Tag Archives: US Congress

Dreaming of Freedom

dreaming-of-freedom

Dear Representative McCollum,

Thank you for sponsoring H.R. 4391, Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.  I want to help educate your colleagues in Congress about the serious abuses perpetrated upon Palestinian children by Israel, including military detention and torture.

Your legislation requires that the Secretary of State certify that American funds do not support Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children. This measure should be a no-brainer, but I know that the Israeli lobby will fight tooth and nail to obfuscate the issues.

I highly recommend a book on this subject “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak” (June 2016).  I hope the testimonies of Palestinian child prisoners who have been subjected to Israeli detention and torture will be part of the public record.

I will ask my member of Congress from New Mexico to cosponsor your bill. If there’s anything further I can do to help, please let me know.

Sincerely,

 

 

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Filed under Israel, Israel Defense Forces, People, Uncategorized, US Policy

Who by bulldozer, and who at gunpoint?

Rabbi Arik Ascherman originally presented these remarks at a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.  They were subsequently published in The Times of Israel on Sept. 20, here. I share them on my blog to find an audience that might not have seen or read his plea earlier.  Shana Tova to my Jewish friends and family.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Rabbi Arik Ascherman

Presentation for Senate Briefing – September 19th, 2017

My name is Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and I am here to plead for the life of Aysar’s village. After 21 years leading Rabbis For Human Rights, I recently founded “Torat Tzedek Torah of Justice,” dedicated to the human rights of Israeli single parent moms and Palestinians alike, because the Torah teaches us that every human being is created in God’s Image. I come before you without a political agenda. Defending human rights does take place in a political context. What I mean is that, while we believe that the Occupation must end because it inevitably leads to human rights violations, it is beyond our mandate as a human rights organization to take a position on a one state versus two state versus ten state solution, or where borders should be.

This year, September 21st is both International Peace Day, and Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year. Also known as Yom Hadin, the day of judgment, in two days we will pray, “On Rosh HaShanah it is written. On Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who will live, and who will die… Who will be content, and who will suffer.” Many of you know this prayer because the late Leonard Cohen put some of the words to music, “Who by fire, who by water” In Susya’s case, “Who by bulldozer, and who at gunpoint? Who by direct force, and who by slow strangulation? Who by Jerusalem, and who by Washington?”

Arik at US capitol

I’m here, rather than home in Israel preparing for Rosh HaShanah, because the fate of Susya will in all likelihood be determined in Washington. I will explain, but first a bit of background:

The Palestinian residents of Susya lived on both sides of what became the 1948 border. They fled or were expelled, depending on your narrative, from their lands on the Israeli side. Their village on the side under Jordanian control was Susya. In 1967 they again came under Israeli control. In this age of alternative facts, some say that Susya never existed. The truth is that there are pictures of a visit by representatives of the U.S. Consulate, it appears in British records, and there are signs in the archeological site that used to be Susya pointing out the caves that were once homes. There is a 1982 report from the Israeli government lawyer, Plia Albeck. She is known as the “mother of the settlements.” She certainly did not accept the idea that most experts on international law who are not over the top pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian adopt, that the Fourth Geneva convention applies in the West Bank, and forbids the creation of settlements even on so called State Land. She proudly explained in her memoirs that she did everything she could to find lands to establish settlements. In her 1982 report, she is trying very hard to establish a settlement in the area. However, she writes that she has a problem. There is a Palestinian village called Susya, surrounded by 3,000 dunam (750 acres) of privately owned and registered land. It would take me all day to explain the ins and outs of determining land ownership. Suffice it to say that it is highly unusual for Israeli officials to acknowledge Palestinian lands as privately registered, certainly in the South Hebron Hills.

Albeck indicated that there was one hill where a settlement could be set up, and the settlement also called Susya was established in 1983. Several years later the settlers asked Albeck for help, and she wrote to them that they had so clearly built beyond the area she said could be built upon that any attempt on her part to help them would only get them in more legal trouble. More recently, a report by the pro-Settlement NGO “Regavim” noted that there were some 23 homes in the settlement of Susya built on private Palestinian land. Nevertheless, Israel maintains that there is no issue of eifa v’eifa (discriminatory double standards), but simply maintaining law and order.

