Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti and Anna Baltzer on The Daily Show!

Last night, Jon Stewart hosted the first double interview that I remember seeing on his show. His guests were Dr. Mustafa Bargouti and Anna Baltzer. Perhaps the novel format of interviewing two people at once was intended to create an aura of 'fairness and balance' for Stewart's audience. The need for Stewart to cover himself was apparent early in the interview, when one audience member channeled Joe Wilson and shouted "liar" at Dr. Barghouti when he stated that the Palestinians have been suffering under occupation longer than any other people (I suppose that the audience member might have a point if they were Native American).
While last night wasn't the first time that Jon Stewart approached the Israel/Palestine issue through a critical lens, it was the first time I recall him actually having a Palestinian on his show to discuss it. Dr. Barghouti, former candidate for the Palestinian Authority presidency, did a wonderful job in this trailblazing role. Dr. Barghouti reminded Stewart that Palestinians are not a Muslim monolith, but that Christian Palestinians suffer under occupation just as severely as their Muslim compatriots. When pressed by Stewart to explain exactly what the "new movement" in Palestine wanted, Barghouti repeatedly emphasized that they only want what everyone else in the world is entitled to, the "same rights and same duties" as other human beings. Dr. Barghouti implored the United States to recognize that our government's current bias isn't good for Israel. He stated, "It's not good for Israel to feel that it is impunitive (sic), that it is above international law... at the end of the day, if Palestinians are free, Israelis will be free"
Baltzer also made a strong showing, telling Stewart that it is not in Israel's security interest to prevent Palestinians from accessing water, deny them building materials for their homes, or to build walls between Palestinians and other Palestinians. Anna briefly explained the BDS movement and it's role in bringing about a peaceful and just solution.
In the end, when Stewart asked Baltzer to explain where she gets hope that a seemingly intractable conflict will ever end with peace and freedom, she replied that there is precedent, that Jews, Muslims, and Christians have lived in peace before and that these people are not fundamentally incompatible. Stewart then expressed exasperation at the fact that these two people are "fundamentally the same, that's what's so crazy." It might be a bit crazy that people like Dr. Barghouti and Baltzer can only be heard on a "fake news" show, but given that this "fake news" program was also, at times, the harshest critic of Bush administration policies that today are almost universally eschewed, last night's program could be a step in the right direction. If a Daily Show appearance leads to mainstream U.S. media approaching the Palestine/Israel conflict in a more rational, evenhanded way, then I will have renewed hope for a peaceful and just outcome to the conflict.
UPDATE: Comedy Central is now being deluged by hate mail for airing the Barghouti/Baltzer interview. Please email Comedy Central now to show your support for the interview and future segments presenting Israel/Palestine from a peace persepctive.
While the interview was edited for broadcast, you can see the entire segment below:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Anna Baltzer & Mustafa Barghouti Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Crisis

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From the Gaza Freedom March organizers: Tell Congress "Don't Bury Goldstone"

We'll have more information on how to engage Congress on this over the next week, but here is a call from the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March to pressure Congress to oppose a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report: "The US Congress is a considering a bipartisan resolution which would officially reject the findings of Judge Goldstone’s report on the Gaza war and call on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to use the US veto to prevent a vote on the report in the United Nations Security Council. A vote on the bill, House Resolution 867, is expected by this coming weekend.

It is urgent that you call both your Senators and your Congressperson today and tell them to vote against this outrageous bill. You can read the bill here. It ignores the conclusions of the Goldstone Report and simply parrots Israeli government denial."

Click here to learn more and take action.

US Campaign/IFPB Delegation participants advocate for Palestinian rights

US Campaign member group Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) has put together a great summary of what delegates on the IFPB summer delegation to Israel/Palestine, co-sponsored by the US Campaign, have been up to since returning in August:

Delegates in Action:

[US Campaign National Organizer] Katherine Fuchs has traveled around the nation in the months since the delegation, organizing and presenting on issues featured on the trip. She organized and presented at the National Conference of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and has played a leading role in student divestment conferences on several campuses.

Katherine's media work has also stretched across the country. Her interview "Katherine Fuchs - Ending Israeli Occupation" was published by WireTap Magazine and she was featured on KWMR Radio in Marin County, California.

In Lee's Summit, Missouri, Cindy Howard wasted little time in reaching out to her local media and her church community. In addition to this appearance on Bill Tammeus' Faith Matters blog, Cindy was interviewed for a feature article in the Lee's Summit Journal entitled "A Life Changing Experience - Local Priest Travels to Israel, Palestine".

More important than the articles, are the relationships Cindy has begun to craft with the Editors of the Lee's Summit Journal and the Kansas City Star Tribune. Her work with the editors positions her as a resource on the Middle East and faith issues.

Cindy has also presented seven different times in the Kansas City area since August and has taken on an important role as Missioner with the American Friends of the Diocese of Jerusalem (Episcopal).

Out in Portland, Oregon, Jeff Kipelman went straight to the airwaves and recorded an interview on KBOO Radio's "Positively Revolting Radio" with Ani Haines. Jeff is also working on a news feature to run on KBOO. Jeff also printed a hard-hitting Letter to the Editor, "End Apartheid in Israel", at Oregon Live, the online outlet of The Oregonian newspaper.

