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Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Inching towards ethnocracy

inchworm

Inchworm

Slowly, methodically, step-by-step, just like an inchworm, the State of Israel will reach its destination in 2018, on its 70th birthday.

The State of Israel will officially discard its trappings as a western democracy, and cloak itself proudly as the newest Ethnocracy in the Middle East.

A political regime that facilitates expansion and control by a dominant ethnicity in contested lands. It is neither democratic nor authoritarian, with rights and capabilities depending primarily on ethnic origin and geographic location.

The biggest lie — repeated so often that few question it — is the statement that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.” It’s a necessary lie from Israel’s perspective to gain legitimacy and support from its #1 fan club in the United States, the Congress.

In recent years, Israeli leaders have not been shy about proclaiming their true intention. The contradictions between being a Jewish state and a democratic state are now resolved —- dropping any pretense of democratic values in favor of a Jewish-only state that favors Jews, claiming all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, giving only the Jewish people the right of self-determination, allowing Jewish legislators to throw out Palestinian legislators from the Knesset, removing Arabic as an official language of the State along with Hebrew, and neutering the Israeli judiciary from overturning any laws passed by the Knesset regardless if they violate international human rights norms or not. (Israeli Parliament Endorses ‘nation-state bill’ for first reading – by Jonathan Cook – April 9, 2018 – AlJazeera)

Even scholars in Israel, such as Alexander Kedar, Shlomo Sand, Asaad Ghanem, Haim Yakobi, Nur Masalha and Hannah Naveh, have recognized Israel as an ethnocracy. 

What does this mean for the 20% of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, but Palestinians?  What about the Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and occupied Gaza Strip?

The only conclusion:

  • They will live and die as second-class citizens, non-citizens and refugees with no hope of helping Israel to become a “consensual democracy” as envisioned by Palestinian leaders in 2006 in “Future Vision.”
  • They and their children will live in an apartheid state. “If being an apartheid state means committing inhumane acts, systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another, then Israel is guilty, a United Nations panel has determined in a new report.” Washington Post, March 16, 2017
  • The U.S. Congress must recognize that their alliance with the State of Israel contravenes our country’s democratic values, and we must distance ourselves from this undemocratic State.
  • Someone needs to make a new YouTube video repeating the following mantra over and over again so that the new reality and truth finally sink in.

Israel is an Ethnocracy and Apartheid State in the Middle East. <repeat>

Israel is an Ethnocracy and Apartheid State in the Middle East. <repeat>

Israel is an Ethnocracy and Apartheid State in the Middle East. <repeat>

 

 

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A poem for people who fear the Palestinians’ freedom

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Day #44 – Aug. 19, 2014 – End of the Ceasefire

Graph death toll gaza

On August 19, 2014, Israel walked away from talks in Cairo which were held to discuss terms for a permanent ceasefire, and the fighting resumed. Initially, Hamas had demanded an end to Israel’s suffocating 8-year siege on the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians I heard from in Gaza were demanding the same. “We’d rather die a fast death in battle, than a slow death under this siege.”

Israel was demanding that Hamas disarm — a nonstarter from the Palestinian side.

Shujaya 10

During negotiations, it appeared the Palestinian side made concessions in Cairo and agreed to a two-stage solution. First, open the crossings and allow reconstruction to begin immediately. Second, after further talks a month later, the demands for opening the seaport and airport in Gaza and other demands would be negotiated.

But the talks in Cairo ended.

More than 25 airstrikes hit Gaza in response to rocket fire, killing a woman and a two-year-old girl, and wounding at least 15 others in Gaza City. Two children were injured in Rafah, hospital officials said, and there were reports of hundreds of civilians fleeing their homes for UN shelters.

CNN reported the breakdown of talks in a short video here.  And Haaretz reported on this day a year ago with a minute-by-minute breakdown of actions taken by both sides, here.

