Why U.S. Jews must embrace Kerry’s appeal to put pressure on Netanyahu

Posted in Uncategorized on June 7, 2013 by lamalucy

http://www.haaretz.com/

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

When it comes to Israel, there are two kinds of Jews: Those who believe that the occupation of the West Bank can go on forever, and those who don’t.

This is not the same division as that which exists between hawks and doves. We know that Israeli hawks are often content to see the occupation continue, but many doves who hate their country’s presence in the territories have also come to see it as a necessary evil that is likely to last for the indefinite future. And many American Jews have adopted the same mindset. Like their Israeli counterparts in both camps, they assume, whether they love the occupation or hate it, that is has been around for 46 years and it will be around for a lot more.

This past week, Secretary of State Kerry addressed himself to the nothing-can-ever-change view of things. Speaking with a power and passion that we don’t always hear from him, Kerry delivered a simple, eminently clear message: Time is up. Disaster is at hand. And therefore a way must be found to arrive at a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that will end the occupation. Not in the distant future, but very soon. And Americans Jews must help.

This is not the way that senior Administration officials usually talk to Jewish groups about Israel. They hint, imply, suggest, and often equivocate. They are careful not to offend. But Mr. Kerry chose bluntness and candor on his way to an emphatic conclusion: “The status quo is simply not sustainable.” This was a speech, it should be said, that was lovingly delivered; Kerry, after all, is a man with impeccable pro-Israel credentials, and his personal concern and devotion to Israel were amply on display.

While the audience was appreciative, his words will garner little support from the American Jewish right, which has been contemptuous of Kerry’s efforts from the beginning. Its leaders are convinced that the peace Kerry is so aggressively advocating can never be reached. (For a sample of initial responses to the speech, see here.)

But the purpose of this address was not at all to offer possible details of an agreement; it was to take on the thinking of those in America—and in Israel—who are convinced that Israel can continue with things as they are.

Israel absolutely cannot, Mr. Kerry said. And the specifics came in explaining what that meant, focusing on the disastrous deterioration of Israel’s international position and the dire consequences for the Palestinian Authority and for security in the territories if progress is not made.

In private conversations, Administration officials have expanded on these points, laying out just how serious they believe the situation to be: European backing for Israel, already collapsing, will disappear; the Palestinians will go to the International Criminal Court over settlements and will win support throughout the world; and Mr. Abbas—who, whatever one thinks of him, opposes violence and terror—will step down a failure, to be replaced by who-knows-what, or perhaps by nothing at all.

None of this guarantees peace, of course. The Americans are confident that an opening now exists for peace, but they are not starry-eyed about Palestinian realities. And there is not the slightest hint that American support for Israel will be withdrawn if peace efforts fail. But the Americans are saying that if Israel stands alone in the world, even the support of America will not be enough.

There is, of course, an implied criticism here, even if it is not stated. Prime Minister Netanyahu talks about peace, but his coalition is concerned with other things, and his coalition agreement does not even contain a commitment to a two-state solution. Certain that failure to move forward will be catastrophic, the Secretary of State wants to generate a sense of urgency from Israel that does not now exist, and he wants the support of American Jews. It is not an overstatement to suggest that the Americans are simply stunned by Israel’s shrug-your-shoulders, everything-will-be-fine approach; Israel’s government, it appears, neither believes in the possibility of peace nor has any real peace plan of her own. In American eyes, this is a disastrous misreading of what is happening in the region and the world.

Given all that we know of the history of the conflict, it is far from certain that peace can be achieved. Nonetheless, Kerry’s central message was exactly on target: The status quo is undermining Israel’s interests, and Israel must do everything possible—with an urgency and openness not now apparent—to move forward the diplomatic process. For expressing this message with such impressive clarity, Mr. Kerry deserves our gratitude and our thanks.

Independent UN inquiry urges halt to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory

Posted in Uncategorized on March 1, 2013 by lamalucy

31 January 2013 – An independent inquiry mandated by the United Nations has called on Israel to halt all settlement activity and to ensure accountability for the violations of the human rights of the Palestinians resulting from the settlements.

