USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Archive for September, 2009

Obama Administration Drops Demand for Israeli Settlement Freeze

Posted by uscsjp on September 23, 2009

First, the latest headlines from Democracy Now!:

US Drops Demand for Israeli Settlement Freeze

“The Obama administration has effectively abandoned a demand that Israel freeze settlement expansion before the resumption of peace talks. President Obama signaled the shift on Tuesday as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Obama urged both sides to ‘move forward’ and enter final-status talks.

President Obama: ‘Despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back. Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency.’

Israel has refused to abide by its Road Map obligations to halt the expansion of existing settlements in the occupied West Bank. Obama says the final status talks should begin immediately and focus on dealing with the conflict’s core issues.

Hamas Renews Backing of Palestinian State Within ’67 Borders

Obama’s comments come as Hamas has renewed its acceptance of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh writes, ‘We would never thwart efforts to create an independent Palestinian state with borders [from] June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.’ Israel has rejected a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and is seeking to retain the large settlement blocs that carve up the West Bank. Meanwhile, on the West Bank Israeli troops shot dead an unarmed Palestinian motorist just hours before Tuesday’s talks. The Israeli military said the victim had failed to stop at a military checkpoint…”

–Democracy Now!, 23 September, 2009

Also from Democracy Now!:

Obama Admin Urges Israeli-Palestinian Final-Status Talks But Abandons Insistence on Israeli Settlement Freeze

“The Obama administration has abandoned a demand that Israel freeze settlement expansion before the resumption of peace talks. President Obama signaled the shift on Tuesday as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. We speak to Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, author of several books, including his latest, Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations…”

–Democracy Now, 23 September, 2009

More on Obama’s Meeting with Abbas and Netanyahu

Obama summit / Erekat’s ‘good’ Hebrew surprises Lieberman

“Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday said he was surprised by the proficiency in Hebrew of the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, at a tripartite summit held Tuesday in New York.

Lieberman, a far-rightist who has proposed forcing Israeli Arabs to swear an oath of loyalty to the state, exchanged seasonal greetings with Erekat at the meeting, which was hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama. The Palestinian negotiatior wished him a happy new year, referring to the recent Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah…”

–Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz, 23 September, 2009

And from The Electronic Intifada:

The Goldstone report and the battle for legitimacy

“Richard Goldstone, former judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, the first prosecutor at The Hague on behalf of the International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia, and anti-apartheid campaigner reports that he was most reluctant to take on the job of chairing the United Nations fact-finding mission charged with investigating allegations of war crimes committed by Israel and Hamas during the three week Gaza war of last winter. Goldstone explains that his reluctance was due to the issue being ‘deeply charged and politically loaded,’ and was overcome only because he and his fellow commissioners were ‘professionals committed to an objective, fact-based investigation,’ adding that ‘above all, I accepted because I believe deeply in the rule of law and the laws of war,’ as well as the duty to protect civilians to the extent possible in combat zones. The four-person fact-finding mission was composed of widely respected and highly qualified individuals, including the distinguished international law scholar Christine Chinkin, a professor at the London School of Economics. Undoubtedly adding complexity to Goldstone’s decision is the fact that he is Jewish, with deep emotional and family ties to Israel and Zionism, bonds solidified by his long association with several organizations active in Israel…”

–Richard Falk, The Electronic Intifada, 22 September 2009

Also from The Electronic Intifada:

Photostory: Struggling to worship in Jerusalem

“Each year during the month of Ramadan, thousands of Palestinian Muslim worshipers struggle to reach Jerusalem on Fridays to pray at the Haram al-Sharif, home of the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

The Israeli army imposes additional barriers with concrete slabs at both the Qalandiya and Bethlehem checkpoints — the two main checkpoints that Palestinians from the occupied West Bank must pass in order to reach Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem, Palestinians from all over the south of the West Bank arrive as early as 5am. They are usually forced to wait for several hours and go through a number of security checks. This year, for those observing the fast, the conditions were even more difficult as Ramadan took place in September when the days are still long and the temperatures high. Exhaustion and dehydration cause many to faint.