Who knows what went on behind the scenes in Cairo? A year later, we know that none (or very few) of the demands made by the Palestinians have been realized. No seaport today. No plans for rebuilding the airport in Gaza. Israel has not lifted the siege or eased travel restrictions against the Palestinians.  Many families left homeless as a result of the fighting, remain homeless today.

One has to wonder, WHEN IS THE NEXT DEADLY ASSAULT GOING TO COME? 

What we do know ……. the underlying factors that gave rise to Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer have not been addressed. Israel’s Occupation and its siege of Gaza continue to this day, representing a serious security threat to Israelis, and the inhumane and insufferable living conditions for 1.8 million Palestinians.

Shujaya 11

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Day #32 – August 7, 2014 – “A Hideous Atrocity”

Professor Noam Chomsky was Amy Goodman’s guest on Democracy Now, on this date one year ago.  He spoke about Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Watch the video and/or read the transcript from that interview.

Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.)

Professor Noam Chomsky (r.) and Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj (l.) in Gaza – October 2012

I met Noam Chomsky in October 2012, not at MIT where he is Professor Emeritus, not in Santa Fe at the Lensic Arts Center, nor in any of his many speaking engagements around the country.

I met Noam Chomsky in Gaza.  He was invited to speak at a conference held at the Islamic University of Gaza. Mohammed Awad, one of my first friends in Gaza, alerted me to Chomsky’s arrival and we both attended two of his talks.  I wrote about it here on my blog.

Mohammed Awad

Mohammed Awad

Two years earlier he had been invited to lecture in the West Bank by a Palestinian university, but Israel refused him permission to travel to the West Bank. Disgraceful!

When I remember that incident, I swing from anger at — to embarrassment for — the State of Israel.  No one does a better job at “delegitimzing” the State of Israel in the eyes of the community of nations, than Israel herself.

Professor Chomsky also spoke to a smaller group in Gaza at the House of Wisdom. Although it was difficult for me to hear him, he speaks so quietly, I was impressed with how well he listened to the young people and responded to them directly.

Chomsky speaking at House of Wisdom in Gaza

Chomsky speaking at House of Wisdom in Gaza

Professor Chomsky listening to young Palestinians.

Professor Chomsky listening to young Palestinians.

525676_4839470750541_609501141_n

I listened but did not engage in the conversation at The Wisdom House. I had a good chuckle when a participant asked me if I was Noam Chomsky’s wife.  (I was the only female Westerner in the room).

The House of Wisdom in Gaza

The House of Wisdom in Gaza

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A young Zionist’s anger and fear

A friend of a friend posted the following message on Facebook. I skimmed through it quickly at first and shook my head saying “She’s wrong, she’s wrong, she’s wrong!” And then I was going to discard it.

Something took me back for a second look, a slower read.

Instead of trying to “educate” this young Zionist Jew, and respond to her inaccuracies, I wanted to feel her pain and anger. She has a lot of both.

Please read her words, not with judgment or criticism, but with care and concern. She obviously can’t hear the pain or anger of the Palestinians in Gaza today, or the frustration of the activists who are supporting the Palestinians, but perhaps we can hear her.

I am sick and tired of having to defend my right to be alive. The world stood by silently as 1/3 of the Jewish world population was systemically exterminated during the Holocaust. Not because they didn’t know what was happening. It was because they did not care. Israel was created because Jews realized that if ever a people would try and finish the job, the world would again be silent. It’s happening now. Jews worldwide are under attack. Do me a favor friends, IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING ISRAEL IS DOING RIGHT NOW TO DEFEND ITSELF AND THE JEWISH (AND ARAB) POPULATION THAT LIVES THERE, PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM YOUR LIST OF FRIENDS BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO SEE OR HEAR ANY OF YOUR MISGUIDED, MISINFORMED, ANTISEMITIC BULLSHIT ANYMORE. ANYONE WHO THINKS ISRAEL IS A WAR CRIMINAL IS AN ANTISEMITE AND THERE IS NO REASON FOR US TO BE FRIENDS. BE IT ON FACEBOOK OR REAL LIFE.
There are 15 million Jews in the world. That is 0.2% of the world population. Yes, less than 1 fucking percent of the whole world is Jewish. If you don’t think that such a small number of people need a place to call their own, especially given our history, and especially since there are people everywhere, right now, again calling for our extermination, and that we need to do everything and anything to protect it, then you hate Jews and you hate Israel and by extension, you hate me. Please, let’s not be friends.”

