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Our Role after the Elections

by Steering Committee, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
November 7th, 2012

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US Campaign Statement on the 2012 Elections and the Way Forward



You may have noticed that we haven’t said one word about the 2012 elections until now. It’s not that we’ve been ignoring them or have had nothing to say about the candidates’ positions on U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians. Rather, our nonprofit status prevented us from commenting on the candidates and attempting to sway the election.

Now that the elections are over and President Barack Obama has won reelection to a second term in office, we’d like to offer a few comments about the elections, the direction of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, and our role as civil society actors in bringing about much-needed policy change.

First, we’d like to congratulate President Obama on his reelection and express our desire to build upon the relationships that we developed with the first Obama administration. As we did during the last four years, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation stands ready to offer whatever guidance and support we can to work with the administration to change U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to support human rights, international law and equality. At the same time, as we did during the last four years, we also stand ready to criticize and attempt to defeat any U.S. policy that sustains and bolsters Israeli military occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians.

Second, even before Inauguration Day, there are likely to be two pressing policy issues that we must address. In November, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is expected to call for a vote in the U.N. General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status at the U.N. to that of a “non-member state.” As was the case last year when the PLO unsuccessfully sought full membership in the U.N., the US Campaign takes no position on this initiative, believing it to be a matter of sole discretion for Palestinians to debate and decide upon. However, as was the case with last year’s U.N. membership bid, the US Campaign also opposes any U.S. effort to obstruct or frustrate any upgrade of Palestine’s status at the U.N. and opposes the imposition of any additional U.S. sanctions against Palestinians for so doing. For additional information, please see our newly-updated FAQ on “Palestine U.N. Membership and Statehood Recognition.” 

If this vote takes place and Palestine’s status at the U.N. is upgraded to a “non-member state,” then there could be profound implications for the contours of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the ability of Palestinians to hold Israel accountable in international courts for its violations of human rights and international law, and for the imposition of additional U.S. sanctions both against Palestinians and the U.N. itself. 

To help us understand these implications, the US Campaign would like to invite you to participate in a conference call on Monday, November 12, at 9PM Eastern, featuring Omar Dajani and Phyllis Bennis. To take part in the call, please dial 209-647-1600 and enter 489902# when prompted for the participant code. For more details about the call and its featured speakers, click here.

Also, when Congress reconvenes on November 13 for its “lame duck” session, Members of Congress will need to work with the president to pass and enact into law the 2013 budget. If they fail to do so by January, then discretionary spending programs, including U.S. military aid to Israel, will be cut across-the-board through the process known formally as “sequestration” and referred to informally as the “fiscal cliff.” If they do manage to pass a budget, then Israel stands to get as much as $4 billion—$3.1 billion in regular military aid, plus up to $950 million more in anti-missile projects—at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. 

As this budget process unfolds, we must continue our work to end all U.S. military aid to Israel and build on the momentum generated recently by the historic letter signed by 15 church leaders and endorsed by President Jimmy Carter calling on Congress to hold Israel accountable for misusing U.S. weapons to commit human rights abuses of Palestinians in violation of U.S. law. 

Third, the 2012 elections proved yet again that Democratic and Republican candidates for federal office continue to trip over each other to obsequiously lay claim to the mantle of being most “pro-Israel” in a transparent pandering for the votes and campaign contributions generated by the Israel lobby. Any sober analysis of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, mention of Palestinian human and national rights, or serious discussion of the requirements for a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace were utterly, and predictably, absent from the political debate.

Yet, the politicians’ mantra-like repetition that “Israel is our only democratic ally in the Middle East” has never been as incongruent with reality as it is today. Two developments during the election season are particularly worth noting. In July, an official Israeli-government appointed commission concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip because, in its esteemed opinion, Israel is not actually engaged in a military occupation and that therefore the convention’s prohibition against colonizing occupied territory does not apply. Consequently, the commission urged Israel’s unfettered colonization of Palestinian land.  

In October, a public opinion poll of Jewish Israelis found that 47% support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian citizens of Israel, 58% believe Israel practices apartheid toward Palestinians, and 69% favor denying Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank. These were a few of many disturbing results showing that large percentages of Jewish Israelis not only acknowledge, but support, Israeli apartheid against Palestinians.

The conclusions to be drawn are inescapable. The Israeli government has no intention of ending its military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip to enable a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, as it continues to illegally colonize Palestinian land, it can rest assured that it will continue to enjoy the support of a majority of its Jewish Israeli citizens for the increasingly flagrant apartheid policies it carries out. Under these circumstances, the long-term viability of unconditional U.S. support for Israel will continue to be eroded.

Fourth, and relatedly, a fundamental reorientation of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians is desperately needed. This does not mean tinkering on the outer edges of a failed policy, nor does it mean trying to breathe new life into the moribund and discredited U.S.-led “peace process.” There are only so many times that one can try to hammer the square peg into the round hole before Einstein’s famous definition of insanity springs to mind.

Instead, the United States must end all of its policies—from U.S. military aid to Israel to its diplomatic protection of Israel at the U.N.—which undergird and enable Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinians. In place of these immoral policies, U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians must be based on human rights, international law and equality. In particular, this means ending Israel’s 45-year military occupation, implementing Palestinian refugees’ internationally-recognized right of return, and ensuring equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. 

However, it would be foolhardy of us to sit back and wait for politicians on their own volition to reorient U.S. policy in this direction. They won’t—no matter how much they’ll admit privately to the biases, contradictions and inanities of our current policies. They won’t because they perceive it to be in their best career interests to adopt the path of least resistance and acquiesce in the ugly and failed policies promoted by the Israel lobby.

This is where we come in. It is our job to continue building a movement promoting campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and those corporations profiting from its apartheid policies toward Palestinians as we continue to challenge those U.S. policies that make BDS a moral and political imperative. As was the case in ending U.S. support for apartheid South Africa, only after we have succeeded in helping to build up a broad-based and mainstream institutional challenge to U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid will the politicians move in the right direction.  

Collectively, we are well on our way toward making that happen and the Israel lobby knows it and fears it. But, as the 2012 elections remind us, we still have a long way to go.

We invite you to continue with us on this journey.

Sincerely,


Steering Committee, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

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