Israeli settlement in the West Bank

The report of the International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) states that a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians are violated in various forms and ways due to the existence of the settlements.

“These violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterized principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis,” said a news release on the report.

The UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, dispatched the Mission in March 2012 “to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Since 1967, the Mission’s report notes, Israeli governments have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements.

“In compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” said Christine Chanet, chair of the three-member inquiry.

Israel must “immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers from the OPT,” the Mission adds, as well as ensure “adequate, effective and prompt remedy” to all Palestinian victims for the harm suffered as a consequence of human rights violations resulting from the settlements.

The report states that settlements are established and developed for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews. They are maintained and advanced through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the OPT.

This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population, it adds.

“We are today calling on the Government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Asma Jahangir, another member of the Mission.

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law.

“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand,” said another member, Unity Dow.

The report, which will be formally presented to the Council on 18 March, states that private entities have also enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction of the settlements – both directly and indirectly.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has taken note of the report, according to his spokesperson, who said Mr. Ban has repeatedly made his views on Israeli settlements clear. “All settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law,” the spokesperson said in a note issued to the press.

http://www.un.org/News/

Israeli Soldiers Breaking The Silence on the Occupation of Palestine

Posted in Eyewitness on November 20, 2012 by lamalucy

Former Israeli paratrooper Avner Gvaryahu, now an activist with Breaking The Silence explains to Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle how 850 former Israeli soldiers have given testimony about the gross injustices against the Palestinian people they have witnessed and made to participate in as part of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. He was visiting Australia to promote the book “Our Harsh Logic” (Scribe Publications).

Waging War to Win Elections: Timing Is Everything

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2012 by lamalucy

Just after the U.S. election and just before the Israeli election, Israel has decided to escalate attacks on Gaza.

Relentless air strikes have killed 46 Palestinians, 15 of them civilians and injured more than 400 civilians, in retaliation for three civilian deaths so far in Israel. “Surgical” Israeli airstrikes have killed the head of the Hamas military organization and flattened the parliament building, and Israel is calling up its reserves and positioning its forces along the border with Gaza.

The timing is creating international comment and outrage as Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to be following a pattern established by Israeli politicians in the past. In June 1981, Prime Minister Begin ordered the strike on Saddam Hussain’s Osirak nuclear reactor and a few weeks later, as a popular hero he won a close election. In 1996 Shimon Peres ordered a massive air strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon a few months before an election, which he lost by a slimmer margin than expected. Four years ago, the government of Ehud Olmert ordered an attack against Hamas, as part of his electoral strategy. After a devastating military offensive on the Gaza strip in 2008 and 2009, Olmert also failed to win reelection and the more extreme Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics ever since.

The ballot box in Israel seems to be run by the security agenda and will probably assure Prime Minister Netanyahu a few more seats in the Knesset. The propaganda machine is working hard in Israel today as opposition to the government is seen as unpatriotic. Defense Minister Barak is also set to benefit from increased popular vote, similar to when he surged in the polls before the 2009 parliamentary election.

There is nothing like an enemy to bring a country together in support of the military and the political party most identified with it. Commentators must be forgiven if they suspect the escalation was deliberate as it has happened before leading up to elections. Aggressive campaign speeches are the norm now in Israel and the war against Gaza has a terrible logic about it as attrition being carried out for the Israeli electorate.

Other forces are at play of course, as nothing about the Israeli-Arab conflict has ever been simple. Hamas has been preparing for attacks against Israel for four years since the offensive against Gaza ended in January 2009. Hamas is feeling encouraged by the Arab Spring movement, its links with the Muslim Brotherhood and new recognition from Islamists across the Middle East. They expect backing from Egypt, which has already had issues in the Sinai but Prime Minister Morsi is counseling caution at this stage, while hosting talks for concerned leaders.

Hamas also needs to assert itself as Fatah on the West Bank is pursuing a diplomatic course to achieve recognition through the United Nations. It has been suggested that the recent conflagration is an attempt to keep control of Gaza and foil Fatah’s chances for Palestinian nationhood. In the meantime, Israel is calling up reservists and assembling troops on the border.