In 1986, the residents of Palestinian Susya were expelled from their homes in order to make an archaeological site out of an ancient synagogue located there. Make no mistake, we Jews do have ancient roots in our homeland. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians should try to establish their root in our shared land by denying the roots of the other. However, rather than make the synagogue alone an archaeological site, the residents were forced to abandon their entire village. Some of them moved on to their nearby agricultural lands, living again in simple caves. Harassment began in the mid-90s. The villagers were again expelled after a settler was murdered in 2001 (Not by somebody from Palestinian Susya, and no actions have been taken against the settlements where settlers who murdered Palestinians live.) Settlers accompanied the soldiers, who demolished the caves and filled in water cisterns.

The Israeli High Court ruled that this was an illegal expulsion, and returned the Palestinians to their lands. However, they were left “Nisht aher, un nisht aher,” (Yiddish-neither here nor there), because the Court neglected to address how they could replace their demolished homes. In 1971 the Israeli army, in contradiction to the Hague Convention that requires leaving civilian affairs in the hands of the civilian population unless there is an overriding military necessity, abolished Palestinian local and regional planning and zoning committees. The army assumed all planning responsibilities. For the most part, they either inadequately plan for Palestinian building, or don’t plan at all. All of Susya’s applications to build legally were rejected. In the most recent attempt, the army committee ruled in 2013 that it would be “unfair” to force the Palestinians to live in an isolated area without infrastructure. There are of course many isolated settlements. Electrical lines and water mains actually run right by Susya from settlement to settlement, but Palestinian Susya isn’t given access to this infrastructure. The real reason, as a representative of the U.S. Consulate who attended the meeting of the army planning commission with us heard, was expressed by a representative of the local settlement council, “We all know that this hearing is a joke. You would never approve a Palestinian village so close to our settlement.”

In 2011, the local settlement council and Regavim initiated a Court appeal to have Palestinian Susya wiped off the face of the earth. They demanded that all the structures that Palestinians were forced to build “illegally” be demolished.

Here Washington comes in. Contrary to what Israel tells many foreign governments, the Israeli High Court has never ruled that Susya must be destroyed. In fact, the case is still in court. However, neither has the Court prevented the demolitions. Currently, the decision to demolish or not demolish is a government prerogative. The court is interested in an agreement, and will not order the destruction of Susya if the Israeli government objects. It’s therefore legitimate and crucial for the international community to express an opinion. Given the settlement movement’s intense pressure on the government to demolish, the only reason that Susya is still standing today is because of international concern led by the U.S. As a result of that concern, Israel budged in 2015. They agreed to meet with the residents of Susya.

I was present at those meetings. The army offered to recognize and help build Palestinian Susya on their lands. The only disagreement was over which part of their lands the village would be built. Defense Defense Minister Lieberman then replaced Defense Minister Ya’alon. In August 2016, Lieberman asked the Court for more time to study the issue. He requested a postponement until just after the U.S. elections. He has continued to ask for postponements.

Frankly, the common wisdom in both Washington and Jerusalem, was that the current U.S. administration would quickly give the green light for Susya’s demolition. Apparently, that hasn’t happened until now. It seems that in Washington there was an understanding that there will be no chance for a renewed peace process if the U.S. backs down on elementary issues of fairness and justice.

Susya’s residents must be allowed to live on their lands, whether or not there will ever be peace, and no matter who will eventually be sovereign over this area. If we take our Prime Minister seriously when he declares that there will not be a Palestinian state on his watch that only increases our responsibility towards the Palestinians who will remain under our control for the foreseeable future. However, let’s be clear. The obstacle to peace is a lack of hope. Polls show that both Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but neither believe that the other side wants peace. If you allow Susya to be destroyed, hope will be diminished. The Palestinian trust in the ability of the U.S. to be an honest broker will be further compromised.

