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Rasmea Defense Committee statement: “Without a full and fair trial, Rasmea found guilty”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

The following was sent out at 8:34 am this morning to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression listserve:

 

Rasmea Defense Committee statement

Without a full and fair trial,
Rasmea found guilty

In a travesty of justice, Rasmea Odeh today was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial.

On that day, Judge Gershwin Drain made a number of rulings that made her defense virtually impossible. The government’s indictment stated that she had unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship because she had allegedly answered a number of questions falsely on her visa application in 1995 and her naturalization application in 2004. She had been in this country as a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years, and a citizen for over nine, when she was arrested on October 22nd, 2013.

The main basis for the arrest a year ago was that she had allegedly falsely answered “No” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned. The government claimed that she failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israelis of participating in bombings in 1969. This conviction in a military court was the result of a false confession made after she was viciously tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities for weeks. There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and “evidence” from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S.

But Judge Drain did allow the conviction in Israel to be entered into evidence; and even though he suggested that Rasmea’s assertion that she faced torture and sexual abuse at the hands of her Israeli captors was “credible,” he still ruled that it could not be brought up in the course of her trial. So her attorneys had to scrap plans to call to the stand an expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who has decades of experience working with torture survivors, to testify that the allegedly false answers on the immigration forms were the result of Rasmea’s chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The judge also rejected Rasmea’s selective prosecution motion, even though it was clear that the case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010. Make no mistake. Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return, and an end to U.S. funding of Israeli occupation. Palestine support work, especially the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, has made a number of recent gains, and the long arm of federal law enforcement has attempted to crack down on it, like it has on all effective and impactful movements for social justice in the history of this country. The crackdown reached Rasmea.

More than 200 people from across the Midwest, especially from Chicago, traveled to stand with her throughout the trial. They bore silent witness to her incredible testimony, for despite the judge’s rulings, she and her defense team did put the crimes of Israel on record. Her story of being exiled from the village of her birth, Lifta, in 1948; of being exiled again during the 1967 war; of experiencing the death of her sister after the raid on her home in 1969; and of being a political prisoner, one of the most famous in the history of the Palestine liberation movement—all these are stories of the crimes of apartheid Israel, crimes that continue today in the racist settler and military assaults we have seen in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, 1948 Palestine, and the West Bank. Israel’s terrorism, and the U.S. government’s complicity, were exposed for all the world to see.

Rasmea’s honesty in the face of cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel was thoroughly convincing as well. She said clearly that she thought the questions on the immigration forms were being asked about her time in the U.S., because she said she had nothing to hide and did not need to lie. She had testified about her torture at the United Nations when she was released in 1979, and as her lead attorney, Michael Deutsch, said, “It was well known that she was convicted, and traded [in a prisoner exchange]. The U.S. Embassy knew it, the State Department knew it, and Immigration should have known it.” So although the government had to prove that she “knowingly lied,” it never met that burden, regardless of what the verdict says.

For over a year, the Rasmea Defense Committee has been organizing educational events, rallies, protests, and call-in days to demand that U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Tukel drop the charges against her. We now have more work ahead of us. Rasmea’s brilliant legal team—Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Bill Goodman, and Dennis Cunningham—will undoubtedly file an appeal, and have strong grounds to do so, based on Judge Drain’s unjust decisions. And we will continue to support their work with our political organizing and mobilizations.

Just like our people in Palestine and across the world will never rest until every inch of historical Palestine is free, we will never rest in our defense and support of Rasmea as she moves forward to challenge this conviction. As Deutsch said in his closing statement to the jury, “It has been one of the great privileges of my long legal career to represent this extraordinary woman of great passion and dignity.” Rasmea’s story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere. Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people’s movements across the world.

Today, we thank everyone who stood with Rasmea this past year, and ask you to continue fighting with us until we achieve that victory.

www.uspcn.org and www.stopfbi.net

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EI: “‘A political prosecution': inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

“The Rasmea [Odeh] Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure,” reporter and contributor to The Electronic Intifada Charlotte Silver said on Friday from Detroit after the week-long trial of Palestinian American human rights activist Rasmea Odeh concluded. Jurors have begun deliberation.

Odeh was indicted last year “for allegedly giving false answers on her application for citizenship, which she was granted in 2004. The four questions she is alleged to have answered falsely inquired about her criminal record,” Silver reports.

“You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office [has] been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh,” she told The Electronic Intifada on Friday.

Silver has been reporting each day from the week-long trial in Detroit for The Electronic Intifada and other media outlets.

Verdict expected on Monday

In her latest report, published on Saturday, Silver writes that “After a week in court, the last day brought some relief to Odeh and her lawyers, who have been preparing for this trial for a year.”

Silver added in her report that “Before the jury entered Judge Gershwin A. Drain’s Detroit courtroom on Friday morning, Odeh’s lead attorney Michael Deutsch asked the court to have a directed verdict of not guilty; this was was denied by Drain. A directed verdict is when a presiding judge decides that no reasonable jury could arrive at a guilty verdict.

