Showing posts with label Phyllis Bennis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phyllis Bennis. Show all posts

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why is HRW Unwilling to Stand with Human Rights Defenders?

Phyllis Bennis is co-founder of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. 

Human Rights Watch: Time to stand with human rights defenders
It is disappointing to see HRW's unwillingness to stand with those who are working to promote and defend human rights.
Al Jazeera English
January 9, 2013

When the UN Human Rights Council sends its independent investigators, known as Special Rapporteurs, around the globe to investigate the denial of various human rights, it's not unusual for governments accused of violating those rights to go pretty far to keep them out. 

So when Israeli security personnel
 detained Professor Richard Falk at Tel Aviv airport in December 2008, imprisoning him in a crowded, filthy jail cell overnight and expelling him the next day, it wasn't particularly surprising. Falk had recently taken on the role of United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and Israel had made clear it had no intention of co-operating with his mandate or of implementing its obligations as a UN member to facilitate Falk's official missions.  As the Occupying Power, Israel has for years responded with outrage to human rights criticism and, with US backing, has increasingly directly repudiated UN authority and legitimacy. 

Perhaps it isn't even so unexpected that Falk - whose work has been scrupulously fair - has been criticised as well by Palestinian factions, including both Fatah and Hamas. 

But it's pretty rare for Special Rapporteurs to face condemnation, insult, attack from high-ranking UN officials, including the Secretary-General, or powerful diplomatic actors from their home country - such as US representative to the UN,
 Ambassador Susan Rice. Since taking on the mandate nearly five years ago, Falk has faced those attacks and more. 

Most of the attacks are the result of pressure campaigns launched by a small Geneva-based right-wing organisation called
 UN Watch. While hardly known outside of UN headquarters in Geneva, UN Watch has tried to make a name for itself among those bigger players also committed to undermining the United Nations and to uncritically defending every Israeli violation of human rights and international law. Undermining and delegitimising Richard Falk has been an obsession of UN Watch since he became Special Rapporteur.

Continue Reading

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Speeches

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute of Policy Studies

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly was as much about trying to reclaim his dwindling support among Palestinians as it was designed to outline Palestine’s intention to move for a new status at the UN. The consequence of “non-member state” status, while not granting full UN membership, would provide a UN imprimatur to the identity of Palestine as a state, meaning it would have the right to sign treaties. Of particular significance would be Palestine joining the Rome Treaty as a signatory to the International Criminal Court. That would, at least potentially, enable an ICC investigation of potential Israeli war crimes on Palestinian territory.

Beyond his anticipated call for the new UN recognition as a “state,” much of Abbas’ speech focused on Israeli violations of international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions. While he issued his usual call for resuming peace talks with Israel, he called for the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to pass a binding resolution setting out the terms of reference for any renewed diplomatic process, something that seems to contradict his longstanding willingness to allow unchallenged U.S. control of the negotiating process.

In other parts of his speech, the PLO Chairman reasserted the PLO’s role as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, while rejecting the occupation’s efforts to divide Gaza from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and reaffirmed the need for a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees under the terms of UN resolution 194. In language clearly designed to win support from Palestinians both in the OPT and in the diaspora, many of whom remain dissatisfied with the current Palestinian leadership and whom he identified as "an angry people," he spoke of Israeli “apartheid,” asserted Palestinian rights and the need to continue “peaceful popular resistance” against occupation. In a clear effort to win support from Palestinian civil society, whose call for a global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions has fundamentally challenged longstanding PLO/PA strategy, he spoke in a language of rights, rejecting the notion of statehood being bestowed on Palestinians, and identified Israel’s “settler colonialism” as something that must be “condemned, punished, and boycotted.”

As anticipated, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, reflecting the huge political gain that he has won from his year of escalating threats against Iran, barely touched the Palestinian question. He has taken advantage of the fact that as long as the claim (however specious) that Israel faces an “existential danger” from Iran is on the table, no one, certainly not the United States, has been willing to exert any real pressure on Israel regarding the occupation. His reference to Israel’s occupation was limited to a brief paragraph in which he claimed that “we seek peace with the Palestinians.” He then went on to lecture the Palestinians, saying “we won’t solve the conflict with libelous speeches at the UN, that’s not the way to solve them.” He said the conflict wouldn’t be solved with “unilateral declarations of statehood,” that the only goal can be a “mutual compromise in which a demilitarized Palestinian state [heavily emphasized in his delivery] recognizes the one and only Jewish state.”