We are extremely concerned that Washington’s position has now changed, or that Israel believes that Washington has no intent continuing to vigorously engage Israel on behalf of Susya. While we are waiting for the next scheduled court deadline in late October, Minister Lieberman recently declared that the Ministry is working on plans to destroy Susya and the community of Khan Al Akhmar in the coming months. (Khan Al Akhmar is one of the West Bank communities of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe, intimidated into leaving Israel in the early 1950s. Along with Susya, Khan Al Ahmar is a very symbolic test case, because all the sides have drawn lines in the sand. Up until now, the international community has protected the school Rabbis For Human Rights helped build there.)

My questions to you are, “What can each of you do to ensure that the U.S. continues to vigorously lead international support for Susya. How many members of Congress will make personal phone calls to the President, his advisors, and the State Department?” I would prefer that human beings do not play God, deciding “Who shall live and who shall die.” But, that’s the reality. In two days I will stand before God to plead for a sweet and good year for myself, for my loved ones, for my people, for my country and for our world. I will pray for Susya, for Khan Al Akhmar, for Israelis in need of public housing and also for Israeli Bedouin communities such as Umm Al Hiran and Al Araqib. They too won’t exist in another year if Israeli government policy doesn’t change, or if there isn’t salvation from another quarter. However, our tradition teaches us that we cannot ask for God’s forgiveness and blessing before making every effort to make amends with our fellow human beings. In the same vein, I cannot come cleanly before the heavenly tribunal without standing first before you. You in this room and in this city are the tribunal with the ability to determine whether Aysar’s village will live or die. With power, comes responsibility. Please do not shirk your responsibility. If you do, this boy will not have a home. It is really that simple.

Some say that Israel’s democracy should make these decisions. That is disingenuous. Palestinians cannot vote for the Knesset. They cannot sit as judges on the courts that determine their fate, nor serve on the planning committee for their communities. Israelis cannot claim a democratic right to determine the fate of those not part of their democracy. Because Israel doesn’t have a constitution or a Bill of Rights, even Israeli Bedouin villages such as Umm Al Hiran or Al Araqib don’t have the protections that democracy is supposed to provide. Although Al Araqib existed before the State of Israel, and Umm Al Hiran exists where Israel placed its residents in 1956, they are a minority. The majority has “democratically” decided to destroy them. Al Araqib has been demolished nearly 120 times since 2010. Israel is currently seeking to complete the expulsion of the non-Jewish residents of Umm Al Hiran, in order to continue the building of Jewish “Hiran” on the rubble of Umm Al Hiran. As a Jew, an Israeli, a rabbi and a Zionist, it pains me to share with you these truths, but they are the truth.

Finally, it is not popular in Israel today to be a human rights defender. If you google, “Ascherman, knife,” you can watch me being attacked by a young knife wielding settler in October 2015. It wasn’t the first time I was physically attacked, nor the last. At the recent sentencing hearing, I said I was not interested in punishment, but rehabilitation. Every young person, whether or not I agree with him or her, and whether they are Jewish or not, should have their entire life ahead of them to fulfill dreams and contribute to society. Having expressed that to an Israeli court on behalf of my attacker, I certainly feel qualified to make the plea in the court before which I now stand -You. “Do not take from Aysar his dreams and his future.” The power is in your hands. Not to make a decision is to make a decision.

Thank you. Shana Tova. I wish you a good and sweet new year. Gmar Khatima Tova-May the final seal for Susya, Umm Al Hiran, Khan Al Akhmar, Al Araqib and for all of us, be the seal of life.

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U.S. Senate to consider S.Res.6 opposing international law – January 17, 2017

loss-of-landAs the US Senate considers S.Res.6 condemning the UN and specifically asking for the repeal of UN Resolution 2334, the Palestine delegation addresses the UN Security Council today. It’s worth reading the Ambassador’s statement in its entirety, here.

In comparison to Senator Marco Rubio’s language in S.Res.6, Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour sounds like an adult.