Jen Lauda has done impressive outreach in Washington DC and Northern Virginia, where the Alexandria Times published an article on her delegation entitled "A Towering Conflict Seen from the Ground". Jen was also featured in this article in the online newsletter of the American University School of International Service as well as this article in the alumni magazine of her alma-mater, the University of Central Florida. In addition, Jen was interviewed on WPFW Radio News on August 20, 2009.

Kristen Loken, has found an audience with her local West Virginia media. The Martinsburg Journal profiled her trip in an article entitled "Local woman tours Israel and Palestine" which was also republished on the website of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Kris has also begun to make a series of public presentations, her first of which was in Potomac, Maryland where she was hosted by the Democratic Women's Club.

In Cincinnati, Nancy Paraskevopoulos has made a big splash through a weekly column she writes for the University of Cincinnati News Record. Her columns: "Expansion Abroad Similar to 3CDC3"; "Israeli settlements disrupt Hebron"; and "Action warrants Nobel Peace Prize"; have stimulated a local debate on the issue which has resonated outside of the local community and which Nancy has followed closely on her blog.

Nancy has also used her experience to strengthen her campus organizing through the Campus Action Network and other groups. Check the News Record website for more of her weekly columns.

In Washington, DC, Emily and Laurie Siegel's trip was featured in The Voice of the Hill newspaper. Emily was also profiled for this article on the website of the American University School of International Service. Emily and fellow delegate Jenn Lauda were interviewed for a second article also posted online at the American University School of International Service website. Emily is currently working as an organizer for the Gaza Freedom March, which is endorsed by the US Campaign.

Jerry Stinson, has presented several times on panels and in his Sunday sermons in Long Beach, California. His talks have reached hundreds in his community.

Many other delegates have invested similar efforts in media, speaking and organizing initiatives in their communities. Interfaith Peace-Builders is proud of the incredible efforts of our delegation participants and is honored to have played a role in their activism.

Bill Moyers interviews Judge Richard Goldstone

Many of you have probably already seen or read Bill Moyers' interview with Judge Richard Goldstone. If not, you can watch the interview and/or read the transcript here. The interview sparked an interesting discussion over at Mondoweiss. What do you think? Was Moyers giving in to Israeli government talking points, or giving Goldstone the chance to respond to commonly repeated criticisms of the report? What did you think of Goldstone's responses? Do you think that Israel and the Hamas leadership will agree to independent investigations? Let us know! In the meantime, help us strengthen civil society movement for accountability for war crimes by getting involved in the US Campaign's corporate accountability and policy work!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Retired CIA Analysts Bill and Kathleen Christison talk BDS, Military Aid with Jeff Gore on Counterpunch

Check out a thoughtful interview with retired CIA analysts Bill and Kathleen Christison by Jeff Gore of Counterpunch: The Christison's comment on the connections between working to cut off U.S. military aid and the growing movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed against Israeli occupation and apartheid, and respond to the question of whether such actions "target innocents":
"Does it harm innocent Israelis to cut off or cut back U.S. aid to Israel—which would be the ultimate sanction? Under a long-term ten-year agreement, the U.S. gives, not lends, Israel $3 billion of military aid every year—in cash, at the beginning of each fiscal year—plus additional increments of economic aid and loan guarantees on a year-by-year basis. Aid of this magnitude and given under these terms obviously greatly helps the Israeli economy. It also gives Israel virtually total impunity to commit whatever atrocities it wants against the Palestinians without fear that the U.S. will cut it off. So if we’re worried about harming individual Israelis, we have to worry about the guy in an electronics shop who is harmed economically because he no longer gets the subcontract for some airplane or tank part, but we also have to worry about the innocent Palestinians—the literally millions of innocent Palestinians—in Gaza particularly, but elsewhere as well, who are being killed by those airplanes and tanks and other military equipment that Israel uses with the impunity granted it by the U.S. If blind justice weighs these two groups of innocents and the harm done to them on her scales, we believe she would conclude that the “innocent” Israeli is after all not so innocent. Although it may be clearer how the scales should balance when we’re talking about military aid, the same factors must be weighed when we deal with boycotts of non-military products and academic and cultural boycotts, and we think the same conclusions must be reached: ending Palestinian suffering at Israel’s hands is a more worthy, more just objective than saving the economic hide or the jobs of any Israelis....We Americans are just as responsible for the killing and atrocities visited by U.S. forces on Iraqi and Afghan civilians and in past eras on civilians in places like Vietnam, and we would not claim that sanctions against the U.S. were unfair, even if these caused us to suffer personally. Perhaps this should be the criterion: that innocence lies in greater measure with the people being oppressed and bombed and occupied, and we must be more concerned with ending harm to them than with causing incidental harm to individuals in the oppressor-occupier nation."
You can read the full article here. Agree with the Christisons? Join the largest coalition of organizations and individuals working to end U.S. military aid to Israel and promoting boycott and divestment against companies profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid. Get involved with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation today!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's hard out here for a war criminal: Ehud Olmert's speaking tour met with protest, citizen's arrest attempts

