Showing posts with label congress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label congress. Show all posts

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gaza One Year Later: The Quest for Accountability

On July 29, 2015, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation hosted a Congressional briefing to examine Israel's misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons in Gaza and call on lawmakers to hold Israel accountable for its violations of U.S. and international law. A full description of the briefing can be found below the videos.

Click below to view a full video of the briefing: 



Below are the individual testimonies from the briefing:


Part 1 - Josh Ruebner, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation



Part 2 - Eman Mohammed, Gaza Photojournalist




Part 3 - Brad Parker, Defense for Children International Palestine




Part 4 - Nadia Ben-Youssef, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel




Part 5 - Josh Ruebner, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation



Part 6 - Raed Jarrar, American Friends Service Committee



Gaza One Year Later:
The Quest for Accountability


121 Cannon House Office Building,
27 Independence Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

Wednesday, July 29 at 12:00 PM

One year has passed since “Operation Protective Edge”, Israel’s attack on the Palestinian Gaza Strip which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and devastated its infrastructure. Today Gaza remains under Israeli blockade, unreconstructed, and teetering on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe.  Join us for this discussion on Israel’s failure to hold itself accountable through domestic judicial proceedings, and the options and need for the United States and the international community to do so.

Featuring:

Nadia Ben-Youssef, USA Representative, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Eman Mohammed, Gaza photojournalist; contributor, Gaza Unsilenced

Brad Parker, International Advocacy Officer, Defense for Children International Palestine

Moderated by: Josh Ruebner, Policy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Sponsored by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Cosponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Jewish Voice for Peace, Just World Books, Middle East Children's Alliance, United Methodist Kairos Response, US Palestinian Community Network.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Briefing on Capitol Hill Examines Israel's Mistreatment of Palestinian Children

On June 2nd, the American Friends Service Committee hosted a Congressional briefing entitled "International Juvenile Justice Reform: Children in Israeli Military Detention." A distinguished panel of individuals, ranging from Palestinian children to international human rights experts, provided powerful testimony about Israel's routine mistreatment of Palestinian children.

(Above: A room packed with Congressional staff and members of
the public listen to testimony at June 2nd briefing on Capitol Hill)

The Congressional briefing was part of the "No Way to Treat a Child Campaign," an effort led by a coalition of faith groups known as the Chicago Faith Coalition.

The briefing was attended by more one hundred people, including 36 Congressional offices.  Videos of the briefing as well as a full description of the event are below.

Part 1: Representative Keith Ellison and Jennifer Bing



Part 2: Brad Parker, Tariq and Suha Abu Khdeir



Part 3: Joe Stork and Rabbi Brant Rosen


International Juvenile Justice Reform: Children in Israeli Military Detention


Tuesday, June 2, 2015
9:30 - 10:45am
Capitol Visitors Center
Congressional Meeting Room North

Each year hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The United Nations and many human rights groups are concerned by reports from Palestinian children that detail cruel punishments, substandard conditions, and a lack of fundamental due process rights in Israel's military courts.

This briefing will discuss the legal and structural components of Israel's military court system and situate the detention of Palestinian children within the larger context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The briefing will also provide a firsthand account from a child’s perspective and examine the effects of Israel's detention, interrogation, and abuse of Palestinian children.

Opening Remarks from Congressman Keith Ellison

Featured Speakers:

Tariq Abu Khdeir & Suha Abu Khdeir
Palestinian-American family

Brad Parker
Attorney & Senior Advocacy Officer, Defense for Children International - Palestine

Rabbi Brant Rosen
Midwest Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee

Joe Stork
Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch


Moderated by:
Jennifer Bing, American Friends Service Committee

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Urgent: Anti-BDS Bill Up for Vote Tomorrow

We just learned that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) will introduce an anti-BDS amendment to a bill in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. While the exact text isn’t public yet, the amendment will be similar to a bill—S.619, the United States-Israel Trade Enhancement Act of 2015—he introduced last month.

You can find the complete action alert here with talking points to call Senator Cardin here. 

After you call Senator Cardin, please also call the other members of the Senate Finance Committee. If your Senator is on the committee, make sure to mention you are a constituent.

Committee Leadership

Senator Orrin Hatch
(202) 224-5251

Senator Ron Wyden
(202) 224-5244

Republicans

Chuck Grassley, IA 
202-224-3744

Mike Crapo, ID 
(202) 224-6142

Pat Roberts, KS 
202-224-4774

Michael B. Enzi, WY 
(202) 224-3424

John Cornyn, TX 
202-224-2934

John Thune, SD 
(202) 224-2321

Richard Burr, NC 
(202) 224-3154

Johnny Isakson, GA 
(202) 224-3643

Rob Portman, OH 
202-224-3353

Patrick J.  Toomey, PA 
(202) 224-4254

Dan Coats, IN 
(202) 224-5623

Dean Heller, NV 
202-224-6244

Tim Scott, SC
(202) 224-6121

Democrats

Charles E. Schumer, NY 
(202) 224-6542

Debbie Stabenow, MI 
(202) 224-4822

Maria Cantwell, WA 
(202) 224-3441

Bill Nelson, FL 
202-224-5274

Robert Menendez, NJ 
202.224.4744

Thomas R. Carper, DE 
(202) 224-2441

Benjamin L. Cardin, MD 
(202) 224-4524

Sherrod  Brown, OH 
(202) 224-2315

Michael F. Bennet, CO 
202-224-5852

Robert P. Casey, Jr., PA 
(202) 224-6324

Mark R. Warner, VA
202-224-2023

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Congress, Obama Administration Standing on Wrong Side of History

