Wednesday, May 27, 2009

IFPB/US Campaign Summer Delegation

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Interfaith Peace-Builders are cosponsoring a delegation to Israel-Palestine from July 25-August 7, 2009. The delegation will focus on the role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Check out these video testimonies from past participants to find out why you should join the IFPB/US Campaign delegation this summer:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What have our member groups been up to?

A random smattering of stories about US Campaign member groups this month: Motorola shareholder meeting--US Campaign supporters from as far away as Ann Arbor traveled to Chicago to join the Coalition Against Apartheid in Palestine, DePaul Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East outside of the Motorola shareholders' meeting on May 4, 2009. These advocates for justice educated Motorola shareholders about their culpability for Israel's military occupation and apartheid practices. Inside the meeting, our shareholding allies proposed a human rights resolution. While the human rights resolution didn't pass this time, it did garner enough votes to be voted on again next year - an important victory in our ongoing campaign to hold Motorola accountable. Our online-activism surrounding the Motorola shareholders' meeting smashed our expectations, with our supporters sending over 3,700 emails demanding accountability from Motorola's management. Help us keep the pressure up--sign up to be a local Motorola boycott organizer by clicking here. AIPAC Conference--Member groups and allies of the US Campaign were present to make their voices heard at the annual AIPAC convention held in Washington, DC, May 3-5. Jewish Voice for Peace sponsored a roving billboard outside of the AIPAC conference, calling for an investigation into how U.S. tax dollars were used to harm civilians in Gaza. JVP volunteers were also present to pass out flyers and talk to conference participants. Meanwhile, inside the convention, CODEPINK made sure to let Israeli President Shimon Peres and AIPAC conference participants know that the world hasn't forgotten about Gaza. For a firsthand account from CODEPINK member Rae Abileah, click here. The folks over at Mondoweiss provided coverage and analysis of the convention. And the Jewish Telegraph Agency put together this video summary of the convention: Nakba Commemoration--The Palestine/Israel Human Rights action group at Central High School in Philadelphia, PA, organized a day of silence in recognition of the 61 years that have passed since Al Nakba. Several dozen students signed a vow of silence for the day to draw attention to the dispossession experienced by Palestinians from 1948 until today and the plight of Palestinian refugees. The group reports that in one class, all but 7 students had signed the pledge. Are you involved with a member group of the US Campaign? Let us know what you're up to by emailing, and we'll post your update here. If your group isn't a member of the US Campaign, join us by clicking here!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Obama-Netanyahu follow up

Analysis of the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu keeps coming in. Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis at the Institute for Policy Studies, arguing that there's not yet change we can believe in U.S. policy:

"This was a first meeting; at least in public, both politicians were playing primarily to their home audiences. The indicators so far were disappointing. But this was only round one. What happens next, privately and publicly, will be determined largely by the level of pressure that is brought to bear on Obama.

We know the capacity of Israel's U.S. supporters to raise that pressure. The question for us is how to challenge it, for diplomacy instead of threats towards Iran, and an end to U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid and for a U.S. policy based on equality for all. We have to raise our own claims — regarding Iran and Palestine — based on holding Obama to his own promises — for a changed foreign policy, for an end to the mindset that leads to war.

There's a lot of work ahead."

Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti argues in the Los Angeles Times that if President Obama doesn't act for a two-state solution now, it will be never:
"It's now or almost certainly never. If Obama lacks the political will to stand up to Netanyahu now, he will lack the capacity later. And by the time Obama leaves office, it will be too late to salvage anything more than an archipelago of Palestinian Bantustans. We Palestinians seek freedom, not apartheid, and not the sort of Potemkin villages on the West Bank that Netanyahu is trying to package to the West as visionary economic boomtowns for desperate Palestinians."
US Campaign Steering Committee member Bill Fletcher, Jr., agrees:
"The recent Israeli elections have put into place an administration completely hostile to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu's refusal to speak to a two-state solution and instead to discuss economic advancement of the Palestinians is reminiscent of those in the early 20th century who held that African Americans should not challenge Jim Crow segregation but should rather improve themselves economically, as if economic advancement can happen for an oppressed people in the absence of political freedom."
US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz is wondering whether talk of the two-state solution will be replaced by the "side-by-side" solution. Meanwhile, US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner writes in the Detroit Free Press that there is a gap between the Obama's rhetoric on budgetary responsibility and reality when it comes to U.S. military aid to Israel:
"As President Obama has stated, “We can't sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars, on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups. We simply can't afford it.” In regard to U.S. aid to Israel, this is true as much from a budgetary standpoint as it is from a moral one."
Don't just sit there! Get involved in the conversation. Let us know what you think about Obama and Netanyahu. And get involved in the work that is ahead to transform peace rhetoric into human rights reality.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Questions for Secretary of State Clinton at Today’s Senate Budget Hearings

