Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A week in the life of a changing discourse on Israel/Palestine

Well, I (US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey) just returned from a speaking tour in the Chicagoland area, and apparently while I was gone it became mainstream to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel and divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. In all seriousness, though, what a week it's been. The much-publicized Israeli settlement-announcement-smack-in-the-face of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has created a storm of responses, many of them calling for the United States to condition or cut military aid to Israel. It was enough to make us wonder whether Biden was reading from our talking points! Mondoweiss covers just one example of this wave of support for ending U.S. military aid--a flurry of responses to CNN's Jack Cafferty's question "Is it time for the U.S. to get tough on Israel?" Check it out: US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner appeared on a number of radio shows to discuss holding Israel accountable for a real settlement freeze, including a 20-minute live interview w/KPFK 90.7FM Los Angeles' Uprising! on March 12, a 15-minute live interview w/ WZBC Boston's Sounds of Dissent on March 13, a 1-hour live interview with 1450 AM Chicago's Radio Islam on March 15, and a 10-minute live interview w/ WBAI 99.5FM New York City also on March 15. Additionally, an Indiana University professor has come out in support of ending U.S. military aid, Time Magazine's Joe Klein has questioned AIPAC's opposition to the Obama Administration, and Jim Wall comments on some of the media coverage of Netanyahu's defiance on his Wallwritings blog. Even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, no friend of human rights, sounds a bit frustrated with Israel (although Jim Wall points out that his framework is still completely skewed). On today's Democracy Now! broadcast, past US Campaign conference speaker Norman Finkelstein responded to comments by Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at this weekend's AIPAC conference: To add to the growing momentum around ending U.S. military aid to Israel, U.S. General David Petraeus has claimed that ongoing U.S. support for the Israeli occupation endangers U.S. troops abroad:
"On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow ... and too late."
Frankly, we don't think that the United States should be involved in ANY foreign military occupation, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the occupied Palestinian territory, but nevertheless it's worth noting that criticism of U.S. support of Israel war crimes is gaining ground even with the U.S. military establishment. -- In other major news, the UC Berkeley Student Senate has voted to "to divest from companies who have supplied the state of Israel with materials used in alleged war crimes." Check out an article in the UC Berkeley newspaper, a press release from UC Berkeley SJP, and a response from Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, who refers to the divestment resolution as "the watershed, the crossing of the threshold in the spread of BDS across the US that many of us have been waiting to see." The SJP press release states:
"For the first time in the University of California history, the UC Berkeley Student Senate has approved a bill to divest from two US companies in response to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and to Israel’s siege and bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The Senate bill directs both the UC Regents and the Student Government to divest from General Electric and United Technologies. General Electric manufactures Apache helicopter engines; United Technologies manufactures Sikorsky helicopters and F-16 aircraft engines. In addition, the bill creates a task force to look into furthering a socially responsible investment policy for the UC system."
Congratulations to UC Berkeley, and to everyone who continues working to change the U.S. discourse and take real action for justice, peace, and human rights. Change--real change--is happening in front of our eyes!