Netanyahu’s speech focused almost solely on Iran, comparing it to Nazi Germany and calling for the world to join his crusade against it. He spoke derisively of those who claim that a nuclear-armed Iran might stabilize the Middle East, looking up from his prepared notes with a sarcastic “yeah, right.” Interestingly, he reminded the world — seemingly as a point of pride — that he had been speaking about “the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons for over 15 years.” It apparently didn’t appear to his speechwriting team that this admission, when all of those earlier warnings were shaped by the same “it’s almost too late” rhetoric that we heard today, might somehow discredit his unchanging claim.

Ignoring the fact that the United States, unfortunately, already has an “all options on the table” red line of its own (preventing Iran from obtaining a bomb), Netanyahu called on the United States to endorse his own specific red line for using force against Iran.  He set his red line as Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to bomb grade, and demanded that the U.S. join. While Iran has not enriched anywhere close to that level, Netanyahu’s language reflected his red line on Iran’s “capability,” a line that he argued is almost here. He spoke on the need to attack Iranian facilities while they are “still visible and still vulnerable.” Perhaps taking a lesson from then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s use of fake “anthrax” props when trying to persuade the Security Council of the need to go to war against Iraq in 2002, Netanyahu held up a primitive grade-school level poster prop and used insulting “this is a bomb, this is a fuse” language.

Netanyahu’s overall language, however, was significantly more conciliatory towards President Obama than much of his recent rhetoric. Perhaps it was the cohort of Jewish Democratic Party heavyweights who scolded the Israeli prime minister for interfering in U.S. politics, or perhaps it was his U.S. advisers, or perhaps his own political team at home — but whatever the reason, Netanyahu’s overt embrace of all things Romney, and his disdain for all things Obama, was kept well under wraps in New York.

Institute for Policy Studies

Monday, July 30, 2012

Divestment Debate Highlights Shift in Mainstream Opinion

Phyllis Bennis is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee. She will be on the opening panel of our National Organizers' Conference in St. Louis Friday, September 21 at 7:00pm discussing the Arab uprisings and how changes in the region affect our organizing to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Register today

The mainstream U.S. press, paying unusual attention to U.S. corporate complicity in Israel's occupation, wrote quite extensively about last week's Presbyterian campaign for corporate social responsibility. Virtually all the headlines focused on the two million-strong Presbyterian Church (USA) decision not to divest from multi-national corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and settlement policies. 

"In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation,"
said the New York Times. The Associated Press reported, "US Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment." According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Presbyterians Reject Call to Divest over Israel's West Bank Occupation." 

It took Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli daily, to get it right: "
Presbyterian Church in U.S. votes to boycott Israeli settlement goods," their headline read. 

The voting at the Pittsburgh meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- PC (USA) -- was the latest step in an eight-year campaign to bring the Church's investment policies into line with its commitment to social justice. It had tried for those eight years to persuade the multinational corporations to stop enabling Israeli violations of international law -- an effort that Church leaders overwhelmingly agreed had failed. Presbyterian corporate responsibility activists, led by their Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, had moved from studying, to attempting to engage with corporate leadership, to shareholder actions, all aimed at pressing for accountability in those corporations in which the Church had invested millions of dollars. 

The Assembly approved a call to boycott all Israeli settlement-made goods (stronger than the original proposal), and to urge all other countries to boycott such goods. The Church had earlier called for suspending U.S. military aid to Israel. The proposal calling for divestment from specific corporations profiting from occupation and militarism, was ultimately taken off the table when a razor-thin majority (333-331 with two abstentions) approved a substitute motion calling for a vote on investment in Palestinian enterprises instead. 

Continue Reading on The Huffington Post

Monday, July 9, 2012

Check Out DC Events on Palestine

The following events are taking place this week in DC and are hosted by our member group The Palestine Center. 

From Grievance to Action: Mapping Grassroots Movements in Palestine 
12:30-2:00pm, Tuesday, July 10 at 2425 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037

This panel will examine the role of grassroots movements as a practical approach to fulfilling the shortcomings of political representation, with special attention to protests, hunger strikes, and other forms of resistance seen today.
 Adam Gallagher will discuss the International Solidarity Movement and our Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis will concentrate on nonviolent action. 