At the US Campaign, we often do behind-the-scenes work to influence U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Most of the time, this work doesn’t make it to our website or email list; but here on our blog from time to time we’ll let you in on some of this type of work we do. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before two Senate Committees on the President’s FY2010 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. This is the portion of the federal budget that includes all U.S. military aid programs. Earlier this month, President Obama released his FY2010 budget request, which, as expected, included $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel. For more information on what we’re doing to challenge this budget request and how you can get involved, please click here. As an example of the behind-the-scenes political work we do, yesterday we sent the letter below to each Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs suggesting questions for the Senators to ask of Secretary of State Clinton during today’s hearings. And, interestingly enough, both Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened up their questioning of Secretary of State Clinton today with some pretty strong statements (well...for Capitol Hill, at least) on the need for Israel to end settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hmmm…maybe our letter worked. While Secretary of State Clinton reiterated in front of both Senate Committees the Obama Administration’s policy position that Israel should end settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, unfortunately neither she nor Senators Leahy or Kerry have yet publicly drawn the obvious conclusion that U.S. policy statements alone will not end Israeli settlement activity. Instead, the United States needs to end or, at the very minimum, condition military aid to Israel in order to achieve the President’s stated goals of ending Israel’s siege of Gaza, freezing Israeli settlement activity and halting home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and establishing a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. To get involved in our efforts to press Congress and the Obama Administration in this direction, please click here. Without further ado, here’s the letter we sent yesterday to the Senators on these committees:


May 19, 2009

Senator John Kerry Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Commitee 318 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 FAX: 202-224-8525 Dear Senator Kerry,

Tomorrow, May 20, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton will testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on President Obama’s FY2010 budget request for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 280 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality, has prepared the following questions for your potential use at these hearings. 1) President Obama has called for Israel to open the borders of the Gaza Strip for the unrestricted flow of aid and commerce, yet Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip continues. The Administration has also demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction and halt the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, yet these practices continue as well. What specifically is the State Department doing to bring about Israel’s compliance with the Administration’s stated policy goals? 2) According to B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories, including more than 1,000 children. Many of these civilians were killed with U.S. weapons. What specifically is the State Department doing to ensure that Israel is not violating the Arms Export Control Act, the Foreign Assistance Act, and the “Leahy Law” through its use of U.S. weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories? Has the State Department conducted any reviews or written any reports on Israel’s use of U.S. weapons against Palestinians, including any reviews or reports dealing with Israel’s use of U.S. weapons during “Operation Cast Lead” in December-January? 3) President Obama has requested $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel in his FY2010 budget request, an increase of $225 million from the FY2009 budget. Given that Israel is currently failing to meet stated U.S. policy objectives; that Israel consistently misuses U.S. weapons in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to kill Palestinian civilians; and that we are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, how can this increased blank check to Israel be justified? Shouldn’t the United States at least condition military aid to Israel on it complying with the Administration’s policy objectives, including the successful negotiation of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Shouldn’t the United States act to ensure that Israel is only using U.S. weapons in compliance with restrictions under U.S. law before giving it additional weapons? If your office would like any additional information in advance of this hearing, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely yours,