Dear Friend:

Your words very clearly express your pain and anger. I think I hear your fear too.

I’m not going to respond to the facts you shared about the Holocaust, the world’s criticism directed at the State of Israel today or Israel’s right to defend herself. But I hear you!

I’m not going to explain who the Palestinians are, or their history, or their right to resist the occupation. I don’t think you would hear me.

I’m just going to tell you a story about a young man who attended a Passover Seder in my community (Albuquerque, NM) about 10 years ago. As we were reciting the haggadah, someone asked “why are Jews God’s ‘Chosen People’?”

This young man was probably 17 or 18 years old at the time, but very wise for his young age. He immediately chimed in and said “Jews are the ‘Chosen People’ because God chose them to teach the rest of the world how to live with our neighbors.”

That’s a powerful message!

If it’s true, if Jews are the ‘Chosen People’ to teach us how to get along and live as neighbors, then how should the State of Israel (and Jews everywhere) share that lesson with the world?

  • By “unfriending” anyone on Facebook who disagrees with our point of view?
  • By only hanging out with people who think the way we do? Pray the way we pray?
  • By demonizing and killing hundreds of people we have never met (such as the Palestinians in Gaza)?
  • By building a wall between us and our neighbors so we can’t see each other, talk with each other, visit with each other?

You’re still living with the horror of the Holocaust but the Palestinians weren’t responsible for that nightmare.

I suspect you’ve never met a Palestinian or talked with a Palestinian.

If that young man at the Passover Seder was right, and God’s Chosen People are here to teach us all how to live with our neighbors, how can Jews help us live together? That young man at the Passover Seder is a Palestinian from Gaza, but I’m not sure whether he’s still alive.

I’m told that the Golden Rule is in the Torah, just as it’s in the Bible and Quran. Can the Golden Rule help heal your pain and fear?

Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot. Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”  – Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Your Facebook message ends with a fear that I hate you.

“If you don’t think that such a small number of people need a place to call their own, especially given our history, and especially since there are people everywhere, right now, again calling for our extermination, and that we need to do everything and anything to protect it, then you hate Jews and you hate Israel and by extension, you hate me. Please, let’s not be friends.”

I don’t hate Jews, I don’t hate Israel, and I don’t hate you.  I want to learn how to live together as neighbors respecting the Golden Rule.

ABC News - Sulome Anderson

ABC News – Sulome Anderson

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Jus in Bello and Jus ad Bellum – The Laws of War

It’s Not Wrong, It’s Illegal: Situating the Gaza Blockade Between International Law and the UN Response – Noura Erakat

11 UCLA J. Islamic & Near E. L. 37 (available online for free download).

Living in Gaza for 8 months and sitting helplessly while Israeli bombs were falling all around us for 8 days in November 2012, I had a unique opportunity to experience “war” close-up and personal in a way that most Americans will never understand.

The experience stunned me and filled me with questions.

How could anyone call this a “war”?  It certainly was not a war of equals.  Has the definition of “war” been so obscured (war on drugs, war on terrorism) that any act of aggression might constitute an act of war?

Listening to President Obama on the radio say that “Israel has a right to defend herself” made me yell “Don’t the Palestinians in Gaza have the right of self-defense too?”

Why wasn’t anyone talking about the OCCUPATION when they reported about Hamas and others firing rockets into Israel, the growing death toll in Gaza, and the ceasefire negotiated with the help of Egypt’s new President Morsi?  All of the news reports from the West that I saw online conveniently omitted the OCCUPATION. Why?

israel_palestine-map-edit-1353601538.24

It seemed like I was living in an alternate universe while I was in Gaza, and I was very confused.  Now, however, Noura Erakat’s law review article has cleared up a lot of my confusion.  Thank goodness, there’s no alternate universe, just an impotent United Nations and a deliberate, ongoing campaign by Israel and the United States to blur the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello.