Josh Ruebner is National Advocacy Director at the US Campaign. This piece was published in The Hill





Penalizing Palestinians will not help peace process

By Josh Ruebner, author, Obama and the Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Peace12/03/12 11:00 AM ET


When it comes to shielding Israeli human rights violations and squelching Palestinian freedom and self-determination, Congress never misses an opportunity to reward Israeli intransigence and punish peaceful Palestinian initiatives. 

The Senate defines a “non-germane amendment” as one “that would add new and different subject matter to, or may be irrelevant to, the bill or other measure it seeks to amend.” Senators are now piling on these “non-germane amendments” to the National Defense Authorization Act in a vindictive move designed to penalize Palestinians, the United Nations and even any country that supports Palestinian statehood following last Thursday's 138-9 vote in the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of a “non-member observer state.”

These amendments, described as “ham-fisted” by Americans for Peace Now, could cut off U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) if Palestinians join the International Criminal Court, close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, slash U.S. funding of the General Assembly, and even reduce U.S. foreign assistance to any country which voted for Palestine’s upgraded U.N. status.

 These initiatives are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg of Congressional efforts to demonize and reprimand the Palestinians for daring to buck the demands of the United States and Israel that they remain perpetually constrained within a sham “peace process” that has failed miserably to deliver even a modicum of individual and national rights to the Palestinians, who continue to languish under Israel’s oppressive apartheid policies.

However, this genie cannot be put back inside its bottle no matter how significant Congressional sanctions are. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice criticized Thursday’s actions as “grand pronouncements” that “will soon fade.” While the speeches may be forgotten, Palestine’s admittance to the U.N. as a “non-member state” signals the international community’s resounding vote of no confidence in U.S. domination of the “peace process.” It is U.S. diplomacy and leadership, not the international community’s growing solidarity with the Palestinian quest for freedom and self-determination, which is waning.

Sixty five years ago last Thursday the UN voted to partition Palestine into two states, assigning its Jewish minority a majority of the land against the wishes of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants. This undemocratic move recalled British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s infamous, yet honest, confession that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.”

Ironically enough in light of the strenuous efforts by the Obama Administration and Congress to deny Palestine its rightful place among the community of nations, the United States implicitly backed UN membership and recognition of an independent Palestinian state when it supported and arm-twisted other nations into voting for Palestine’s partition in 1947.


Yet 65 years later, thanks in large measure to unconditional U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israel, its discriminatory policies toward Palestinians remain as firmly entrenched as ever. The partition of Palestine led not only to the establishment of Israel in 1948, but also to Israel’s campaign of dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (referred to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” by Palestinians) and the resultant Palestinian refugee crisis. To this day, Israel denies five million Palestinian refugees their international-recognized right of return. Those Palestinians not forced out by Israel at its creation remain second-class citizens, subjected to discriminatory laws and widespread societal racism. And, for the past 45 years, Israel’s brutal military occupation and illegal colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip have rendered a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a remote pipe dream.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast his initiative to gain “non-member observer state” status for Palestine at the U.N. as a way to salvage the diminishing prospects of a two-state resolution. However, Israel’s response to the vote may have put the final nail in the coffin of attempts to establish an independent Palestinian state. Only hours afterward, a senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Israel had approved preliminary plans to build in the E1 region, “which would connect the large settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem and therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.”

Regardless of whether Palestine’s upgraded status at the U.N. somehow miraculously reverses Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land to enable the establishment of an independent Palestinian state or whether history is coming full circle to a one-state resolution and the “un-partitioning” of Palestine, by backing Israeli apartheid and denying Palestinian freedom and self-determination, Congress and the Obama administration are standing on the wrong side of history.    

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pro-Israel Groups React to Church Letter Challenging US Military Aid

Our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner was interviewed about the recent letter sent by 15 prominent church leaders to Members of Congress regarding U.S. military aid to Israel. The letter decried “widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians" and called for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act” and for the “withholding of military aid for non-compliance” with these laws. Thank the church leaders for their important letter.

Jewish, Christian Groups Clash Over U.S. Aid to Israel
by Mitchell Plitnick
October 23, 2012

Jewish groups have reacted furiously to a letter to Congress by 15 leaders of Christian denominations asking for a review of whether some of the three billion dollars in annual United States aid to Israel is being used in violation of U.S. law and policies.

After pulling out of an interfaith dialogue conference, several Jewish groups stepped up their attacks on the Christian leaders, accusing them of bias against Israel and even of anti-Semitism.

The Christians’ letter stated that they believed that the unconditional U.S. aid given to Israel contributes to the “deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories which threaten to lead the region further away from the realization of a just peace… sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The letter was sent to Congress by leaders of such prominent Protestant denominations as the Presbyterians, Methodists, United Church of Christ and the National Council of Churches (USA), among others. 

