Thursday, August 22, 2013

Are Members of Congress committed to upholding U.S. laws?

Consideration of Senator Paul’s recent amendment to declare the Egyptian military’s takeover a coup d’état generated a discussion that adds serious doubts about whether Members of Congress are committed to upholding U.S. laws. The majority view among Senators held that while the U.S. is a nation of laws, some laws should simply be ignored because protecting human rights is a hindrance to the pursuit of ‘U.S. interests.'

Of course this same absurd logic has long applied to Israel, which routinely commits prima facie violations of U.S. laws but is rarely held accountable by Members of Congress.

Senator Paul’s amendment failed by a vote of 86 to 13 and most of the votes in support of the measure were from Tea Party affiliated or very conservative Senators.  It is worth noting that many of the Senators who supported the amendment were not doing so in the interest of human rights.  

Below are some notable quotes from the debate.

Senator McCain:
“I think the amendment has even larger implications than that of whether we should cut off all assistance to Egypt. By the way, my friends, I don’t think it’s an accident that AIPAC, our friends there who represent the interests of the State of Israel, have opposed this amendment.”

Senator Paul:
“When there’s chaos and blood running in the streets, when there’s millions of people protesting, ya think it’s a good time to send more weapons? Ya think it’s a good time to send more weapons when millions of people are in the street? "

"What about human rights, what about dignity, what about trials?"

"If we choose to ignore our own laws, can we with a straight face preach to the rest of the world about the rule of law?”

Below is the text of the amendment, here is a link to the debate.

SA 1739. Mr. PAUL submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1243, making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: At the end of title I, insert the following: Sec. __XXX. (a) Congress makes the following findings:

(1) On June 30, 2012, Mohamed Morsi was elected President of Egypt in elections that were certified as free and fair by the Egyptian Presidential Election Commission and the United Nations.

(2) On July 3, 2013, the military of Egypt removed the democratically elected President of Egypt, arrested his supporters, and suspended the Constitution of Egypt. These actions fit the definition of a military coup d'état.

(3) Pursuant to section 7008 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, 2012 (division I of Public Law 112-74; 125 Stat. 1195), the United States is legally prohibited from providing foreign assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup d'état, or removed in such a way that the military plays a decisive role.

(4) The United States has suspended aid to countries that have undergone military coups d'état in the past, including the Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Thailand, Mali, Fiji, and Honduras.

(b)(1) In accordance with section 7008 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, 2012 (division I of Public Law 112-74; 125 Stat. 1195), the United States Government, including the Department of State, shall refrain from providing to the Government of Egypt the assistance restricted under such section.

(2) In addition to the restrictions referred to in paragraph (1), the following restrictions shall be in effect with respect to United States assistance to the Government of Egypt:

(A) Deliveries of defense articles currently slated for transfer to Egyptian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) shall be suspended until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(B) Provision of defense services to Egyptian MOD and MOI shall be halted immediately until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(C) Processing of draft Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) for future arms sales to Egyptian MOD and MOI entities shall be halted until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(D) All costs associated with the delays in deliveries and provision of services required under subparagraphs (A) through (C) shall be borne by the Government of Egypt. (c) Any amounts retained by the United States as a result of implementing subsection (b) shall be made available to the Secretary of Transportation to carry out activities under the heading ``BRIDGES IN CRITICAL CORRIDORS''.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ask the State Department about US Support for Israeli Oppression

Ambassador Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, will hold a discussion with Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, on August 21, 2013. The conversation is meant to highlight the Department's efforts to advance U.S. national security by working with partners in priority countries to break cycles of violent conflict, strengthen civilian security, and mitigate crisis.  

They are inviting people to participate by submitting questions, some of which will be selected for response during the taping. Below are some sample questions to submit via Twitter asking the State Department how the United States plans on breaking cycles of violent conflict while it sends military aid to Israel to oppress Palestinians.  

If you are not on Twitter, you can submit via DipNote, the Department of State's official blog.

  • If U.S. wants to break cycles of violence #AskAmbBarton, then why are we giving $30 billion in weapons to Israel? @EngageState
  • Don't you think US should "mitigate crisis" #AskAmbBarton by stopping U.S. taxpayer weapons to Israel to oppress Palestinians? @EngageState
  • Why do Palestinian civilians have to die #AskAmbBarton b/c of weapons we give to Israel? Aren't we complicit in their deaths? @EngageState
  • Won't Obama's negotiating of $40 billion in more weapons to Israel #AskAmbBarton only prolong its subjugation of Palestinians? @EngageState
  • How can US support Israeli-Palestinian peace #AskAmbBarton when we give weapons to Israel to occupy/colonize Palestinian land? @EngageState

Monday, August 19, 2013

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

On Saturday, August 24, the National Action to Realize the Dream March will take place in Washington, DC in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

The march will honor the progress of the past five decades as well as continue the struggle for economic, racial, and social equality. The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman highlights yet again the continued pervasiveness of racism in the United States and how far we are from accomplishing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As organizations and individuals working to end U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid, it is also important to examine and fight against the oppression perpetrated by the United States itself. Our work for Palestinian rights is only strengthened by confronting all forms of racism and injustice. A recent statement put out by a coalition of Palestine justice groups in solidarity with Trayvon Martin and victims of racial violence explains how the struggle for justice for Palestine cannot move forward without challenging racism here at home: 

As people who are fighting for justice in Palestine, we understand how racism is used to justify and perpetuate an unjust system that oppresses whole populations. Our government tries to divide us by telling us that black is synonymous with “criminal” in the same way that it tries to tell us that Arab and Muslim is synonymous with “terrorist.” In many ways the Black struggle coincides with the Palestinian struggle, from racial profiling, to youth incarcerations, to segregated roads, buses, housing, and education. On top of this, a handful of the same corporations, like G4S and other prison industries are profiting off of the racist mass imprisonment of both African Americans in the U.S. and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

We encourage you to attend the march on August 24, which will begin at 8:00am at the Lincoln Memorial and end at the MLK Memorial where leaders of civil rights, labor, immigrant rights and social justice organizations will be speaking. At 5:00pm there will be a town hall meeting at Busboys and Poets (5th and K) with Dr. Cornel West, Gary Younge, Dave Zirin, and Dr. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor to discuss what has changed since Dr. King gave his "I have a dream" speech and the prospects for rebuilding a fight against racism today.

In his "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" speech delivered in April 1967, Dr. King drew the parallels between working for civil rights in the United States and opposing a U.S. foreign policy based on war and aggression, linking the problems of racism and militarism. Decades later as the United States continues to both fund and commit violence abroad, and it continues to be clear that we do not live in a "post-racial" society, it is important we stand up against all forms of injustice to achieve freedom, justice, and equality for all. 

PS- We hope you will join the US Campaign for our National Organizers' Conference September 20-22. Our conference theme is joint struggle and how we can connect our work for Palestinian rights with other movements for social justice. The agenda includes a panel discussion on Building Solidarity Across Black, Native American, and Palestinian Struggles. Register today!