Harsh restrictions, physical obstructions and confusing procedures prevent many Palestinians from even reaching the checkpoints. Of those who did, many are turned away. According to the UN agency OCHA, Israel has prohibited nearly 60 percent of Palestinians in the occupied territories, including all of Gaza’s population and more than 40 percent of the West Bank population, from entering occupied East Jerusalem for Friday prayers…”

–Anne Paq, The Electronic Intifada, 21 September 2009


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Against the Occupation: Naomi Klein, Danny Glover, Viggo Mortenson, Jane Fonda, and Harry Belafonte (even Ted Kennedy?)

Posted by uscsjp on September 14, 2009

Democracy Now!

No Celebration of Occupation: 1,500 Artists and Writers Sign Letter Protesting Toronto Film Festival Decision to Spotlight Tel Aviv

“A protest at the Toronto International Film Festival has taken center stage after a group of artists and writers signed a letter of protest against the festival’s decision to spotlight the city of Tel Aviv. Activists say the TIFF spotlight plays into Israel’s attempt to improve its global image in the wake of the assault on the Gaza Strip and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land. Over 1,500 people have signed the letter, called ‘The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation,’ including Jane Fonda, Viggo Mortensen, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte. We speak with journalist and author Naomi Klein, who helped draft the letter…

AMY GOODMAN: Explain why the Toronto International Film Festival is celebrating Tel Aviv.

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, this is a very—this is a controversial question. Cameron Bailey, the co-director of the festival, says that it was entirely his decision, that there was no political interference, and we take him at his word. He’s very respected in the film community. But what we are saying is that, whether knowingly or not, this decision fits in with a campaign, a very aggressive campaign, that has been launched by Israel’s Foreign Ministry to use culture really as a weapon to distract attention from the occupation and from the allegations of war crimes in Gaza, but even before the Gaza attack.

And what’s interesting is that in—Toronto has been selected to test market something that is called ‘Brand Israel,’ the rebranding of Israel. And this is because Toronto has really been a kind of a battleground. It has a very strong Palestinian community and solidarity community. It also has a very large and active Jewish community. And it’s been a battle zone. So, actually, Canada has more Israeli diplomats than any other country in the world, because this—including the United States, despite our relatively small population, because the Israeli government sees Canada as a very important battleground, as a very important testing ground. So Toronto has been selected to sort of test-drive this rebranding campaign for Israel.

And, you know, it’s not our imagination; it’s not a quiet conspiracy. We’ve read about this in the New York Times and Reuters reports. And I’ll just give you one example…”

Note to all readers who, like me, participated in last winter’s protests against the bombardment of Gaza–The following quote highlights to me the importance of protest:

“…And I was told something that really stayed with me. I was working with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. They were taking me around, and we had a discussion with a group of NGO leaders, women’s rights leaders. And one of the things that was said to me was that there was actually more hope during the attack, which seemed—than there was now, than there was in the aftermath, which just blindsided me. I mean, how could you say that? How could you say that there was more hope while bombs and missiles were falling, when those children were being killed, than there is now?

And the answer was that when Gazans turned on their televisions—you know, in any kind of war, people who can are watching television to try to get any kind of information they can, or listen to the radio—and in addition to the carnage that they were hearing about, there were also hearing reports of a world enraged. They were hearing about those protesters in London, in cities around the world, just rejecting Israel’s actions, not buying that this was a defensive war. They heard reports of women in my city, in Toronto, occupying the consul general’s office. Jewish women did this and stayed, and it was an incredible action. And so, what I was told by people who I spoke to in Gaza was that there was a feeling that if they could survive these horrific attacks, this would be the turning point, that people were seeing the lawlessness, the brutality of the occupation, and there would be a demand for a new era, that the siege on Gaza, for instance, would have to be lifted.