Poor Ehud Olmert. Being a world-renowned war criminal just isn't what it used to be. After facing protests and disruptions at speaking stops at the University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago, Olmert was the target of an attempted citizen's arrest during a speech to the World Affairs Council in San Francisco. The Electronic Intifada reports:
Twenty-two people were arrested for challenging Olmert directly and demanding he be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Olmert has faced protests at Tulane University, University of Kentucky and the University of Chicago. The recent International Independent Fact-Finding Mission, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, found evidence that Israel had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during a three-week long attack on the Gaza Strip last winter, killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and destroying much of the area's infrastructure. In 2006, similar Israeli attacks on Lebanon killed 1,200 people. Olmert has refused to be held accountable.
The organizers of the San Francisco protests include US Campaign member organizations and supporters. Check out this video of the action: As the U.S. and Israeli governments continue to oppose the Goldstone Report, the need for civil society to hold those responsible for attacks on Palestinian civilians is becoming increasingly evident. Get involved in the citizen's movement for accountability by participating in our November Weeks of Action and by joining the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine creates incentives for the continuation of occupation and apartheid. We need to create incentives to end occupation and apartheid. It's up to us to make sure that it's hard out here for a war criminal. Update: Chicago Olmert protesters comment on their decision to participate here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who You Callin' Biased? Richard Goldstone asks Obama Administration to specify flaws in Report as U.S. military aid to Israel continues to flow

Watch Judge Richard Goldstone respond to criticism of the Goldstone Report on war crimes in the Gaza Strip on Al Jazeera: Judge Goldstone asks the U.S. to justify its claims that the report's findings are flawed and biased, and questions whether the most vehement critics of the Report have even read it. In other Goldstone Report news, Israeli journalist Amira Hass recently provided an update of the case of the Samouni family:
"Twenty-nine members of the family, all of them civilians, were killed in the Israel Defense Force's winter assault - 21 during the shelling of a house where IDF soldiers had gathered some 100 members of the family a day earlier....Salah Samouni...feels that Goldstone, in his report, lent the victims a voice."
Al Jazeera also covered the story of the Samouni family: $30 billion in military aid to Israel over 10 years isn't just a number. U.S. military aid to Israel means tragedy for Palestinians like the Samouni family. Sign up today to organize in your Congressional district against U.S. military aid by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take Action: End the Siege, Stop the Wall

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is calling for two weeks of action in November, to end the siege of Gaza and bring down the Apartheid Wall. On November 2-8, take action to end the siege of Gaza. This week is the one year mark of Israel's breaking of the cease-fire in Gaza prior to its all-out assault in Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009. These actions will set the stage for December's Gaza Freedom March. Take media action, organize an event or action, meet with your Member of Congress, and find out more about the Gaza Freedom March. A plethora of resources for action are available here. Then, join human rights advocates around the world as we mark the 7th annual week of action against Israel's Apartheid Wall on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Check out action ideas, talking points, resources for media action, and information on the village of Bil'in and its struggle against the Apartheid Wall by clicking here. Join together with groups across the United States and around the world--take action in November to end the siege, end apartheid, and end the occupation!

Good Media, Bad Media, and Media In Between

The past several days we've seen great coverage, some pretty good coverage, and some downright awful coverage of Israel/Palestine in national media outlets. All three of these give supporters of a just U.S. foreign policy the chance to respond. Good stuff first. The most recent edition of The Nation carries a cover page with the headline, "American Jews Rethink Israel." The issue features an article by journalists and Mondoweiss bloggers Philip Weiss and US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz, which you can read here (read Mondo's coverage of the article here). Also featured is an article by Helena Cobban of Just World News entitled "Confessions of an AIPAC Veteran," which you can read here. Kudos (and supportive letters to the editor) to The Nation for their coverage of alternative voices on Israel, Palestine, and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Today, the Washington Post carried an article by Howard Schneider entitled "The West Bank's Gold," which shed important light on the role that fair trade co-ops have had in creating more sustainable livelihood for Palestinian farmers. The article even mentions Canaan Fair Trade, the US Campaign's olive oil of choice! What it leaves out, though, is important. The expropriation of Palestinian land for settlements, military bases, and the Apartheid Wall, destruction of thousands of olive trees, restrictions on access to land for Palestinian farmers, and constant settler harassment that are facts of life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are absent from Schneider's account. Write a letter to the editor to let the Post know that in order to there to be a sustainable Palestinian economy, the Israeli occupation--and U.S. support for that occupation--has to end. Check out our tips for writing letters to the editor by clicking here. You can read the full article here. Finally, there's the bad news...or bad op/ed, in this case. Check out this October 19 New York Times piece by Robert Bernstein bashing Human Rights Watch for being willing to criticize Israeli human rights violations. After claiming that HRW couldn't criticize the Israeli army for their conduct during Operation Cast Lead because they weren't present during the assaults, Bernstein puts odd stock in a quote from Col. Richard Kemp, a commander of British forces in Afghanistan and "expert on warfare," who was apparently able to judge that the Israeli army “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” Guess he was there? Again, letters to the editor are called for. Let the New York Times know that we're tired of hearing bogus excuses for Israeli war crimes--and that we're tired of paying for said crimes with our tax dollars. You can use our talking points on Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip as a basis for your response, and check out our media action page for tips on getting your letter published. You can also read Mondoweiss' coverage of Bernstein's op-ed here. The Nation's coverage marks a major shift in the discourse. We've helped create that. Let's not stop now!

