USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Has the Israel lobby really lost its mojo? (The Electronic Intifada)

Posted by uscsjp on September 30, 2015

The Israeli government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have failed to marshal Congressional opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

But that failure has prompted widespread chatter about the irreparable damage done to US-Israel ties and the demise of AIPAC as a virtually omnipotent lobby.

Despite pouring millions of dollars into its campaign, inundating the airwaves and clogging social media feeds, AIPAC’s efforts to sway members of Congress paid only minimal dividends.

But does this mean that AIPAC has lost its mojo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can now be safely ignored by the Obama administration as a blowhard? Hardly.

This fiasco for Israel and its lobby was entirely predictable and even foreordained after Netanyahu opted toconspire with John Boehner, the House speaker, to deliver his controversial speech to Congress in Marchopposing talks with Iran.

Netanyahu’s disrespect in circumventing the president prompted around 60 Democratic members of Congress — one-quarter of the party’s caucus — to publicly boycott the address, opening up an unprecedented partisan breach.

After Netanyahu’s stunt in Congress, it was self-evident that no Democratic members of Congress, except for the party’s most hardcore Zionists such as senators Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland, would vote to kill what is arguably the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration.

AIPAC could have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into its campaign and probably wouldn’t have changed a single vote.


Netanyahu is no fool and neither is AIPAC. So then why did they expend so much political capital and money on a lost cause?

Simple: the louder Israel and its lobby bellowed that the nuclear deal with Iran endangered Israel’s security and presented it with an existential threat, the larger the payout from the United States to back its demands for military aid.

Israel is likely to get recompensed for the Iran nuclear deal in two ways.

The first is through Congressional authorization of the transfer to Israel of advanced weaponry such as bunker-buster bombs. For example, Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey who broke with his former mentor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach by supporting the deal, stated that the “US should provide Israel with access to the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) to help deter Iranian cheating.”

And Obama appears amenable to upping the quality of weapons the US provides Israel. In a letter to Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic representative for New York, Obama pledged that “Our support for Israel is also an important element in deterring Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon.”

Thus Israel is likely to receive from the US the weapons it would need to threaten or actually carry out the attack on Iran the US just potentially avoided with the nuclear deal.

Second, Israel will likely reap an enormous windfall from the United States by negotiating a new 10-year deal for additional military aid. During the George W. Bush administration, the US signed an agreement to provide Israel with $30 billion in military aid from 2009 to 2018.

Ever since he visited Jerusalem in March 2013, Obama has repeatedly made clear that he wants to extend — and even increase — military aid to Israel.

Although the timing of the Iran nuclear deal and the impending expiration of the agreement with Israel is coincidental, Netanyahu is shrewdly choreographing his steps to maximize his leverage with the US and wring out the most concessions possible.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, twice since April, Obama personally contacted Netanyahu, practically pleading with him to start talks on how the US may bolster the Israeli military’s arsenal. But the Israeli prime minister steadfastly refused.


Now with Iran a done deal, these discussions are getting underway in earnest — and media reports suggest that Israel will try to get as much as $45 billion in military aid from the US through 2028. In other words, Obama may now wind up signing a deal to increase the Bush administration’s commitment to Israel by 50 percent.

While it is doubtful that Israel would use these weapons to unilaterally attack Iran, they unquestionably will be used to entrench and solidify Israel’s military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, making the US even further complicit in Israel’s accompanying atrocities.

This new military aid deal, sadly, will be Obama’s enduring legacy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue as his presidency draws to a close.

The debacle for Netanyahu and AIPAC on Iran demonstrably shows that Israel and its allies do not dictate the terms and contours of broader US foreign policy goals. However, their power to preserve the status quo on US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians has emerged largely unscathed from this battle.

Netanyahu is coming to Washington to kiss and make up with Obama over Iran in November — and to collect his check. Without a massive uproar from civil society before then, US taxpayers will be on the hook for another decade of underwriting Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

Vice President Joe Biden recently acknowledged that US taxpayers already fund 20 percent of Israel’s entire military budget.

Enough is enough. Fortunately growing numbers of Americans agree.

To make this message clear, tens of thousands have already endorsed the campaign calling on Obama not to give any more weapons to Israel.

