USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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

Obama Administration Reverses Position on Settlements

Posted by uscsjp on November 6, 2009

First, Recent Headlines From Democracy Now!

“General Assembly Endorses UN Gaza Inquiry

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to endorse a UN inquiry that found Israel committed war crimes in its assault on the Gaza Strip. Headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone, the inquiry also accused Hamas of war crimes and urged both sides to investigate the charges or face international prosecution. The non-binding measure to back the inquiry was approved Thursday with a vote of 114-to-18. Deputy US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff explained the US vote against the resolution.

Deputy US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff: ‘We believe that the Goldstone report is deeply flawed, including its unbalanced focus on Israel, its sweeping conclusions of law, the excessively negative inferences it draws about Israel’s intentions and actions, its failure to deal adequately with the asymmetrical nature of the Gaza conflict, its failure to assign appropriate responsibility to Hamas for its decision to base itself and its operations in heavily civilian-populated urban areas, and its many overreaching recommendations.’

Over 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the three-week assault, compared to thirteen Israelis, four by so-called ‘friendly fire.’ The Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, welcomed the vote.

Riyad Mansour: ‘Tonight is a very important night in the history of the General Assembly. It is a very important night in the history of fighting against impunity and seeking accountability.’

Abbas Won’t Seek Re-Election as Palestinian Leader

Meanwhile in Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced he won’t seek re-election early next year. Speaking in Ramallah, Abbas said he had grown frustrated by Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building and said his retirement is “not up for debate.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: ‘I have told our brethren in the PLO’s executive committee and Fatah central committee that I have no intent of running in the upcoming presidential election, and this decision is not up for debate or bargaining at all. I hope they understand this position of mine, taking note that there are other steps that I will take.’

Abbas has recently faced widespread Palestinian criticism for negotiating with Israel, despite ongoing settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, and agreeing to delay a vote on the findings of the UN’s inquiry into the Gaza assault. In Gaza, Hamas leader Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas had relied too heavily on US and Israeli backing.

Sami Abu Zuhri: ‘Mahmoud Abbas’s speech expresses the crisis he is in after being abandoned by his friends, the Americans and the Israelis, who just used him like a tool. He’s trying to hide this by attacking Hamas and holding it responsible for his crisis’…”

–Democracy Now, 6 November, 2009


As’ad Abu Khalil, “The Angry Arab,” also comments on this issue:

“Al-Arabiyya TV (the private station of King Fahd), has aired a live speech by Abu Mazen. He was categorical that he won’t be running for re-election as chief PA puppet. But if you have been reading this blog, you should not be surprised. The decision is not his: he read the American press and learned that while he was not looking, the US government has already selected Salam Fayyad as the chief PA puppet. Very expected. He managed to pay tribute to George W. Bush. I am posting the picture of Abu Mazen above because it shows him in his dignified state…”

–The Angry Arab News Service, 5 November, 2009

Clinton reverses Obama policy on Israeli settlements

“Hillary Clinton, speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration reversed nine months of Obama policy statements on Israeli settlement activity by calling Netanyahu’s concessions on restricting settlement activity ‘unprecedented’ even as settlement expansion continues.

The Palestinians reacted angrily accusing Obama of killing the peace process and accusing him of ‘back pedaling’ on his previous policy.
Only a few months ago, the issue of settlement expansion was called ‘unacceptable’ by Obama and at that time Obama demanded Israel freeze its settlement activity. It was a demand that Netanyahu ignored and settlement expansion continued.
The new U.S policy, far from demanding Israel stop expanding its settlements, is now applauding Netanyahu for, in Clinton’s words, ‘his unprecedented concessions’ to the Palestinians for making voluntary restrictions on settlement expansion…”
–Marc Rubin,, 1 November, 2009
Also, on the same topic:

Clinton: US wants Israel settlement halt ‘forever’

“After Arab criticism of her comments in Jerusalem on the Israeli plan, Clinton delayed her return to Washington after attending an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco, and flew instead to Cairo.