Find more information and register here

Voices of Palestine 2012 Film Series: Hip Hop is Bigger than the Occupation

6:30pm, Wednesday, July 11 at Lohrfink Auditorium, Georgetown University

Hip Hop is Bigger than the Occupation is a documentary about a ten day journey of artists traveling through Palestine, teaching and performing nonviolent resistance through the arts. The tour included M1 of Dead Prez, Shadia Mansour, Marcel Cartier, Mazzi of Soul Purpose, DJ Vega Benetton, Lowkey, Jody McIntyre and Trinidad, Brandon and Lavie from the South West Youth Collaborative/University of Hip Hop Chicago. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion and Q&A with some of the artists and activists featured in the film including M1 of Dead Prez, Mazzi Behi of Soul Purpose, Marcel Cartier, Ayman El-Sayed and Harrabic Tubman.

Find more information here

Negotiating Peace: Motivations, Mechanisms, and Methods
12:30-2:00pm, Thursday, July 12 at 2425 Virginia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037

This panel examines the effectiveness of the Palestinian strategy for negotiating a peace that complements the national interest, with special attention to a future Palestinian negotiating strategy after its bid for state recognition at the United Nations. Panelists are Khaled Elgindy, a visiting fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute; Leila Hilal, director of the New America Foundation Middle East Task Force; and our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner. 

Find more information and register here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BDS Represents Global Intifada

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and a US Campaign Steering Committee member. This letter to the editor is in response to Nathan Thrall's "The Third Intifada Is Inevitable."

To the Editor

Nathan Thrall raises crucial issues about the failures of the “peace process.” But he does not mention two critical points.

First, while the dwindling support for traditional Palestinian leaders is apparent, a diverse, empowered civil society movement has emerged that has appropriated for itself the job of figuring out how to end the 1967 occupation and achieve other Palestinian rights. Second, that movement’s most effective method yet for bringing nonviolent pressure to bear on Israel is the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy known as B.D.S.

Originally endorsed by 170 Palestinian organizations, B.D.S. has emerged as a global campaign. Just last week we saw its power here in the United States, when the pension giant TIAA-CREF divested $72 million in Caterpillar stock from its socially responsible fund, following Morgan Stanley Capital International’s removal of Caterpillar from its index of socially responsible corporations. Israel’s military uses Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish Palestinian houses; a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier killed the American peace activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003.

A third intifada reflecting the failure of the current “peace process” may in fact be under way already — this time a global intifada rooted in nonviolent economic pressure to end Israeli violations.

Washington, June 24, 2012

Interested in learning more about BDS? Check out our website for resources and join us in September for our annual National Organizers' Conference

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Obama Goes to AIPAC: A Scorecard

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis analyzes President's Obama's speech to AIPAC in this Salon article.  Phyllis writes:

Aside from the rhetorical pandering on Iran, perhaps the biggest failure in Obama’s AIPAC speech was in its giving Israel a get-out-of-accountability-free card. Clearly Israel has no reason to worry about any possible U.S. pressure to end its occupation and apartheid policies. Any Obama administration commitment to working to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is over, at least till after the elections. 
Read the rest of this important article, comment on it, and share it via social media here:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Obama's Real Israel Problem

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." 
If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
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.


Bibi and Barack

Middle East states of mind

Settlement outposts at root of Jewish violence in West Bank

-- Phyllis Bennis


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama, Israel, and the 1967 Borders

Phyllis Bennis is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She comments here on last week's speech by President Obama urging for a peace process in the Middle East.

"There is nothing new," says New Internationalism Director Phyllis Bennis about Obama's plan for the Middle East. In fact, this speech kept in line with the Israel position that the Palestinean state will have to give up the land of the settlements, according to Bennis. President Obama went further and accepted the Jewish state, thereby accepting the legal apartheid that exists there, Bennis added.

Hundreds Have Just Faced Up To AIPAC, But Together We Can Do More.

By Felicia Eaves and Phyllis Bennis

Above: Steering Committee Members Felicia Eaves (L) and Phyllis Bennis (R).

On Saturday we both spoke at the fantastic events of Move Over AIPAC, the spectacular outpouring of creativity and commitment organized by CODEPINK and 100 endorsing organizations, including the US Campaign and many members of our coalition.

Hundreds of activists from across the United States challenged the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) by protesting outside its annual conference in Washington.

