Showing posts with label discourse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label discourse. Show all posts

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Latest Hasbara Meme: BLACKWASHING

By Richard Silverstein
RichardSilverstein.com
January 9, 2012

You’ve heard of pinkwashing, greenwashing-now “blackwashing” joins the cast of pro-Israel hasbara communities exploited in order to combat the major criticisms of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.  Pinkwashing is the effort to promote Israel to the gay community in order to point out the homophobia of Arab culture and nations.  Greenwashing is the attempt by environmental groups like Jewish National Fund to point to Israel’s alleged sensitivity to environmental issues (excluding of course its heinous treatment of Negev Bedouins whose communities are being bulldozed by the Israeli government in collaboration with JNF).  Now blackwashing is the rage.

African American political leaders and
students on Aipac Israel junket
Israel lobby groups like Aipac have worked closely cultivating relationships on college campuses with African-American students.  They send these young leaders to Aipac conferences where they can be trotted out to the media as witnesses for the defense to combat the BDS campaign to label Israel as an apartheid state:
When Vincent Evans arrived as a bright-eyed first-year at Florida A&M, the country’s largest historically black university, he knew he wanted to get involved in politics. So when an older student leader approached him one afternoon after a student government meeting to ask if he wanted an all expenses paid trip to D.C., Evans jumped at the opportunity.
The trip, it turned out, was sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the country’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying outfit. Israel is under growing attack from Palestinian and international activists who call the country a racist apartheid state. In response, its staunchest U.S. lobby is recruiting black students as moral shields to make the case for Israeli impunity. At historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCU’s) around the country, AIPAC is finding and developing a cadre of black allies to declare there’s no way Israel can be racist.
In his four years in college, Evans traveled to D.C. at least 10 times on AIPAC’s dime. He and a small group of other student leaders from his school joined hundreds of others from around the country, including other HBCU students, for AIPAC’s semi-annual Saban Leadership Seminar.
“Within the program,” says Evans, “they make a concerted effort to reach out to HBCU and majority Hispanic schools.”
Does the Israel lobby care about African-American students?  Does it care about the issues close to their heart?  Is it about to reach out to Blacks to create political coalitions to advance causes of mutual interest to each community?  Are you kiddin’?  These kids are fodder in the PR war.  They don’t mean anything other than having a black face to show the world that Israel isn’t an apartheid nation.  But how much do these kids really know about Israel?

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

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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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first" - Kristin Szremski

Szremski
Our Steering Committee member Kristin Szremski writes that Newt Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans. In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, and align himself to the pro-Israel element, the potential GOP frontrunner is not only selling off the values and safety of the United States for his shot in the Oval Office -- and still failing to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was trying to court -- he's also inflaming tensions in the Middle East, where U.S. neutrality and integrity are already is viewed with suspicion and hostility. He's proven he does not care about the people whom he'd be sworn to protect as President.

Szremski faults Gingrich with helping to inflame Islamophobia by using the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are being funneled into organizations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine, thanks to figures like Gingrich demonizing Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here, and insinuating a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.


Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first

Gingrich will abandon US values and safety for a chance at the White House.

By Kristin Szremski
December 19, 2011
AlJazeera.com

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who faded into obscurity after resigning in 1998 amid a sex scandal, is back and seemingly ready to say anything to become the next president of the United States - even if it means making sycophantic statements that pander to the pro-Israel lobby but that oppose US policy and the best interests of the American people.

Gingrich apparently revised history when he told Jewish reporter Steven Weiss recently that the Palestinians are an "invented" people. He willfully obfuscated the fact that Palestinians' roots in the Holy Land go back thousands of years. He ignored that Palestinians and Palestine are mentioned in the Torah and the Bible; that they are referred to in many historical documents, including the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which gave British support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

Gingrich re-invented history when he said the
Palestinians are an "invented" people
[GALLO/GETTY]
The potential GOP frontrunner is far from alone in his pandering to the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney, running a close second to Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman, also have made concerted efforts to undermine President Barack Obama's Middle East policy while emphasising their own loyalty to Israel in attempts to gain the votes of Tea Partiers and Christian evangelicals, who are strongly pro-Israel. During the GOP debate in Des Moines, it appeared as if it were an open season on Palestinians.

That Gingrich would intentionally contradict stated and long-standing US policy, which recognises the Palestinian people and their right for a state of their own, for his own self-interest is extremely troubling. But even more problematic is the fact that Gingrich told Weiss he would consider granting clemency to one of the most notorious spies ever to infiltrate our national security agencies: Johathon Pollard.