“For the last week, her defense team has stoutly contested the allegation that Odeh ‘knowingly’ answered falsely, arguing instead that her brother first filled out her application for a visa in 1995 and that she misinterpreted the questions on her application for citizenship in 2004.”

The jurors are expected to return a verdict on Monday.

Listen to the interview via the media player above, or read the following transcript.

“Peoples’ hopes are high”

Charlotte Silver: What the trial has been focused on is Rasmea’s immigration applications — her visa application that she filed in 1995 and her application for naturalization that she filed for nine years later, in 2004. The judge has made the parameters of the case extremely narrow, so really the jury is just supposed to look at her application, look at the four questions she’s alleged to have answered falsely, and determine if she knowingly answered them falsely.

So whereas before, the defense had a very extensive argument to make in Rasmea’s defense as for why those four questions were answered the way they were, they’ve had to really focus on proving that Rasmea Odeh’s interpretations of those questions — or the questions as they’re written — are ambiguously written. So it’s been very focused on that.

The prosecutor, the US government, has brought into court nearly 100 Israeli documents that were used to convict Rasmea Odeh in 1969 of participating in two bombings, a series of bombings in Jerusalem — one which resulted in the death of two people.

Rasmea Odeh was convicted of this charge after enduring 25 days of torture by Israeli security, and this has been documented several times over the course of the last 45 years. She gave a testimony in Geneva about this torture, she has spoken to various media outlets, to various human rights organizations about the torture she endured, and again she told a clinical psychologist, Mary Fabri, who’s based in Chicago, has worked with torture victims for over thirty years, told how she was tortured in 1969 to Mary Fabri, and none of that is being allowed into the trial.

Yet, the jurors are hearing over and over again that Rasmea Odeh was convicted of bombings that killed two people. What I think is significant is that in the gallery, there are dozens of supporters of Rasmea. There is also the brother of one of the victims of the bombing in 1969, and he’s sitting on the bench of the US attorneys, not at the table, but at the bench in the gallery that’s been reserved for US attorneys. And he has been following this case very closely, and he’s obviously in close contact with the US prosecuting attorneys — so even though the judge has strictly instructed the court to minimally refer to the 1969 conviction that Rasmea Odeh is now being brought up against, it’s very clear that the prosecutor is being motivated by this charge that was brought about by 25 days of torture.

And on the part of the defense, Rasmea Odeh has worked in the Chicago community of Arab and Muslim immigrant women since 2004, in this sort of spectacular way. And yesterday, testifying for the defense was Nadine Naber, who’s a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who testified to Rasmea Odeh’s incredible work helping immigrant women from Arab and Muslim communities integrate among themselves and mount this challenge of isolation. Rasmea Odeh has been working with the Arab American Action Network for nine years with women, but also more generally with the youth, trying to reduce violence in the community, and this is why she has dozens of people driving out from Chicago, staying in Detroit to watch this trial, to support her throughout this. Because she has become such a prominent leader in the Chicago Palestinian and Arab community.

And it’s why the Rasmea Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure. You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office has spent four years, they’ve been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh.

They filed this indictment nine years after she filed her immigration forms, after she became a citizen. The defense wrote that this was an example of selective prosecution, specifically for Rasmea exercising her First Amendment rights, which was being an active participant in the Palestinian American community. And none of that is being allowed in.

So the jurors don’t know that the FBI had conducted this mass investigation into Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago, and that’s how they discovered this very small false answer on her application. All of that’s being excluded from the trial — but it’s important background for people outside of the trial to understand.

Nora Barrows-Friedman Finally, Charlotte Silver, today, Friday was the last day of the trial — there was a cross-examination and now the jury has gone into deliberation. In speaking with her supporters and Rasmea Odeh’s lawyers, what do people expect? I know it’s always hard to speculate in terms of what a jury decides, but based on your experience inside the courtroom this week, what are her supporters and her lawyers expecting?

CS: Well, peoples’ hopes are high. I think that the defense has done a really fantastic job developing a defense strategy given the constraints that they were under, and I think they’ve done a very good job at presenting Rasmea Odeh as who she really is in the community, as not a criminal. They have been able to touch on the background to her conviction in 1969, and they have been able to put forth an argument that she could reasonably have misinterpreted the questions as she answered them, so that she did not knowingly give false answers, she misunderstood the questions that were provided and answered them according to how she interpreted them. And they’ve been able to show inconsistencies within the application and the language of the application itself, and also over the different versions of the applications.

They’ve developed what I think is a strong argument to be made. Of course, there are no Muslim or Arab jurors — it’s eight women and four men, mostly white, and so those are the demographics of it. But it’s hard to know how they are going to rule.

The jurors will return to deliberate on Monday.

–Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, Sun, Nov 9, 2014

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Amy Goodman Interviews Chomsky after his Address to the UN General Assembly

Posted by uscsjp on October 24, 2014

…AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken…

–Democracy Now!, October 22, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/22/noam_chomsky_at_united_nations_it

 

 

 

 

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Juan Cole: Must Muslim Americans Condemn IS? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?

Posted by uscsjp on September 17, 2014

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.

During the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, a controversy broke out in Turkey about whether Turkish Jews were required to condemn Israel’s actions, as some pro-Palestinian Turks suggested.

  Turkish Jewish intellectuals wrote in an open letter to the newspaper Hurriyyet [“Liberty,” Istanbul]:

“”Israel’s latest attack on Gaza led, once again, to cries of ‘Why does the Jewish community remain silent?’ A campaign was even launched that claimed that the Jews of Turkey bear responsibility for what Israel does in Gaza.

“No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.”

Many Jewish organizations stigmatized the demand as Antisemitism.

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for.  It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East?  They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them.  Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition.  My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi).  Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the U.S. before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim.  Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States.  The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor.  Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves.  As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn.  Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the U.S. back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do:

VOA: “U.S. Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State” 

 

Juan Cole, Truthdig, September 16, 2014,

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/must_muslim_americans_condemn_isil_turkish_jews_condemn_gaza_war_20140916

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Jonathan Cook: Partisan reporters criticise Gaza coverage

Posted by uscsjp on September 1, 2014

I have noted in several previous articles the unusual, possibly unique, problem relating to media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reporting corps is awash with “partisan reporters” – that is, Jews who have an ideological, social or familial connection and sympathy with one side, the Israeli side.

I have no objection to reporters having views, even strong ones, about this conflict, or any other issue in the news. I do myself. In fact, I believe journalists cannot be “objective”, as I have explained at length elsewhere.  But in the case of Israel-Palestine, many reporters are being chosen precisely for their partisanship – and these reporters are being selected because they are partisan in one direction only. Just check how many Palestinian reporters (I don’t mean glorified fixers or undervalued stringers) report for the US media on the conflict.

Editors possibly justify their policy to themselves by assuming that Jewish reporters, especially ones with family in Israel, will improve their access to Israeli elites. Given the rampant chauvinism in Israel, this may be so. But it means only one side of the elite debate is being accessed – the Israeli one.

Illustrations of the partisan reporter’s mindset have been thrown up afresh in a debate about media responsibility during Israel’s attack on Gaza. A prime example is Matti Friedman, who worked for many years at the US news agency Associated Press. AP has a pretty terrible record in its coverage of the conflict, as well as documented examples of its local staff censoring stories that reflect badly on Israel.

Preposterously, Friedman asserts in his essay for the Tablet magazine that the media’s disproportionate interest in Israel-Palestine reflects an unhealthy and “hostile obsession with Jews”. In fact, it indicates something else entirely: the West’s long and unhealthy interest in supporting the Zionist movement’s dispossession of the Palestinian people in their homeland, and a deep sense by Western elites of their political and military investment in the Jewish state project.

The media’s obsession with Israel results both from Israel’s place at the heart of the West’s perceived strategic interests in the region and from a need to pander to influential domestic Jewish readerships. There is a reason, after all, why the New York Times is probably the most Israel-obsessed newspaper in the world outside Israel itself – and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

Most of Friedman’s article is so patently one-sided, and detached from reality, it barely warrants addressing. One only needs to read his claim that the big story overlooked by the media is: “The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians”. Yes, in your dreams, Matti.

Similarly, Friedman apparently also knows enough Palestinians to argue that the real story they want covering is corruption within their own society. Maybe the two Palestinians you befriended think like that, Matti, but I guess that may be a rather self-selecting group. Why do you think they befriended you?

As someone who has lived among Palestinians for more than a decade, I can assure you that, however much corruption there is in Palestinian society (and there certainly is), it is considered a far less pressing concern than the occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza, the continuing dispossession of Jerusalem, and the abandonment of the refugees. You may think Palestinians have their priorities wrong, Matti, but there is no disputing that those are their priorities.

Friedman also wants the conflict recharacterised as a Jewish-Muslim one rather than Israeli-Palestinian. The media apparently collude in this mistaken framing. Thus, Friedman argues:

A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel.

Except the conflict existed well before anyone had heard of Hamas, al-Qaeda or Isis. Religion was never at the root of the conflict, though Israel – hoping to exploit Western prejudices about a clash of civilisations – has been working hard to make it so.

Friedman again:

Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else.

But Western interests, and the resulting Western interference, Western-backed puppets, and the West’s fair-weather, Islamic allies, are never far away from wherever one is in the Middle East. That is why peace is and remains elusive. Israel is one central prong in this Western policy of interference. The real story is that reporters like Friedman – in fact, all reporters in the mainstream – are either oblivious to the West’s indelible impact on the region, or career-minded enough to avoid mentioning it.