Here they were, six months later, now eight months later, and the illegal siege on Gaza continued. There was no justice on the way. I mean, Gaza was—it felt to me like a massive crime scene, but that was being tampered with because the police hadn’t shown up. And just the outrage that such brutality, such open brutality, hadn’t led to any kind of justice. And that’s really what struck with me…”

–Democracy Now!, 14 September, 2009

Also from Democracy Now:

Naomi Klein on “Minority Death Match: Jews, Blacks and the ‘Post-Racial’ Presidency”

“We speak with journalist Naomi Klein about her latest article for Harper’s Magazine, ‘Minority Death Match: Jews, Blacks and the “Post-Racial” Presidency.’ The piece examines the World Conference Against Racism that was held in Geneva this past April, a follow-up to the first racism conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001. There was a major boycott with the Obama administration refusing to attend, claiming the conference would unfairly target Israel. Critics say the controversy over Israel could have been an excuse to avoid dealing with the conference’s key issues, including addressing the legacy of slavery…”

–Democracy Now!, 14 September, 2009

Read the Full Text of the Toronto Declaration Here:

See also this related fact sheet from Jewish Voice for Peace:

A Blizzard of Lies

“This fact sheet is a response to the campaign of disinformation being waged against the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) protest letter, ‘The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation,'[1] signed by 1,000 people including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Naomi Klein, Eve Ensler, along with many Israelis and Palestinians. This year, TIFF decided to put a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv at the festival, in line with the goals of the Israeli Consulate’s ‘Brand Israel’ program. In its own words, the ‘Brand Israel’ program aims to publicize Israeli culture in order to distract public attention from its human rights record. The letter of protest objects to this politicization of the film festival, saying it is inappropriate given Israel’s nearly 42-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories, the recent assault and continuing siege on Gaza, and the history of and ongoing dispossession of Palestinians in Tel Aviv-Jaffa itself.

Since the release of the protest letter, public figures and media outlets have spread false charges and misinformation about the letter, some even going so far as to raise slanderous accusations against some letter signers.

This fact sheet refutes three key false charges:

1) That the protest letter unfairly singles out Israel.

2) That the letter calls for a boycott of the Film Festival and Israeli films.

3) That the letter in any way delegitimizes Tel Aviv…”

–Jewish Voice for Peace


Ted Kennedy’s Changing Take on Israel

“Being wrapped in an Israeli flag this past week has caused Madonna, our Lady of Miracles, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and AIPAC some flak.
First, the simple case. Strutting underdressed across the concert stage in Tel Aviv wrapped in an Israel flag on 9/2/09, as her partner, the Brazilian model ‘Jesus’ shouted ‘Viva! Viva!’ off stage was probably just the Material Girl doing her material thing. And anyhow, the late Michael Jackson could have been mistaken when he made his snide remark a while back, ‘She can’t sing.  She can’t dance.  I don’t understand her success!’

On her quick trip north to the Palestinian village of Safad near the Lebanese border to view a Kabbalah shrine, Esther/Madonna may not have been advised that most of Safad’s population was ethnically cleansed in 1948 and with their offspring most now live in 12 Refugee Camps in Lebanon and 10 in Syria.  Reading deep politics into her flag-wearing event may be unwarranted since Esther/Madonna has now apparently offered to don the Palestinian flag or even Hamas’ or Hezbollah’s just to make amends and dampen the flap from her flag wrap.

Abe Foxman, President of ADL and AIPAC  on the other hand, knew exactly what they were doing four days earlier as both offered to send an Israeli flag to  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston’s Mission Hill section. The plan was to wrap Ted Kennedy’s casket, side by side with the American flag, each flag to cover roughly half of Ted’s casket during Kennedy’s internationally broadcast funeral, which was even watched live in Dahiyeh, Beirut’s southern suburbs. Only since the lobby’s continuing exploitation of the Holocaust and ADL’s use of the image of Yasser Arafat to demonize him and raise millions to fund illegal settlement expansion, did Foxman see such a terrific chance to hype brand Zionism, this time by linking it in perpetuity to the Kennedy mystique and the Arlington Cemetery eternal flame.

Wrapping Kennedy in the Israeli flag for history would no doubt give a boost to Israel’s preferred historical narrative and the Israeli flag which has increasingly come to represent virulent Zionism and its crimes.