Pollard's release

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 after he confessed to spying for the state of Israel. Pollard, who was a civilian research analyst with high security clearance for the US Navy, had agreed to spy for Israel for 10 years in exchange for more than $500,000.

According to a January 1999 article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, Pollard "betrayed elements of four major American intelligence systems". He caused extensive damage to US intelligence and US national security because of the nature of the highly sensitive documents he sold to Israel. According to Hersh, Pollard gave up data dealing with specific American intelligence systems and how they worked, a "most sensitive area of intelligence". The espionage was so great that successive presidents have rejected Israel's pleas for Pollard's release.

Gingrich told Weiss he'd consider granting clemency if Pollard were no longer a security threat and also had served time within the range of people with "similar problems". To be sure, seasoned politicians often have to compromise goals - sometimes even ideals - to achieve their own. But when a potential presidential candidate so easily panders to the interests of a foreign country and its lobby here, in the United States, over the interests of his fellow countrymen, he is clearly not fit to hold public office.

And that is only one of the ways in which Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans, which is readily seen in his "Clash of Civilisations" narrative that became prominent in 2010 during the controversy surrounding the Park 51 mosque project. During the controversy, the country's favourable attitude towards Muslims fell 10 points (from 40 per cent to 30 per cent), according to a study co-authored by the Centre for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Islamophobic rhetoric

That same report says Gingrich was one of those at the forefront of fuelling mistrust and hatred of Muslims. In other words, a former Speaker of the House was working against American unity by bringing divisive Islamophobic rhetoric into mainstream discourse.

The Constitution founded the United States as a pluralistic society; the First Amendment grants the free expression of religion. Yet Gingrich behaves as if allowing Muslims that right would lead to the loss of American values and liberty.

Other credible reports - "The Great Isamophobic Crusade", by Max Blumenthal and "The Roots of the Islamophobic Network in America", by the Centre for American Progress - have exposed the link between Islamophobia and the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are funneled into organisations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine.

One way they accomplish this is by smearing anyone trying to raise awareness about Israel's continued violations of international law. Another way is to demonise Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here. Or they insinuate that there is a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. These fallacies are then taken up and trumpeted about by unprincipled people like Gingrich.

Gingrich seems to have no qualms allying himself to pro-Israel element and selling the values and safety of the US for his shot in the Oval Office. But based upon published reports, he's failed to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was  trying to court. Instead, he's inflamed tensions in the Middle East where the neutrality and integrity of the US already is viewed with suspicion and in some cases hostility, and he's proven he does not care about the people who, if he were elected president, he'd be sworn to protect.

In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, Gingrich may have passed Israel's litmus test, but he hopelessly failed to show his loyalty to the US or the American people.

Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine, a national grassroots organisation. Follow her on Twitter: @kristin_scribe


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New poster series illustrates trade-offs in sending military aid to Israel


Above: Our new posters include
this QR code, scannable with
your smartphone, to take you
directly to a page where you
can take action to end U.S.
military aid to Israel.
Help us continue to shape the political landscape to end U.S. military aid to Israel by signing up today to educate and organize people in your community.

When you do so, you'll join more than 2,000 people in 49 states and more than 900 cities who have received an organizing packet with fact sheets, flyers, petitions, stickers, and more--everything you'll need to spark conversations in your community and identify more people who agree with us that we should be funding community needs, not Israel's misdeeds against the Palestinian people.

And, for the first time, we're excited to include in these organizing packets this sharp-looking series of posters (shown below) that illustrate the moral and economic costs of providing U.S. military aid to Israel. The four 11-inch by 17-inch (tabloid-size) posters include a code scannable with your smartphone's camera, bringing you directly to a page where you can take action and get involved.
Poster #1 shows trade-off:
school programs vs. weapons 

Poster #2 shows trade-off:
jobs vs. farm destruction

Poster #3 shows trade-off:
housing vs. apartheid wall

Poster #4 shows trade-off:
healthcare vs. more weapons

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Protect the Academic Freedom of Prof. Marc Ellis

Ruebner
By Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director

I met Professor Marc Ellis nearly ten years ago when he invited me to speak at a conference he organized at Baylor. As one of the foremost and inspiring contemporary Jewish theologians who is critical of Israel's actions toward the Palestinian people, it is unfortunately not surprising to see that Baylor is now taking steps to force him out.