Josh Ruebner is policy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.


–The Electronic Intifada, 21 September, 2015

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EI: Palestinians salute Black solidarity, call for joint struggle

Posted by uscsjp on August 29, 2015

Palestinians have welcomed the declaration signed by more than 1,000 Black activists, artists and scholars in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This comes as an Israel lobby group is expressing concern at the growing cooperation between Black activists and Palestinians.

The statement, whose endorsers include scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, urges full support for the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

First appearing in Ebony earlier this month, the statement emphasizes “return to their homeland in present-day Israel” as “the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”

Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said that the Black activists’ “support for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is particularly inspiring as it translates principled positions into morally consistent actions that are capable of righting injustices.”

The BNC is the broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement.

“The US civil rights movement has always been a key inspiration for us in the BDS movement,” Nawajaa added in a statement from the BNC. “We are deeply moved by this powerful proclamation that evokes the spirit of that heroic civil rights struggle.”

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, called the statement “a poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by Black people in the US and across the world.”

“Despite the obvious differences, there are compelling similarities between the forms of oppression that both Palestinians and African Americans live under,” Barghouti added. “Dehumanization, dispossession, racial injustice and discrimination, state violence, criminalization of entire communities and impunity are all key characteristics of the oppression faced by Black Americans and Palestinians.”

The Black activists’ statement calls for joint campaigns against G4S, the multinational security firm that works in Israeli prisons in the occupied West Bank and runs detention centers that are part of the US system of mass incarceration that targets people of color.


The Black activists’ statement – and the Palestinian response – represent the kind of solidarity that is ringing alarm bells in the offices of Israel lobby groups.

This week, the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) warned in a report that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “and its allies continue to deepen their involvement with social justice-oriented organizations on campus.”

“This year saw efforts by anti-Israel groups to build coalitions with progressive campus organizations that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, fossil fuel divestment, private prison reform, racial discrimination and immigration reform,” the ICC report states.

In particular, ICC – which evidently closely monitors the Palestine solidarity movement – says it “observed strong ties between SJP and many African American student groups during the 2014-2015 academic year.”

“As recently as May 2015, SJP student activists were actively involved in Black Lives Matter-linked demonstrations,” it states.

ICC also notes an “increasing number of SJP-backed slates and candidates winning legislative and executive positions within student governments.”

“These candidates are running on platforms that call for reform on a wide range of social issues; BDS is now mentioned alongside other issues such as private prison divestment, minority rights and fossil fuels,” it adds.

But ICC assures Israel supporters that anti-Palestinian activists are “fighting back” by “forming coalitions to educate the broader campus community, and working to build support for Israel on campus.”

The Israel lobby group says that media reports alleging that BDS is taking over college campuses are exaggerated.

It warns, however, that “if the current trends on campuses nationwide persist, the result could be dangerously close to that reality.”


–Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, August 27, 2015

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DN: “Israeli Report Finds 2014 Gaza War ‘Lawful’ and ‘Legitimate’ Ahead of Critical U.N. Investigation

Posted by uscsjp on June 15, 2015

The Israeli government has released a report that concludes its military actions in the 2014 war in Gaza were “lawful” and “legitimate.” The findings come ahead of what is expected to be a critical United Nations investigation into the 50-day conflict that Israel has dismissed as biased and refused to cooperate with. More than 2,200 Palestinians died in what was called “Operation Protective Edge,” the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. In its report, Israel says it made “substantial efforts” to avoid civilian deaths, insisting Hamas was to blame for the high number of civilian casualties and accusing Hamas militants of disguising themselves as civilians and of converting civilian buildings into military centers. We are joined by Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the former executive director of The Jerusalem Fund. We also go to Tel Aviv to speak with Gideon Levy, Haaretz columnist, whose latest piece is “Israel washed itself clean of Gaza’s dead beach children”…


–Democracy Now!, June 15th, 2015

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Democracy Now!: Netanyahu Vows Not to Allow Palestinian State If Re-elected

Posted by uscsjp on March 17, 2015

Voting is underway in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a tight race for re-election. Polls show Netanyahu’s Likud Party lagging slightly behind the Zionist Union Coalition, led by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Herzog. Netanyahu has emphasized his right-wing positions in recent days, visiting the Har Homa settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and vowing to ramp up settlement construction, deemed illegal under international law. In an interview with a website owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of his leading backers, Netanyahu unequivocally vowed never to allow a Palestinian state, if he is re-elected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I think that whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel. This is the genuine reality that was created here in the past few years. Those who who do not understand that bury their heads in the sand. The left-wing parties do it, bury their heads in the sand, time and again.”