AIPAC claims the well-intentioned project to wrap Kennedy in the Star of David was no more than another gesture for the memory of a friend of the Jewish people. Perhaps Abe saw his initiative as a return tribute for Ted’s thoughtfulness during the November 6, 1995 funeral for Yitzak Rabin on Mount Herzl (renamed for the founder of modern Zionism, Hungarian Binyamin Ze’ev (Theodore)  Herzl, who had never set foot in Palestine, from its ancient  expunged Arabic name ‘Jabal Assalam’ meaning ‘Peace Mountain’) On that day Senator Kennedy sprinkled a cup of soil from his two brothers, John and Robert’s, gravesites at Arlington Cemetery on Rabin’s, as a gesture of respect.

Despite some intense lobbying, the Kennedy family graciously declined the Foxman-AIPAC offer and Ted’s coffin carried only the American flag…”

–Franklin Lamb, 11-13 September, 2009

See Also Alexander Cockburn’s Refreshingly Scathing Look Back at Ted Kennedy’s Life:

Teddy Kennedy the Hollow Champion

“…The two prongs of Kennedy’s deregulatory attack – later decorated with the political label ‘neo-liberalism’ – were aimed at airlines and trucking, and Kennedy’s man, Alfred Kahn was duly installed by Jimmy Carter at the Civil Aeronautics Board to introduce the cleansing winds of competition into the industry. By and large, airline deregulation went down well with the press and, for a time, with the public, who rejoiced in the bargains offered by the small fry such as People’s Express, and by the big fry striking back. The few critics who said that within  a few years the nation would be left with five or six airlines, oligopoly and higher fares, were mostly ignored.

No one ever really wrote about the terrible effects of trucking deregulation outside the left press. It was certainly the most ferocious anti-labor move of the 1970s, with Kennedy as the driving force.  Some of Kennedy’s aides promptly reaped the fruits of their legislative labors, leaving the Hill to make money hand over fist trying to break unions on behalf of Frank Lorenzo, the Texan entrepreneur who ran the Texas Air Corporation and its properties, Continental Airlines and its subsidiary, Eastern.

Did Kennedy fight, might and main, against NAFTA? No. As Steve Early relates in his piece on this site today, he was for it and helped Clinton ratify the job-losing Agreement.  Then he put his shoulder behind GATT, parent of the World Trade Agreement.

We also have Kennedy to thank for ‘No Child Left Behind’ – the nightmarish education act pushed through in concert with Bush Jr’s White House, that condemns children to a treadmill of endless tests contrived as ‘national standards’.

And it was Kennedy who was the prime force behind the Hate Crimes Bill, aka the Matthew Shepard Act, by dint of which America is well on its way to making it illegal to say anything nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women. “Hate speech,” far short of any direct incitement to violence, is on the edge of being criminalized, with the First Amendment going the way of the dodo.

The deadly attacks on the working class and on organized labor  are Ted Kennedy’s true monument. But as much as his brothers Jack and Bobby he was adept at persuading the underdogs that he was on their side...”

–Alexander Cockburn, 28-30 August, 2009

Posted in Analysis, News, Opinion/Editorial | 3 Comments »

Gaza March Plans and other news

Posted by uscsjp on September 10, 2009

First, From Democracy Now:

“Group: Israel Minimized Killings of Gaza Children

The news of a potential war crimes probe in the Gaza Strip comes as the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released the findings of its exhaustive report on Israel’s killings of Palestinians there. The report says well over half the nearly 1,400 Palestinians killed during Israel’s three-week assault were civilian. The civilian toll of 773 Palestinians excludes the 248 Hamas police officers also killed during the Israeli assault. B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell said the Israeli military has severely downplayed the number of Palestinian children who died in Gaza.