It called for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to ‘internal security’ or ‘legitimate self-defense.’” 


The church leaders state that their concerns are based on witnessing the questionable use of U.S. weapons firsthand as well as the annual report of the U.S. State Department, which, they say, “details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of U.S.-supplied weapons.” 


Jewish groups, led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), responded angrily. The JCPA stated, “(The churches’) stony silence to the use of anti-Judaism and relentless attacks on the Jewish state, often from within their own ranks, speaks loudly to their failure to stand up and speak the whole truth about what is occurring in the Middle East.” 


The criticism spanned a wide spectrum of U.S.-Jewish politics. Prominent neoconservative Elliott Abrams, a former U.S. official who also headed the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he frequently clashed with church peace groups, called it “the latest chapter in the unending hostility to Israel that has marked several of the mainline Protestant denominations.” 


Abrams, like the more mainstream Jewish groups, sees the letter as motivated by hostility toward Israel. Like them, he does not engage directly with the substance of the letter, nor does he answer the charges of systematic human rights abuses by Israel, but instead raises questions not directly related to the letter’s content to support his contention that the letter is motivated by anti-Israel malice. 


And, while Abrams is surely correct in asserting that “It is unlikely that the churches’ letter will affect the level of aid to Israel,” he does not explain why, if that is the case, such a wide spectrum of the Jewish community has reacted so strongly to it. 


The centrist J Street was just as critical as Abrams, though with a far more conciliatory tone. In an op-ed on Newsweek’s Daily Beast web site, the vice president of their education fund, Rachel Lerner wrote: “J Street opposes proposals to condition or cut security assistance to Israel…As with so many efforts to address this complex situation, the letter fails to weigh criticism of Israel’s behavior with appropriate criticism of, for instance, rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas. 


“We also question the timing of the letter - coming as it does a few short weeks before Election Day, when this sensitive issue has already become too much of a political football.” 


These specifics were cited by Abrams, the JCPA and the ADL as well. But the letter asks not for a cut or conditioning of aid, but a review of whether that aid is being given in compliance with U.S. law, something that has been done frequently with U.S. foreign aid. 


The letter also makes several mentions of Israeli hardships, specifically rockets fired from Gaza, and consistently equates Israeli and Palestinian suffering. 


“Over the years, a number of members of Congress have asked the State Department to report on whether specific incidents constituted violations of the Arms Export Control Act, Foreign Assistance Act or other U.S. laws by Israel,” Joshua Ruebner, the National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told IPS. 


“Even though the State Department’s annual report on human rights in the Occupied Territories regularly documents abuses, the reports come back clean every time. Even though the Christian leaders’ letter asks for a comprehensive review, which has never been done before, the Jewish groups’ response seems like an overreaction.” 


Continue Reading at IPS



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stifling free speech as a way of helping Israel

Shakeel Syed is on the board of American Muslims for Palestine and a US Campaign Steering Committee member. Jeff Warner works with our member group Los Angeles Jews for Peace.

Our message was simple: "Tell Congress: Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military."

We wanted people to understand how their tax dollars are spent. We contracted with CBS Outdoor for a 28-day campaign of 23 billboards. They erected them in Los Angeles and surrounding cities in June, and we thanked them publicly for allowing free speech. 

However, a week later, CBS Outdoor took down all our billboards, telling us laughably that our applauding them for allowing free speech was tantamount to their endorsement of our message. They wanted us to take our money and go away quietly. But we decided otherwise.

CBS Outdoor likely buckled to pressure from pro-Israeli groups and their paid shills in Congress. Rep. Howard Berman wrote a memo (available on his website) to the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, the sponsor of the billboard campaign, condemning the billboards  and referring to alleged complaints from his San Fernando Valley constituents.  

In response, Berman received praise from pro-Israel groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League, organizations who called the billboards "provocative." 

So what if the billboards contained a message that Berman and these pro-Israel groups found provocative? Who are they to judge what political messages people in Los Angeles should be allowed to see? We believe that provocative discussions make democracy flourish and stifling discussion will kill democracy.
 

As taxpayers, we care how Congress spends our money. As citizens, we want our country to be generous but not reckless. Berman and vast majority of his Congressional colleagues continually demonstrate recklessness in wasting our treasure serving Israeli interests rather than fulfilling the needs of the American people.


Continue Reading at Daily News Los Angeles

Sign up to help organize opposition to military aid for Israel and make sure to register for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University. 


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Were these Billboards to End Aid to Israel Torn Down in L.A.?