“Resolution 2334 (2016) is not anti-Israel; it is anti-settlements, anti-violence, anti-human rights violations. As such, resolution 2334 (2016) is clearly pro-peace, pro-international law, pro-two-States and thus pro-Palestine and pro-Israel.
Moreover, resolution 2334 (2016) cannot by any sense of reason be characterized as one-sided. The law – on which the resolution is firmly based – is universal and fair and can never be biased. This is a fact and is the lifeline of our international system.”

What is so striking to me is that one speaks of the facts, while the other obfuscates the facts in rhetoric that is clearly Orwellian.  You can guess which is which.  Have we truly descended into a post-factual world where the truth doesn’t matter any more?

After the UN Security Council’s approval of UNSC Res. 2334 in December 2016, NPR prepared a short piece — 7 Things To Know About Israeli Settlements.

When the Israelis and Palestinians first began peace talks after a 1993 interim agreement, the West Bank settlers numbered a little over 100,000. Today they total around 400,000 and live in about 130 separate settlements. That number does not include East Jerusalem.

Peace Now keeps a pretty good record of Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Check it out here.

Unsuspecting Americans might not realize that S.Res.6 is defending Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory which has long been held illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Why are our Senators even voting on a resolution premised on support of illegal activities?

The practical effect of S.Res.6 is that it encourages the status quo, where Israel’s settlement expansion continues. Should the U.S. Senate really encourage Israel to continue eating the pizza while urging the parties to talk about how to divide the pizza?

I’ll be watching closely to see how “my” two Senators from New Mexico vote today. They have heard my opinion about S.Res.6. If they vote in the affirmative, I’m going to ask them for an explanation of their vote.

 

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Does Congress listen to average blokes?

Actually, it’s a fair question and I don’t have the answer.

In my long history of writing elected officials, I’ve rarely received anything more than a form letter in response, and more often then not, these form letters are nonresponsive.

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But I keep writing because (1) the act of writing empowers me and I learn about the issue; (2) writing is a respectful way of telling my elected officials that I’m watching them and care about these issues; and (3) writing letters provides a paper-trail to share with other constitutents/voters/average blokes.

(I also routinely call the Congressional offices in DC to register my 30 second opinion on a current issue — their numbers are on speed dial.)

Given all the money flowing into Congress from special interests, drowning out our voices because corporations have free speech rights, ya’ know, it’s even more important for average blokes to write — write clearly and write often.

This week I wrote two letters to Congress — here’s the shorter one.

I’m writing on behalf of the members of the _____________ to ask you to reconsider your support as cosponsor of S.Res.6 – Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.  A copy of UNSC Res. 2334 is attached.

With the passage of UNSC Res. 2334, every member of the United Nations Security Council, save the United States, is urging the State of Israel to meet its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and end the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories. UNSC Res. 2334 is even-handed and balanced when it speaks to both Israelis and Palestinians to “act on the basis of international law” and to return to the negotiating table.

The United States Congress is standing on the wrong side of history when it stands alone among the community of nations, to denounce well-established international law. The United States is not being a friend to the State of Israel by trying to shield it from criticism, just as a good friend doesn’t turn a blind eye to the destructive behavior of someone he/she cares about.

We believe President Obama’s decision to abstain in the UNSC Res. 2334 vote was both courageous and correct. We urge you to seek amendments to S.Res.6 to ensure that it supports international law, and supports negotiations between the parties in a balanced and fair manner.

 

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#GoingtoGaza – July 2015

Traveling to Gaza is challenging, as my daily, monthly, yearly journal illustrates. I’m thankful I visited Gaza in 2004 (10 days) and again in 2012-2013 (9 months). When I return to Gaza, I’ll think twice about leaving again considering the obstacles in traveling across the border.

The following entries are from July 2015 when I was in Baltimore awaiting approval from Egypt to cross the Sinai. Earlier entries can be found on my blog.