War is governed by two different branches of international law.  As an attorney, you would think I should have known this, but I didn’t.  So it’s reasonable to assume that most journalists don’t know it either, but Obama and Netanyahu should.

Jus ad bellum is the branch of law that defines the legitimate reasons a state may engage in war and focuses on certain criteria that render a war just. The principal modern legal source of jus ad bellum derives from the Charter of the United Nations, which declares in Article 2: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”; and in Article 51: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

Jus in bello, by contrast, is the set of laws that come into effect once a war has begun. Its purpose is to regulate how wars are fought, without prejudice to the reasons of how or why they had begun. So a party engaged in a war that could easily be defined as unjust (for example, Iraq’s aggressive invasion of Kuwait in 1990) would still have to adhere to certain rules during the prosecution of the war, as would the side committed to righting the initial injustice. This branch of law relies on customary law, based on recognized practices of war, as well as treaty laws (such as the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907), which set out the rules for conduct of hostilities.

The easy way to remember the difference between the two is to remember that jus ad bellum refers to the laws governing when a state may START a war, and jus in bello refers to the laws governing how a state must CONDUCT the war.

Erakat says that  Israel is trying deliberately to change the law, blurring the distinction between the two and challenging the existing legal order: (a) by changing what is the permissible use of force that is allowed during an occupation, and (b) by changing the legal definition of “self-defense”.

My confusion has cleared considerably after reading Erakat’s article.  I encourage everyone (lawyers and non-lawyers alike) to read it, available here.

Much of her argument hinges on whether Israel occupies the Gaza Strip.  Israel says it evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005 when it removed its settlements and soldiers, but Erakat notes that Israel maintains “effective control” over Gaza’s air space, seaports, telecommunications networks, electromagnetic sphere, tax revenue distribution, and population registry.  Israel maintains control over movement across 5 border crossings, and I will add that Egypt appears to be doing Israel’s bidding as far as controlling the Rafah border crossing.

Israel has also made the argument that there is no OCCUPATION in the West Bank because there was no State of Palestine in 1948 when it seized the land. Instead, Israel says it’s merely “administering the territories” despite the fact that the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and the Israeli Supreme Court all reject that argument.

If there is no OCCUPATION, then Israel has no legal obligation as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, but if there is an OCCUPATION, her responsibilities to the Palestinians are greater and she cannot invoke the right to self-defense in the same way.  The permissible use of force and the right to self-defense are treated differently under jus in bello and jus ad bellum. 

Under jus in bello, the permissible use of force is expansive. The principles of distinction and proportionality apply but Israel can probably use greater firepower than would be allowed under OCCUPATION, where the permissible use of force is limited to law enforcement and policing. That is why it’s very important to understand the distinction between the two and why Israel is working so hard to control the messaging about the OCCUPATION.

Israel is trying to avoid the constraints of international humanitarian law when it invokes “self defense.”  The right of self defense, Noura Erakat writes, has been under debate since the US attacked Iraq in the early 1990s. Should the legal definition be subject to the broad framework of customary international law? Or considered within the narrow constraints of the UN Charter? Can self-defense be invoked against non-state actors?

Israel cites two UN Security Council Resolutions adopted in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks (Res. 1368 and Res. 1373) which give states the right to defend against terrorist attacks.  Israel frames all acts of Palestinian violence as terrorism triggering these resolutions.  It appears Obama has adopted that same strategy, but Erakat makes a good argument that these resolutions do not apply to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Israel has rendered Gaza into a legal black hole where the only applicable law is its own.