Israeli and international voices support accountability for Israeli violations of international law

As the Goldstone Report continues to make news, Israeli and international voices are calling for accountability for violations of international law and human rights--violations that are often committed with U.S. weapons paid for by U.S. tax dollars. Watch Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" cover the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report, including an interview with Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan who hails the Report as the end of Israeli exceptionalism vis-a-vis international law: And here's Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner, who satirizes Israel's "exclusive right to self-defense":
"Virtually all of Israel is now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report, against any attempt to blame us over the war in Gaza. We've honed our message to a sharp point and, inspired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's performance at the UN, we're delivering it with just the right tone of outrage: How dare anyone deny us the right to self-defense! How dare anyone deny us the right to fight back against terrorism....Here is our idea of the "laws of war": When Israeli bulldozers rolled across the border into Gazan villages and flattened house after house so Hamas wouldn't have them for cover after the IDF pulled out, that was self-defense. But if a Palestinian boy who'd lived in one of those houses threw a stone at one of the bulldozers, that was terrorism....The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity."
Click here to read the full article. In other Gaza accountability news, students at the University of Chicago protested a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Several students disrupted the speech itself, with one student shouting out "war crimes are not free expression" and another presenting a list of names of those killed during Israel's December-January attacks on the Gaza Strip. The protest was covered by many Israeli media outlets, including Ha'aretz. Click here to read the full report from the Electronic Intifada, and watch video of the protest below: Unfortunately, U.S. policy continues to support Israeli occupation and apartheid. Help us raise voices against U.S. complicity in war crimes committed against Palestinians in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. Click here to sign up as a local organizer in your community to oppose U.S. military aid to Israel or carry out boycott and divestment campaigns against Israeli occupation and apartheid. Click here to help sustain the work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nadia Hijab on Goldstone Report, Gaza Freedom March

US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab writes at Middle East Online on the Goldstone Report and civil society efforts to break the siege of Gaza:
"The Goldstone Report has rightly focused international attention on the crimes committed during Israel’s offensive against Gaza in December-January this year. Even if the United States quashes it at the United Nations Security Council -- where it is likely to go now that the Human Rights Council has adopted it -- the report will make human rights violators think twice. But it doesn’t end the Israeli siege of Gaza....This has left it to people from around the world to try to break the siege themselves."
Hijab highlights the efforts of the Free Gaza Movement, the Viva Palestina convoys, and the US Campaign endorsed Gaza Freedom March. Here's Hijab commenting on the march:

"The Gaza Freedom March involves hundreds of international activists who plan to cross the border at Rafah and to march alongside the Gaza Palestinians on December 31st, aiming to reach the border with Israel. Enthusiasm for the march in Gaza is understandably high, given the Strip’s isolation, with thousands reportedly planning to march with the internationals. Among other things, youth groups from around Gaza are planning dance, theatre and music shows to welcome the visitors. University student unions hope to strike for the day to bring out the numbers, and women’s groups are also aiming to mobilize their members. All of these international volunteers have been speaking out when they get back home and pushing for change in their own government’s policies that allow Israel to keep its siege in place. Perhaps their sustained efforts will finally shame their leaders into action to end the persecution of the Palestinians."

Click here to read the full article. To find out more about the Gaza Freedom March, click here. And keep an eye on this space and our website for opportunities to shame our leaders into ending the U.S. policy that keeps Israel's siege of Gaza in place.

Phyllis Bennis on U.S. opposition to Goldstone Report

Electronic Intifada is carrying a report by Thalif Deen of the International Press Service on the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report. Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, on the U.S. vote against the Goldstone Report at the HRC:
"There is a clear double-standard, once again, in the US position between Ambassador Susan Rice's recognition of the primacy of accountability for war crimes in the case of Darfur and Sudan, regardless of any potential impact on future peace talks, while rejecting accountability in the case of Israeli actions in Gaza....If Washington remains unwilling to hold Israel accountable for its violations, the potential for a new US position in the world -- one in which the United States is respected instead of resented, welcomed as a partner instead of feared -- will be impossible."
Click here to read the full report.

Jailed for an Idea: Comic in support of jailed Palestinian activist Mohammad Othman

Check out "Jailed for an Idea," a new cartoon flyer from created by Ethan Heitner US Campaign member group Adalah-NY. The members of Adalah-NY, along with many other member groups and supporters of the US Campaign, are spreading the word about Mohammad Othman, the Palestinian activist who has been jailed without trial by the Israeli military for his nonviolent activism and his promotion of the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and apartheid. To learn more about Mohammad Othman, click here. Click here to get involved in the BDS movement.