Josh Ruebner

National Advocacy Director

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation


New report on Israeli apartheid advances anti-apartheid discourse

In 2006, the US Campaign Assembly overwhelmingly resolved to adopt the language of apartheid and Jim Crow segregation in describing Israeli policies towards Palestinians. Of course, we weren't the first to make use of this language. In 2002, no less an authority on the crimes of apartheid than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, writing with Ian Urbina of the Middle East Research and Information Project, described the similarities between apartheid South Africa and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: "Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories." (Tutu's landmark article has since become the subject of a comic by Ethan Heitner, which you can see over at The Arabist). Since then, the term apartheid has been slowly making its way into the discourse on Israel and Palestine. From the title of President Carter's book to Israeli Apartheid Week on the front page of the New York Times, more and more people are becoming aware of the connections between the struggle against racism and apartheid and the struggle against Israeli occupation. Recently even such pro-occupation figures as Daniel Pipes and AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr have been forced to comment on this anti-apartheid framework and the boycott and divestment work that springs out of it. And recent news that a letter from South African theologian Farid Esack will be spraypainted on the Apartheid Wall had even CNN talking about apartheid. So we are looking forward to reading a new report that was released this past week by the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London. The report, entitled "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law," is a response to a 2007 query by former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for occupied people, the Occupying Power, and third states?
The SOAS report examines these questions from the nonpartisan standpoint of international law. It concludes that "Israel, since 1967, has been the belligerent Occupying Power in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], and that its occupation of these territories has become a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid."
Check out the executive summary of the report here, and also be sure to make use of the US Campaign's anti-apartheid resources as we continue to spread the word about Israeli apartheid.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Netanyahu and Obama

In a flurry of media attention and a blur of ambiguous promises, U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday in Washington, D.C. What are supporters of justice, international law, and human rights in Israel/Palestine to make of this meeting? Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, was featured on NBC News coverage of the meeting. He wonders what pressure the Obama Administration will be willing to apply to a Netanyahu administration hostile to Obama's preferred two-state solution: US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab is wondering what sort of state Netanyahu and Obama are talking about for Palestinians, and worries that such a state will be "truncated." US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis echoes these fears. And US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz is curious where Netanyahu's terminology is coming from. We don't have time to wait for a right-wing Israeli government to set the terms for peace. Join the conversation today! Act to end U.S. military aid to Israel by clicking here, and let us know what you think of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting by commenting to this post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on potential for change, dangers of Obama-Netanyahu meeting