Today in a Haaretz commentary, a former partisan reporter for the BBC, Richard Miron, added his support to this heavily distorted picture of media malfeasance. Being a former BBC journalist, he tries to be a little more “balanced” in his views than Friedman, but finds nothing in Friedman’s screed to distance himself from.

As if confirming Friedman’s claims, Miron lambasts reporters for “emoting” on the Palestinians’ behalf, citing Jon Snow of Britain’s Channel 4.  Whatever one thinks of Snow – and I think he ultimately failed his viewers by chiefly packaging Palestinian suffering in Gaza in humanitarian terms – Miron, like Freidman, is grossly misrepresenting the true picture of Western media coverage of Gaza. That rare bout of soul-searching from one prominent presenter was but a drop in the ocean of wall-to-wall sympathy for Israel in the US media. The story there echoed the assumption of President Barack Obama that Israel has a right to defend itself from … Palestinian resistance to decades of Israel’s belligerent occupation and an eight-year siege of Gaza. That part of the story was hardly ever mentioned, even by Snow.

Miron does make one sensible observation:

Knowing Gaza’s physical geography, it’s safe to conclude that if Hamas operatives did come out from the territory’s packed urban confines, they would have been quickly struck by an Israeli drone or aircraft fire.

But blinded by his partisanship for Israel, he then wants to use this observation to support Israel’s story that Palestinians in Gaza were being used as “human shields”. In fact, he specifically criticises BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen for writing that “he saw no evidence … of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields”. But contrary to Miron’s assumption, avoiding committing suicide (on a battlefield determined by Israel’s siege policy) is not the same as turning other Palestinians into human shields. At least Bowen understands that point, even if Miron, blinded by his partisanship, cannot.

–Jonathan Cook, The Blog from Nazareth, September 1, 2014

 

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2014-09-01/partisan-reporters-criticise-gaza-coverage/

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Alternet: 3 Ways America Enables Slaughter in Gaza

Posted by uscsjp on August 21, 2014

American debate on the hundreds of civilian deaths in Gaza and the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict is polarized between feelings of sympathy with civilian victims on either side and mutual vilification of the Likud-led government of Israel and the Hamas-led government in Gaza.  But it may be more constructive for Americans to think about the role that the U.S. government plays in perpetuating this never-ending and heart-rending conflict.

Opinion polling during a crisis tends to reflect the passions of the moment, but Americans have told pollsters for decades that we want our government to take an even-handed position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  A Chicago Council Global Views survey in 2012 found that 65% of Americans want the U.S. to “not take either side”, while only 30% want it to “take Israel’s side”. That majority rose to 74% vs 17% at the height of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2004.

But despite decades of presenting itself as an “honest broker” for Middle East peace, there are three ways that the U.S. unequivocally takes the Israeli side in the conflict and effectively supports the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) with all it entails, from illegal settlement building to horrific violence:

1. Military aid. The U.S. has provided Israel with at least $73 billion in military aid and currently gives it $3.1 billion per year.  Under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) and Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the U.S. is obliged to suspend or terminate military aid when U.S. weapons are used against civilians or in other ways that violate international humanitarian law, but these provisions have not been invoked or enforced in the case of Israel since 1982.  After resupplying the Israelis with ammunition during the Gaza crisis, the Obama administration has finally begun reviewing Israeli arms requests on a case-by-case basis and is witholding a new shipment of Hellfire missiles. Compliance with the FAA and AECA would require a suspension of military aid until recent alleged violations of U.S. law have been fully investigated, and stricter compliance could justify ending all military aid until a permanent peace settlement is reached and the occupation is ended.

2. Diplomatic cover. Since 1966, the U.S. has used its UN Security Council veto 83 times, more than the other four Permanent Members combined.  Forty-two of those vetoes have served to kill resolutions on Israel and Palestine, effectively shielding Israel from accountability under international law.  Israel has taken advantage of this effective immunity from the rule of law to violate the Geneva Conventions and other human rights laws, to continually expand its illegal settlements in the OPT and to ignore UN Security Council resolutions that require it to withdraw from the OPT.  The U.S. also uses its diplomatic, military and economic power in other ways to shield Israel from international accountability.  This extraordinary use of the U.S.veto and American power to shield a foreign state from the rule of law must end, before it further undermines a fragile system of international law that has already been badly damaged and weakened by the U.S.’s own illegal actions since 2001.

3. Moral support.  Israel is now a wealthy, developed country with an advanced weapons industry, so it could adapt to even a complete cut-off of U.S. military aid.  But U.S. diplomatic and Congressional support is critical to the Israeli government’s ability to ignore otherwise universal condemnation of its illegal settlement building, human rights abuses and failure to end the occupation.  The UN General Assembly passed 21 resolutions on Israel-Palestine in 2013, mostly by at least 165-6, with the US and Israel in the minority. But U.S. support confers a false sense of legitimacy on Israeli policies.  Unconditional moral support encourages the Israeli government to press ahead with an illegal territorial expansion that the world will never recognize, leading only to endless conflict and growing international isolation for Israel itself.