Friday, October 16, 2009

UN Human Rights Council Endorses Goldstone Report

Ha'aretz is reporting that the UN Human Rights Council has voted to endorse the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel and Hamas of war crimes during Israel's December-January assault on the Gaza Strip:
"25 of the body's members voted in favor of the resolution that chastised Israel for failing to cooperate with the UN mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. Another 6 voted against and 11 abstained. The resolution agreed in Geneva simply calls for the U.N. General Assembly to consider the Goldstone report and for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the Human Rights Council on Israel's adherence to it. The report calls for the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court if the Israelis or Palestinians fail to investigate the alleged abuses themselves. The countries that voted against the report included the U.S., Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Ukraine"
Click here to read the full article. It's not a big surprise that the United States voted against the Goldstone Report, but what does that mean for the movement to challenge U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine? Keep an eye on this space and our website for an action alert and resources for two weeks of action in November. The first week of November we will be calling for action in coordination with the Gaza Freedom March. The second week of November is the international Week of Action Against the Apartheid Wall, coordinated by our allies at Stop the Wall. We'll be keeping an eye on the Goldstone Report and incorporating its progress into our ongoing actions. In the meantime, if you haven't already, sign up to be a local organizer, sign the Motorola boycott pledge, and donate to support the work of the US Campaign and to replant olive trees in Palestine that have been destroyed by the Israeli military and settlers.

Gaza Freedom March: Voices from Gaza

The US Campaign endorses the Gaza Freedom March...and we're not the only ones: Find out more about the Gaza Freedom March by clicking here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BDS is Working: US Campaign Campus Tour has defenders of Israeli human rights violations concerned

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation's Campus BDS Tour is adding to an already long list of worries for defenders of Israeli occupation. Here's Lee Chottiner, Executive Editor of Pittsburgh's Jewish Chronicle reporting on the tour:
"Pro-Palestinian activists are planning a three-day conference next week at the University of Pittsburgh to campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. And while some Jewish leaders say the conference may not be as successful as its organizers hope, it is raising questions about how seriously the Jewish community should take the national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, and whether the local community is prepared to deal with this and future efforts in Pittsburgh."
Particularly worrisome to Chottiner is the fact that a "growing number of Jews have apparently gravitated to the movement, saying divestment or boycotts are not anti-Semitic gestures, but a legitimate way to affect change." As an example of growing Jewish support for BDS, Chottiner quotes Rebecca Vilkomerson, National Director of US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace:
"We have not endorsed the full Palestinian call for boycott....What we do say very strongly is the tactic of boycott is a noble and historic tactic of people’s movements to have a grassroots method of change."
Click here to read the full article. Meanwhile, US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz and journalist Philip Weiss have published an article in The Nation chronicling the changes in perceptions of Israel among Jewish Americans after the December-January assaults on Gaza. Horowitz and Weiss see signs of growing support for the BDS movement among Jewish Americans and on college campuses:
"Even devoted friends of Israel Leon Wieseltier and Michael Walzer expressed misgivings about the disproportionate use of force, and if Reform Jewish leaders could not bring themselves to criticize the war, the US left was energized by the horror. Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Code Pink, threw herself into the cause of Gazan freedom after years of ignoring Israel-Palestine, in part out of deference to her family's feelings. In The Nation Naomi Klein came out for boycott, divestment and sanctions; later, visiting Ramallah, she apologized to the Palestinians for her "cowardice" in not coming to that position earlier....Last winter a battle over divestment from the Israeli occupation rocked Hampshire College, and many students spearheading the movement were Jewish. "
Click here to read the full article. Find out more about the US Campaign's Fall Campus BDS Tour by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Join Our Congressional District Coordinator (CDC) Network Today!

Back by popular demand, today the US Campaign is re-launching our new and improved Congressional District Coordinator (CDC) network. What Is the CDC Network?

The CDC network is composed of volunteer organizers who serve as the primary link between grassroots efforts to influence Members of Congress to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality and the US Campaign's nation-wide advocacy initiatives. CDC's have four primary responsibilities: 1) Organize in their Congressional districts to build public support for Members of Congress backing our positions 2) Distribute action alerts to people in their Congressional districts and encourage them to contact their Members of Congress 3) Organize occasional meetings between constituents and their Members of Congress 4) Share experiences and lessons learned with the US Campaign to help build a national movement for policy change If you'd like to serve as a CDC and you can commit to fulfilling the four responsibilities described above at least through the end of the current 111th Congress, which lasts through 2010, then please sign up by clicking here. You can learn more about the CDC network by clicking here.
New CDC Map Check out our new and improved CDC network map by clicking here. Using Google Earth technology, we've created an interactive map of the United States divided by Congressional district. For each Congressional district, you can click on a pushpin to pull up contact information for your Representative in Congress, links to their voting record on Palestine/Israel issues on the US Campaign's Congressional Report Cards, and information on who is organizing in that Congressional district. You can view the map by clicking here.

Please note that this map is a beta version. We're still working out the kinks, so if you spot an error or broken link, then please notify us by clicking here and we'll fix it as soon as we can. Don't forget that you can sign up to become a CDC by clicking here. First Task for CDC's: Lobby to End Israel's Blockade of Gaza

We've got plans to put our re-launched CDC network into action right away. As we near the one year mark of Israel's brutal assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, Palestinians still lack the basic necessities of life as a result of Israel's illegal blockade. We'll be calling on our CDC's to organize constituent meetings this fall with their Members of Congress to end U.S. support for Israel's blockade of Gaza. If you'd like to get involved with this and other grassroots efforts to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality, then sign up today to become a CDC with the US Campaign by clicking here. And don't forget to check out our new CDC map by clicking here.