Day #299 – Reading David Hirst’s book about the history of Palestine. Wish I’d read it many years ago. #GoingtoGaza

Day #300 – Feeling depressed. Lack of sleep contributing to my depression. Not much hope getting into Gaza. No plan B. #GoingtoGaza

Day #301 – Met Maurice Jacobsen online. He’s started a new video project called WE ALL LIVE IN GAZA.  www.wegaza.com  He’s hoping to get into Gaza.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #302 – Good chat with Hamza from Gaza on Skype and spent time reviewing his paper.  I need to be more disciplined about my own writing.  #GoingtoGaza

Day #303 – The 4th of July, overcast and raining in Baltimore. I have never felt patriotic or full of national pride. Don’t care to wave flags and sing songs. Thinking America’s birthday celebration should be accompanied by some sober assessment of the need to mature and grow up. #GoingtoGaza

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Lora Lucero in Baltimore summer 2015

Day #304 – Trying to figure out Plan B if I can’t get into Gaza. How much longer do I wait? Can I help from “outside”? What does “help” mean? #GoingtoGaza

Day #305 – “Helping Gaza from the outside” could possibly mean:

(1) raising $$ for a good cause

(2) writing about Gaza and getting published

(3) working for an NGO outside of Gaza focused on Human Rights in Gaza

(4) helping – working with the legal effort at the ICC?

(5) speaking about Gaza in USA  What else? #GoingtoGaza

Day #306 – “Why should Americans give a damn about Gaza?” I need to answer that question before I meet with Rep. Lujan-Grisham later this month. #GoingtoGaza

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Author David Hirst

Day #307 – I sat next to a young woman on the bus who asked me about the book on my lap. David Hirst’s “The Gun and the Olive Branch“.  I felt very comfortable and confident talking about the book, Israel and Palestine.  Wish it was always that easy. #GoingtoGaza

Days #308-309 – Saw my hero from a distance tonight (July 9, 2015). President Jimmy Carter was autographing his book “A Full Life – Reflections at Ninety” for 200+ people standing in long line at Politics & Prose in DC.  I took the bus, Amtrak, Marc, Metro and walked a couple miles to get there. It was worth the effort!  #GoingtoGaza

Day #310 – Traveled to NYC on Bolt Bus. Connections were easy. No waiting lines. We take our mobility for granted. #GoingtoGaza

Days #311 – 312 – I had an aha moment on Saturday when I was standing on the platform waiting for the subway to go to Crown Heights. I cherish the experiences of immersing myself in new places, new cultures, new people. Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights, poor blacks at Enoch Pratt Library, Palestinians in Gaza. Many more.  I love observing them all.  Guess I’ve traded my future security and stability for these types of experiences. #GoingtoGaza

“You must accommodate changing times but cling to unchanging principles.” Pres. Carter’s school teacher – Miss Julia Coleman

Day #313 – Paint nite in Manhattan with sis and the nieces. Tired (had not slept nite before) and 2 gin & tonics. When my camera fell behind the bench, I felt awful. Upset and wanted to cry. Left and took subway home by myself. Sis and girls took taxi and beat me home. They tried to console me in front of the house. I felt more miserable for ruining the evening. What lesson(s) did I learn? That family is very important for my sanity and I’m lucky to have nieces who are so loving and empathetic. Chanie talked about positive affirmations. #GoingtoGaza <~~~~ is my positive affirmation.

Days #311 – 319  – Catching up on the days when I was not connected to social media and technology. Spent time with my family in NYC and Florida, and celebrated Ramadan and Eid with my Palestinian friends in Florida. Off of Facebook for the month of Ramadan helped me redirect my focus and energy away from the “drama” and towards real relationships that I want to nurture more. #GoingtoGaza

Day #320 – A young Palestinian from Gaza announced on Facebook a conference in Gaza and invited everyone to come to Gaza. 🙂 🙂 🙂  No theme for the conference. No dates for the conference. No idea how participants might travel and get into Gaza.  Dreaming of normalcy in an abnormal place. #GoingtoGaza

Day #321 – Watching how natural allies are fighting each other.

Example #1 – The PA in Ramallah is contributing to the suffering in Gaza by withholding fuel for the power plant in Gaza. Families are limited to 4 hours/day of electricity.

Example #2 – Groups in the U.S. working on educating Americans about the Israel/Palestine conflict are now in conflict with each other.