As we marked our country’s independence yesterday, we recall the ringing, aspirational words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” that all people “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The long struggle for equality in the United States isn’t over.  As we continue to struggle today for equality here, our country’s $30 billion in military assistance and our invaluable diplomatic support for Israeli occupation and apartheid denies Palestinians that same equality, the very principle on which our country was founded.
A few weeks ago, the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, a member group of the US Campaign, drew attention to how our taxes bankroll Israel’s inequality toward Palestinians. They erected 23 billboards in the Los Angeles area to tell Congress to end aid to Israel. 
Guess what? Almost as soon as the billboards went up, the billboard company—CBS Outdoor—took them down.
Why? Could it have been for the laughable reason that CBS Outdoor provided for breaking the contract, which was that we, along with the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, set up a petition to thank them for running these ads? Doubtful.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the Anti-Defamation League didn’t take a shine to the ads? Or, maybe, it was because Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) complained about them in a press release? 
Berman, who seems to have had no more important matter to take care of, such as helping to solve the national economic crisis or ending the war in Afghanistan, was agitated because he “must drive past” the billboards “every morning.” And, as Berman noted, he believes that he was elected to Congress by his constituents “in large part to fight for a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship. This has been, and will continue to be one [of] my top legislative priorities in Congress.”
Really, Rep. Berman? According to our website www.aidtoisrael.org, your constituents are paying nearly $57 million of their hard-earned tax dollars from 2009 to 2018 to bankroll Israel’s illegal military occupation. We’re betting that you didn’t ask the 20 percent of families with children living below the poverty line in your district whether they sent you to Congress to fund the Israeli military?
Whether Rep. Berman is your Member of Congress or not, we need you to take action this July 4th and stand up for the principle of free speech by signing this petition supporting the message in these censored billboards.
From now until July 9, which is the seventh anniversary of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations that profit from its oppression of Palestinians, help us collect 10,000 signatures to deliver to Rep. Berman letting him know that you support sanctions against Israel, including ending U.S. military aid. 
This is not just another lame internet petition that won’t go anywhere. We deliver our petitions to their intended targets and put effective political pressure on them. Just last week, we organized a delegation to the State Department headed by Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian-American, who was discriminated against both by Israel and the United States when she was recently denied entry at Ben-Gurion airport. 
Together with member groups Jewish Voice for Peace, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, and our friends at the Arab American Institute, we delivered more than 17,000 signaturesto the State Department protesting U.S. and Israeli discriminatory policies.  Check out the video from Palestine Studies TV as Sandra discusses our meeting with the State Department.
We’ve got a creative delivery planned for these petitions to Rep. Berman on July 9, but only if we have enough signatures to really show our strength. Help us reach our goal of 10,000 signatures by signing today, and then forwarding it to all your friends, and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for standing up for free speech, and working to end U.S. aid to Israel! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ros-Lehtinen: "Long-standing occupation amounts to annexation."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, seems to have had enough of a US ally in the Middle East ignoring UN Security Council resolutions, continuing its occupation and refusing to allow refugees to return to their homes. 

From her piece in
The Washington Times
By its occupation, Turkey is “guaranteeing” nothing but a creeping annexation. It is time for Turkey to withdraw its military troops, end all support for illegal immigration to Cyprus and let the true inhabitants of the island determine their own future. Only then will the long-suffering Cypriot people finally enjoy the peace and security they have been trying so desperately to achieve for decades.
As one commentator wrote noting the hypocrisy: Substitute "Israel" for "Turkey," "the West Bank" for "Cyprus" and "Palestinians" for "Greek Cypriots."

Anyone familiar with Ros-Lehtinen's record knows that she has not only failed to demand Israel end its occupation and apartheid policies towards Palestinians, but, with the help of her colleagues in Congress, has enabled this oppression by continuing to send military aid and weapons to Israel. Last year she 
introduced a bill to cut off US funding to any UN organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood. She blasted the Obama administration over reports the United States offered to support a UN Security Council statement in February 2011 critical of Israeli settlements: "Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies. It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles."

Not sure which core principles Ros-Lehtinen wants to uphold when she pushes for U.S. support of occupation and apartheid, but if you think it's time to for a change in U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel, sign up to help organize opposition to military aid for Israel. And make sure to join us for our National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University to get more involved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

4 Billion Reasons to Roll Up Our Sleeves

If it wasn't enough that President Obama increased military aid to Israel to $3.1 billion in this year's budget request while proposing major cuts for services to U.S. citizens such as a $360 billion cut over ten years in Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense earlier this month approved even more money for Israel

The additional $949 million in weapons means that we as taxpayers may end up giving Israel $4 billion in military aid this year, roughly 25 percent more than last year.

U.S. military aid to Israel is already higher than the foreign aid programs to all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. 
This increased money not only takes away from money that is needed for our communities, but makes us even more complicit in and responsible for Israel’s continued human rights abuses against and apartheid policies toward Palestinians. 

You can help us challenges these policies by taking the following steps: 

1. Write a letter to President Obama and your Members of Congress. If you are on Twitter, tweet this message to them about ending military aid. You can find your representative's twitter handle on this website

2. Join a conference call this Thursday, May 31, at 9pm EST to learn more about U.S. military aid to Israel, and to hear from inspiring activists across the country about the creative things they are doing- from ad campaigns, to campaigns in city councils, political parties, religious institutions, and more- to educate and organize people for change. Join the call by dialing 209-647-1600 and entering 489902 for the participant code.

3. Sign up to receive a packet with materials to educate and organize people in your community to end U.S. aid to Israel. When you sign up, you’ll be joining organizers in more than 1,000 cities doing this crucial work. We’ll send you postcards, fact sheets, fliers, stickers, posters and more to enable you to educate and organize people in your city.  