With civil war in Syria and unrest in Libya, a mood of uncertainty is palpable. As answers are sought for Israel’s latest devastating military offensive against Gaza, it is refreshing to hear Turkey’s Prime Minister speak out.

Prime Minster Erdogan has decried Israel’s attack on Gaza as a pre-election stunt, thereby further distancing Turkey from its former ally. Recognizing what many have suspected, Erdogan has called out Israel on its lethal policies.

As events unfold over the next few tense days, the world is watching Israel’s next moves and hope they will call off an invasion. The Israeli electorate may be fooled or frightened into voting for Netanyahu’s policies again, but surely this time they may see through the politics and opt for humanity instead.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is the Executive Chairman of The Scotland Institute and a Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/world/

Israeli Airstrikes Continue to pound Gaza

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2012 by lamalucy

Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip have continued for a seventh day, despite calls for a truce, with the overall death toll reaching 111, according to medical sources.

A media centre was targeted for a second time on Monday when Israeli fighter jets hit the Shuruq tower in Gaza City. The building houses Palestinian and international media outlets, including Britain’s Sky News, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya and the official Hamas broadcaster, Al Aqsa TV.

One person was killed in the building. The Islamic Jihad group identified the victim as Ramez Harb and said he was a senior commander in its armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades.

On Sunday, the health ministry said eight journalists were injured when the Shuruq tower and another media building, used by local al-Quds TV, were hit.

Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesperson, denied that Israel was targeting journalists.

Instead, he told Al Jazeera, the targets of the attacks on media centres were “Hamas communications equipment”.

“Hamas used communication facilities on buildings where journalists were,” he said, describing Al Aqsa TV as a “Hamas command and control facility”.

“Just as in other totalitarian regimes, the media is used by the regime for command and control and also for security purposes. From our point of view, that’s not a legitimate journalist.”

Israel had warned foreign journalists to leave the building.

In the latest Israeli airstrike early on Tuesday morning, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, which is located in a residential area.

In other violence on Monday, two boys, aged two and four, and their parents were killed in Jabaliya refugee camp late in the evening. More than a dozen people were injured, mostly women and children.

During the afternoon, one person was killed and another two wounded when a missile struck a car just north of Gaza City.

Elsewhere, a missile hit a motorcycle east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, killing two men and critically wounding a child who was with them, Gaza’s ambulance service said.

Earlier in the day, two women and a child were among four killed in a raid on Gaza City’s eastern Zeitun neighbourhood.

Ceasefire efforts

The Israeli military has struck more than 1,350 targets in Gaza since attacks began on Wednesday, Israel says it launched the operation to deter Palestinian fighters from launching rockets into its territory.

Since then, 640 rockets have hit Israel while more than 300 others have been intercepted by Israel’s anti-missile system, the Iron Dome, according to the Israeli army. Three Israeli civilians died on Thursday in a rocket strike.

The Israeli military said that 67 rockets had been fired at the country on Monday, and that three Israelis had been wounded.

Many residents of southern Israel have left the area and schools have been closed since the start of the crisis.

More than 30 people were killed in Gaza on Monday.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said most of the dead were civilians.

“The aerial bombardment goes on as does the assault from sea,” she said, adding that strikes could happen anywhere in the densely populated enclave.

“There isn’t anywhere safe in the Gaza Strip,” she said. “There aren’t underground bunkers, no sirens, no warning when an air strike is about to hit, or a round of shelling from the coast. So people are essentially trapped here.”

Egypt-brokered ceasefire talks in Cairo have so far failed to reach a deal.

Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, said on Monday his group was committed to efforts to secure a truce, but insisted that Israel must lift its six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“We are not against a calming, but we want our demands … to end the thuggery, to end the aggression and to lift the blockade,” he said, adding that Hamas would reject any Israeli preconditions for a ceasefire because “they started the aggression”.

http://www.aljazeera.com/

 

 

Palestinians urged by Britain to delay ‘non-member state’ bid at UN

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2012 by lamalucy

Britain is urging the Palestinian leadership to delay its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations general assembly, warning that the move is likely to be detrimental to US re-engagement with the peace process following next month’s presidential election.