What will come of Monday's meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu? US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis analyzes the prospects for change an the potential damages of this much heralded meeting. Read her analysis below, and click here to pressure the administration and Congress to end U.S. military aid to Israel. TALKING POINTS | By Phyllis Bennis NETANYAHU VISITS THE WHITE HOUSE: Change We Can Believe in for U.S.-Israeli Relations? May 15, 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington on May 18, for his first official visit with President Obama. If Obama is serious about achieving a two-state solution in his first term, and therefore serious about bringing real pressure to bear on Israel, there will be no better time to do so.* Obama, who has strongly supported the idea of a two-state solution since his campaign, has yet to articulate whether or not he is actually prepared to spend some of his massive political capital to exert serious pressure on Israel towards that end - for example, by conditioning (even some) of the currently committed $30 billion in U.S. military aid to a complete Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank. If he means it, this could be the moment. Netanyahu's campaign rejection of the two-state solution, his rejection of continuing the current Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy and instead limiting negotiations to economic issues, and his extreme racist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman all serve to make a serious U.S. effort towards Israeli accountability not only timely, but less politically costly than ever. But there are serious dangers ahead. We still don't know for sure whether President Obama is indeed serious. There is little question he supports a two-state solution in the abstract, but that isn't enough. The question is: What he is willing to do to make it happen? Israel on its own, secure in its so-far unconditional U.S. military aid and uncritical protection in the UN and elsewhere, has no intention of making efforts to that end. What if Obama accepts a meaningless Netanyahu gesture as a significant concession? In recent days, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency describes it, the White House is indicating that "Netanyahu has shown seriousness about accommodating Obama's push for renewed talks with the Palestinians." If the U.S. demand is simply that Israel renew talks, Obama will have failed the first test; "talks" have been the hallmark of at least 18 years of failed U.S.-backed Middle East diplomacy. "Talks," including the Madrid, Oslo "Road Map" and other agreements, have left the Palestinians with virtually nothing on the ground except for a virtually powerless "Palestinian Authority," expanding settlements, checkpoints, theft of land and water, the separation Wall in the West Bank, and the complete physical and human devastation of Gaza. Without an entirely different U.S. role - one based on explicit support for international law as the basis of any negotiations - a new round of talks will go nowhere. Another version of this scenario might be a sudden reversal of Netanyahu's current position, where he re-embraces the idea of a two-state solution. He could perhaps even promise some kind of action on settlements (most likely an agreement to dismantle settlement "outposts"). If Obama welcomes mere words, this will also mean repeating the failures of the past. A variety of Israeli governments have previously agreed to settlement freezes, explicitly including so-called "natural growth," and simply disregarded their obligation to implement them. They have agreed numerous times to dismantle their "outposts," which are the smaller symbolic settlements, only to allow or provide support for their immediate rebuilding. (In fact, all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, not only the "outposts," are illegal under international law, including the huge city-settlements of Ma'ale Adumim, Ariel, and the vast East Jerusalem settlements disguised as "neighborhoods"). In any of these scenarios, Netanyahu might drop his ultra-nationalist rhetoric to endorse earlier Israeli "moderate" positions - none of which ever led towards ending the occupation. It's even possible that Netanyahu's extremist language was designed explicitly to be moderated as a "gift" to the U.S. president during just such a visit. But what if Obama falls for the trick, welcomes such inadequate promises with enthusiasm, calls them a great concession, thanks the Israeli leader profusely, and demands Palestinian concessions in return? If we go down this road, the Obama administration will have done nothing to hold Israel accountable to its promises, settlements will continue being built, and the Palestinians will once again be identified as the obstacle to peace. Then there's Iran. Netanyahu has continued to escalate his campaign rhetoric threatening military force against Iran, sometimes framing it as "what Israel will have to do if the U.S. does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Despite the agreement of all U.S. intelligence agencies (under the Bush administration, made public in the National Intelligence Estimate of December 2007) that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, is not building a nuclear weapon, and may not even want a nuclear weapon, the claim that Iran somehow represents an "existential threat" to Israel continues. Netanyahu demands that the U.S. agree either to attack Iran if Obama's potential nuclear diplomacy doesn't work, or agree to support an Israeli attack on Iran. There are reports in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that Obama sent an urgent message to Netanyahu just days before his visit, demanding that "Israel not surprise the U.S. with an Israeli military operation against Iran." If true, that would be a good sign. But it also gives credence to reports that Obama is considering creating a regional anti-Iran alliance - an extraordinarily dangerous proposal that will certainly escalate regional tensions - and wants to link that idea to an Israeli settlement freeze. That is, Obama may try to persuade Netanyahu to agree to a settlement freeze (implemented or not) as a necessary requirement to getting the Arab states on board a U.S.-Israeli anti-Iran alliance. U.S. backing for an Israeli military strike against Iran and creating a regional anti-Iran coalition would result in significant regional dangers, and won't lead to any possible progress in supporting regional stability or ending the Israeli occupation. So what do we look out for? At the recent AIPAC convention, Obama administration officials' and supporters' speeches put greater emphasis on Israeli actions than was ever true during the Bush years. Senator John Kerry called for a settlement freeze; Vice-President Biden called for Israel to "not build settlements, dismantle outposts and allow Palestinians access to freedom of movement." If Obama, meeting with Netanyahu, demands a real settlement freeze - meaning an end to construction, expansion and building in all settlements, not only outposts - it could signify a real change in U.S. policy towards Israel. But this demand will be effective only if it's backed up by specific enforcement mechanisms, like conditioning all (or even part) of the annual $3 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel until there is tangible, internationally confirmed action on the ground. That would certainly be a change we could believe in. Obama's acceptance of mere words from Netanyahu, on the other hand, whether he "accepts" a settlement freeze or "agrees" to a new round of talks about talks with the Palestinians, and not imposing any conditions to make sure it happens, will indicate that so far, at least, U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid remain intact. And any "deal" that offers Israel any promise of U.S. support for or involvement in a military strike against Iran will undermine whatever small move towards justice might be possible from a settlement freeze or removal of roadblocks. Lots to watch for. Stay tuned. * My reference to a two-state solution in this context does not mean that I believe such an arrangement will ultimately be viable, sustainable, comprehensive or maybe even possible - let alone just. But active support for it is the basis for Obama's claim of a different U.S. policy towards Israel and the Palestinians - and it would certainly transform the political terrain. __________________________________________________________________ Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is Ending the Iraq War: A Primer. If you want to receive her talking points and articles on a regular basis, click here and choose "New Internationalism."