Having learned of a secret investigation against him that resulted in the cancellation of his courses, Marc writes, "I believe this is a pretext to silence an independent voice at the place for which I have had deep appreciation."

Join Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cornel West, Rosemary Radford Ruether, me, and thousands of others in signing this petition to Baylor University President Kenneth Starr asking him "to honor Dr. Ellis' academic freedom and stop all hostility toward him and any attempt of dismissal."

Change.org|Start an Online Petition »

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Discourse Goes Mainstream! New York Times Assails Israeli Pinkwashing!

Earlier this month we told you how Israel was “pinkwashing” its apartheid regime by branding itself as a progressive gay haven. Today, the New York Times has published a terrific op-ed by Sarah Schulman entitled “Israel and Pinkwashing.” In the article, Schulman strongly repudiates Israel’s use of gay rights as a public relations tool to deflect attention away from the brutality of its occupation.

International gay rights activists opposed to Israeli occupation and apartheid have termed Israel’s propaganda strategy “pinkwashing.” Schulman harshly criticizes the cynical and racist deceit of Israel’s pinkwashing as “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”

There can be no doubt that our efforts at the grassroots level to organize and educate are having an impact. Today, in the paper of record, an activist term, goes mainstream!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of an Insurrectionary Imagination

By Jody Scholz
US Campaign intern

I recently had the good fortune of attending a conference in Atlanta sponsored by US Campaign coalition member group Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA). The conference, From Birmingham to Bethlehem: The Power of Nonviolence in the US and Palestine-Israel, featured a variety of workshops and plenary speakers linking the nonviolent resistance of the US Civil Rights movement to the ongoing nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid. Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Bernard LaFayette implored conference attendees to join in solidarity actions with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall spoke of her trip to the West Bank in June as part of a US delegation of women of color feminists, led by US Campaign Advisory Board member Barbara Ransby, which subsequently endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Kennesaw State University Professor Jesse Benjamin led a packed workshop on whiteness in the Jewish-Christian Zionist embrace, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave a dynamic presentation chronicling expanding apartheid conditions on the ground in Palestine-Israel eloquently advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a powerful form of nonviolent resistance.

FOSNA has organized 33 regional conferences across the US over the last nine years and they have several scheduled for next year. If you have the opportunity to attend one, I would highly encourage you to do so. It was a challenging and richly rewarding experience.

In keeping with FOSNA’s mission of engaging North American Christians on the issue of a just peace in the Holy Land, many of the workshops focused on the moral, legal and theological basis from which US churches can work to end US complicity in the occupation. One of the recurring points of discussion throughout the conference was how US churches should respond to calls for “balance” when discussing the Palestine-Israel conflict. This is a particularly tricky issue for progressive US churches, many of whom feel a need to atone for Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in the Holocaust, and have admirably dedicated themselves to building relations with the Jewish community via interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.

While invoking the need for balance in discussing the conflict seems reasonable enough, it is almost always employed as way of normalizing the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. Several conference speakers, notably author and activist Mark Braverman, noted that in practice this means interfaith dialogue far too often results in Christian theologians refusing to condemn or even discuss Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians. And where there is criticism of Israel, it is almost always accompanied by recognition of Israeli suffering as somehow on par with the suffering of Palestinians living under the scourge of apartheid and occupation. The apparent reasonableness of entreaties for balance and dialogue helps explain why normalization is such an insidiously powerful and effective discourse.

The issue of normalization was also the focus of a skills-building workshop led by Columbia University SJP member Tanya Keilani, cartoonist and solidarity activist Ethan Heitner, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer at last month’s National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. Columbia SJP and Adalah-NY, of which Heitner is a member, are both US Coalition member groups. Palestinian solidarity organizations on US campuses are often challenged by Zionist student groups to organize events together to present both perspectives of the conflict. In order to help student groups (and other solidarity activists) better understand and explain how normalization legitimizes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, Keilani and Heitner created a comic. The comic, titled “Nothing Normal About It,” does a great job of bringing to life how normalization misdirects attention away from Israeli crimes and frustrates our efforts to educate people in the US about the conflict.