AIPAC's influence, along with that of U.S. arms manufacturers and the Pentagon, creates a stranglehold of pro-Israel policies that undermine democracy here at home and across the Middle East. 

Throughout the weekend activsts spoke about the kind of new U.S. policy needed toward Palestine/Israel -- a policy that upholds freedom, justice and equality -- not AIPAC's policy of securing U.S. support for Israel's  occupation of Palestinian land and violations of Palestinian rights.

With just 0.4% of AIPAC's budget, the US Campaign works tirelessly to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel, providing an umbrella and a channel for more than 350 member organizations.

Think how much we could do with just a few dollars more. Won't you click here to donate?

Here's just a taste of the work of the US Campaign:
We provide a strategic framework for local groups to run effective campaigns, and move their work from the local to the national level. Member groups throughout the country use the US Campaign as a platform to communicate and cooperate.

We create valuable resources for our member groups and 50,000+ supporters -- check out the Aid to Israel map that lets you organize with others to tell your elected representatives exactly how many of your community's tax dollars are going to military aid to Israel, and how you would rather spend them at home.

We organize grassroots training and advocacy days so that members and supporters can lobby their elected representatives for a different policy -- the US Campaign's National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner led yesterday's "Move Over AIPAC" workshop on ending military aid to Israel (see photo at right). And watch this space for the launch of our new city council campaign -- Fund Community Needs -- in June!

We challenge the discourse through well-placed op-eds, including by our staff, Steering Committee and Advisory Board members. Check out these three pieces in The Hill last week: by Josh Ruebner, Phyllis Bennis and Nadia Hijab.
Israel's intransigent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will again be standing against history and in the face of peace and justice when he addresses Congress today. We know what he's going to say. As Israel expands its racist laws against its Palestinian citizens, escalates its apartheid treatment of Palestinians under occupation, ramps up its colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, prevents Palestinian refugees from going home, and keeps Gaza under siege, we can -- and must -- do so much more.

Last weekend shows how far our movement has come and how much stronger we are. We already do so much with so little. Won't you help us to do more? Donate now!

Make our voice even stronger and our actions more powerful. Donate now!

With thanks and solidarity,

Felicia Eaves & Phyllis Bennis

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 24, 6pm, Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC: The Attack on the Gaza Flotilla, One Year On

Please join the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Center for Constitutional Rights, US Boat to Gaza, BADIL, and the New Internationalism Project of IPS this Tuesday, 6pm, at Busboys and Poets (14th St. NW, DC) for:

This event will focus on the attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 and the ongoing, illegal blockade of Gaza. We will hear from Professor Ahmet Dogan, the father of Furkan Dogan, an 18-year-old American citizen killed during the brutal attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, and from advocates who will discuss the current situation in Gaza and their efforts to get answers about U.S. knowledge of, and response to, the attack. We will also hear about the flotilla travelling to Gaza in June 2011, as an act of protest against the ongoing blockade and solidarity with the besieged citizens of Gaza.

About the speakers:
Professor Ahmet Dogan, father of Furkan Dogan who was killed on the Mavi Marmara
Katherine Gallagher, Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project, Institute for Policy Studies
Ann Wright, former US Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official who was a passenger on the May 2010 flotilla.

More information:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Israel-Palestine or Israel-U.S.?" -- Phyllis Bennis weighs in on current tensions between the U.S. and Israel