The Obama administration has pressed for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians which includes a Palestinian state. Netanyahu’s closest rival, Yitzhak Herzog, has sought to capitalize on public frustration with Netanyahu’s hardline policies.

Yitzhak Herzog: “The public is genuinely frustrated. The public want a change, the public ask for a change, and the public aspire for hope and is revolted by and fed up with the status quo. I am the only one who can change the country’s situation. I am the only one who can get a mandate from the president (to form a government). To get a mandate from the president, I need to lead a clear majority over the Likud and Netanyahu.”

Running third place in Israeli polls is the Joint List, a coalition of four Arab parties which could be decisive in forming a new coalition that would unseat Netanyahu.


–Democracy Now!, March 17th, 2015

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“Noam Chomsky: Why Israel’s Netanyahu Is So Desperate to Prevent Peace with Iran” (Alternet)

Posted by uscsjp on March 2, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. “For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran,” says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region.” Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”…

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the Antichrist, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever “them” happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions…


To read the rest of the interview, visit:


Interview orignally posted on Democracy Now!

March 2, 2015

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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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Israeli Right-Wing Activist Killed and other updates from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on October 30, 2014

Israel Closes Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound After Shooting of Far-Right Activist

Israel has shut down the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time in 14 years following the shooting of an Israeli far-right activist. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the closure as a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people.” The site, known by Jews as the Temple Mount, houses both the mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Jamal Tawfiq, a resident of Jerusalem, said he was turned away after arriving for his morning prayers.

Jamal Tawfiq: “This is a collective punishment [for something] we had nothing to do with. This is injustice. There’s no fair government here. Justice should be the basis for governance. But there is no justice here. A problem happens with a person over there, they close the mosque here. Why is it OK to allow Jews to go pray at the Wailing Wall without any harassment, while a Palestinian is killed every day? Every day, a Palestinian is killed. Every day, holy olive trees are burned and pulled out because they belong to Arab Palestinians. Why are we the ones being punished?”

On Wednesday night, U.S.-born activist Yehuda Glick was shot and wounded outside a conference on promoting Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa site, where he and others want to build a Jewish temple. Hours later, Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian suspect in the shooting, who they said resisted arrest.

U.N. Holds Emergency Meeting on Illegal Israeli Settlements

The latest tensions came as the United Nations held an emergency meeting on Israel’s plans to build 1,000 new settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements in an area which Palestinians seek as part of any future state are considered illegal under international law. Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with construction.

Sweden Recognizes State of Palestine in First for EU

Sweden has officially recognized the state of Palestine, becoming the first member of the European Union to do so. In a newspaper op-ed, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom called the move “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” adding, “Some will say today’s decision comes too soon. I’m afraid, rather, that it is too late.”

Malala Yousafzai to Donate $50,000 for Gaza Schools

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has promised to donate $50,000 to rebuild schools inGaza that were damaged by this summer’s Israeli offensive. After receiving the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, Yousafzai said she would donate all the prize money to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Malala Yousafzai: “This money will totally go to the rebuilding of schools for children in Gaza. So I think it will definitely help those children to continue their education, to get quality education, and it will help them to continue their life and to know that people are supporting them and they’re not alone. And I’m really happy that this funding will help in the rebuilding of 65 schools in Gaza.”

SodaStream to Move West Bank Settlement Factory After Boycott

The company SodaStream has announced plans to move its factory out of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank following an international boycott. SodaStream said its move was “purely commercial.” But supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have claimed the move as a victory, saying their efforts caused SodaStream’s share prices to drop as retailers were pressured to abandon their products.