Is the human condition just designed to remain in conflict?  #GoingtoGaza

Day #322 – Walking in the bowels of Baltimore’s Basilica, the oldest cathedral in the U.S.  A middle-aged woman from Jamaica asked me my age. I asked “Why?” She said her mother was over 100.  WTF?!?!  When did I turn into Old Age, the Ancient One, or Wise Old Fool? #GoingtoGaza

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

Day #323 – Met with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s staff today in her DC office. She returned to ABQ this morning because her daughter gave birth. Congratulations! We talked about:

1) Anniversary of Operation Protective Edge and the facts on the ground in Gaza today.

2) My petition to Congress asking them to send an invitation to Jimmy Carter.

3) The new group Friends of Khuza’a New Mexico and their invitation to attend the event in September with Palestinian musician Issa Maluf.

4) Rep. McCollum’s letter to Secretary Kerry

5)  BDS and H.Reso. 318

6) The DARK Act

Hope to sit down with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham during the last week in August in her ABQ office. #GoingtoGaza

Day #324 – Watching a good number of “peace” activists fighting, calling each other names, verbally attacking and disrespecting each other, and I’m thinking……

(1) With friends like these, who needs enemies?

(2) Will they gain any insights into their own behaviors?

(3) They appear to be reenacting the Israel-Palestine conflict on another stage and a different scale.

(4) Would Palestinians be better off if all the “peace” activists just burned out and quit their activism?

(5)  We all need to get our own house in order before trying to “fix” another’s house.

#GoingtoGaza

Day #325IMPUNITY should be the new word of the day, week, month, year!

Israel and IDF act with impunity against Palestinians

Cops act with impunity against blacks

Big oil, fossil fuels industry acts with impunity against our children and future generations

Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street Banks act with impunity against all of us

We (you and I) need to end all of these acts of impunity, or else we get what we deserve.

#GoingtoGaza

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GOD Doesn’t Mean You Get to Live Forever – A One Act Musical at the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church, July 25, 2015

Day #326 – My friend helped me get out of my box yesterday. She took me to a musical in a black Baptist Church in DC with loud gospel singers. Getting out of my box —- that’s been an unstated lifelong mission. Might also explain why I went to Gaza the first time in 2004.  Why do some people prefer to live in their boxes and others don’t? #GoingtoGaza

Day #327 – Nowhere else on the planet does one have to jump through as many hoops to visit, as Gaza. Speaking from experience — not USSR/Russia, Mongolia, China, Egypt, Norway, Cuba, Mexico etc. Israel is the jailer. Israel holds the keys. Israel decides who can & cannot enter Gaza. DON’T TELL ME THAT GAZA IS NOT OCCUPIED!!!!! #GoingtoGaza

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Lora with the Congressional office pooch.

Day #328 – Hope that staff from the offices of my Congressional delegation attend the briefing on Capitol Hill tomorrow about Gaza. Makes me think: You can lead a horse to water but can’t force it to drink. #GoingtoGaza

Day #329 – Today Israeli authorities refused to allow a Palestinian-American to enter Israel-Palestine to visit her family. Why? After hours of answering the same questions again and again, the last official decided she was being uncooperative. I can’t begin to imagine the anger and hatred she must be feeling tonight. #GoingtoGaza

On this day a year ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote the best piece about “terror” – “terrorism” and “terror tunnels” here.

In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”

Day #330 – I have several Palestinian friends who have studied in Malaysia, and I hear good things about their experiences in Malaysia. I also read about the human rights abuses in Malaysia…..specifically human trafficking…..and wonder what my Palestinian friends think about that issue. #GoingtoGaza

Day #331 – American news is focused on the public’s anger over the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe by a Minnesota dentist. How can we mobilize the same anger and attention towards Israel’s actions against the Palestinians in Gaza? I’m genuinely puzzled. Why are Americans roused off of their recliners to rant about Cecil the Lion (he even has a name!) — while the Palestinians launch a campaign “We Are Not Numbers” (WANN) to remind Americans and the rest of the world that they are more than mere statistics and they have names? Why? Please NPR, NY Times, and CNN — tell Americans about WANN.  #GoingtoGaza