As we continue to confront the discourse of normalization in the US, we must remember the importance of speaking differently. Our challenge is to articulate narratives that move beyond the entrenched vocabulary of the dominant discourse. This discourse serves not only to limit the scope of permissible discussion, but it also works to demoralize our spirits (so aptly depicted in the comic) and lock our imaginations. Cultural activism of the kind embodied by Keilani and Heitner’s comic enables us to question the dominant ways of seeing things and to present alternative views of the world because it opens up our imaginations, or what Jennifer Verson has referred to as our “insurrectionary imagination”:

An insurrectionary imagination is at the heart of cultural activism. It is a sense of possibility that is not limited by copying a pattern or following a design that somebody else created, or by what Augusto Boal (2002) calls the “cop in the head.” We all have that voice, the one that tells us our ideas are stupid, they won’t work out, they are too difficult or are bound to fail.

Cultural activism relies on killing the cop in your head and expressly tries to develop this insurrectionary imagination to create performances and actions. This living practice addresses complicated questions about how we build the world that we want to live in. Insurrectionary imaginations evoke a type of activism that is rooted in the blueprints and patterns of political movements of the past but is driven by its hunger for new processes of art and protest.

Rafeef Ziadah’s spoken word performance of her poem “We teach life, sir,” exploded across the internet this past week because she creates a narrative which simultaneously unmasks the violence of the Israeli occupation and the complicity of a noxious discourse that excuses Israeli brutality by invoking that great racist colonial trope of the Palestinians as uncivilized barbarians who can only be tamed through brute force. In a mere four minutes, Ziadah turns that discourse, so often repeated in the media, inside out and exposes its moral shallowness. This is the power of the insurrectionary imagination.

As we move forward as a movement, we must be consciously open to seeing, speaking, listening and thinking differently. We must believe in the power of our imaginations to help dissolve the boundary between dream and reality to create a world of unbounded freedom for all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Salon.com publishes US Campaign member's analysis of UNESCO debacle

Salon.com recently published the following article, written by US Campaign Steering Committee member and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis. The US Campaign has been organizing around the issue of Palestinian membership in the UN in recent months, and has assembled educational material on the subject which can be found here.

Defunding UNESCO for the 1 percent
Putting Israeli interests ahead of American interests begins to backfire

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the 1 percent — the rich, the powerful, the ones who buy off our government, impose their wars, avoid paying their taxes, you know the ones. The 99 percent — the rest of us - are the ones who pay the price.

But there’s another 99/1 percent divide: over U.S. policy toward Israel and the whole world. Here the 1 percent are really on a roll. Right over the rest of us.

Bennis
This struggle concerns the American people’s support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known as UNESCO. The organization does a lot of important work, including identifying and protecting World Heritage Sites, working to broaden educational opportunities around the world and helping poor countries get access to scientific information.

One could certainly argue that for a self-interested American, UNESCO isn’t crucial to U.S. national interests. One might say it does nothing more than make sure that tourist sites like the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are still there when you want to see them. In fact, during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. out of UNESCO altogether; no one except maybe the historians, anthropologists, educators, cultural workers and a few insignificant others seemed to mind. It was almost a decade later that George Bush rejoined the organization.

And here we are again. This time the U.S. Congress announced it is withholding this year’s UNESCO dues, within hours of the global organization welcoming a new member: Palestine. In certain basic ways, UNESCO (like the United Nations itself) is like every little kids’ club: You don’t pay your dues, you’re out. In her press briefing just after the Paris vote, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of accomplishing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. But such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

CONTINUE READING HERE

Friday, September 30, 2011

Invitation to Historic National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference

Below is an invitation to students around the country to attend the historic national Students for Justice in Palestine conference next month at Columbia University. Students attending and organizing the conference represent SJPs around the country, including several US Campaign member groups. 



National SJP Conference
14-16 Oct 2011
Columbia University
Dear Students,
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference at Columbia University in the City of New York from 14-16 October 2011.
Over the past couple of months, a number of student activists from SJPs and other student groups focused on Palestine from around the country have been laying the foundations for a national SJP conference to be held in Fall 2011. This group emerged from a discussion which took place on the national SJP listserv and has met a number of times via teleconference.
The objective of this conference is to democratically shape and refine the existing network of SJP groups in the United States, building on the momentum these groups have generated in recent years and strengthening the historical movement of which we are all a part.
This conference is specifically geared towards current student Palestine solidarity activists, including current students actively involved in, or looking to establish, a SJP group or a similar Palestine solidarity student group, as well as alumni actively involved in assisting their former SJP group.
To succeed the planning of this conference needs to be a democratic process involving as many students as possible, and we hope you will become involved. We are confident that this conference will provide a momentous opportunity for students across the United States who are mobilizing for justice in Palestine to exchange ideas and to strengthen the national student movement.
Sincerely,
The Ad Hoc National SJP Conference Planning Committee

To register for the conference, click here.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oakland museum cancels Palestinian kids' war art

The Berkeley-based Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) is a coalition member of the US Campaign. The following article appeared on page C1 of yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle.


Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, September 10, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO -- An Oakland children's museum, citing pressure from the community, canceled a planned exhibit of artwork by Palestinian youth that depicted the Israeli assault during the 2008-09 Gaza conflict.

The Museum of Children's Art was scheduled to display the art from Sept. 24 to Nov. 13. The exhibit had been in the works for several months, with an opening reception to feature poetry and special art activities for children.

The drawings in the exhibit were created by children ranging in age from about 9 to 11 and included bombs dropping, tanks and people getting shot.

"They are pictures of what these children experienced. It's their experience," said Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, which was organizing the exhibition.

Museum officials notified Lubin on Thursday that they were pulling the plug on what had become a controversial exhibit that was pulling the children's museum into the long-standing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Barbara Lubin, founder of Middle East Children's Alliance
(MECA) displays artwork by Palestinian youths on Friday,
Sept. 9, 2011, in Berkeley, Calif. The Museum of Children's
Art (MOCHA) in Oakland cancelled an exhibit that would
have featured the artwork. Photo: Noah Berger / Special
to The Chronicle
It had become a distraction to the main objective of bringing arts education to all children, said museum board member Randolph Bell.

"The pressure was ... well, we were getting calls from constituents that were concerned about the situation," Bell said. "We don't have any political stake in this thing. It just became apparent that we needed to rethink this."

The complaints came from Jewish groups as well as others in the community, board members said.

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ARTICLE CONTINUES AT MECAFORPEACE.ORG...


Monday, July 25, 2011

Coalition member JVP receives nod in Jewish mainstream press

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a coalition member of the US Campaign, and the leader of several US Campaign-sponsored initiatives. The following JTA.org article excerpt gives JVP some credit for offering many members of the Jewish Left in the United States an irresistible alternative to J Street and the Jewish political establishment. Read the full article on JTA.org.

J Street, the book—expect more controversy

By Ami Eden, JTA.org
July 19, 2011

If there’s one thing J Street is good at, it’s getting attention.

Supporters, critics and relatively neutral observers all have conspired -- with plenty of prodding from J Street’s own aggressive communications operation -- to shine an intense media spotlight on the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization. The result has been waves of positive attention and tough scrutiny, often out of proportion with any actual accomplishment or misdeed.

...

It is true, as [J Street founder and president Jeremy] Ben-Ami asserts in his book, that some right-wing and centrist critics of his organization have launched vitriolic and distortion-filled attacks against J Street and its leaders, often working to blackball them from various forums.

And he’s also right in arguing that many of J Street’s main policy positions -- a Jewish state in Israel, a demilitarized Palestinian state, borders based on the 1967 lines with land swaps, no Palestinian right of return, a compromise on Jerusalem -- fall well within the Israeli and Jewish mainstream. To boot, J Street has criticized Palestinian incitement and worked with other Jewish organizations to head off anti-Israel boycott campaigns."

"...in the end the organization’s biggest challenge could well come from the left.

During the past year, one could make the argument that the upstart Jewish Voice for Peace has emerged as the main challenger for the hearts and minds of Jews on the left who feel alienated from Israel and the Jewish establishment. That’s bad news if you count yourself as a pro-Israel activist.
You don’t like J Street’s policies? Jewish Voice for Peace supports some boycotts and divestment measures targeting Israel and takes no position on whether it backs a two-state solution.
You don’t like J Street’s tactics? JVP activists heckled Israel’s prime minister at another Jewish organization’s conference.
By comparison, Ben-Ami’s talk about Zionism, support for U.S. aid to Israel and opposition to the BDS movement sound downright establishment. And if JVP's influence and popularity grow, it might not be long before establishment folks start telling themselves that maybe J Street wasn’t so bad after all.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Canada clamps down on criticism of Israel

No coincidence that this comes at the same time as U.S. Congressman Howard Berman introduces a bill to outlaw U.S. boycotts of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

In an affront to free speech, government committee declares that criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitic.


Jillian Kestler-DAmours
22 July, 2011

Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report on July 7 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.

While the CPCCA's final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called "new anti-Semitism": criticism of Israel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 
a staunch supporter of Israeli policy,
has described criticism of Israeli as
a form of "new anti-Semitism". [EPA]

Indeed, the real purpose of the CPCCA committee seems to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA's findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.