U.N. Votes 188 to 2 Against Embargo of Cuba; U.S., Israel Only Dissenters

The United Nations General Assembly has voted nearly unanimously to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba for the 23rd year in a row. Just like last year, the vote was 188 to 2 with only Israel joining the United States. Three countries abstained: Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.


–Democracy Now!, 30 October, 2014

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UNRWA: Why are Gaza’s kids so eager to get back to school?

Posted by uscsjp on September 9, 2014



The children of Gaza have suffered greatly during this war – for losing lives, parents and homes. They’ve lost enough. When you donate, you ensure that as the school year begins on September 14, they won’t miss out on continuing their education.
Izziddin doing a sprint in the school yard

Izziddin Hamada, 11 and Amal Al Omari, 13 are currently taking refuge in the Beach Elementary Boys School, which serves as a shelter for those displaced by this war. Izziddin’s wish to return to school is for a rather simple reason, “I want a long ceasefire to return to school. I want the blockade to end so that I can travel abroad. I want to study medicine in the future so that I can treat my sick mother.

As for Amal, her father died of cancer before the war. But before he departed, he built them a fabulous home. The home was completely flattened during the current war, leaving Amal, her mum and four siblings homeless. Amal’s wish for an education is like Izziddin’s – to make a better future for herself and others. She says, “I want to have our house rebuilt. I want peace. I want the borders to open so that my mother can travel abroad to undergo her eye surgery and I can continue education. After finishing high school, I would like to study Journalism.

Amal writing ‘Palestine’ on the blackboard of the school serving as her family’s shelter

When you give, you can educate a child like Izziddin or an entire classroom of kids like him. You can allow a Gaza student like Amal to undertake distance learning if she is experiencing difficulty accessing a school. And for the tens of thousands that require specialized psychosocial support, you can provide them with counseling sessions to help them deal with the horrors of a pitiless war.

You can make a difference in the present and future of a child of Gaza. The math is simple.

USD 30 provides a child with an hour of psychosocial support.
USD 44 will provide a student distance learning materials.
USD 135 will provide a school with arts and handicrafts materials.
USD 1,026 will provide school desks for an entire classroom.

Donate now. Your donation may be tax-deductible.

Watch Gaza’s children speak of dreams and wishes amongst the rubble

Remember, supporting education for a child of Gaza also brings her stability and gives her hope for a brighter future, for herself, her loved ones and for Palestinian society.

In solidarity,

Lionello Boscardi
Chief, Partnerships Division
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

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Updates on Gaza Siege from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on July 10, 2014

Palestinian Toll from Gaza Attack Tops 80, Including 18 Children

The death toll from Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has more than doubled in 24 hours as the besieged territory comes under relentless bombing. At least 44 Gaza residents have been killed in the past day, bringing the total this week to around 80. The Palestinian news agency Maan reports the dead include 18 children and 10 women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 600 people have been wounded. In the deadliest single attack since the offensive began, at least seven Palestinian civilians, including five children, were killed when Israeli warplanes bombed several homes in a densely populated area where the victims were sleeping. Bodies were pulled from the rubble of at least three homes and neighboring buildings.


Gaza Hospitals Overrun with Victims; Bombing Exceeds 2012 Israeli Assault

Gaza Militants Continue Rocket Attacks on Israel

Israel Rejects Hamas Ceasefire Terms; Minister Floats “Temporary” Gaza Takeover

Israelis Stage Peace Rally in Tel Aviv

Hilleli, Women of Peace: “We believe that this cycle of violence must be ended, and it’s definitely not going to be ended by more violence and by more bombs on Gaza, and it’s not going to help the people in the south and neither the people in Tel Aviv that have been subject to missiles in the past few days.”



PA Pleads for U.S. Aid to Stop “War Against Palestinian People”

Maen Rashid Areikat, chief PLO envoy to Israel: “I would like to say to President Obama that there is no — you cannot equate between an occupied people and an occupier. And the rising death toll on the Palestinian side tells clearly who is the party that is suffering the most from this violence. … I think the United States should rein in Israel. They are the only country that can rein in Israel, because they are the country that provides the political, military, economic and financial support for Israel, and without that support, Israel cannot escape being accountable for their actions.”