Security Council Considers Middle East Situation, Including Palestinian Question, May 22, 2013

Security Council Considers Middle East Situation, Including Palestinian Question, May 22, 2013

Noura Erakat has some strong words about the U.N. Security Council’s failure to uphold the rule of law, in the way it has handled Israel’s actions vis a vis Palestinians.

The blockade on Gaza imposed in June 2007 and ongoing to this day, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), the assault against the Mavi Marmara in international waters in 2010, and the most recent assault last November which I witnessed in Gaza, are examples of the Security Council’s failure to hold Israel accountable under international law, failed to explicitly condemn the illegal blockade, and politicized international humanitarian law.

The United States has been complicit in this failure. Between 1972-1997, the US used its veto power on the UN Security Council 32 times to shield Israel from rebuke, nearly 1/2 of its vetoes since the founding of the United Nations.  (That fact alone bolsters my belief that nothing will change in Israel and Palestine until Americans change our government’s subservience to Israel. We must educate our Congress and President.)

Noura Erakat ends her law review article with some very clear recommendations for the United Nations, including reforming how the veto process works on the Security Council.  I wonder if anyone at the UN has read her piece.  They should.

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Gaza defies soundbites

How do I tell Americans about Gaza?

Having just arrived in New York City, returning from 8 months in Gaza, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how to answer the question everyone has asked. “What do you think of Gaza?”

The first person to ask was the American woman standing in front of me in line at JFK Airport as we were waiting to pass through Customs. She had been on a two-week tour of Turkey and expressed surprise when I said I was returning from Gaza.  She was interested in what Palestinians think about climate change.

The second person was the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport. He was a Greek who had immigrated to the US twenty years ago for a job.  When he learned I had lived in Gaza, he was curious about why I would spend so much time there.

Then nieces and nephews started asking me about Gaza, but Gaza defies soundbites.

Do I tell them about the people I met?  The difficulty traveling into Gaza?  The serious environmental challenges with the water?  Or the frustrating challenges with the electricity?  Or that there are zilch jobs in Gaza for the new university graduates? Or the drones buzzing overhead, the F-16s in the sky and bombs exploding during the 8-day assault last November?

Would they even believe me?

Lora with a beautiful floral arrangement in Gaza.

Lora with a beautiful floral arrangement in Gaza.

A part of me wants to focus on the daily injustices and humiliation that Palestinians are enduring as a consequence of Israel’s 65-year occupation and the 6-year siege, but that requires a basic understanding on the part of the listener about the history which I can’t assume most Americans know.

One well-educated American friend told me she doesn’t understand my use of the term “Occupation” since the Israelis evacuated their settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, reminding me that the US media never, ever places the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the context of the Occupation.

This absence of any discourse about the Occupation explains why most Americans simply believe there are two sides — one legitimate and the other illegitimate — fighting in the Middle East.  One side is concerned about its security and defending itself against the other side’s maniacal obsession to destroy the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

Young Palestinian men enjoying a BBQ at the beach in Gaza.

Young Palestinian men enjoying a BBQ at the beach in Gaza.

I think I have answered my question.

The first words out of my mouth when someone asks me about Gaza will be about the Occupation.  By waiting for their reaction to that word, I should be able to gauge how much they know and if they are capable of digesting more information.

But then, of course, there are people for whom the subject of Gaza is too sensitive and they “don’t want to go there.” I’m not going to shove it in their face, but I hope they will want to talk about it with me someday.  Until then, there are many others who are curious and want to learn.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Media, Occupation, Uncategorized

Mahmoud Sarsak – Palestinian soccer player

I wonder if the Palestinian football player, Mahmoud Sarsak, will be watching the game tonight in London where I believe he is touring.

Young people in Gaza produced this 3-minute video to commend Mahmoud Sarsak, the Palestine footballer, and ex-prisoner, for refusing to attend the October 2012 El Clásico match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid because Israeli soldier and ex-prisoner of war Gilad Shalit was to be present as a VIP guest.

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Filed under Football - Soccer, Gaza, nonviolent resistance, People, Video