Phyllis Bennis talks to Peace by Piece about Goldstone Report, International Law, Civil Society

Check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis talking to Jared Sandersfeld of "Peace by Piece" about the Goldstone Report, international law, and the role of civil society in promoting accountability for human rights violations:

Father Miguel D'escoto talks to the Real News Network about Palestine and the United Nations

Watch outgoing UN General Assembly President Father Miguel d'Escoto speak to The Real News Network about the United Nations and Palestine: Keep an eye on this space and our website for upcoming days of action and resources for Congressional visits with a focus on ending the siege of Gaza. And if you haven't already, find out how to participate in the upcoming Gaza Freedom March.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Updates on Mohammad Othman

On September 22, Mohammad Othman was arrested by soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. Othman has been targeted due to his nonviolent activity and his advocacy on behalf of boycott, divestment, and sanctions. For updates on Mohammad's condition, follow the Free Mohammad Othamn blog. The most recent update on Mohammad: "We have just received the bad news that Mohammad’s detention has been extended again with another 12 days. We will update you with more detailed information in a couple of hours, as well as suggested actions." To take action for Mohammad's release, click here. US Campaign member group Grassroots International has written a letter directed at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, which you can read and sign by clicking here. US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace has initiated a similar letter directed to President Obama, which you can read and sign by clicking here.

Democracy Now with Rashid Khalidi: Palestinian President Abbas Faces Uproar for Aiding US-Israeli Derailment of UN Report on Gaza Assault

Watch US Campaign Advisory Board member and National Conference speaker Rashid Khalidi discuss the popular outrage in the occupied Palestinian territories over the derailment of the Goldstone Report on Democracy Now:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Richard Falk 2009 Edward Said Memorial Lecture at Palestine Center

Yesterday US Campaign staff took a bit of a break to hear Richard Falk give the 2009 Edward Said Memorial Lecture at the Palestine Center. You can view the talk here: Notice again Falk's argument that the Goldstone Report is important in that it provides support for civil society efforts at holding Israel accountable, most notably through boycott and divestment efforts. Click here to learn more about BDS.

Richard Falk on Goldstone Report

Richard Falk discusses the Palestinian Authority's move to delay consideration of the Goldstone Report on Al Jazeera: For more news on the Goldstone Report, click here. Falk argues that the Goldstone Report remains important to civil society efforts at boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Click here to get involved in the BDS struggle.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Take Action: Replant Olive Trees in Palestine

This month, Palestinian farmers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank will brave Israeli army checkpoints and curfews, apartheid fences and walls, and likely attacks by Israeli settlers simply to harvest their olives trees. For centuries, these olive trees have formed the backbone of Palestinian agriculture. Yet as this 9-minute documentary below shows, as part of its illegal military occupation, Israel has systematically uprooted these Palestinian olive trees by the thousands to clear land for illegal Israeli settlements, apartheid fences and walls, and to dispossess Palestinian farmers of their lands and livelihoods. You can help Palestinian farmers remain steadfast on their land and non-violently resist Israeli occupation by donating money to replant an olive tree. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is proud to partner with Zatoun and its Trees for Life program to replant olive trees in Palestine. Click here to learn more.

US Campaign member groups host Israeli COs

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation member groups Jewish Voice for Peace and CODEPINK have organized a speaking tour of young Israeli conscientious objectors--the Shministim, Hebrew for "12th graders."
Watch Maya Wind and Netta Mishly interviewed by Laura Flanders on GRITtv:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fascinating comparison of U.S. stances on justice from Human Rights Watch

Our allies in human rights and international law at Human Rights Watch have put together a revealing comparison of U.S. positions on international law as it applies to a variety of conflicts and the U.S. position on the Goldstone Report. Check it out: Justice matters to the US in Kenya, Darfur, and Congo...

Kenya: "And I have urged that the Kenyan government try to find the way forward to handle this themselves, but if that is not possible, and people think it is not, then the names that have been turned over to the International Court of Criminal Justice will be opened, and an investigation will begin, and Kenya will not be making these very tough decisions for itself, which is a kind of rite of passage for democracies, dealing with people and making sure impunity is not permitted." - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 6, 2009.

Darfur: "The United States supports the International Criminal Court's (ICC) actions to hold accountable those responsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur. We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan. The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice. UN Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, requires the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutor and urges all states and concerned regional organizations to cooperate fully." 
- UN Ambassador Susan Rice, March 4, 2009.

Democratic Republic of Congo: "I came to Goma to send a clear message: The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them. They are crimes against humanity. ... While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila. I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity." 
- Clinton, August 21, 2009.

Worldwide: “[W]e call on all parties and all governments to live up to their commitments under international humanitarian law, abide by all Security Council resolutions, and cooperate with international investigations to end impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 
- Rice, January 29, 2009.

But not in Gaza. 
“[I]n this, as in many other respects, the US focus, and I think constructively the focus of many other countries, is to try to look not to the past but to the future. The best way to end suffering and abuses is for there to be a long term solution and peace based on two states living side by side in peace and security.” 
 - Rice, September 22, 2009.

The US insists that Israel can investigate itself…
 “The United States understands that Israel is a vibrant and strong democracy and it has more than sufficient capacity to conduct a credible internal investigation and we’ve encouraged it to do so.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

“We are confident that Israel, as a democracy with a well-established commitment to rule of law, has the institutions and ability to carry out robust investigations into these allegations. We note that Israel has stated publicly it has already investigated at least 100 complaints related to the Gaza conflict, including about some incidents mentioned in the report, and is currently pursuing action in 23 individual cases. The findings from each of its investigations [are] subject to multiple independent layers of review. We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic review procedures and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and address all credible allegations of misconduct or violations of international law.” - US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, September 29, 2009.