Obama Admin Continues Backing for Israeli Airstrikes

Jen Psaki: “As you know, we’re encouraging all sides to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But again, Israel has every right to defend themselves and take steps to defend themselves. And as we know, the aggression is currently coming from Hamas in Gaza.”

During the news conference, Psaki repeatedly refused to answer a question on “whether Palestinians have the right to defend themselves.” The Obama administration appears to have decided on a position of backing the Israeli strikes, but cautioning against a ground invasion. In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said the United States hopes to see Israel stop the rocket fire without sending troops into Gaza.


Thousands in New York City Protest Israeli Attack on Gaza

Palestinian solidarity rallies have been held around the world in recent days. In New York City, thousands of people protested in front of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations before marching through the streets.

Protester: “We hope to change public opinion so that they understand that Palestinians are not terrorists, that they are defending themselves. It’s an unfair situation that they’re going through. They’re living under occupation. They have no human rights. They have no rights to anything that we enjoy here as Americans.”


Muhammed Chaudhry: “At least we’ve got to take the first step, though, a ceasefire, no more violence, no more killing of the innocent, from both parties.”


–Democracy Now!, 10 July, 2014

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EI: “Why did a rogue group of Occupy activists smear me with ‘terror’ claim?”

Posted by uscsjp on January 16, 2013

On 26 February 2012, a small group of Occupy Oakland activists claimed that I was potentially a “suspected” terrorist in an article they posted on an Occupy Oakland-branded website that they controlled. The resulting spectacle revealed an entrenched and unexamined prejudice against Arabs and Muslims, and a weakness many mainstream, predominantly white activist groups have in openly discussing issues of race and ethnicity.

The article, titled “Occupational Awareness” (see the screengrab at the bottom of this article), is based on several glaring errors in reasoning — the central one being that my “name had been found in Google search results in connection with allegations of terrorist activity.” The premise was fatally misleading, because it was not my name found, but that of another person, with a different surname.

Nevertheless, this acrobatic logic became the basis for their claim of my potential identity as a Palestinian “terror” suspect. Additionally, the article claimed that the person in question “visually and biographically” resembled me. This claim was based on the low-resolution photo of a bearded man with glasses featured in the article, and, apparently, the fact he was arrested in Paraguay.

Other suspected connections were added: connections to “South American drug trafficking”; to “Israeli intelligence”; and to the FBI. The group suggested I may have “entered the movement in order to harm it” and tacked that on to a disclaimer that Occupy did not support “terrorism.” This gave the impression that some kind of “terror” attack might also be imminent.

The “breakaway” group responsible for the article was a faction that had splintered from the main media committee. They later acquiesced to pressure from Occupy Oakland activists and removed the post.

Because of the potential for abusing the messaging power of the media committee revealed by the affair, the entire media committee was dissolved and reconstituted with new guidelines via a general assembly resolution that passed by a 90 percent margin. The splinter group formed the “Occupy Oakland Media Collective,” taking their website,, with them.

I chose not to write about all of this at the time for the safety of myself, family and fellow activists. During the short period the post was up, it had caught the attention of a few right-wing blogs, which soon began circulating the rumor that Occupy was sheltering a “Hamas terrorist,” and I felt I would be putting others in danger by drawing more attention to it.

The core of the issue was effectively swept under the rug, but the narrative that’s emerged among some groups often dismisses the potentially disastrous effects of the group’s actions. I believe its now critical to draw attention to the pernicious reasoning that lay behind the accusation and its potentially disastrous effects.

No evidence

The man I was accused of being — Salah Abdul Karim Yassine — was, ironically, also a victim of a “terror” smear, twice: once by the US State Department, and then again by the media group. Yassine’s name first appears in a State Department report published in 2001 as one of two slim reeds of “evidence” that the borders of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina had become a porous hotbed of “Islamic terrorism.”

Yassine is alleged to have made terror threats, though there is no evidence of them. Ali Khali Meri, a Lebanese immigrant, with so-called “Hizballah ties” is also named in the report. The State Department’s publication of this report — and subsequent references to it in a Library of Congress document alluded to by the media group — are the only reason that the group learned of the existence of Yassine (“Patterns of Global Terrorism,” 30 April 2001 [PDF]).