The CPCCA and its findings

The Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) was born out of a conference held in London in February 2009 by the Inter-Parliamentary Committee for Combating Anti-Semitism. Formed in March 2009 and not directly linked to the Canadian government, or to any NGO or advocacy group, the CPCCA included 22 Canadian Parliament members from across party lines. Former Liberal MP Mario Silva chaired the Inquiry Panel and Conservative MP Scott Reid led the Steering Committee.

Between November 2009 and January 2010, the CPCCA held ten separate hearings during which time representatives of various non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, police departments and Canadian and Israeli universities presented papers meant to assess the level of anti-Semitism in Canada. While groups critical of Israel were denied the chance to address the committee, major Zionist organizations like B'nai Brith Canada, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Canadian Jewish Congress were welcomed.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The UN Already Voted for a Palestinian state -- in 1947


Our National Advocacy Director wrote an opinion article that was published in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

By Josh Ruebner
June 29, 2011

For all intents and purposes, the two-decade-long U.S. "peace process" — premised on privileging Israeli occupation and apartheid at the expense of Palestinian human and national rights — is dead in the water. Is it any wonder that the United States, a country that provides Israel each year with the $3 billion in weapons to oppress Palestinians and that functions as "Israel's lawyer," according to former U.S. "peace process" insider Aaron David Miller, has repeatedly failed to broker a just peace?

The jig is up and it is unlikely that the Palestinian political leadership would agree to return to such a rigged U.S. negotiating table. Were Palestinian leaders inclined to do so, it is doubtful that the Palestinian public would stand for it.

Instead, Palestinians appear to be pursuing a diplomatic strategy of going around and not through the United States to achieve their long-denied rights. In February, Palestinians forced the Obama administration to use its first and only veto in the Security Council to prevent the United Nations from condemning Israel's illegal settlements. By doing so, Palestinians exposed the hypocrisy of the United States shielding Israel from accountability for a policy which even the Obama administration opposes and demonstrated how disconnected the United States is from the rest of the international community on this issue.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Greek Officials Attempt to Block US Boat to Gaza

The U.S. Boat to Gaza--the Audacity of Hope--is planned to set sail in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II in the next few days, and is a coalition member group of the US Campaign, and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative.

It looks as though the Israelis, with probable collusion from our government, are trying yet another tactic to prevent the US Boat to Gaza to sail, and keep the people of Gaza isolated and delegitimized, having no rights to travel, import and export goods, have clean drinking water, or have the basic freedoms that Israelis and Americans have.

Any kind of pressure we can place on the Greek Government, i.e,, calling the embassy, may be helpful here.  With all the effort and work people have put in to have this boat sail and make a statement for justice, in the face of the silence of the rest of the world, would be a really sad thing, and yet another blow for human rights for the Palestinian people.

Greek Officials Attempt to Block US Boat to Gaza from Leaving Greek Port


Passengers Suspect US/Israel Economic Pressure on Beleaguered Greek Government


By US Boat to Gaza
June 26, 2011

Athens - Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.

On the morning of June 23, the American passengers learned that a "private complaint" had been filed against the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of an international flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza in the next few days. This complaint, its origin still unknown to the Americans, claimed that the boat is "not seaworthy" and therefore requires a detailed inspection. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave.

The passengers are wondering if Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is using its clout to pressure the Greek government. "Israel has said openly that it is pressuring governments to try to stop the flotilla, and clearly Greece is a key government since several of the boats plan to leave from Greece," says passenger Medea Benajmin. "It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla."

Given the very close relationship between Israel and the U.S., and the public efforts by Israel to denounce and try to stop the flotilla, the passengers on the U.S. boat want to know if the Obama Administration is using U.S. leverage at the IMF to compel the Greek authorities to stop the U.S. boat from leaving Greece. Greece's economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund. Past U.S. governments have used their influence at the IMF to impose political conditions on indebted countries that have nothing to do with restoring economic growth.

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said: "Greece is not going to be able to meet the targets that it is pledging to the IMF and the European authorities. In this situation the IMF and therefore the U.S. government will have enormous leverage because the Fund and EU authorities will decide what will be acceptable benchmarks for Greece to receive future tranches of IMF/EU funding."

"We are guests here," said Robert Naiman, a passenger on the U.S. boat. "But we ask the Greek authorities to be honest with us. What is the origin of this complaint? Is the decision to stop our boat from leaving truly due to legitimate technical issues that can be resolved, or is it a sign that our boat will be stopped from leaving no matter what we do? What is the role of the Israeli and U.S. governments in the Greek decision to stop our boat from leaving?"