In a new twist Tuesday, Clinton made what appeared to be an inadvertent slip of the tongue in a television interview with the Al-Jazeera network, referring to the goal of  ‘an Israeli capital in east Jerusalem.”

It has not been U.S. policy to favor including east Jerusalem in an Israeli capital; the Palestinians claim it as their capital, and the issue is one of the most important and delicate points that would have to be settled in any final peace deal between the two parties…”

–Robert Burns, AP, 4 November, 2009

And Progressives React the House’s Condemnation of the Goldstone Report

“Shame on the House of Representatives, and on the Democratic leadership of the House, for pushing through a resolution once again blindly taking the side of Israeli aggression.

I’m referring to the vote on Tuesday, by a lopsided 344-to-36 margin*, to condemn the Goldstone report on Gaza.

That report, by South African jurist Richard Goldstone for the UN, showed that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes in the lead-up to and during Israel’s invasion of Gaza almost a year ago. (To read the executive summary, click here)

It noted that Israel deliberately attacked civilian targets, and did not take sufficient action to minimize civilian loss of life. For instance, it found that Israel even refused to allow the evacuation of the injured by ambulance.

The report also condemned Hamas for its rocket attacks into Israel, which the report said were designed to create terror.

Even as the U.N. was about to consider the report, the House measure called it ‘irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.’ And it urged the Obama Administration to ‘strongly and unequivocally oppose’ any discussion of it at the UN.

This reflexive attitude that Israel can do no wrong is morally bankrupt and exceedingly unhelpful in resolving, in a just manner, the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Dennis Kucinich had it right when he denounced the House majority for going along with this. His statement is so powerful that I’m excerpting it at length here.

‘Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt,’ he said on the House floor on Tuesday. ‘Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.

‘Because behind every such deception is the nullification of humanity, the destruction of human dignity, the annihilation of the human spirit, the triumph of Orwellian thinking, the eternal prison of the dark heart of the totalitarian.

‘The resolution before us today, which would reject all attempts of the Goldstone Report to fix responsibility of all parties to war crimes, including both Hamas and Israel, may as well be called the “Down is Up, Night is Day, Wrong is Right: resolution.” . . .

‘How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East if we tacitly approve of violations of international law and international human rights, if we look the other way, or if we close our eyes to the heartbreak of people on both sides by white-washing a legitimate investigation?

‘How can we protect the people of Israel from existential threats if we hold no concern for the protection of the Palestinians, for their physical security, their right to land, their right to their own homes, their right to water, their right to sustenance, their right to freedom of movement, their right to human security of jobs, education and health care?

‘We will have peace only when the plight of both Palestinians and Israelis is brought before this House and given equal consideration in recognition of that principle that all people on this planet have a right to survive and thrive, and it is our responsibility, our duty to see that no individual, no group, no people are barred from this humble human claim.”

Until most members of Congress show some respect for international law and some humanity toward Palestinians, there’s no reason for Israel to.

*Nays: Baird • Baldwin • Blumenauer • Boustany • Capps • Carson (IN) • Clarke • Clay • Davis (KY) • Dingell • Doggett • Edwards (MD) • Ellison • Filner • Grijalva • Hinchey • Johnson, E. B. • Kilpatrick • Kucinich • Lee (CA) • Lynch • McCollum • McDermott • McGovern • Miller • George • Moran (VA) • Olver • Pastor (AZ) • Paul • Price (NC) • Rahall • Snyder • Stark • Waters • Watt • Woolsey

Present: Becerra • Cooper • Dahlkemper • DeFazio • Delahunt • Duncan • Eshoo • Farr • Heinrich • Hirono • Honda • Johnson (GA) • Jones • Kaptur • Loebsack • Lofgren, Zoe • Lujàn • Obey • Speier • Tierney • Welch •Wu”

–Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, November 4, 2009

Finally, see the following video of a recent talk by Noam Chomsky

Palestine and the region in the Obama era: the emerging framework


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