These three elements of U.S. policy form a stable tripod, a three-legged stool upon which this otherwise unacceptable state of conflict grinds away without end and regularly flares up in horrific slaughter and mass destruction.

Decades of UN resolutions require Israel to end its occupation of the OPT, to dismantle illegal settlements in the OPT and to treat Palestinians, both in Israel and in the OPT, according to the rights guaranteed to people everywhere by international humanitarian law.  The U.S. officially stands with the rest of the world on the fundamental questions, that the occupation must end, that Israel’s international borders are the ones recognized by the UN in 1949, and on the protections guaranteed to civilians living under occupation by the 4th Geneva Convention.

President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry adopted a public posture of “getting tough” with the Netanyahu government over negotiations and settlement-building.  But the unwavering U.S. commitment to its three pillars of unconditional support for the Israeli occupation sent Netanyahu an unmistakable message that he could safely ignore Obama’s and Kerry’s “get tough” posture.  This left them looking impotent and more than a little naive, and it emboldened Netanyahu to launch the deadliest and most destructive assault yet on Gaza.  The Israelis seem to have achieved their goal of tightening the blockade by destroying the tunnels that were Gaza’s only lifeline to the world, but this has only hardened the determination of Palestinians in Gaza to resist the even more restricted future the Israelis are seeking to impose on them.

Will Americans keep pretending that our government has been an “honest broker” in its efforts to end this horrific conflict?  Or will we finally demand real changes in the three aspects of U.S. policy that perpetuate war and occupation and deny peace to innocent civilians on both sides?

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of “Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.” Davies also wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the book, “Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.”

 

–Alternet, 20 August, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/3-ways-america-enables-slaughter-gaza?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

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Noam Chomsky on the “Nightmare in Gaza”–Alternet

Posted by uscsjp on August 9, 2014

Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm.

For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence.

For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more.

The latest Israeli rampage was set off by the brutal murder of three Israeli boys from a settler community in the occupied West Bank. A month before, two Palestinian boys were shot dead in the West Bank city of Ramallah. That elicited little attention, which is understandable, since it is routine.

“The institutionalized disregard for Palestinian life in the West helps explain not only why Palestinians resort to violence,” Middle East analyst Mouin Rabbani reports, “but also Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip.”

In an interview, human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, who has remained in Gaza through years of Israeli brutality and terror, said, “The most common sentence I heard when people began to talk about cease-fire: Everybody says it’s better for all of us to die and not go back to the situation we used to have before this war. We don’t want that again. We have no dignity, no pride; we are just soft targets, and we are very cheap. Either this situation really improves or it is better to just die. I am talking about intellectuals, academics, ordinary people: Everybody is saying that.”

In January 2006, Palestinians committed a major crime: They voted the wrong way in a carefully monitored free election, handing control of Parliament to Hamas.

The media constantly intone that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In reality, Hamas leaders have repeatedly made it clear that Hamas would accept a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus that has been blocked by the U.S. and Israel for 40 years.

In contrast, Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Palestine, apart from some occasional meaningless words, and is implementing that commitment.

The crime of the Palestinians in January 2006 was punished at once. The U.S. and Israel, with Europe shamefully trailing behind, imposed harsh sanctions on the errant population and Israel stepped up its violence.

The U.S. and Israel quickly initiated plans for a military coup to overthrow the elected government. When Hamas had the effrontery to foil the plans, the Israeli assaults and the siege became far more severe.

There should be no need to review again the dismal record since. The relentless siege and savage attacks are punctuated by episodes of “mowing the lawn,” to borrow Israel’s cheery expression for its periodic exercises in shooting fish in a pond as part of what it calls a “war of defense.”

Once the lawn is mowed and the desperate population seeks to rebuild somehow from the devastation and the murders, there is a cease-fire agreement. The most recent cease-fire was established after Israel’s October 2012 assault, called Operation Pillar of Defense.

Though Israel maintained its siege, Hamas observed the cease-fire, as Israel concedes. Matters changed in April of this year when Fatah and Hamas forged a unity agreement that established a new government of technocrats unaffiliated with either party.

Israel was naturally furious, all the more so when even the Obama administration joined the West in signaling approval. The unity agreement not only undercuts Israel’s claim that it cannot negotiate with a divided Palestine but also threatens the long-term goal of dividing Gaza from the West Bank and pursuing its destructive policies in both regions.

Something had to be done, and an occasion arose on June 12, when the three Israeli boys were murdered in the West Bank. Early on, the Netanyahu government knew that they were dead, but pretended otherwise, which provided the opportunity to launch a rampage in the West Bank, targeting Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed to have certain knowledge that Hamas was responsible. That too was a lie.

One of Israel’s leading authorities on Hamas, Shlomi Eldar, reported almost at once that the killers very likely came from a dissident clan in Hebron that has long been a thorn in the side of Hamas. Eldar added that “I’m sure they didn’t get any green light from the leadership of Hamas, they just thought it was the right time to act.”