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Day #24 – July 30, 2014 – Capitol Hill Briefing

A year following Israel’s Operation Protective Edge —- its 51-day assault on Gaza —- members of the U.S. Congress have received precious little information about the impacts of Israel’s military campaign, the one they generously funded and restocked on this day in 2014. ABC News reported (7-30-14):

On July 20 Israel made a foreign military sales request for munitions that included an undisclosed amount of 120 mm tank rounds and 40 mm illumination rounds for grenade launchers. The defense official said the ammunition was sold to Israel as a “routine” foreign military sales request and not an emergency request to tap into the U.S. military stockpile in Israel.

The Israeli request to purchase the ammunition was made just days after Israel launched its ground offensive into Gaza. The fighting in Gaza since has resulted in the deaths of 1,340 Palestinians and 59 Israelis, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 7,200 have been injured.

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, along with others, organized a briefing for Congress yesterday.  About 75 people attended, a good number considering the event was competing with a hearing on the nuclear agreement with Iran.

The full hour-long video of the briefing is available here.  The speakers were:

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

Each speaker is a heavy-weight in his/her own right and each presents compelling testimony. You can view each of their presentations separately here.

If you have time or a limited attention span and can only watch one, I recommend Nadia’s presentation. She is an attorney who talks about the efforts to hold Israel accountable.

Although I invited my Congressional delegation, they didn’t attend. 😦  I’m going to send them this blog post with a simple request.  After funding Israel’s military and giving the Green Light for its operation last summer, they should be informed about the impacts of U.S. unconditional support for Israel’s “right to defend” itself.  I’m going to be a pitbull and demand they listen to Nadia Ben-Youssef.

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Congress: Invite Jimmy Carter to the Capitol!

April Fool’s Day came early to the U.S. Capitol this year. March 3 to be exact. That’s the day that Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress, denouncing Obama’s nuke talks with Iran. Without even consulting the White House or following proper protocol, Speaker Boehner had the audacity to invite Israel’s Prime Minister to the Capitol only days before Israeli elections were held, making good campaign material for Bibi back home.

By many accounts, Netanyahu didn’t do himself any favors with his American benefactors, but he won reelection, and that’s all that really mattered.

After promising Israeli voters that there would be no Palestinian state established under his watch, he proceeded to form “an extreme right-wing coalition that represents a danger for the Arabs of Israel and the entire region”, said Ayman Odeh, head of the predominantly Arab Joint List in the Knesset.

Maybe Congress will forget the egg on their faces, and move beyond this embarrassment, but I think it’s the perfect time to remind them that what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

I started an online petition to Congress urging them to invite former President Jimmy Carter to speak to a joint session about the Middle East.  In less than a week, more than 400 letters have been generated and sent to Congress, in support of the petition.  Check it out here and add your name if you agree.  If you wish to remain anonymous, you have that option.

Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu’s talk focused on the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China, facilitated by the European Union).

Security and peace for all people in the region appears to be more elusive than ever before.

No other American leader has more experience in the Middle East than former President Jimmy Carter, who has spent decades working for peace and security in the region.

In early May 2015, President Carter visited Israel and the West Bank and spoke with Israelis and Palestinians about the current situation. Members of Congress would benefit greatly from Carter’s vast experience and insights about the Middle East.

If an invitation to address Congress can be extended to a foreign leader without Presidential consent, then surely a former U.S. President, a Nobel Laureate, and one of the most respected humanitarians in the world, should receive Congress’ warmest welcome.

We ask Speaker Boehner to coordinate with other leaders in Congress and with the White House to extend an invitation to President Carter to speak to a joint session of Congress on the topic of peace and security in the Middle East. We also ask that Carter’s speech be televised for the public.

Lets tell Congress loud and clear, “INVITE PRESIDENT CARTER and hear from a wise elder with considerable experience in the Middle East.”  Check out the petition here.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border May 2015

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