4. Join with other activists or organizations in your community to run a high-profile ad campaign to raise awareness about the moral and financial costs of giving Israel weapons and/or learn more about how we can help you organize a campaign to get your city council to pass a resolution to end aid to Israel and redirect the money to unmet community needs.  

Help change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law and equality.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.

In classic fashion cable television's The Daily Show recently reminded those of us who have conveniently forgotten that, for the most cynical of reasons, the US government has cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The cut was carried out in October 2011 as a US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine as a participating member nation.  The US Congress, in its wisdom, has ruled that any such actions by an international body should come at great cost, in this case, the elimination of US funding - some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.

The Daily Show rightly made the members of Congress out to be curmudgeons, hacks, and misanthropes who would rather score political points against the Palestinians than protect innocents being assisted by UNESCO. The program’s only shortcoming was its failure to assign blame to AIPAC for repeatedly pushing misguided policies toward the region.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
America's Problem with UNESCO Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The theory behind this ill-considered measure is that any recognition of Palestine as having an independent government and statehood aspirations should be discouraged in order that Palestinians and Israel may settle their nearly 64-year dispute via direct negotiations and with no outside assistance from the international community to balance the playing field between the state of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinian people. To some this may sound rational except that Israel holds all of the cards, even following the 1993 Oslo Accords that were supposed to lay the foundation for the establishment of an independent, legitimate Palestinian state living at peace with Israel.

It remains completely unclear to any independent observer how Palestine entering into UNESCO would influence negotiations that are not taking place.  What it does do is to display to all who wish to see that the Palestinians are viewed by most of the world as a legitimate nation of people who have the right to fully operate at the international level.

Continue Reading at The Hill

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

U.S. dollars and supplies to Israel are wasted effort


By Mike Coogan, Legislative Coordinator, US Campaign
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coogan
In recent days, a 19-year-old Palestinian was critically wounded when the Israeli military fired a U.S.-supplied high-velocity tear-gas canister at his head, one in a long series of attacks against civilians using these U.S.-supplied "crowd-control items."

These canisters, meant to be fired from long distances to disperse nonviolent crowds, are often fired by the Israeli military toward civilian demonstrators at very close range. This makes them more akin to salt-shaker-size bullets than nonlethal crowd control items, and the repeated misuse of these canisters has had devastating consequences on both Palestinian and American civilians.

In February 2009, while working in the Palestinian West Bank, I was on the receiving end of one such canister during a weekly demonstration in Nil'in. Had it been inches to the left, I probably wouldn't be writing this today. Two weeks later, an American from California, Tristan Anderson, was shot and critically injured with a high velocity tear gas canister. Today, Tristan is still paralyzed, disfigured and blind in one eye.

Recently I met Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Luján to ask for an investigation into the continued misuse of U.S.-supplied high-velocity tear-gas canisters against demonstrators, as required by U.S. law. The meetings were cordial, but their responses were tentative at best.

During one of the constituent breakfasts that Sen. Udall's office graciously hosted recently, I had the opportunity to meet the senator, his staff and other constituents. I spoke with people from organizations who work in early education, care for our veterans, and run summer youth space programs that stimulate interest in math and science. Sadly, every group was faced with shrinking budgets and increasing needs.

Over the next 10 years, New Mexico taxpayers will foot the bill for $107.8 million of the $30 billion that the U.S. is scheduled to give Israel in military aid under the current Memorandum of Understanding. Can New Mexico really afford to subsidize Israel's occupation and gross human rights abuses while budgets for early education, veteran's benefits and programs that promote interest in science and math get slashed?

In addition to violating Palestinian human rights, unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel undermines U.S. interests, regardless of how you define them. If you worry about free market stability and preferential access to world energy supplies in the Middle East, read recent statements by Gen. David Petraeus, now director of the CIA, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, or current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, all of whom indicate that unconditional support for Israel is undermining our pursuit of those goals.

U.S. rhetoric about support for human rights and equal accountability under the law should match our actual policies. Read the State Department's annual country report that decries Israel's systemic discrimination and human rights record. Watch Rain of Fire, a report that documents Israel's misuse of U.S.-supplied white phosphorous against civilians in Gaza.

Unless we define U.S. interests as Israel's ability to engage in self-destructive and wantonly irresponsible behavior, the current policy is morally wrong, financially unsound and strategically bankrupt.

I hope Sen. Udall and Rep. Luján will seriously consider using our tax dollars to meet New Mexico's unmet domestic needs, and not to purchase more weapons for Israel to use against Palestinian civilians demonstrating for their human rights and equality.

Mike Coogan grew up in Santa Fe and graduated from Desert Academy in 2003. He is now the legislative coordinator for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. He lives in Washington, D.C.

SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Yesterday, we let you know that President Obama's 2013 budget request increased U.S. military aid to Israel to $3.1 billion and we also provided you with actions you can take to end these weapons transfers to Israel.

The President's budget also proposed nearly $500 billion in cuts to military spending over ten years, including some small decreases in U.S. funding for joint Pentagon-Israeli research and development of anti-missile projects, which are appropriations above and beyond those allocated for bilateral military aid.

This slight decrease--more than made up for by increases in actual military aid--elicited howls of ridiculous indignation from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which breathlessly interpreted this to mean "that the Obama administration is asking Israel to risk its security and survival."  Seriously?