The 18-day rampage after the kidnapping, however, succeeded in undermining the feared unity government, and sharply increasing Israeli repression. Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing five Hamas members on July 7.

Hamas finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months, providing Israel with the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.

By July 31, around 1,400 Palestinians had been killed, mostly civilians, including hundreds of women and children. And three Israeli civilians. Large areas of Gaza had been turned into rubble. Four hospitals had been attacked, each another war crime.

Israeli officials laud the humanity of what it calls “the most moral army in the world,” which informs residents that their homes will be bombed. The practice is “sadism, sanctimoniously disguising itself as mercy,” in the words of Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “A recorded message demanding hundreds of thousands of people leave their already targeted homes, for another place, equally dangerous, 10 kilometers away.”

In fact, there is no place in the prison of Gaza safe from Israeli sadism, which may even exceed the terrible crimes of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

The hideous revelations elicited the usual reaction from the most moral president in the world, Barack Obama: great sympathy for Israelis, bitter condemnation of Hamas and calls for moderation on both sides.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.

Gazans will be free to return to the norm in their Israeli-run prison, while in the West Bank, Palestinians can watch in peace as Israel dismantles what remains of their possessions.

That is the likely outcome if the U.S. maintains its decisive and virtually unilateral support for Israeli crimes and its rejection of the long-standing international consensus on diplomatic settlement. But the future will be quite different if the U.S. withdraws that support.

In that case it would be possible to move toward the “enduring solution” in Gaza that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for, eliciting hysterical condemnation in Israel because the phrase could be interpreted as calling for an end to Israel’s siege and regular attacks. And — horror of horrors — the phrase might even be interpreted as calling for implementation of international law in the rest of the occupied territories.

Forty years ago Israel made the fateful decision to choose expansion over security, rejecting a full peace treaty offered by Egypt in return for evacuation from the occupied Egyptian Sinai, where Israel was initiating extensive settlement and development projects. Israel has adhered to that policy ever since.

If the U.S. decided to join the world, the impact would be great. Over and over, Israel has abandoned cherished plans when Washington has so demanded. Such are the relations of power between them.

Furthermore, Israel by now has little recourse, after having adopted policies that turned it from a country that was greatly admired to one that is feared and despised, policies it is pursuing with blind determination today in its march toward moral deterioration and possible ultimate destruction.

Could U.S. policy change? It’s not impossible. Public opinion has shifted considerably in recent years, particularly among the young, and it cannot be completely ignored.

For some years there has been a good basis for public demands that Washington observe its own laws and cut off military aid to Israel. U.S. law requires that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Israel most certainly is guilty of this consistent pattern, and has been for many years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, author of this provision of the law, has brought up its potential applicability to Israel in specific cases, and with a well-conducted educational, organizational and activist effort such initiatives could be pursued successively.

That could have a very significant impact in itself, while also providing a springboard for further actions to compel Washington to become part of “the international community” and to observe international law and norms.

Nothing could be more significant for the tragic Palestinian victims of many years of violence and repression.

 

–Noam Chomsky, Alternet, August 7, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/noam-chomsky-nightmare-gaza?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

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Who Are the Real Terrorists?

Posted by uscsjp on August 4, 2014

As of August 3, 2014, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) lists the following “Facts and Figures” on the current Israeli invasion and bombardment of  Gaza.

Palestinian Casualities

1717, “including at least 1,176 civilians, of whom 377 are children and 196 are women.”

This means that at least 68% of Palestinian casualties are civilians.

Israeli Casualties

67, “including 64 soldiers, two civilians, and one foreign national.”

This means that only about 4.5 percent of Israeli casualties are civilians.

These statistics force a rational observer to ask the following questions:

Which side is conducting a “just war”?

Which side is exercising proportionate violence?

Which side is engaging in terrorism?

 

Source: OCHA, August 3rd, 2014

http://www.ochaopt.org/content.aspx?id=1010361

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Alternet: “The Most Harrowing, Heart-Breaking Dispatches from Palestinians in Gaza”

Posted by uscsjp on July 25, 2014

As Israeli forces bombard the Gaza Strip by air, land, and sea, some 1.8 million Palestinians are largely stuck inside their homes, shaken by relentless explosions, wondering if and when their turn to die will come. When death does strike, international media will recalculate the tally of the dead, dropping names if those in question are old or children, but otherwise leave untold the stories of their time alive on the crowded sliver of land they called home. Isolated and with nowhere to flee, many Palestinians in Gaza use social media to make an otherwise-impossible connection with the outside world, carving out virtual space for their existence while their physical surroundings implode in their midst.

“I tweet, therefore I am,” writes 24-year-old Muhammed Suliman. Under the bombs, tweets are a way for Muhammed to notify himself and others that he has survived the offensive thus far.