Indeed, it was not Yassine, but the State Department’s construct of him that the group discovered. In the words of journalist Kenneth Rapoza — writing on the website Counterpunch — the goal of the report was to facilitate turning “the region into a terrorist and druglord hunting ground” for the US military (“New fakers at the New Yorker,” 14 May 2003).

To achieve this goal, these manufactured cases relied on entrenched bigotry against Arabs to elevate petty crimes to the level of life-threatening concerns — copyright infringement in the case of Meri, illegal entry and use of false documents in the case of Yassine.

The media group’s recycling of the original smear against Yassine — and addition of “drug trafficking” from their own repository of Latino stereotypes — is an ironic testament to how easily such accusations are taken at face value when made by the powerful against marginalized groups. But the group’s article also recasts in microcosm the dangerous climate created by the US both here and abroad, where minor offenses — or the mere suspicion of them — become frightening conspiracies when the accused have a Muslim name and/or Arab ethnicity.

Indeed countless innocent people have been imprisoned following the same logic, based on innuendo or a “suspicion” which reaches steroidal levels when an Arab surname is added. Of these, Khaled el-Masri may be the most easily recognizable today. A German citizen with a name similar to that of an accused member of al-Qaeda, el-Masri was detained solely on suspicion of forged documents. Those documents were suspected of forgery only because of the similarity in names.

El-Masri was “rendered” by US officials, and tortured. The fact that this same reasoning was emulated by a group interested in social justice makes it an all the more disturbing commentary on the pervasive logic of prejudice against Arabs and Muslims.

Ignorant fear

I was accused during a particularly high-profile period of Palestinian advocacy. The article was published less than a week after I gave a short talk on behalf of a prisoner’s rights group about Khader Adnan, then on hunger strike in an Israeli jail, at a rally at San Quentin state prison on 20 February.

A day earlier, I had published a blog post on The Electronic Intifada addressing the double standards applied in the West to questions of nonviolent resistance.

It seems likely that the fear that such views would make Occupy seem “too radical” was partly responsible for the media group’s paranoia. Based on the irrational urgency embedded in the group’s excuse for not double-checking their research, it also seems clear that this was coupled with a basic ignorant fear of the Palestinian struggle. A member of the original media committee — who later joined the media collective and is the former director of the American-Israeli Friendship Committee in California — in fact tweeted complaints about the support Adnan received as a “nonviolent” activist.

It’s obvious that my speech, combined with nearly a decade of pro-Palestinian advocacy on my own blog, and my recent writing for The Electronic Intifada, fed the hysteria that led to the accusation. Even in the most uncharitable and biased view, my interactions with the group did not rise to the level of life or death concern. The concern is reflexively preposterous if stripped of the anti-Palestinian bigotry that has been tacitly accepted by the mainstream.

Despite the advances of the Palestinian solidarity movement and the greater mainstream acceptance of pro-Palestinian positions, this kind of fearful auto-purging exists at every level of the public sphere. The examples range from the tragic destruction of the career of veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas to the prosecution of students at the University of California at Irvine, who exercised their free speech rights at an on-campus pro-Israel forum.

Participating in a mass movement in the US shouldn’t also mean that Palestinians, Palestinian solidarity activists and those advocating similarly uphill positions must check their views at the door or be suspected of posing a threat towards the group. Though there are many pitfalls to the discourse on Israeli apartheid, marginalizing it this way all but ensures that mainstream movements will undermine their ability to address those issues most central to social justice — an end to the costly, ongoing military occupations and invasions throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Bizarre interpretation of FBI schemes

There’s little doubt that the group applied a narrative of FBI infiltration cobbled from popular media accounts of government infiltration. But their peculiar needs required a bizarre interpretation of the FBI’s modus operandi.

Over the past several years, the FBI has sent Arab and Muslim infiltrators into Muslim and Arab American institutions and mosques. Their role has been to persuade and/or trick Muslims with poor judgment into saying questionable things or participating in certain acts (“Fake terror plots, paid informants: the tactics of FBI ‘entrapment’ questioned,” Guardian, 16 November 2011).