Not to worry though, Israel-firsters. Never mind the fact that the 2013 budget proposes drastic cuts to basic services that Americans have the right to expect and demand from their government. Never mind the fact that even with these proposed cuts, the budget request would still add nearly $1 trillion to the already-bloated $15 trillion debt.

See, all Israel and its lobbyists have to do is ask for more money and Congress will hand it over on a silver platter, according to a staffer for a Democratic Representative on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, who told the Jerusalem Post that "Funding for US-Israel missile defense will continue to rise despite the budget request."

So breathe a sigh of relief RJC and all other Israel lobby outfits. Since you have successfully "bought and paid for" Congress, according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, you really have nothing to worry about. Israel will continue to get ever-expanding amounts of both military aid AND research and development aid from the Pentagon while Americans receive ever-less services from its increasingly debt-addled government.  


Might as well grab everything you can as the ship is sinking, right?  


We've got a lot of work to do to turn this political equation upside down.  Help us do so today by getting involved with our campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The phony war over which US party loves Israel most

Issam Rimawi / APA images
By Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director
January 10, 2012
The Electronic Intifada

“No Aid to Israel?” wonders a recent Facebook ad sponsored by US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. “Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich say they would start foreign aid to Israel at zero. Reject their extreme plan now!” the ad implores, directing people to sign a petition to that effect on my.barackobama.com (“Stand against “zeroing out aid to Israel””).

After signing the petition, the caption underneath a beaming photo of the president declares that “Any plan to cut foreign aid to zero across the board is dangerous and ignorant. It’s up to us to get the word out about it. Donate now to help us spread the facts about the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan to wipe out foreign aid to allies like Israel.”

Ruebner
As Salon writer Justin Elliott correctly notes, “the Obama ads are incredibly dishonest. First of all, the Republican candidates were talking about setting foreign aid at zero each year as a starting point in discussions about how much to give, not setting it at zero as a matter of policy” (“Obama’s dishonest Israel ads," Salon, 12 December 2011).

However, the Obama campaign is far from unique in employing a breathtakingly simplistic strategy of artifice and vituperation (both against opposing candidates and against Palestinians) to bolster their pro-Israel street cred in a transparent ploy to attract campaign donations and votes. US support for Israel, once a carefully nurtured bipartisan consensus, is fast degenerating in the context of the 2012 presidential election into a mud-slinging partisan contest as to which party, in the words of Mitt Romney, who leveled the accusation against Obama, is more guilty of having “thrown Israel under the bus” (“Mitt Romney accuses Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”, CBS News, 19 May 2011).

Last month’s presidential forum organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) managed to ratchet up the rhetoric another notch. Invoking the ghost of Neville Chamberlain, Michele Bachmann accused Obama of having “confused engagement with appeasement.” Romney blamed Obama for “immeasurably set[ting] back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.” Rick Perry asserted the administration has unleashed a “torrent of hostility towards Israel.”

Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich took to the airwaves the next day to dub Palestinians an “invented people.” Unnoticed until recently, Rick Santorum topped all other comers when he stated in November that “all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians” (“Pro-settler Santorum claims Mexico and the West Bank,”Salon, 6 January 2012).

This rhetoric occasioned Arab American Institute founder James Zogby to lament that “all of this goes beyond the normal platitudes offered up in an election year. It was dangerous, shameful and crass pandering, making it clear how far today’s GOP has moved from the reality-based foreign policy of the Bush-Baker era” (“GOP candidates discuss Israel-Palestine,” 12 December 2011).

Obama’s clear legacy of support for Israeli policy

Notwithstanding this political hot air, no political elite, whether in the Democratic or Republican Party, can legitimately be accused of “throwing Israel under the bus,” least of all Obama. On behalf of protecting Israeli occupation and apartheid, the president has employed the only US veto at the UN during his term to derail a mild condemnation of Israel’s illegal settlements and backtracked on his hope to see Palestine admitted as a member of the UN this year, while deploying the full arsenal ofUS diplomacy to block the initiative behind the scenes.

Also lost in the heat of this faux electoral debate is the fact that the Bush and Obama administrations, with a bipartisan rubber stamp in Congress, have tag-teamed to ramp up to unprecedented levels both military aid to Israel and the joint research, development and field testing of anti-missile projects financed separately by the Pentagon. According to the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in 2007, the US is scheduled to provide Israel with $30 billion in tax-payer funded weapons between 2009 and 2018, a 25 percent average annual increase over previous levels (Memorandum of understanding, 2007 [PDF]).

While presidential candidates make risible claims that the other party is abandoning support for Israel, this increasing partisan sniping is no laughing matter to those advocating for a strong US-Israel relationship. In September, the Center for Strategic and International Studies released a policy paper by Haim Malka, deputy director of its Middle East Program, warning that this “partisan wedge is likely to deepen, posing considerable challenges to Israel and the US-Israeli partnership.”

This burgeoning fear led two stalwarts of the Israel lobby — the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee — to issue a National Pledge for Unity on Israel, which beseeches “national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals to rally around bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish State from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season” (“National pledge for unity on Israel”).