Even though Israel has never really tried. 
 While Israel is capable of carrying out the impartial investigations called for in the Goldstone report, the record on the recent Gaza conflict and over the past decade indicates a consistent lack of political will to hold its forces accountable for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

While Israeli authorities say that they have initiated roughly 100 investigations into Operation Cast Lead, the majority (about 60) are in fact only operational debriefings “held by the army, in the army” under the Military Justice Law. These debriefings are typically conducted within the chain of command by officers from the same unit as the soldiers whose actions are being evaluated. No witnesses outside the military are interviewed, and there is no mechanism to verify the soldiers’ accounts. The operational debriefing requirement delays a proper impartial criminal investigation, and can actually undermine such an investigation because the information provided cannot be released or used as evidence in a court of law. Operational debriefings do not investigate the orders given to the unit; the point of the debriefing is to determine how those orders were carried out. The lawfulness or unlawfulness of the orders given to the unit is beyond its scope.

Five unique “field investigations” (covering some 20 cases) were conducted by Israeli colonels outside the chain of command, but the relatively low rank of the officers responsible for these investigations calls into question their independence, as do their uniform conclusions that the operations of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza were lawful. In the remaining 23 cases, criminal investigations have been opened.

Despite all three levels of investigations, Israel is known to have interviewed only two Palestinian witnesses to any of the alleged crimes in Gaza, and convicted only one soldier, sentencing him to seven months in prison for the theft of a credit card.

Prior practice also raises substantial doubt as to whether any of these investigations will result in indictments or prosecution. From 2000 to 2008, according to Yesh Din (an Israeli human rights organization), Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories killed more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians not involved in combat. Of 1,246 criminal investigations initiated during the same period into suspected offenses of all kinds by soldiers against Palestinian civilians, only 6 percent (78 cases) resulted in indictments. Only 13 of those indictments charged soldiers with killing civilians. As of September 2008, five soldiers had been convicted for the deaths of four civilians.

Most of these criminal investigations have been badly flawed for reasons that are deeply ingrained within Israel’s military justice system. Investigations are often initiated many months (at times more than a year) from the time of the incident, making it difficult to find evidence or identify witnesses and victims. The unit responsible for investigations has very few of the Arabic speakers needed to take testimonies from witnesses. In 2002, the Knesset passed a law denying Palestinians the possibility of obtaining compensation in most cases in which they have suffered injury as a result of illegal acts by Israeli security forces. 

The US claims Goldstone’s report shows a lack of “balance”…
 “[T]he weight of the report is something like 85 percent oriented towards very specific and harsh condemnation and conclusions related to Israel and very sort of lightly treats without great specificity Hamas’ terrorism and its own atrocities. So in that respect it remains unbalanced, although obviously less so than it might have been and so that is still a source of significant concern.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

“The report further calls on Israel to undertake a moratorium on the use of certain munitions; it makes no such demand of Hamas with regard to its use of indiscriminate rockets. These unbalanced recommendations taint many of the report’s suggestions for international action.” - Posner, September 29, 2009.

Even though the report’s conclusions are hard-hitting on both sides: 
 The section of the report dealing with violations by Israeli forces during the Gaza war is significantly longer than the report’s sections addressing abuses by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. But the fact that the Goldstone report addresses Hamas’s one-dimensional assault on Israel through use of rockets in fewer pages than it took to discuss Israel’s multifaceted 22-day military operation is hardly surprising. And the conclusions Goldstone reaches regarding Hamas are as hard-hitting as those addressed to Israel:

“[T]hese attacks constitute indiscriminate attacks upon the civilian population of southern Israel and that where there is no intended military target and the rockets and mortars are launched into a civilian population, they constitute a deliberate attack against a civilian population. These acts would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity. Given the seeming inability of the Palestinian armed groups to direct the rockets and mortars towards specific targets and given the fact that the attacks have caused very little damage to Israeli military assets, the Mission finds that there is significant evidence to suggest that one of the primary purposes of the rocket and mortar attacks is to spread terror amongst the Israeli civilian population, a violation of international law.”

Attacking the report as unbalanced because of its language on weapons moratoriums turns Goldstone’s conclusions on their head. The moratorium language regarding Israel’s use of certain weapons (white phosphorus, flechettes, and heavy metals such as tungsten) reflects that Goldstone recognizes, as the US stresses, that Israel is a state with the right to self-defense, and that military action may be undertaken to defend itself. In contrast, it labels Hamas’s use of rockets and mortars a war crime (and possibly a crime against humanity), a clear finding of wrongdoing much stronger than simply calling for a moratorium on their use. 

The US claims Goldstone’s mandate was biased… 
“But the fundamental problem with this particular report is it was hatched with a bias inherent in its mandate. It is as a consequence a product that largely reflects that imbalance in its mandate, notwithstanding the effort to look at the other side to some extent, albeit a lesser extent.” - Rice, September 22, 2009.