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies wonders whether the Obama Administration is "prepared to recognize that there is a new reality at home" when it comes to Palestine and Israel: The tensions that erupted during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel a couple of weeks ago are indeed real. Biden and the Obama administration see the Israeli action as a slap in the face, a poke in the eye, a smack upside the head…choose your preferred metaphor. The problem is, Washington’s outrage was 90 percent about timing, and only 10 percent about substance — that is, the administration was insulted because the announcement that Israel had just approved building 1,600 new settlement housing units in occupied Arab East Jerusalem surprised Biden during his visit. Only about 10 percent of the concern seemed to focus on the settlement expansion itself. But the dust-up occurred while the Obama administration faces new challenges to its Middle East policy. In the region Arab allies have pulled away from Washington, recognizing that they can no longer pacify furious populations. The Arab League refused to endorse Palestinian participation in a new round of “proximity talks,” and the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority itself said no talks without a complete settlement freeze. In Washington there is a growing chorus of influential voices finally admitting that the longstanding U.S. policy of uncritical embrace of Israel, with unchallenged military, economic, legal and diplomatic support and protection, wasn't serving U.S. interests. That means considering the possibility — gasp! — that maybe, just maybe, Israeli and U.S. interests aren't always identical. Now the Pentagon’s most influential general, David Petraeus, has admitted that the widespread public view of the U.S. as Israel’s backer in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undermines U.S. strategic goals in the region — widely interpreted to mean it puts U.S. troops at risk. He is backed up by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as well as Biden. A no-brainer, yes, for any high-schooler paying attention to a current events lesson. But that obvious strategic reality has almost never been acknowledged by military leaders, who have in the past been unwilling to challenge their civilian counterparts’ pro-Israeli assumptions and strategies, even if they didn’t share them. (It should be clear that Petraeus’ own framework for criticizing the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” has nothing to do with international law, human rights, or justice - it is a military judgment aimed at strengthening the U.S. military occupations and control of the strategic region.) And it’s not only the military and political elites. A new Zogby poll indicates that almost two-thirds of Democrats believe in the statement “Israeli settlements are built on land confiscated from Palestinians and should be torn down and the land returned to Palestinian owners.” Within the Jewish community, AIPAC can no longer claim that it's speaking for a monolithic Jewish bloc. (There never was such a bloc, of course, but few were willing to challenge AIPAC’s claim to speak for it.) The shift in elite opinion sets the terms for policy changes once thought impossible. Some Israeli leaders are already recognizing the new discourse in Washington. The influential Israeli analyst Akiva Eldar wrote in Ha’aretz that “as far as President Barack Obama and his senior advisers are concerned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for nothing less than damaging the standing of the U.S. in the Middle East and the Muslim world.” That’s a lot worse than just being blamed for the delay in starting a new round of so-called “proximity talks.” Influential New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, long viewed as an echo chamber for Washington’s mainstream pro-Israel voices, weighed in with the new admission that for Israelis, peace with the Palestinians is not a necessity but has become a hobby. Newsweek noted that Israelis are dismissing the need for peace with the Palestinians because they already have it on their own terms: “While the global recession plunged other countries into crisis in the past year, nearly all of Israel's indicators have held steady. Tourism, a good gauge of overall welfare, hit a 10-year high in 2008. Astonishingly, the IMF projected recently that Israel's GDP will grow faster in 2010 than that of most other developed countries. In short, Israelis are enjoying a peace dividend without a peace agreement…Israelis have intellectually disengaged from peacemaking.” Certainly Israelis are doing fine with the status quo. There are few Israeli victims, and indeed the occupation doesn't affect their daily lives. But that reality is already changing, as the international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns are gaining strength and beginning to bite. The BDS movement, launched in a global call from Palestinian civil society in 2005, is transforming how Israel — and the rest of the world — define Palestinian resistance to occupation and apartheid. Although the core of Palestinian resistance has always included nonviolent mobilization, acts of armed resistance over the years largely determined how that movement was perceived. The BDS movement, along with the turn away from armed struggle by resistance organizations in recent years, is rapidly changing that perception. Israel’s international diplomatic isolation is growing as well. In last week’s Human Rights Council decisions, only the U.S. voted to protect Israel from the otherwise unanimous support for “the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State.” The council also reaffirmed its “support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security; stresses the need for respect for and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; and urges all Member States and relevant bodies of the United Nations system to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.” The wide European support for this resolution was particularly significant, given the current negotiations underway to allow Israel to join key European institutions. The question now is whether the Obama administration is prepared to recognize that there is a new reality at home as well as in the region. Whatever we may think of the past, holding Israel accountable for violations of international and U.S. law is no longer tantamount to political suicide in Washington. We haven't yet seen evidence of any such recognition. Despite real anger regarding the settlement issue, the administration’s response has been limited to verbal criticism and demands (albeit far harsher in tone than normal). It's as if someone told Obama and his top officials that simply upping the ante of requests is enough to bring Israel around. But they were wrong. So far the requests have gone like this: Obama: Please freeze settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze some settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze just a few settlements, not including Jerusalem, just for a short time. Netanyahu: Well, maybe…No. Then Obama stopped asking. Real pressure sounds like this: Obama: Please freeze all the settlements, since they’re all illegal under international law, as a reasonable first step towards ending the occupation. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Okay. Then you know that $30 billion in military assistance former President Bush agreed to give you, and I agreed to implement? You can kiss that goodbye. Call me if you change your mind. Stay tuned. (You can check out the rest of Phyllis Bennis' "Talking Points," including analysis of President Obama's visit to Afghanistan and the Iraqi election, by clicking here.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Phyllis Bennis and Remi Kanazi talk creative protest on GRITtv