"We have a right to protest the blockade of Gaza," said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. "To its credit, the Greek government, like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, agrees with us that the blockade on Gaza must be lifted. But for years, the only effective international action to challenge the illegal blockade has been freedom flotillas. We call upon the Greek government, which agrees that our cause is just, not to stand in the way of our peaceful protest in pursuit of our shared goal of lifting the blockade. The boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials. There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail."

SEE ORIGINAL...

Letters Needed: Thank LA Times for op-ed by Hagit Borer


The US Boat to Gaza is a coalition member of the US Campaign, as well as a US Campaign-sponsored initiative.

The Los Angeles Times has run an important Sunday op-ed by Hagit Borer that touches on her particpation with the US Boat to Gaza.  Other op-eds about the effort to break the blockade have been receiving a ferocious response in letters to the editor and comments.  It is crucial that activists rally to support of this op-ed to show the strong support the flotilla has.

Please write your letter to the editor today, particularly if you are in the Los Angeles area.  Letters can be sent to letters@latimes.com and should be 150 words or shorter.  "Please include your full name, mailing address, daytime phone number, and e-mail address. This information is seen only by the letters editors and is not used for any commercial purpose."

Getting on board with peace in Israel

An Israeli American explains why she will be among many boat passengers trying to break through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

By Hagit Borer 
June 26, 2011

Later this month an American ship, the Audacity of Hope, will leave Greece on a journey to the Gaza Strip to attempt to break Israel's blockade. It will join an expected nine other ships flying numerous flags and carrying hundreds of passengers from around the world. I will be one of those passengers.

I am an Israeli Jewish American. I was born in Israel, and I grew up in a very different Jerusalem from the one today. The Jerusalem of my childhood was a smallish city of white-stone neighborhoods nestled in the elbows of hills. Near the center, next to the central post office, the road swerved sharply to the left because straight ahead stood a big wall, and on the other side of it was "them."

And then, on June 9, 1967, the wall came down. Elsewhere, Israeli troops were still fighting what came to be known as the Six-Day War, but on June 9, as a small crowd stood and watched, demolition crews brought down the barrier wall, and after it, all other buildings that had stood between my Jerusalem and the walls of the Old City, their Jerusalem. A few weeks later a wide road would lead from my Jerusalem to theirs, bearing the victors' name: Paratroopers Way.

A soldier helped me sneak into the Old City. Snipers were still at large and the city was closed to Israeli civilians. By the Western Wall, a myth to me until then, the Israeli army was already evicting Palestinian residents in the dead of night and demolishing all houses within 1,000 feet. Eventually, the area would turn into the huge open paved space it is today, a place where only last month, on Jerusalem Day, masses of Israeli youths chanted "Muhammad is dead" and "May your villages burn."

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Letters Needed: CNN Op-Ed Attacks Alice Walker and Gaza Flotilla

WRITE! For Justice is a coalition member of the US Campaign.
June 25, 2011

Today, CNN has published an outrageous op-ed by Howard Jacobson 'Why Alice Walker Should Not Sail to Gaza' (6/24) which attacks author Alice Walker and her recent piece 'Why I'm Sailing to Gaza' (6/21).  The article characterizes Walker as a good person who could do 'great harm' -- it implies that she is simply naive in traveling on the flotilla and being used for propaganda purposes.  While lecturing Walker about morality, at no time does Jacobson acknowledge the devastating impact of the siege on Palestinians or respond specifically to Walker's concern about the plight of Palestinian children growing up under unacceptable conditions -- except to say that Walker "chooses the Palestinian child over the Israeli."

As for the flotilla, Jacobson maintains that it is "by its very essence a provocation" and "half inviting a violence which can then be presented as a slaughter of the innocents."  Even worse, the op-ed attempts to justify the blockade and collective punishment in Gaza by claiming "we must assume that Hamas's implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza."

Please WRITE! to CNN using the feedback form in support of Alice Walker, the Gaza Flotilla, and a free Gaza.  Letters should be kept under 150 words and be sure to include your name, address, and phone number for verification purposes.

Why Alice Walker shouldn't sail to Gaza

By Howard Jacobson
June 24, 2011

It should not need arguing, this late in the ethical history of mankind, that good people can do great harm. One of the finest and funniest novels ever written -- Don Quixote -- charts the damage left in the wake of a man who would make the world a better place.

