Showing posts with label op-eds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label op-eds. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2012

Obama's Real Israel Problem

Bennis
US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis published a strong piece in the L.A. Times calling for equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis as the basis for a change in U.S. policy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a just and equitable way.

Check out her op-ed below and comment on it here.


Obama's real Israel problem -- and it isn't Bibi
Phyllis Bennis
January 6, 2012

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, responds to The Times' Jan. 2 Op-Ed article, "Bibi and Barack." Bennis is the coauthor of "Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan: A Primer" and the author of "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer." 
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Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
Aaron David Miller is right: President Obama does have an Israel problem. But Miller is wrong about the roots of the problem.

The problem isn't Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud Party, or even Israel's current extreme right-wing government. Israel's fundamental policy toward the Palestinians is the problem, and that policy has hardly changed, despite the seemingly diverse sequence of left, right and center parties that have been in power.

Just look at the occupation of the territories seized in 1967 -- the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Settlement building, along with all the land and water theft that goes with it, began just weeks after the Six-Day War. And a right-wing government wasn't in power; it was Mapai, the left-wing precursor to today's Labor Party. The right wing wouldn't come to power until almost three decades after Israel's founding, when Menachem Begin led the Likud coalition to victory in 1977.

Settlement construction and expansion started right after the war and continued under all the leftist (in the Israeli context) governments. By the time Likud came to power 10 years after the 1967 war, there were already more than 50,000 Israeli settlers living in Jews-only settlements in the occupied territories, most of them in occupied East Jerusalem, with smaller numbers in the West Bank and Gaza. Settlement expansion advanced under Labor, Likud and Kadima-led governments. Now there are more than 600,000 settlers living illegally in Palestinian territory, divided between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

As Moshe Dayan, a former defense and foreign minister, explained, the settlements were necessary "not because they can ensure security better than the army but because without them we cannot keep the army in those territories. Without them the [Israel Defense Forces] would be a foreign army ruling a foreign population."

The different parties, prime ministers and officials sometimes used different language. Some repeated the words the international community wanted, a "land for peace" deal and "two states"; others insisted that only "peace for peace" or "Jordan is Palestine" was acceptable. Some spoke loudly in defense of settlements, while others only whispered.

But there was no diversity of substance. What happened in the real world, the "facts on the ground," continued regardless of which party was in power.

Other things continued too -- settler violence against Palestinians, expropriation of Palestinian land and water, illegal closures, collective punishments including massive armed assault, arrest without charge, extra-judicial assassinations and the siege of Gaza.

Of course, that's just in the occupied territories. Inside Israel, Arab Israelis -- those who survived the dispossession of 1947-48 -- live as second-class citizens. They have the right to vote, but they are subject to legalized discrimination in favor of the Jewish majority. The Israeli human rights organization Adalah reported to the United Nations more than 20 such discriminatory laws, the most important of which deny Palestinian citizens equal rights on issues of immigration and citizenship as well as land ownership. And outside, the Palestinian refugees, now numbering in the millions, have been denied their internationally guaranteed right of return by Israeli governments of every political stripe.

The whole range of Israeli political parties has continued to implement these same policies. They may talk a different talk, but they all walk the same walk.

What none of these governments is prepared to acknowledge is what it will take for a real solution, one that is lasting, comprehensive and just: human rights and equality for all based on international law. It shouldn't be more complicated than that. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies everyone has the right to return to their home country, no exceptions; that everyone has the right to live in safety, no exceptions; that everyone has the right to an equal say in the government that rules their country, no exceptions.

Every law should treat all citizens the same, no exceptions. Every government has the obligation to live up to the treaties it has signed, including the U.N. conventions on human rights, against racism, the Geneva Conventions and more. Israel has signed them all. Yet not one Israeli government, of any party, has implemented them.

As long as the United States provides the Israeli government more than $3 billion in aid every year, regardless of those violations, and protects Israel from being held accountable in the U.N., regardless of those violations, no Israeli prime minister has much reason to change. That's Obama's Israel problem -- not Netanyahu. Changing U.S. policy should provide the solution.

ALSO:

Bibi and Barack

Middle East states of mind

Settlement outposts at root of Jewish violence in West Bank

-- Phyllis Bennis


SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE...

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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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Earth to Congress, We have a Problem

By Mike Coogan, Legislative Coordinator

Representative J. Randy Forbes' recent trip to a series of illegal Israeli settlements typifies much of what is broken with Congress these days and lays bare an unprecedented level of hypocrisy. While Representative Forbes was gallivanting along apartheid roads connecting Israel's illegal settlements, Palestinians were preparing to engage in an act of civil disobedience to highlight the lack of freedom and equality that has long characterized their lives. On November 15, nonviolent Palestinian Freedom Riders challenged segregation on Israeli buses plying routes between West Bank Israeli colonies. Rep. Forbes, holding to American principles, should have been the first to commend them.

Notably, he did not.

In fact, the Congressman frequently professes his intention to work for religious freedom around the globe, but has failed to say anything about Israel's denial of religious freedom and equality to Tuesday's Freedom Riders and millions of other Palestinians. Palestinians are at the mercy of Israeli occupation authorities if they hope to pray at Christian and Muslim holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem. That’s not freedom of worship; it is systemic religious and racial discrimination.

Coogan
Forbes' penchant for self-selecting those who should be allowed to enjoy freedom was on full display during a recent meeting I had with his staff. Before the discussion about the Palestinian bid for membership in the UN and Israeli violations of U.S. laws could begin, the legislative assistant informed us that Rep. Forbes supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without reservations.