But the hair-on-fire concerns of the group obscured that methodology. In almost every case, infiltrators are petty criminals who have never been accused of terrorism — for example, Muslims and/or Arabs who have been recruited while serving sentences for fraud and the like. There is no known example of the FBI sending an Arab or Muslim infiltrator to subvert a mainstream organization. That may be for the very reasons I noted earlier, that such voices suffer from sanctions for advocating even mild pro-Arab or Muslim views — and even just from having backgrounds associated with Islam and the Arab world.

In every instance, the “aspirational terror” plots orchestrated by the FBI are not meant to undermine any single movement or group. Rather, they are meant to manufacture “results” in the “domestic anti-terror” crusade. The goal is all the more unlikely because “terror” itself is a construct manufactured for US establishment aims. The FBI’s activities instead create the illusion of endless, but easily characterized, threats and the appearance that the FBI is busy thwarting them to keep Americans safe.

Worse, the media group’s skewed view obscures the real dangers faced by Occupy. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and “aspirational” plots currently being brought to trial reveal a security system infatuated with “anarchists,” and frantically engaged in infiltrating and implicating anarchist-related groups as a subset of Occupy.

This is the same “busy work” methodology behind the targeting of Muslim and Arab groups — and by all accounts, the FBI has been very busy, raiding activist homes for anarchist literature and even setting up a similar “aspirational” phony terror plot aimed at Occupy’s anarchists in Cleveland, fronted by a petty criminal espousing anarchist sympathies (“FBI supplied Occupy Cleveland ‘terrorists’ arrested in May Day plot,” Green is the New Red, 1 May 2012).

In such a context, the idea that the FBI had sent a Muslim former terrorist to infiltrate and subdue the “nonviolence” wing of Occupy Oakland — which the media group claimed to represent — is more than the delusional fantasy than it initially appears to be. It is, instead, seriously hazardous reasoning. In a final irony, for example, baseless accusations against pro-Palestinian activists of being Mossad agents turns out to be one of the tactics recently espoused by an Israeli government official for discrediting them.

Surprisingly, none of these issues ever rose to front and center of the public discussion. Because some of the signatories to the article were people of color, a discourse on racism defined by power dynamics which further confused the issue, dominated the conversation.

Racialized assumptions

Of course, it’s ostensibly crucial to use a functional definition of racism based on power dynamics, but in this case that construction achieved the opposite of the intended effect; it encouraged white members of the media group, and their white advocates, to assure themselves that they had no racist assumptions to examine. In fact, the person who reportedly first found the “evidence” of the “suspected” terrorism, and one of the most vehement in defending it, was a white male, the son of an affluent best-selling author and not from, or residing in, Oakland.

Members of the “Anonymous” community later claimed that he had shared the information with them and that they had warned him that the “evidence” was baseless according to their own research. He and the other members of the group went public regardless. More importantly, since the kind of racialized assumptions the group used in its analysis was an internalized product of a white supremacist structure, this was a worrisome mix of opposing ideals that unfortunately went unexamined.

The discussion about racism, though important, rapidly became confused and distracted from the salient issues. These aren’t just questions facing Arab-American and Muslim activists, or of representation of people of color, or even of profiling. Rather, these are issues that concern radical queers and feminists, anti-establishment labor organizers, and anti-imperialism activists of all races.

These questions concern all people who espouse substantive and honest critiques of US policies and organizations, critiques which are not always popular at any given time, even in the left — these groups can be caught in the middle of witch-hunts not only by the establishment, but also by ostensibly counter-establishment structures.

Undoubtedly, there will be a mass movement successor to Occupy in the coming months or years. And if that successor is to have a broad popular character, an effective focus on US domestic and foreign policy and a resistance to McCarthyite witch-hunts, activists will have to revisit these issues again and again. Hopefully, this story will be of some use in those times.

Jaime Omar Yassin has been involved in alternative media for nearly 20 years. He has written for Extra!, Meatpaper, n+1 and other publications. His writing on the Occupy movement appears in the books Dreaming in Public and We are Many. He has his own blog at Hyphenated-Republic.


–The Electronic Intifada, 16 January, 2013

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