However, instead of calming the waters, the pledge initiative served only to roil them more. The ultra-alarmist Emergency Committee for Israel’s Bill Kristol responded in Washington Jewish Week with a dismissive “You must be kidding” statement, accusing the organizations of needing “a refresher course on the virtues of free speech and robust debate in a democracy” (“Should Israel be a partisan issue in American politics?,” 2 November 2011).

Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, declared that “This effort to stifle debate on US policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition.”

Far from rethinking US policy on Israel

Yet Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of “liberal” Israel lobby group J Street, lamented in The Washington Post that this debate is redefining what it means to be “pro-Israel” and rendering it the “exclusive property of the political right. In doing so, they are breaking new ground. Their agenda is not to ensure bipartisan support for aid to Israel or nurturing US-Israeli ties based on shared interests and values” (“What pro-Israel should mean,” 16 December 2011).

Instead, he rather naively accused the candidates of “seek[ing] political advantage,” as if everything that politicians do were not based on their political calculus of what is expedient to them.

While fretting about Israel as an electoral issue has been confined largely so far to the self-described “pro-Israel” crowd, an open and honest debate about US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians desperately needs to take place in the broader body politic as well.

However, this debate must be one which is more substantive and critical than the cotton candy served up in this electoral circus. For far too long, the US political system has treated Israel as a sacred cow, leading to unconditional military and diplomatic support for its illegal 44-year military occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its human rights abuses of Palestinians.

Now that Israel is becoming just another issue over which the parties squabble, even if it is to trip over each other in a modern day redux of “who lost China?” (a debate over communism that raged for much of the twentieth century), U.S. support for Israel is becoming in the process normalized as a political issue.

Proof of this normalization occurred after the bipartisan failure of the super-committee to produce a deficit reduction plan, triggering across-the-board budget cuts in 2013. Because of this deadlock, regular appropriations of US military aid to Israel are set to substantially decrease for the first time since President Gerald Ford’s 1975 “reassessment” of US policy toward Israel.

Obama was to have requested a record-breaking $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget, the level at which weapons to Israel was expected to plateau until 2018.

However, according to Nathan Guttman, writing in the Jewish Daily Forward, Israel will lose an estimated $250 million yearly from its military aid package when across-the-board budget cuts take effect. Surprisingly, Guttman notes, AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobby in the US, has yet to publicly protest the upcoming cuts in military aid to Israel, because it “may fear a backlash if Israel is singled out for special treatment in the face of broad cuts favored by both Democrats and Republicans” (“Israel faces $250 million slash in aid,” 2 December 2011).

Even as these tangible cuts to military aid to Israel are in the offing, AIPAC and the rest of the Israel lobby also may have noted to its chagrin that inane electoral posturing over Israel has also seeped into the hallowed halls of Congress itself, thereby undermining the bipartisan consensus on Israel it has so laboriously constructed over the years.

According to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s 112th Congressional Report Card, 35 of the 37 Members of Congress rating -5 or worse are Republicans — the only Democrats deserving of the dubious distinction are Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) and Representative Steve Rothman (New Jersey’s ninth Congressional district). This demonstrates that the most significant Congressional initiatives on Israel and the Palestinians last year were largely partisan affairs designed to undermine, constrain and humiliate any White House attempts to pressure Israel, even if only in the slight, ineffectual way that Obama did during the early days of his term (“Report card for the 112th congress (2011-2012)”).

Although the elites of the Democratic and Republican parties are far from rethinking U.S. policy toward Israel, much less even considering abandoning it, the normalization of Israel as a political issue is already commonplace at civil society levels and in political discourse. Exasperated by political leaders seemingly incapable of policy change, dozens of university campuses and community organizations are deriving lessons learned from the global South African anti-apartheid movement to organize boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel and companies that profit from its human rights abuses of Palestinians. And even in the rarefied pages of The Washington Post, columnist Walter Pincus suggested in October that it is “time to examine the funding the United States provides to Israel” (“Unites States needs to reevaluate its assistance to Israel”).

By continuing to level sophomoric accusations against each other’s mythical abandonment of Israel, the presidential candidates are inadvertently and perhaps counter-intuitively helping to normalize the question of U.S. support for Israel and providing fodder to the strengthening currents in civil society truly questioning failed U.S. policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.

As is the case in all processes of social and political change, this grassroots ferment is a necessary prerequisite for a broad-scale policy change at the political level. Such a policy review, although a long way off as demonstrated by the 2012 election cycle, is nevertheless essential if the U.S. hopes to broker a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of human rights, international law and UN resolutions, rather than continuing to obstruct its attainment.


Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former analyst of Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ahmad Tibi Schools Eric Cantor

Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi has vigorusly criticized House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Please make your online comments and send your letters to the editor today, particularly those of you in Richmond or in the district of Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich's old district. Those two presidential candidates also came in for heavy criticism.

Please keep your letter to under 200 words and use this online form: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/forms/letters-editor/.

Alternatively, you can email your letter to letters@timesdispatch.com along with your name, city, and contact information (for verification purposes).

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The op-ed can be read in full by clicking on the link below.

http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/oped/2011/dec/22/tdopin02-tibi-world-beginning-to-understand-palest-ar-1560551/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Will the Holy Cow of Aid to Israel Survive the Dull Blade of Across-the-Board Budget Cuts?

