Showing posts with label State Department. Show all posts
Showing posts with label State Department. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Dozens of Organizations Commend Virginia State Bar for Decision to Cancel Trip to Israel

April 1, 2015

Virginia State Bar
Mr. Kevin E. Martingayle, President
1111 East Main Street, Suite 700
Richmond, VA 23219-3565

Dear Mr. Martingayle,

We write to commend the Virginia State Bar for its decision to cancel its Midyear Legal Seminar in Jerusalem. By cancelling the planned seminar, the Virginia State Bar has reaffirmed its commitment to the principles of equality enshrined in U.S. law.

In thanking the Virginia State Bar, we agree with the sentiments expressed by Representative Keith Ellison in 2013 when he stated, “American citizens deserve to travel without fear of being turned away based on their race, religion, or countries they have visited.”

Israel’s routine discrimination against U.S. citizens entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory is both well documented and ongoing. In the process of denying entry to U.S. citizens, Israel often subjects them to humiliating searches, intensive interrogations, and invasions of personal privacy, including demanding access to private email accounts.

Those affected by Israel’s policies include
teachers, college students, world-renowned university professors, architects, clergy, interfaith delegations, people visiting sick relatives, married couples giving birth, humanitarian workers, human rights monitors, and descendants of signers of the U.S. constitution. In recent years, Israel’s refusal to end its discrimination against U.S. citizens prevented it from entering the Visa Waiver Program and prompted strong condemnations from lawmakers, the administration, and human rights organizations.

In March of 2014, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints.”

In 2013, sixteen Members of Congress wrote to then-Israeli Ambassador Oren, saying, "we are concerned that Israeli border officials are disproportionally singling out, detaining, and denying entry to Arab and Muslim Americans." In their letter, Members of Congress quoted a spokesperson for Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said, “we expect all American citizens to be accorded the rights that any other American citizen would be accorded...there are no second classes.”

As an association that prides itself on diversity and respect for equal rights, members of the Virginia State Bar should reasonably expect to have their civil rights upheld in the course of pursuing professional development opportunities. As you referenced in your cancellation notification, one additional issue with the planned seminar was the insufficient number of individuals who had signed-up to attend. In all likelihood, the low participation rate reflected a justifiable reluctance among practicing attorneys to subject themselves to mistreatment based on their race, religion, or political opinions. Had the gathering occurred as planned, some members of Virginia’s esteemed bar would have undoubtedly suffered discrimination and humiliation at the hands of Israeli border officials and possibly been denied entry outright.

Furthermore, given that membership in the Virginia State Bar is required for all practicing attorneys in the state, it is incumbent upon the association to avoid activities which may inherently discriminate against its members. Indeed, such action is required under the Virginia Human Rights Act and federal statutes governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, and disability.

Again, we commend the Virginia State Bar for its commitment to upholding the civil rights of its diverse membership. We look forward to the day when everyone living in Israel/Palestine will enjoy equal treatment under the law regardless of race or religion; and all who desire to visit may do so without fear of discrimination or humiliation.


American Muslims for Palestine
Christian Peacemaker Teams - Palestine
Friends of Sabeel North America
Institute for Policy Studies - New Internationalism Project
Jewish Voice for Peace
Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land
Methodist Federation for Social Action
National Lawyers Guild - International Committee
Palestine Solidarity Legal Support
Peace Action
United Methodist Kairos Response
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
US Palestinian Community Network

Local and Regional Organizations:
14 Friends of Palestine
Al-Nakba Awareness Project
Bay Area Women in Black
Birmingham Peace Project
Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition
Cape Codders for Peace and Justice
Carolina Peace Resource Center
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East - Kansas City
Coloradans for Justice in Palestine
Committee for Justice in Palestine at The Ohio State University
Committee for Palestinian Rights
Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace
Friends of Palestine - Wisconsin
Hilton Head for Peace
Interfaith Council for Peace in the Middle East
Israel-Palestine Task Force, California Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church
Jews Say No, NYC
Jewish Voice for Peace - Bay Area Chapter
Jewish Voice for Peace - Boston Chapter
Jewish Voice for Peace - DC Metro Chapter
Jewish Voice for Peace - St. Louis Chapter
Massachusetts Peace Action
MidEast: Just Peace
Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign
Peace for Palestine - West Boston
St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee
Upper New York United Methodist Task Force on Israel Palestine
Vancouver for Peace

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ask the State Department about Palestinian Refugees!

Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population,
Refugees, and Migration, will be interviewed by Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to discuss "Refugee Assistance, the Human Face of Foreign Policy" in recognition of  World Refugee Day, which is on June 20. The conversation is meant to highlight refugee assistance, U.S. refugee assistance policies and the concept of humanitarian diplomacy. 

They are asking people submit questions via Twitter to @EngageState using #RefugeeDay2013. This is an opportunity to pose questions about U.S. policy toward Palestinian refugees

You can use the sample tweets below and/or come up with your own. The discussion will be taped on Tuesday, June 18 so make sure to submit your questions before then! 

Note: If you do not use Twitter, you can submit questions via the State Department's blog ( in the Comments section. 

  • Palestinians are largest refugee population in the world @EngageState What will U.S. do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • UNRWA estimates there are 5 million Palestinian refugees @EngageState What will U.S. do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • Palestinians made refugees by Israeli ethnic cleansing in '48 @EngageState What will US do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • Israel agreed to Palestinian refugees' right of return when joining UN. Shouldn't Israel have to implement it? @EngageState #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Are you Jewish?"

Sandra Tamari is active with US Campaign member group St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee

Deportation shows Israel's intolerance

"Are you Jewish?" is the first question the U.S. Embassy staffer asked me on the phone while I sat in Israeli detention at the airport in Tel Aviv. When I responded that I was a Palestinian born in the United States, he said he could do nothing for me. Consequently, I endured eight hours of interrogation by Israeli authorities. When I would not grant them access to my email account, I was accused of being a terrorist. The heavy-handed treatment resulted from my participation in an interfaith delegation to listen to Palestinians and Israelis working for peace.

Israel decided to deport me and deny my participation in this project, deeming me a "security risk." I spent the night in prison and then was put on a flight home the next day.

The interrogators were especially interested in my activism. They had "googled" me and knew that I was involved in urging the Methodist Church to vote to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. I publicly advocated for divestment as a nonviolent measure to end the occupation. I attended the Methodist General Conference in Tampa and spoke to many about how my Christian Palestinian family is denied residency in the West Bank and how Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, were suffering under occupation. Israel's discriminatory policies have affected my family before. In 1966, my father came to the United States for work. Soon after, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Israel conducted a census of residents of the Occupied Territories in 1967 to create a population registry. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 270,000 Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories before the war were absent during the census for study, work or because they fled the conflict. Many Palestinians, including my father, were denied their right to regain residency status. When my father returns to visit his family, he must do so on a tourist visa granted at Israel's discretion.

The U.S. Congress has done nothing to tell Israel that this is an outrage. Instead, they go along with AIPAC in giving Israel over $3 billion in military aid per year to further dispossess Palestinians.

Continue Reading at Belleville News-Democrat

Help Sandra deliver
20,000 signatures to the State Department demanding that the United States put an end to systematic discrimination against U.S. citizens by it and Israel

Thursday, May 31, 2012

By supporting Israel, Hillary Clinton and Congress flout US human rights law

Josh Ruebner is National Advocacy Director at the US Campaign. 

Guess which institution had the following to say about Israel’s human rights record in 2011:

  • “Arab citizens of the country faced institutional and societal discrimination.”
  • “Resources devoted to Arabic education were inferior to those devoted to Hebrew education in the public education system.”
  • “Human rights organizations reported that ‘physical interrogation methods’ permitted by Israeli law and used by Israeli security personnel could amount in practice to torture.”
  • “In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli Civil Administration, part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, continued to demolish homes, cisterns, and other buildings and property constructed by Palestinians in areas under Israeli civil control on the basis that these buildings lacked Israeli planning licenses. Compensation was generally not offered in these cases.”
  • “In East Jerusalem, under Israeli authority, displays of Palestinian political symbols were punishable by fines or imprisonment.”
  • “The [Israeli military] IDF continued its use of a 1967 military order that effectively prohibited Palestinian demonstrations and limited freedom of speech in the West Bank. The order stipulates that a ‘political’ gathering of 10 or more persons requires a permit from the regional commander of military forces. The penalty for a breach of the order is 10 years’ imprisonment or a heavy fine.”
  • “The Israeli government obstructed refugee access to [United Nations agency for Palestine refugees] UNRWA-provided humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
  • “Some Israeli settlers reportedly used violence against Palestinians as a means of harassment and to keep them away from land that settlers sought to expropriate … Settlers also exploited religious tensions to harass Palestinian villages by vandalizing, breaking into, or burning 10 mosques.