Howard Jacobson
Human beings are seldom more dangerous than when they are sentimentally overcome by the goodness of their own intentions. That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.

"One child must never be set above another child," she says. A sentiment that will find an echo in every heart. But how does it justify the flotilla? Gaza is under siege, Israelis will tell you, because weapons are fired from it into Israel, threatening the lives of Israeli children. If the blockade is lifted there is a fear that more lethal and far-reaching weapons will be acquired, and the lives of more Israeli children endangered.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amb. Michael Oren dishes out anti-flotilla “marching orders” in private Jewish Federation call

The U.S. Boat to Gaza--the Audacity of Hope--is planned to set sail in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II in the next few days, and is a coalition member group of the US Campaign, and a US Campaign-endorsed initiative. This article also involves the issue of Palestinian UN membership and statehood, which the US Campaign has also been tracking closely.

By Max Blumenthal
June 22, 2011

On June 22, the Jewish Federation of America's new, multi-million dollar "Israel Action Network" hosted a conference call with Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. The call was an urgent response to the flotilla preparing to cruise towards Gaza in order to challenge Israel's maritime blockade of the destitute coastal strip. David Sherman, the vice chair of the Federation's board of trustees, introduced the new initiative and Oren's involvement in it as a key to combating Israel's "delegitimization."

Throughout the call, Oren seemed more concerned about the Arab Spring, Israel's relations with Turkey, and the Palestinian unity arrangement than the upcoming flotilla. He opened his remarks by launching into a fast paced survey of the myriad regional threats Israel supposedly faced, then explained how the state would tamp down on each one.

...

Amb. Michael Oren
The new flotilla — Oren attacked the organizers of the flotilla as "radical anti-Israel organizations…known also for anti-American activities." He cited statements by the US State Department and UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon criticizing or condemning their actions. Then Oren claimed that the flotilla could simply deliver its aid through a "responsible organization" like UNRWA, or bring their materials through El Arish and allow Israel to offload it. "It's not a fight between us and the people of Gaza," Oren claimed. "It's between us and the group Hamas which is determined to destroy the state of Israel." (Never mind this Israeli government document). He went on to claim that Israel's maritime blockade was "in full accord with international law," though he did not explain how besieging a civilian population that was not actively engaged in a full-scale war against Israel comported with the 4th Geneva Convention or the San Remo Accords.

Next, Oren proudly announced that Israel had tentatively authorized an aid shipment to Gaza containing construction materials for 1200 new buildings and 18 new schools (UNRWA officials were skeptical that the aid would actually arrive as Israel said). The timing of the shipment and Oren's promotion of it suggested that the flotilla had already made an impact. Would Israeli authorities have authorized the aid in without outside pressure? Whether or not they would have, Israel was seeking to extract as much propaganda value as it could from its agreement.

The Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood — The ambassador seemed far more troubled about the Palestinian Authority's plan to introduce a statehood resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in September than about any other issue. Oren suggested that Israel would attempt to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in order to keep them away from the UN. In other words, the peace process would be Israel's tool for blocking Palestine from winning statehood on a unilateral basis. In this effort, Oren described Dennis Ross, the White House special advisor on Middle East affairs, as Israel's ally.

"We are working closely with the Obama Administration in trying to find a common framework that would enable the European Union to support negotiations in the framework to get them back to negotiations and keep them away from General Assembly," Oren commented. "Dennis Ross is in Israel today conducting negotiations so we have reasons for some optimism. But we have to prepare for the worst. [With the statehood resolution] we are preparing for various scenarios of unrest in the West Bank, further attempts by the P.A. to use their improved status to delegitimize israel a la Goldstone type initiatives. Netanyahu has been meeting with the Italian government about this, and they are working tirelessly. And he is working closely with the Canadians who are very supportive."

When Oren finished his remarks, the administrators of the call allowed time for a few questions. One caller asked Oren what Jews in the United States could do about the flotilla. "Stress that there's no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the border is open for all materials, there is no shortage of food or medicine, and that our maritime blockade is upheld by the United States as completely legal and necessary for Israel's defense," Oren said.

Before I could ask a question about the legality of Israel's siege of Gaza, Martin Raffel, the director of the Israel Action Network, came on the line to conclude the call. "I want to echo [what Oren said]," Raffel remarked. "Our role is not to be passive observers. We have to shake the public discourse so we're sending message points and program guidance to everyone involved. And we hope you have some marching orders for when you go back to your communities."

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