Even though the mandate covered both sides. 
 While the original mandate for the mission focused only on Israel, that one-sided approach was corrected by the Human Rights Council president, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi, who broadened the inquiry to look at all violations in the Gaza conflict committed by any of the parties. It was only after this change was made that Goldstone accepted the role as head of the mission, which indicates his insistence on a fair and unbiased approach.

The US implemented strategies emphasizing civilian protection in Iraq and Afghanistan…
 “Civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and damage to public and private property (collateral damage), no matter how they are caused, undermine support for [US and coalition forces] and the international community in the eyes of the Afghan population. Although the majority of CIVCAS incidents are caused by insurgents, the Afghan people hold [US and coalition forces] to a higher standard. Strict comparisons of amount of damage caused by either side are unhelpful. To protect the population from harm, [US and coalition forces] must take every practical precaution to avoid CIVCAS and collateral damage.” - Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s report on the war in Afghanistan, September 2009.

“Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are “one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities. … Every civilian casualty, however caused, is a defeat for us and a setback for the Afghan government.” 
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, June 12, 2009.

But fails to hold Israel to the same standards.
 “National militaries engaged in asymmetrical warfare must remain bound by humanitarian law, but it is a stark and tragic reality that terrorists systematically ignore these laws. Actions by terrorist groups that have the effect of employing civilians as human shields put enormous pressures on militaries that are trying to protect civilians and their own soldiers, an issue faced by many militaries today. Although the Goldstone report deals briefly with these issues, its findings of fact and law are tentative and equivocating.” 
 - Posner, September 29, 2009.

Op-Ed: Will the Real Obama Administration Please Stand Up?

by Josh Ruebner* Last week the UN Human Rights Council debated the Goldstone Report, issued in September by the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. The 575-page report calls for accountability for the “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed before, during, and after Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 assault on the occupied Gaza Strip. After coming under severe pressure from both the United States and Israel, the Palestinian Authority decided to withdraw its resolution calling for the UN Human Rights Council to accept the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, deferring action on it until the council’s next session in March. When the report comes up again next spring for a decision, how the United States votes will determine which of two contradictory impulses within the Obama Administration—respect for the universality of human rights versus shielding Israel from the consequences of its human rights violations—guides its approach to its newly-won seat on the UN Human Rights Council. That the Obama Administration is even grappling with its stance toward the UN Human Rights Council is a welcome improvement over the Bush Administration’s policy of boycotting the institution. Explaining the Bush Administration’s rejection of the council, former State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack alleged in March 2007 that it “has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body,” because, “There has been a nearly singular focus on issues related to Israel, for example, to the exclusion of examining issues of real concern to the international system.” It was with some relief then that human rights advocates cheered the Obama Administration’s March 2009 decision to reverse course and seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Repudiating Bush-era unilateralism, Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, declared, "The U.S. is seeking election to the Council because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” In April 2009, in support of its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the Obama Administration articulated that “The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected.” On the strength of this and other pledges to promote human rights, the United States won a seat on the council in May. Upon assuming its seat on the UN Human Rights Council this month, Dr. Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, continued the Obama Administration’s strong rhetorical support for the universality of human rights. “We can not pick and choose which of these [human] rights we embrace nor select who among us are entitled to them…These rights extend to all, and the United States can not accept that any among us would be condemned to live without them.” Brimmer also seemed to confirm that the United States will have only one standard by which to judge human rights violations within the UN Human Rights Council. “Make no mistake; the United States will not look the other way in the face of serious human rights abuses. The truth must be told, the facts brought to light and the consequences faced.” Yet, already, the reality of U.S. policy on the UN Human Rights Council appears to signal otherwise. Speaking less diplomatically than in the State Department press release announcing the U.S. bid for a seat, Rice told Politico in April that the real reason why the Obama Administration decided to seek a seat was to fight against "the anti-Israel crap" within the council. Neither does the Obama Administration’s response to the Goldstone Report auger well for the United States living up to its word to hold human rights violators accountable. Assistant Secretary of State Phillip Crowley urged that the “report should not be used as a mechanism to add impediments to getting back to the peace process,” as if holding human rights abusers accountable and establishing peace are mutually exclusive affairs. Speaking at the UN, Rice called the UN mission “unbalanced, one sided and basically unacceptable,” even though the Goldstone Report documented human rights violations by Palestinian armed group and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to those committed by Israel. Under withering criticism of the Goldstone Report from Israel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Israel’s supporters on Capitol Hill—Rep. Gary Ackerman went so far as to accuse its authors of living in a “self-righteous fantasyland”—the White House reportedly promised to Jewish organizations in an off-the-record briefing to “quash” the report, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. To do so, the United States reportedly will try to permanently kill the report in the UN Human Rights Council, a body with no effective enforcement mechanism, and prevent it from going to the General Assembly, Security Council, and possibly even the International Criminal Court, as recommended in the report. Yet widespread support for the Goldstone Report recommendations does exist within the United States, as evidenced by the more than 150 organizations that signed an open letter to Rice organized by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation urging the United States to vote in favor of the recommendations in the UN Human Rights Council. Should the United States decide to vote against the Goldstone Report in March, it will be a major letdown for those who took seriously the Obama Administration’s rhetorical commitment to advancing human rights. * Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 300 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. The US Campaign’s open letter to Ambassador Rice can be viewed by clicking here.