Check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis and poet and activist Remi Kanazi talking to GRITtv about "art, nonviolent protest, and creative boycotts that are changing the way Americans look at Israel and Palestine." Check out two quick ways to get involved with the creative movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) by supporting efforts to get UC Berkeley to divest from occupation profiteers and to keep the Pixies from whitewashing apartheid, and keep an eye on the US Campaign blog for video and photos of creative protest action across the United States and around the world.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Phyllis Bennis on Haiti, Gaza, and more

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies wrote the following on Haiti, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza, and first year of the Obama Adminsitration: " Catastrophe in Haiti, escalation in Afghanistan, new threats against Yemen, Israeli siege of Gaza tightens...and Obama's been in office a year now. Yikes. Dear Friends, The grim news from Haiti gets worse by the day and by the hour. Everything we can do should and must be done - in the short term, fundraising and support for emergency mobilizations of doctors, rescue workers and emergency response teams should be supported. In the medium and long term, we need to stand ready to challenge those who would take advantage of the catastrophe to impose what Naomi Klein has so memorably identified as the "shock doctrine" in Haiti, setting the stage for the disaster to become permanent. In fact, the Heritage Foundation unapologetically called for such a plan, describing how "the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to reshape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region." When Heritage realized the impact of saying this as thousands or tens of thousands of Haitians lay dead and dying, they deleted those words from the website. It isn't easy to continue our "regular" work - so much of which is crisis-driven already - in the face of such catastrophic human suffering. But the escalating wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threats against Yemen, the squeezing of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip…none of them stopped for the earthquake in Haiti. Nor can we. So we continue, even as we look for ways to help the beleaguered people of Haiti. Yemen It doesn't look good. The United States punished Yemen 20 years ago by cutting off aid. Today, the United States is punishing Yemen by sending aid. I wrote in a new article in The Huffington Post that Barack Obama isn't the first U.S. president to find Yemen a challenge. And the current $70 million package of military and security assistance isn't the first $70 million U.S. aid program to Yemen. Two decades ago, then-President George H.W. Bush was preparing for his looming invasion of Iraq - what would become Operation Desert Storm. Like his son in 2002, Bush was eager to force a unanimous vote in the United Nations Security Council endorsing his war. But unlike George Junior, who abandoned the UN when the Council stood defiant against his illegal war, the first Bush was willing to pay - in expensive bribes and political concessions - to win what the great Pakistani scholar Eqbal Ahmad called "a multilateral fig-leaf for a unilateral war." To read the rest of the article, click here. (I hope you'll also leave a comment - it helps make my pieces on Huffington Post more visible…) Afghanistan My new book, written with my longtime friend and colleague David Wildman, has just been released, and I hope all of you will get a copy. Interlink Publishing will also make it available in bulk - if you buy 10 copies or more, you can get 40 percent off, sell the books, and use the money saved to support your organization's peace and justice work. Opposition to the Afghanistan war, which had risen to almost 60 percent, diminished after Obama's West Point speech explaining his intention to send more than 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. As I mentioned in my assessment of his speech, there was one way in which Obama's escalation speech brought significant relief to the 59 percent of people in this country, as well as the overwhelming majorities of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and elsewhere who oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan: It was a pretty lousy speech.But we still have a huge amount of educating to do, providing people with the basic information they need to convince others of why the war is wrong and must be ended. The key issues will be the costs - human and economic - of this terrible and rising war. And at this particular moment, even beyond the human costs in Afghanistan and here at home, the economic costs stand out. It should be pretty easy for us to convince people that the $30 BILLION or more it will cost just to send those additional 30,000 troops would be far better spent on creating hundreds of thousands of new green jobs. But we need the information to do it - and I hope David's and my book will help. In Gaza We're getting very close to the February 5th date for the UN General Assembly to consider whether Israel and the Palestinians have met the requirements outlined in the Goldstone Report, to investigate their own culpability for war crimes in Gaza during Israel's assault last year. It's not likely to lead, at least immediately, to a serious UN move to hold anyone accountable in the International Criminal Court or anywhere else. But the responsibilities of the Goldstone Report now include obligations for us - for civil society - as well as for governments. And with the return home of the extraordinary internationals who traveled to Egypt to break the siege of Gaza, we turn to what Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territory, calls "the legitimacy war," in which civil society will play the role governments and the UN are unable or unwilling to play. Egyptian collaboration with Israel's siege, as well as its dependence on U.S. support, meant that Egypt kept the Free Gaza Marchers from entering Gaza. But they return energized and educated about the reality of the situation on the ground, and will be important assets for our work in the coming period. That means we need to continue delegitimizing Israel's occupation and apartheid policies, most urgently the crippling siege of Gaza, right now well into its third year. The global BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign of nonviolent economic pressure to force Israel to end its violations of international law is winning important victories. Corporations are changing their practices, trade unions are refusing to handle Israeli goods - lots of work is underway to demand an end to profiting from occupation. And here in the U.S., there is a growing challenge to the $30 billion in military aid Obama agreed to send to Israel over the next 10 years. Wouldn't most people in this country prefer to spend that money on health care, green jobs, and dealing with climate change, rather than enabling Israel to commit more war crimes with weapons marked "Made in the USA"? I urge you all to check out the amazing resources on the website of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation to join these efforts. Obama's First Year And finally, President Obama. His administration has been in office for almost a year now, and many of the sky-high hopes that swept him into office have been dashed. There are a few discrete accomplishments, some of which may turn out to be important, but Obama has failed to deliver on fundamental challenges where real change was promised - things like real health care reform, real green jobs, and real climate change action. As for the wars - while the Obama administration is so far fulfilling the letter, if not the spirit, of the Bush-negotiated withdrawal plan from Iraq, we are already hearing from Secretary of Defense Gates and others that there are talks already underway to insure that U.S. troops remain in Iraq even after the end of 2011, supposedly the date for the "final" withdrawal of "all" U.S. troops from that country. The Afghanistan war is escalating, and there are new drone strikes in Pakistan. And now, Yemen. The UN has just reported that civilian casualties in Afghanistan were higher in 2009 than any earlier year of the U.S. war. This seems to be the Obama-as-president version of the Obama-as-candidate promise to not only end the war in Iraq, but "end the mindset that leads to war." IPS just issued its one-year report card for Obama and his administration. We gave him a barely passing C-minus. And the lowest grades were those in war and peace. We have a lot of work to do. Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author with David Wildman of the forthcoming Ending the US War in Afghanistan: A Primer. "