Jessica Montell: ‘The discrepancy between what the Israeli army has reported and what B’Tselem’s research has revealed is quite disturbing. The most blatant example, regarding children under the age of sixteen, the Israeli military has claimed that eighty-nine Palestinian children under sixteen were killed in Operation Cast Lead. B’Tselem visited families, took death certificates, testimonies, other information from the families on 240 Palestinian children under sixteen killed.’ “

–Democracy Now, 10 September, 2009

See Also The Viva Palestina Plan for the Next Humanitarian Convoy to Gaza

Plan of Action

“…Volunteers will travel to London by December 5th, 2009.  The mission will head off from London on December 6th, driving through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and then into Egypt towards the Rafah border.  Vehicles that are donated or purchased prior to the December departure will be used – filled with medical supplies and our inexhaustible volunteers.  We hope to arrive at the Rafah Border crossing around December 26th, 2009, and to then spend several days in Gaza before leaving our dear friends and regrouping as a convoy in Cairo for a final event.  We anticipate that volunteers will be able to make reservations to fly home from that area on January 2nd, 2010…”

–Viva Palestina, Summer 2009

See also this background piece from The Electronic Intifada

Compromising for Gaza without compromising Palestine

“One result of CODEPINK’s delegation to the Gaza Strip in May was the idea to organize a large march through the territory with a significant international presence including well-known personalities. In the spirit of nonviolent direct action, the march would challenge the appalling and inhumane siege of Gaza. The idea, which immediately captured the imagination of many organizers, was the brainchild of Norman Finkelstein. We are truly grateful for Professor Finkelstein’s creative thinking and willingness to put forward big ideas that generate enthusiasm and engagement. However, after the initial call, the framework of the march was challenged by highly-respected Palestinian activists Omar Barghouti from Jerusalem, and Haidar Eid from the Gaza Strip. Their criticism, expressed with the utmost respect for the courage and good will of the organizers, challenged the organizers’ decision to delay engaging in a wide conversation with Palestinian civil society and activists until after the call was made and the framework formulated…”

–Gabriel Ash, Mich Levy and Sara Kershnar, The Electronic Intifada, 9 September 2009

And also Jimmy Carter’s Recent Op-Ed in The Washington Post

“During the past 16 months I have visited the Middle East four times and met with leaders in Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. I was in Damascus when President Obama made his historic speech in Cairo, which raised high hopes among the more-optimistic Israelis and Palestinians, who recognize that his insistence on a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key to any acceptable peace agreement or any positive responses toward Israel from Arab nations.

Late last month I traveled to the region with a group of ‘Elders,’ including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil and Mary Robinson of Ireland, former prime minister Gro Brundtland of Norway and women’s activist Ela Bhatt of India. Three of us had previously visited Gaza, which is now a walled-in ghetto inhabited by 1.6 million Palestinians, 1.1 million of whom are refugees from Israel and the West Bank and receive basic humanitarian assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Israel prevents any cement, lumber, seeds, fertilizer and hundreds of other needed materials from entering through Gaza’s gates. Some additional goods from Egypt reach Gaza through underground tunnels. Gazans cannot produce their own food nor repair schools, hospitals, business establishments or the 50,000 homes that were destroyed or heavily damaged by Israel’s assault last January.

We found a growing sense of concern and despair among those who observe, as we did, that settlement expansion is continuing apace, rapidly encroaching into Palestinian villages, hilltops, grazing lands, farming areas and olive groves. There are more than 200 of these settlements in the West Bank…”

–Jimmy Carter, The Washington Post, 6 September, 2009

And finally, an interesting piece on the Democratic left’s response to Obama’s foreign policy

For the Left, war without Bush is not war at all

“Remember the anti-war movement? Not too long ago, the Democratic party’s most loyal voters passionately opposed the war in Iraq. Democratic presidential candidates argued over who would withdraw American troops the quickest. Netroots activists regularly denounced President George W. Bush, and sometimes the U.S. military (‘General Betray Us’). Cindy Sheehan, the woman whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, became a heroine when she led protests at Bush’s Texas ranch.

That was then. Now, even though the United States still has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, and is quickly escalating the war in Afghanistan — 68,000 troops there by the end of this year, and possibly more in 2010 — anti-war voices on the Left have fallen silent…”

Posted in Blogroll, Opinion/Editorial | 1 Comment »