Remember Al Nakba - Stop House Demolitions

Remember Al-Nakba
Baqaa refugee camp (Photo: UNRWA)
In 1948 the state of Israel was founded upon a program of ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Approximately 711,000Palestinians were recognized by the UN as refugees and many more were "internally displaced." To this day, Israel has denied these refugees and their descendants their internationally-recognized right of return. Palestinians call this event "al-Nakba," which means "the catastrophe." As we work for justice in Israel/Palestine today, it is important for us to remember how so many of today's problems began and to draw strength from the steadfastness of Palestinians struggling for survival under conditions of dispossession, apartheid and occupation for so long.
At the US Campaign, we stand against the ongoing Nakba today and in support of Palestinian refugees’ right of return. A central component of the ongoing Nakba in Palestinian society includes the destruction of homes and agricultural lands in the wake of expanding Israeli settlements. Since 1967, at least 24,145 Palestinian homes and 1,405,658 trees have been demolished by the Israeli government. Stand with us as we advocate against home demolitions by working to hold Caterpillar accountable for the destruction wrought by their machinery. To learn more about what you can do to end the ongoing Nakba, click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caterkiller, Killdozer, and Black Thunder

The US Campaign staff was doing some reasearch for our upcoming Caterpillar Day of Action when we ran across a 1974 B-movie, Killdozer, which apparently tells the horrific tale of a space-rock possessed D-9 bulldozer going after the crew of an isolated construction site--sort of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey meets earth-moving equipment. Oddly enough, the bizarre film isn't so terribly far from the truth (minus the space rock). Apparently the Israeli military, in addition to armor fitting and weaponizing D-9 Caterpillar bulldozers, has been utilizing a new unmanned, remote controlled version of the killing machine. Dubbed "Black Thunder," the drone demolisher first came into use in the 2006 invasion of Lebanon and was most recently put to use in Operation Cast Lead, almost certainly contributing to the more than 4,000 houses destroyed by the Israeli military during their most recent Gaza invasion. Killdozer, indeed. The question has to be asked: if the Israeli military can't avoid crushing civilians while it's actually physically driving one of these monstrosities, how much better will they do trying to operate them by remote control? And of course, whether or not the operator is in the bulldozer or far away matters little for Palestinian families whose homes are destroyed, olive trees uprooted, and agricultural land razed by Caterpillar equipment. Help us stop Caterkiller as their annual shareholder meeting approaches by clicking here. Help us ensure that our activism is better than the Killdozer cast's acting.

Israeli groups call on Norwegian government pension fund to divest from occupation

Mondoweiss reports on a call by 20 Israeli organizations for Norway's government pension fund to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Check out the story here and the full text of the letter here. And check out the US Campaign's website to find out how to put pressure on Caterpillar, one of the companies specified by the Israeli organizations and a long-time US Campaign divestment target.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Welcome to the US Campaign blog

Welcome to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation blog! We plan to use this space to share ideas, analysis, action alerts, and updates on the work of the US Campaign as well as articles from our steering committee, advisory board and member groups. We’re launching this blog at a time of unique challenge and exciting opportunity for the work of advancing freedom from occupation and equal rights for all. The ongoing devastation of Gaza, the new right-wing government in Israel expressing hostility towards peace, and the process of navigating our advocacy work under a new U.S. administration are keeping advocates for human rights and international law in Israel and Palestine busy. At the same time, the US Campaign has more support than ever, with more than 280 member organizations, more than 1200 local organizers challenging military aid in their communities and more than 300 local Motorola boycott organizers. We are challenging U.S. policy, advancing boycott and divestment campaigns across the country, and shaping the discourse on our issue with the anti-apartheid framework. We’ve begun to see the effects of our hard work and of our member groups and allied organizations. Recently, the executive director of AIPAC admitted that BDS responses to Israeli apartheid have entered the mainstream discourse. Israeli Apartheid Week, which many US Campaign member organizations participated in, made it onto the front page of the NY Times. We are shaping the discourse on Israel Palestine in Washington, DC and across the United States. Keep an eye on this space for updates, analysis, and guest posts from supporters. Check out our list of blogs against the occupation and recommended website resources. And let us know if you have an idea for a post or something you’d like to see here, by emailing us at We won’t be able to accommodate all of your requests, but we invite you to play a role in shaping this important debate!