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Holiday Message from US Campaign Steering Committee Member Phyllis Bennis

Dear Supporter, Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a great holiday - and hope for a better and more peaceful year all around. I know that you're being bombarded right now by important organizations asking for your support. So let me tell you why you should join me in supporting one particular important organization--the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation-especially in this holiday season, and at this particular political moment. The moment is urgent not only because of the holidays and the end of the year - but because as you know, conditions in the Middle East are deteriorating every day, and US policy still hasn't caught up with the changes in discourse and thinking about the region that you have helped make possible. The work of the US Campaign is crucial. No organization I know of does so much important, quality work on such a small budget. From leading national campaigns to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel, to organizing the national boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against U.S. corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid policy, to helping build support for the Gaza Freedom March later this month, and working with the UN and our human rights counterparts around the world, the US Campaign plays a vital role. The US Campaign brings together more than 300 organizations in a broad national coalition, dedicated to changing US policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. That's why I have worked with the US Campaign since its founding almost a decade ago. And I'm happy to say that because of its great public education work, its savvy policy work, and its dynamic campaigns challenging multi-national corporations, the US Campaign is playing a leading role in shifting the discourse in and policy of this country on Palestine/Israel for the better. That's been hard. But it takes a lot more hard work to reach the kind of policy transformation that we need. That's why I'm proud to continue to serve on the US Campaign's Steering Committee and to be a financial supporter. Please join me in supporting the important work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation by making a tax-deductible donation today. Donate $50 or more and I'll send you or a friend a copy of the new, updated edition of my book "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer". Just click here, make a secure on-line donation of $50 or more, and tell us where and to whom you'd like the book sent. The US Campaign will also gratefully accept any donation of any amount, so please give whatever you can today by clicking here. And if you can help us with a regular contribution, even just $5 or $10 or $15 every month, join our Olive Branch Club. For a year-end newsletter outlining the US Campaign's many accomplishments this year, please click here. Thank you for your generous support of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation! Happy holidays, and thanks for all your work for peace and justice. Phyllis Bennis for the US Campaign Steering Committee