The message was simple: Israel can violate human rights and U.S. laws with impunity, but Palestinians will be subject to swift and devastating sanctions for nonviolently exercising their right to self-determination in the U.N.

To follow up on the legislative assistant's statement, we asked how the Congressman could possibly justify unconditional support for a leader who shows reckless disregard for U.S. law, Palestinian human rights, and American interests.

Astonishingly, we were informed that there is no difference between Netanyahu's policies and U.S. interests. There are differences between Americans in the Republican and Democratic parties, but no differences between Netanyahu’s policies and American interests? The idea is absurd and the sentiments behind it dangerous. We ought not cede our principles to the policies Netanyahu crafts for subjugating Palestinians.

The fundamental nature of an alliance and core American interests appear to be lost on Representative Forbes and his staff. Members of Congress seemingly lost the message sent out by military officials, human rights groups, and civil society organizations across the country: Israel is not a useful asset in the region, but a strategic liability. Quite simply, we do ourselves no favor by backing and funding Israel’s domination of another people.

For example, according to Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told the National Security Principals Committee that the U.S. has received nothing in return for copious and unconditional support to Israel. During the same meeting, Gates reportedly went on to say that Netanyahu was both ungrateful and endangering Israel’s own security.

General David Petraeus stated in March of 2010 that unconditional support for Israel was damaging U.S. standing in the region and fomenting widespread anti-American sentiment.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have documented clear and flagrant human rights violations by the Israeli government with U.S.-supplied weapons.

And in addition to concerns about human rights and U.S. security, taxpayers simply cannot afford to give Israel over $731 million in military aid over the next nine years as we underfund our own social programs and watch the deficit skyrocket.

Before Rep. Forbes makes more token statements about the promotion of religious freedom and equality, he should think about how his actions in support of Israel’s discriminatory policies fundamentally undermine the principles he claims to hold dear. After all, throwing Palestinian Freedom Riders off buses bound for occupied East Jerusalem is every bit as wrong as throwing American Freedom Riders off buses bound for the Jim Crow South.


Mike Coogan is a member of Virginians for Middle East Peace and the Legislative Coordinator for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Robbing Peter to Pay Israel

The US Campaign's National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, published this analysis in Foreign Policy in Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.


By Josh Ruebner
August 12, 2011

Nearly 20 percent of the constituents of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) live under the poverty line, and nearly 15 percent are unemployed. Jackson’s congressional district, covering parts of the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs, has been hit harder than many others by the crises plaguing the economy. Many of his constituents are looking at even more cutbacks in social services, higher prices for food and fuel, and ever scarcer jobs.

Ruebner
During this August congressional recess, Rep. Jackson, Jr. should be at home, meeting with constituents and proposing to them how he will help them cope with their difficult circumstances. Instead, the politician is proudly gallivanting around Israel, in one of three separate congressional delegations heading there this month on all-expense-paid junkets organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a so-called charitable affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the myriad pro-Israel lobbying outfits.

In total, 81 representatives, nearly one-fifth of the entire House, will participate in these jaunts, which, according to The Washington Post, include “a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.”

Of course, these congressional delegations are not all fun and games. Members of Congress will be expected to sing for their lavish dinners by honoring President Bush’s 2007 pledge to provide the Israeli military with $30 billion of tax-payer-funded weapons between 2009 and 2018. So far, proposed increases in military aid to Israel have been spared from the budgetary chopping block by President Obama and a compliant Congress that treats Israeli militarism as more sacrosanct than medical care for seniors. This despite the fact that Israel misuses the funds, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act, to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians living under its illegal 44-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

ARTICLE CONTINUES ON FPIF.ORG...

We published in The Hill today: "Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law."

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, has a great op-ed today in The Hill, supporting Sen. Leahy's efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violations of U.S. weapons laws. Josh touched a raw nerve with his hard-hitting analysis. Lots of people are attacking him (but not his arguments). Check it out and leave YOUR comment!

Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law

By Josh Ruebner
August 17, 2011

Apologists for Israeli occupation and apartheid claim that advocates for holding Israel accountable for its human rights abuses of Palestinians are “singling Israel out for extra scrutiny” or “holding Israel to a higher standard than other countries.”

Ruebner
Yet, ironically, Israel’s supporters also claim that U.S. military aid to Israel is sacrosanct and, unlike every other governmental program on the chopping block these days, cannot be questioned due to the “special U.S.-Israeli relationship." Dan Carle, a spokesperson for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has noted correctly that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

In response to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz suggesting that the Vermont Senator will attempt to apply sanctions to certain units of the Israeli military for human rights violations, Carle explained that “the [Leahy] law applies to U.S. aid to foreign security forces around the globe and is intended to be applied consistently across the spectrum of U.S. military aid abroad. Under the law the State Department is responsible for evaluations and enforcement decisions and over the years Senator Leahy has pressed for faithful and consistent application of the law.”

The possibility of Senator Leahy consistently applying this eponymous legislation and holding Israel to the exact same standard as every other country has Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whose office may have leaked the story in an effort to kill the initiative, in a tizzy.

The “Leahy Law,” as it is commonly known, prohibits the United States from providing any weapons or training to “any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of State has credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.” In the past, this law has been invoked to curtail military aid to countries as diverse as Indonesia, Colombia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Along with other provisions in the Foreign Assistance Act, of which it is a part, and the Arms Export Control Act, it forms the basis of an across-the-board policy that is supposed to ensure that U.S. assistance does not contribute to human rights abuses.

ARTICLE CONTINUES ON THEHILL.COM...