When Israel began its latest large-scale aerial offensive on Gaza on July 7, Muhammad switched from mostly Arabic-language tweets to exclusively English, and started contributing to online discourse on the conflict as a commentator. These early tweets leave out the first person, discussing the situation in general. But on the third day of the assault, as the death toll passes 70, something in Muhammed’s tone changes. His Twitter feed becomes a sort of diary, a poetic outpouring in the face of fear, a human response reflecting the uncertainty of survival.

I sit near a window, next to my wife who finally fell asleep. I hear drones buzzing overhead coupled with birds chirping. I anticipate a blast

The blast has come. Sooner than I thought. War experience enables you to expect next blast. I extend my hand to my wife, and she takes it.

Muhammed’s tweets become a narration of his life and the lives and deaths of other Palestinians in Gaza. His feed reads like a nail-biting and heart-pumping novel, or a collection of visceral haikus, only this isn’t literature but a compressed report of Muhammed’s observations, thoughts, and feelings. Real apocalyptic scenes squeezed through the filter of social media.

Petrified, my ears buzz and don’t seem to recover. Leila’s stomach starts hurting. Each blast sounds louder and more horrifying. Death nears

I’ve lost my words. Bombs rain down on my area. Behind the dining table, Leila and I sit close to each other. Death is what we are tweeting.

On other days, Muhammed’s fears subside or at least are allowed to be morphed into dark comedy. The World Cup, which is about to start its semi-final matches as the air offensive begins, provides a distraction for the bombs, something to think about besides impending death. Until a beach cafe full of soccer fans is bombed by Israel, killing eight, seemingly all civilians.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is similar to Germany thrashing Brazil in the semi finals. Think of Palestinian violence as Brazil’s one goal.

8 killed while watching the World Cup semi final. They surely ruled out the possibility of being targeted. We’re not a threat, they thought.

Muhammed tweets stories that are only reported otherwise in international media as numbers, the only notable exceptions being the above and the case of four children being bombed on a beach, which he tweets about as well.

Anas, 17, posts on Facebook, ‘I’m too tired, shell our home so I can get some sleep.’ A while later, his home is shelled. He sleeps forever.

Yasser receives a call from IDF. Evacuate in ten minutes. He wasn’t home though. His family was. Hysterically, he phoned home. No one picked

Amir, 12, and Mohammed. 10, want to buy yogurt. Things are calm, they tell their mom. They leave the house. A blast is heard. They’re dead.

I look at pictures of brothers Amir and Mohammed wrapped in white shroud stained with their blood. I feel dizzy. War is a nightmare.

In a hospital room, dad cries in agony over the body of his baby son. Holding him in his hands, he tearfully cries: Wake up, I got you a toy

Group of children go to the sea, escaping the bombs. They swim and play, mindless of Israeli warships off shore. Missiles hit them. Four die

Even through all this terror, Muhammed remains free of bloodlust. His humility and gentleness is astounding. When the first Israeli dies on the 10th day, after nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed, Muhammed tweets about it. He is not one to “blame both sides” — the conflict is not a balanced one and there is a clear oppressor and oppressed — but he values all human life.

Some Israelis wish me death. I might die. But I wish no death unto you. I want us both to live. Live together as equals in this country.

The terrifying truth is that Muhammed may in fact die, and the only way for his followers to know that he is still alive is to wait for his next tweet. Tweeting about death here is not overly fatalistic or hypothetical. Death is a very real possibility. A shadow looming over life. Muhammed’s death would be felt deeply not only by his family and friends and acquaintances, but by his followers on Twitter.

Another social media user offers a window into the mind of a creative child trapped in the center of bombardment. Muhammad Qareeqe is a talented 13-year-old Palestinian artist from the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, and like many other kids his age around the world, he’s obsessed with Facebook. Prior to the current offensive, he’d post several times a day, promoting his art and showing off his boyhood cuteness, a kind of Gazan Justin Bieber with a paintbrush.

Last time Israeli warplanes carried out a prolonged attack on Gaza, Muhammad was 11. The time before that, he was 9. He was born during the Second Intifada. Through the wars and in the face of the economic blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, Muhammad has developed a seemingly innate talent for painting and drawing. He has also developed a thousands-strong fan base inside and outside of Gaza via social media.

Most days during the last period of calm, Muhammad would start his day with a warm “good morning” Facebook post and end it with a goodnight post, along with pictures of himself being cute, garnering scores of likes. In between, he’d usually post smiley-face-heavy updates on his latest work or random thoughts on life. But ever since the bombs started falling in Gaza and didn’t stop, his social media presence has changed.

He posts a picture he drew of an Israeli warplane bombing a Palestinian house. “This is a scene from Gaza,” he says. “Bombing for ‘security.’ The homes of citizens. Targets for the world’s most despicable army.”

Another post says simply: “Patience, patience. Perseverance, perseverance.”