If you were the typical member of Congress who believes that Israel is a shining beacon of light to humanity and the greatest thing since sliced bread, then you would probably answer one of the following: some anti-Semitic agency of the United Nations, an obviously biased Palestinian organization, or one of those self-hating Israeli organizations.

But you would be wrong.

These quotations come from the US State Department’s
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011, released on 24 May. Despite the muted language, the report paints a damning picture of Israel’s human rights abuses of the Palestinian people. From governmental and societal discrimination based on ethnicity (the international definition of apartheid), to flagrant violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Fourth Geneva Convention, the State Department scratches the surface of Israel’s atrocious policies toward Palestinians in this report.

Continue reading on The Electronic Intifada 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Suggestion for the State Department on Human Rights and Business

Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero spoke yesterday at the State Department on implementing the Guiding Principles of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Otero claims that "We must establish clear guidelines and reliable processes so that business can do their part in respecting human rights. The U.S. government uses our foreign policy to help strengthen the rule of law and human rights, which in turn improves the environment for prosperous business. It also ensures investment and innovation don’t violate standards of stable and democratic society."

That sounds just fine and dandy, Under Secretary Otero.  Here's a suggestion to help advance the United States' supposed concern for businesses respecting human rights: get the State Department to stop licensing Caterpillar D9 bulldozers for export to the Israeli military, paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

As we've documented copiously over the years, Israel has misused these bulldozers in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act to commit human rights abuses of Palestinians, including the deliberate injuring and killing of civilians, the demolition of civilian homes and businesses, the razing of Palestinian agriculture, and the building of Israel's illegal settlements and Apartheid Wall.

Under Secretary Otero, we challenge you to implement your fine words about the United States encouraging businesses to respect human rights: sanction Israel by ending U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons transfers of Caterpillar bulldozers and stop U.S. corporate profiteering from violations of Palestinian human rights.

But, we're not waiting for you to take action either.  Right now we're down in Tampa encouraging the United Methodists to divest from Caterpillar and other corporations that profit from Israeli military occupation. Follow the latest developments from Tampa on our Twitter feed here.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Media Tell State Department: The Emperor Has No Clothes

When it comes to the so-called Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," the State Department daily press briefings have truly degenerated into a farce in which the mainstream media refuses to believe any longer.  Take, for example, yesterday's briefing, during which a succession of members of the media poked holes in the logic of the United States saying for the umpteenth time that Israeli settlement activity is "unhelpful" yet refusing to even consider any "consequences" for Israel's repeated and flagrant disregard of U.S. policy concerns.

This exchange is worth quoting in full for the absurdity of the State Department position.  Members of media have exposed the fact that the emperor in not wearing any clothes.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government has announced plans to actually encourage settlers to move into the West Bank and to begin - and also to begin a process that would - that could end up in legalizing what are now illegal outposts. I’m assuming that your position on both of these things hasn’t changed, so I’m wondering --

MR. TONER: You assume correctly.


MR. TONER: You know we’ve said multiple times --

QUESTION: What is it - can you maybe make it a little bit more clear, because it seems to be apparent that the Israelis, or at least Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, don’t understand exactly what it is that you, as their prime benefactor and large - huge ally, want from them.

MR. TONER: Well, Matt, we’ve said this many times from this podium and from elsewhere that we view any move that would jeopardize getting these two parties back to the negotiating table, and indeed, we’ve obviously seen them back - face-to-face negotiations over the past couple of weeks - that we find those unconstructive and unhelpful.

QUESTION: And that would include what they have announced today?

MR. TONER: Yes, that would include that.

QUESTION: All right. So what is the consequence, then, for Israel for them continuing to defy - not only defy but really to do - not just to say no, we don’t agree with that, but then to actually actively --

MR. TONER: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- oppose or actively take active steps that fly in the face of what you say is helpful?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we’re seeking clarity on what is actually being proposed here. We did have an initial round of direct talks in Jordan. Those talks have ended, but they did show signs of progress and we certainly want to see them continue. And these kinds of actions don’t help create the kind of atmosphere that are conducive to these talks continuing.

Now, David Hale is in the region. He’s going to have meetings in Amman as well as Jerusalem and Ramallah, and he’ll be back in Washington later this week. But - obviously, he’s there in his capacity, but also I think he’ll make some of these concerns - convey them to the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: Well, these concerns have been conveyed over and over and over to the Israelis. What is the consequence for them continuing to do this?

MR. TONER: Well, again, this is about getting them back to the negotiating table. And what we make clear is that whenever these kinds of actions take place, that they hamper that process.

QUESTION: So there is no consequence at all?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s not about carrots and sticks. What it’s about is trying to encourage these parties to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Why not? It’s about carrots and sticks everywhere else in the world. Why isn’t it about carrots and sticks here?

MR. TONER: In this case, it’s in both their --

QUESTION: What are you doing --

MR. TONER: -- it’s in both parties’ best interests to continue negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement.

QUESTION: But the actions of at least - one could argue the actions of both parties, but in this series of questions, which is about the announcements by the Israeli Government --

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- they are not acting in the best interests of that, according to you.

MR. TONER: Again --

QUESTION: Correct? So what is the consequence of that? The consequence is they don’t get back to talks that they apparently don’t seem to want?

MR. TONER: Well, again, you’ll have to ask the Israeli Government what their intent is here. But you’re absolutely right that this has to be something that both sides want to pursue and to do so in a meaningful and committed fashion. And again, we are very outspoken when we see actions by either side that we believe hampers the chance for these parties to get back into direct negotiations. It’s certainly - as we’ve said many times, it’s in both of their interests to be in direct negotiations.

QUESTION: All right. Two more very quick ones --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: -- and then I’m done. You talk about meaningful and committed fashion. Are the actions of the Israeli Government something that you would consider meaningful and committed to be - is what they’re doing, is that something that you consider to be acting in a meaningful and - now I’ve forgotten the other word --

MR. TONER: That’s okay.

QUESTION: Committed.

QUESTION: -- and committed fashion?

MR. TONER: Thanks, Andy. Again, I think I’ve been very clear that actions by either side that we view as unconstructive to the process --

QUESTION: So they are not acting in a meaningful and committed fashion?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we have had talks in Jordan over the past few weeks that we believe offered a good start. We want to see those talks continue. David Hale is in the region. He’s consulting with all sides as well as the Jordanians.

QUESTION: Mark, that’s a great answer to a question, but it’s not the question I asked. Is Israel asking in a meaningful - acting in a meaningful and committed fashion toward getting a peace - towards encouraging these talks?

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve said that these kinds of actions are not constructive.

QUESTION: I think it’s a yes-or-no question.

MR. TONER: And I’m going to answer you the way I’m answering you, which is that it’s not constructive.

QUESTION: It’s not constructive, all right. And then the last one is just Hale - he is where at the moment right now?

MR. TONER: That is a good question. I believe he’s in Amman today.

QUESTION: Okay. And was he aware - was he aware of this before he went or --

MR. TONER: I don’t know. I haven’t - I didn’t talk to him.

QUESTION: Did this come out as a complete surprise to you guys?

MR. TONER: I do not know whether he was aware of it or not.

QUESTION: What about the rest of the building?

MR. TONER: Again, I believe that we were - again, I’m not going to get into what we may or may not have known. What we’re seeing here is actions that we believe aren’t constructive.

QUESTION: Mark, just a --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure, Said.

QUESTION: -- quick follow-up on this. Now, you keep saying that the path to statehood is through direct negotiations. Seeing how the settlement processing increased by 20 percent in 2011 and with today’s announcement, and in fact, since the beginning of this month we are likely to see an increase if they continue at this pace - like a 40 percent increase in settlement activities. So what incentive is there for the Palestinians to go into these negotiations to sort of get a state that is viable - as you keep saying - that is viable and contiguous and independent and sovereign?

MR. TONER: Well, the motivation should be clear, and that is the sooner they sit down with Israel and work through these issues in a comprehensive fashion so that we can get a clear way forward in terms of borders, then the sooner they have that comprehensive settlement and that statehood that they so desire.

QUESTION: But isn’t there a pattern that every time there is some sort of a negotiation and, in fact, a visit by a high-level U.S. official and so on to Israel, that the Israelis always counter by announcing a new settlement and increase the settlements and so on?