Another budget battle has ended as Congress has agreed to fund the government through next fall including a record-breaking $3.075 billion in military aid to Israel.  At the same time though, the failure of the super committee to come up with a deficit reduction plan will trigger across-the-board budget cuts in 2013, including a loss of $250 million per year in military aid to Israel.  As our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner writes, this is the time for Congress to review U.S. policy towards Israel, a policy which the United States cannot afford "morally, politically or financially." Military aid to Israel makes the average American taxpayer complicit in Israel's human rights abuses as well as takes away resources from funding the projects Americans need at home, including providing affordable housing and primary healthcare. 

Will the Holy Cow of Aid to Israel Survive the Dull Blade of Across-the-Board Budget Cuts?
Huffington Post
Posted: 12/20/11 11:52 AM ET

The Israel lobby can breathe a sigh a relief now that Congress has agreed to fund the government through next fall, including a record-breaking $3.075 billion in military aid to Israel. This earmark may have emerged unscathed in this year's budget battle, but because the super committee failed to produce a deficit reduction plan, triggering across-the-board budget cuts in 2013, this heretofore sacrosanct and perennially expanding budgetary line-item is suddenly and deservedly on the chopping block.

Budgets are always moral documents and budgetary priorities always reflect trade-offs. With the annual average $3 billion appropriation of U.S. military aid to Israel, the United States could provide instead each year 350,000 low-income families with affordable housing, or 500,000 unemployed workers with green jobs training, or 900,000 at-risk youth with early reading education, or 24 million uninsured people with access to primary health care, according to www.aidtoisrael.org, a project of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Despite the deteriorating fiscal position of the United States, military aid to Israel has been increasing and crowding out these more urgent, unmet domestic needs because in 2007 the United States and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding for the United States to provide Israel with $30 billion of taxpayer-financed weapons from 2009 to 2018. This agreement represented an annual average increase of 25 percent above previous levels of military aid to Israel, which even beforehand took the lion's share of U.S. foreign aid despite per capita income greater than New Zealand and Saudi Arabia, according to the International Monetary Fund. The Bush and Obama Administrations faithfully implemented the proposed increases in weapons to Israel in their budget requests to Congress from a baseline of $2.4 billion in FY2008 to $3.075 billion in the FY2012 budget.

President Obama was to have requested $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY2013 budget, the level at which weapons to Israel was expected to plateau until the memorandum expires fives years hence. However, it appears these projected increases in aid to Israel will not be immune from the ramifications of the super committee debacle. According to Nathan Guttman, writing in the Jewish Daily Forward, Israel will lose an estimated $250 million yearly from its military aid package when across-the-board budget cuts take effect.

Surprisingly, Guttman notes, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the organizations within the Israel lobby, has yet to publicly protest the upcoming cuts in military aid to Israel, because it "may fear a backlash if Israel is singled out for special treatment in the face of broad cuts favored by both Democrats and Republicans." This despite the fact that the lobbying outfit's primary purpose is to advocate for additional weapons to Israel, one of the central reasons its tax-exempt front group, the American Israel Education Foundation, led a record-breaking delegation of 81 Members of Congress to Israel this August.

Questioning military aid to Israel has long been a taboo topic in U.S. politics, a third rail issue even more electric than abortion and guns. Led by a cadre of Congressional true believers and backed by the fearsome power of the Israel lobby to reward acquiescence and punish deviance, Congress has, for the most part, unquestioningly toed the line that saturating Israel with weapons will conjure up peace. Those few in Congress who have raised doubts about this received wisdom have tended toward the feather tips of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

The across-the-board budget cuts that will affect future levels of U.S. military aid to Israel should allow Members of Congress to reexamine this policy more broadly in an atmosphere devoid of the usual ideological cant of zealots and the menacing glare of AIPAC if it continues to sit out this battle.

Such a review is long overdue since providing Israel with taxpayer-funded weapons is a policy that the United States cannot afford, either morally, politically, or financially. From 2000-2009, the United States gave Israel more than $24 billion in military aid, from which the United States licensed, paid for, and delivered more than 670 million weapons valued at nearly $19 billion. (The remaining money was gobbled up by Israel's own weapons industry due to a unique budgetary provision that allows Israel to spend up to 26 percent of its U.S. military aid domestically.)

During this same period, Israel killed at least 2,969 unarmed Palestinian civilians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, while enforcing its illegal 44-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. The extensive databases at weaponstoisrael.org, a project of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, make clear that by providing Israel with hundreds of categories of weapons, the United States is intimately and intricately connected to every Israeli military action in some fashion.

Not only does U.S. military aid to Israel make the average taxpayer complicit in Israel's human rights abuses committed against Palestinians; it also serves as a perverse disincentive to the attainment of U.S. policy goals such as ending Israeli settlement expansion, loosening the blockade of Gaza, and establishing a Palestinian state.

With the super committee's failure necessitating cuts across-the-board to reduce the deficit, Israel and its supporters in Congress should be forced to share the pain. Israel's impending loss of $250 million per year in military aid should also open up a conversation about ending all U.S. military to Israel at least until it complies with its obligations under international law to end its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory.

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