“I drew this because the bombing doesn’t have mercy on trees or humans, or even birds,” Muhammad writes in a post of his drawing of a fallen sparrow.

As hospitals and morgues overflow, Muhammad provides a distraction for himself and other children whose lives and psychological well-beings are at risk under the bombs. He gives an art lesson to the neighborhood boys and girls and posts about it on Facebook. In the pictures he includes of the session, his features seem to have changed—his smile not quite what it used to be, his hair curly and wild where it had before been carefully tamed. His arms with a tinge of muscle. As if he’s grown.

On the tenth day of the offensive, Israeli troops begin a large-scale ground operation in Gaza. The death toll spikes, nearly doubling in just 72 hours. Late Saturday and overnight, myriad warplanes buzz over Muhammad’s own Shajaiyeh neighborhood, spewing explosives every few seconds. Small arms fire can be heard in the distance as militants face off with soldiers. Muhammad’s goodnight post is that of an orange sky lit not by sunlight but by Israeli bombs. “#Here_is_Shajaiyeh,” the post says. No goodnight wishes. There is nothing good about this night, which a Norwegian doctor at a nearby hospital has called “a real massacre” and “the worst night of my life.

Muhammad survives the night, though at least 66 Palestinians, more than a dozen of them children, do not. He and his family flee Shajaiyeh for central Gaza City in the morning, Facebook users find out as he posts again: “We survived death, though our hearts are dying longingly. We are now in central Gaza City without electricity or any of life’s necessities.”

And later: “I can’t respond to your messages. What I saw today is making conversation impossible.”

Both Muhammads continue to tell their stories online as the bombs fall around them and the death toll surpasses 600. Their existences have been marked. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the victims’ stories remain largely untold or unacknowledged. The steadfast, raised voices of survivors therefore become all the more profound. Through social media, many young Palestinians — smart and talented and artistic people like Muhammad Qareeqe and Muhammed Suliman — are making their stories available, reminding themselves and others they are still alive.

–Graham Liddell, Alternet, 23 July, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/most-harrowing-heart-breaking-dispatches-palestinians-gaza

 

Graham Liddell is an editor at Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem. His work on the Middle East has appeared in Muftah, Mashallah, and The Arab Review.

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Lawrence Weschler: “Israel Has Been Bitten by a Bat”

Posted by uscsjp on July 21, 2014

The news out of Israel and Palestine: relentless, remorseless, repetitively compulsive, rabid.

And I am put in mind of a passage from Norman Mailer, in 1972, in which he attempted to plumb the psychopathology behind America’s relentless bombing of Cambodia and Laos and Vietnam during the Nixon years:

… bombing [which] had become an activity as rational as the act of a man who walks across his own home town to defecate each night on the lawn of a stranger—it is the same stranger each night—such a man would not last long even if he had the most powerful body in town. “Stop,” he would scream as they dragged him away. “I need to shit on that lawn. It’s the only way to keep my body in shape, you fools. I’ve been bitten by a bat!

A species of human rabies, as Mailer had explained earlier in the same book (“St. George and the Godfather,” his account of the McGovern campaign), “and the word was just, for rabies was the disease of every virulence which was excessive to the need for self-protection.”

I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?

For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.

Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” I am not comparing Gaza to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but one cannot help but liken the conditions today in Gaza to the sorts of conditions once faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the Boers in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, or the black South Africans years later in such besieged townships as Soweto, or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.

And it is quite simply massively self-serving delusion that Israelis (and their enablers and abettors here in America, among whom incidentally I count a steadily declining number of American Jews) refuse to recognize that fact. The backbone of Zionist AIPAC-like electoral strength in the U.S. today is rooted among Protestant evangelicals and other instrumentalist neocons, and I suspect that Israel will one day come to rue that fact.

I’m tired, for example, of hearing about how vital and cosmopolitan and democratic are the streets and cafes and nightclubs of Tel Aviv. For the fact is that one simply can’t sustain such cosmopolitan vitality 40 miles from a prison camp containing close to 2 million people: It’s a contradiction in terms. One that in the end (and we may fast be coming to the end of this game) will have completely twisted and disfigured the lives of those who go on trying to sustain it.

I know the Israelis need to protect themselves in a dangerous neighborhood, blah, blah, blah, but (leaving aside the fact that you don’t get to call it “self-defense” when you are occupying or besieging someone else’s land), can there be any doubt that in the end the Israelis’ own security will depend on how they treat their Palestinian brothers?

And I’m tired, finally, of hearing people marveling at the insane sectarian rifts between Shiites and Sunnis, or Serbs and Bosnians, or Tutsis and Hutus, as if they themselves could never fall into such primordial, atavistic blood feuds. For what else is the Palestinian/Israeli divide at this point, these two Semitic Peoples of the Book, than just one more inchoate, incomprehensible, sectarian vendetta?

In short: rabies.

 

–Lawrence Weschler, Truthdig, July 18th, 2014

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/israel_has_been_bitten_by_a_bat_20140718

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