Palestinian sources expressed anger at the British move, saying the UK had been recruited to US opposition to their bid. But they insisted they would press for a vote on their UN status by 15 November and were confident of winning a majority. At least 115 countries, and possibly as many as 150, out of a total of 193, are forecast to vote in favour of upgraded “non-member state” status.

British diplomats have told Palestinian officials that a vote in the weeks following the US election would significantly decrease the chances of the next US administration taking steps to get peace negotiations re-started. They are also warning of potentially serious financial consequences for the Palestinian Authority if it goes ahead.

They say they understand the Palestinians’ frustration after at least a year of stagnation in the peace process while Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have continued to expand, threatening the viability of a Palestinian state. “There is a lack of a political horizon, lack of hope for their people and continued economic uncertainty. It’s very bleak at the moment,” said a diplomatic source.

However, they added that a UN vote on upgrading the Palestinians’ status would seriously complicate US re-engagement in the peace process, which British and other European countries are urging in the coming months. “We want to see the US take a lead once the presidential elections are out of the way. The US role is key and we stand ready to help them,” the source said.

The US has clearly stated its opposition to the Palestinians’ UN move. Its envoy, Susan Rice, said on Monday it would “jeopardise the peace process”. The Palestinians counter that there is no viable peace process and they are pursuing an alternative peaceful and diplomatic international strategy.

Last month, a US memorandum warned European governments against supporting the Palestinian bid, saying such a move “would be extremely counterproductive” and threatening “significant negative consequences” for the Palestinian Authority, including financial sanctions.

After last year’s failed attempt to win full recognition for the state of Palestine, the US Congress froze $200m (£123m) in aid to the authority. The decision was later overturned, but diplomats say the money has yet to be dispersed while the US waits to see the outcome of this year’s UN move.

According to Palestinian sources, the US is also trying to raise the threshold for a successful vote at the general assembly from a simple majority to two-thirds. “They are playing every card they can. But even if they do get it changed to two-thirds, we are still going to win,” said a Palestinian official.

Israel is also vehemently opposed to the Palestinian move. An upgrade from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state” would give the Palestinians access to bodies such as the international criminal court, in which they could seek to pursue legal cases against Israel over settlements, the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

Britain views 2013 as a critical year for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, warning that continued settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is jeopardising the prospects of a Palestinian state being created alongside Israel.

“We’re trying to think creatively about how we move forward. But it’s difficult if, in the same breath, we’re having to think tactically about how to handle a UN bid. So our message to the Palestinians is that going to the UN straightaway could be counterproductive and that a bit more time will help us to help them,” said a diplomatic source.

Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has been invited to London before the end of the month to discuss the UN bid with UK government officials.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee, said: “We are trying to do our best to rescue the two-state solution, prevent violence and bring international law to bear.

“The Americans are perfectly capable of doing Israel’s work without recruiting the UK to help. The UK has a long history in this region and should be the first to recognise the damage it caused to the Palestinians in the past. They owe us at least the minimum of even-handedness.”

A spokesperson for the UK foreign office said: “We have been clear that we see negotiations toward a two-state solution as the best way to meet the national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians. Along with EU and international partners we are urging both sides to focus on dialogue, to avoid steps that could undermine the prospects for peace and to work towards the resumption of direct negotiations without preconditions.

“If a [general assembly] resolution were to be put to a vote, we would need to consider our position. The UK would want to use its vote in a way that makes a return to talks more, rather than less, likely.”

Remembering Rachel

Posted in Gaza on March 15, 2012 by lamalucy

March 16th marks the 9th anniversary of Rachel’s death. Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli military bulldozer while she was attempting to protect a Palestinian family in Gaza. We, Voices for Palestine, as well as the greater activist community, possess immeasurable gratitude for Rachel and her direct actions to bring justice to into this world.Below is a video which was recorded two days before her death.

To learn more about Rachel and her actions please visit The Rachel Corrie Foundation.

This year’s anniversary of Rachel’s death comes at a time of unrest in Gaza. Last Friday Israel began air strikes on Gaza killing 25 and wounding over 75 people. Retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza has injured 3 Israelis. There is a fragile ceasefire in place, for the moment. Read more about the current situation at Al Jazeera.

 

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