MR. TONER: Again, you’re asking me to speak to the motivations behind this decision. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. So you talk about incentives for the Palestinians, but do you have any kind of disincentive for the increased Israeli settlement activities?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve always been clear that - and Israelis themselves have commented that the status quo is unsustainable. So that’s --

QUESTION: So then the expression of anger and perhaps a little pouting, there is nothing that you can do?

MR. TONER: I disagree. David Hale is right now in the region. He is consulting with our partners as well as the parties. And we’re committed to getting them back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the last time that your position that was made very clearly to the Israelis did have an impact on stemming the settlement activities?

MR. TONER: Again, we are very outspoken when we see these kinds of actions by either side. We convey those to the Israelis, but you’re asking me to --

QUESTION: But you expressed a little recollection on that --

MR. TONER: -- elaborate on some kind of actions that I can’t.

QUESTION: In the last 12 months, you have not been able to sort of dissuade the Israelis from settlement activities. Are you aware of any time that you were able to persuade them?

MR. TONER: Again, Said, it is a question better directed to the Israeli Government. What we’re trying to do without preconditions, we’re trying to get the parties back to the negotiating table, and we’ve had a good start.    

Friday, January 27, 2012

State Department Right on Cue with "Peace Process" Happy Talk

In a follow-up to yesterday's blog post on hope springing eternal for the "peace process" managers as yet another negotiating deadline was blown, here is State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland's spin on Israeli-Palestinian pre-talk talks breaking down at yesterday's press briefing:

"It’s not surprising that the sides need some time to pause and to reflect. Our hope is that this will only be a little short period and that they will be able to get back to the table relatively quickly, and that’s what we are urging them to do."

One intrepid or cynical reporter then dared to ask the obvious: "But - I’m sorry. I mean, this hope, what is it based on? I mean, the conditions have not changed."

Nuland responded vaguely: "I think our sense is that this process was helpful to both sides. They’ve clarified some issues, there are some things that they need to work on at home on both sides, and that perhaps a small pause and then to come back with some fresh ideas will be helpful."

Yes, perhaps, indeed.  Although it seems highly unlikely when Palestinians are negotiating for a sovereign and geographically contiguous state and the Israeli government is doing everything it can to prevent the establishment of such a state in favor of maintaining its colonization, military occupation, and apartheid rule over the territory that is supposed to be the future Palestinian state.

There's simply no way to jam that square peg into the round hole no matter how much misplaced hope one has.  Onward with the "peace process" charade.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Media Release: 125+ Groups & 25,000+ Individuals: "Don't Veto Palestinian UN Membership"

August 5, 2011

Washington, DC -- The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation delivered today to the State Department an open letter signed by more than 125 groups, including 30 national organizations, and petitions signed by more than 25,000 people urging the Obama Administration not to veto Palestinian UN membership if the issue arises in the Security Council.

National organizations Code Pink, Grassroots International, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Just Foreign Policy contributed petition signatures to the overall count. 

The open letter reads in part:

"Palestinians have been prevented from exercising their rights to freedom and self-determination on even a portion of their historic homeland due to Israel's historic and ongoing policies of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, military occupation, and colonization... Palestinians have waited more than 63 years for their human rights. We urge you—do not set a timetable for Palestinian freedom by vetoing Palestinian membership in the United Nations."

Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign, stated that:

"The American people are ahead of the administration in recognizing that our policy towards the region has failed. Even though the State Department has been unwilling to meet with us yet, we have made clear to the Obama Administration that thousands of people across this country, and a diverse and growing coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands more will continue to organize until we end unconditional U.S. support for Israel's illegal military occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. Through our efforts, the U.S. government will realize what so many people already know: that the way to achieve a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace is to base our country's policies on human rights, international law, and equality, and not to deny Palestinians freedom and self-determination."

Other national organizations endorsing the open letter include: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Educational Trust, American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, American Jews for a Just Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine-Israel Network, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends of Sabeel—North America ,Global Exchange, Interfaith Peace-Builders, Intersect Worldwide, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)—USA, Middle East Children's Alliance, Paulist Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Peace Action, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship,  Progressive Democrats of America, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice , Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, United for Peace and Justice,  United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, U.S. Peace Council, and War Resisters League.

For the complete text of the open letter and the complete list of organizational endorsements, click here.

The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 350 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality. For more information see