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nadia Hijab and Phyllis Bennis at the Palestine Center conference

US Campaign member group The Palestine Center held their annual conference on November 13, 2009. You can see video of the conference here. Check out the first panel, "Erasure Before and After 1967," which was moderated by US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab and features US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis (Bennis' contribution begins around 53:00):

Friday, November 13, 2009

Aid, Settlements, and the Obama Administration

Time columnist Joe Klein, writing at the Swampland blog, calls for a freeze of aid to Israel:
"The Obama Administration may have to be a bit less "grandiose" in dealing with Netanyahu's irredentist government. It should start by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel; the aid should not be discontinued, just held, for a nice long review until the Netanyahu government comes to understand that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and that if you actually want peace, you don't build illegal settlement colonies in the Palestinian capital."
Meanwhile, Ha'aretz is reporting that U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns that the Obama Administration does not consider a partial settlement freeze to be enough, despite recent statements by Secretary of State Clinton that such a move would be an "unprecedented" step. Click here to read the full article. Last week, US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis spoke to Radio Islam in Chicago on the topic of Secretary of State Clinton's recent remarks and other developments in U.S. policy and discourse to Israel/Palestine. Click here to listen to the program, which begins around 28:30. Will the Obama Administration tie military aid to Israel with a settlement freeze? Will it hold Israel accountable to violations of Palestinian human rights committed with U.S.-provided weapons? Certainly not without a lot of work on our part! Click here to sign up as a Congressional District Coordinator and to organize in your community against military aid to Israel. And click here to find out other actions you can take to work against settler violence and settlement expansion.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phyllis Bennis: World Without Nuclear Weapons Still Possible

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis has an article in the Huffington Post about the importance of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East--and why Israel isn't excited about the prospect:
"A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East would mean Israel would have to get rid of its nukes. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and everyone else in the region would continue their current obligation not to create nuclear weapons. And the U.S. would be prohibited from sending nuclear weapons on ships, subs or planes into the no-nuke zone."
She notes that U.S. support for a Middle East without nukes not only exists, but in enshrined in international law:
"The great secret -- Obama's top officials may not even have been briefed about it -- is that support for such a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East is already U.S. policy. In 1991, the U.S. drafted the United Nations resolution that ending Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S. war against Iraq. Article 14 of that resolution calls for "establishing in the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and all missiles to deliver them." The whole region -- no exceptions. And Council resolutions are binding, so now it's the law -- for the U.S. and the whole world - enshrined in Security Council resolution 687."
Read more at:
Check out the full article here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on GRITtv: "Discourse has changed, but has the administration noticed?"

From GRITtv: "[US Campaign Steering Committee Member] Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute wants politicians, particularly President Obama, to know that criticizing Israel is no longer political suicide. Despite Republican fearmongering, 78% of Jewish voters supported Obama, and the rise of the new, pro-peace J Street lobby, which held its first convention this week, did not happen in a vacuum. The discourse, she notes, has changed and Americans no longer wholeheartedly support militaristic policies in Israel. There is room for debate on these issues, and politicians should fear hiding from it more than they fear addressing the issues."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phyllis Bennis on U.S. opposition to Goldstone Report

Electronic Intifada is carrying a report by Thalif Deen of the International Press Service on the UN Human Rights Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report. Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, on the U.S. vote against the Goldstone Report at the HRC:
"There is a clear double-standard, once again, in the US position between Ambassador Susan Rice's recognition of the primacy of accountability for war crimes in the case of Darfur and Sudan, regardless of any potential impact on future peace talks, while rejecting accountability in the case of Israeli actions in Gaza....If Washington remains unwilling to hold Israel accountable for its violations, the potential for a new US position in the world -- one in which the United States is respected instead of resented, welcomed as a partner instead of feared -- will be impossible."
Click here to read the full report.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Phyllis Bennis talks to Peace by Piece about Goldstone Report, International Law, Civil Society

Check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis talking to Jared Sandersfeld of "Peace by Piece" about the Goldstone Report, international law, and the role of civil society in promoting accountability for human rights violations: