oh, israel, what are you up to now…

Tuesday 12 July 2011

While everyone in Washington continues to deal with this whole debt crisis thing, an interesting thing happened in Israel that could easily slip under the radar. At least for a while, as this is pretty atrocious, so hopefully news will spread and people will start to understand what’s up over there.

The article headline pretty much tells it all: Israel Bans Boycotts Against the State.

See, Palestinians have called for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and Israeli companies by Palestinians and their international supporters.  However, this legislation makes it illegal for any Israelis or Israeli organizations to join in that movement, which aims to end the occupation and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Any proponent of peace and justice living in Tel Aviv, Haifa, or anywhere Israel feels it can impose its might.

In the U.S., we value free speech as the foundation of a democratic country, but here we have Israel, the country many claim to be the only “true” democracy we can count on in the Middle East, clearly imposing  limits on speech, in particular speech that criticizes the state, perhaps the most sacred of speech needing protection.

How much longer can the U.S. unconditionally support a country that continues to oppress such a large group of people, now adding to the tally of the oppressed the ranks of those within its borders who also want to push for the equality and freedom Palestinians deserve?  I hope not too long, but the way things are these days, I really have no idea.


war crimes obviously a debbie downer

Monday 12 October 2009

In a speech on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would not allow any Israelis to be prosecuted for war crimes because of their actions this past winter in the attack on Gaza. (Full news story here: Netanyahu: No war crimes trials for Israelis)

OK, so obviously no one wants to be thought of a committing war crimes or crimes against humanity — it’s a debbie downer — but there are certainly acts that constitute such definition (Wikipedia‘s War Crimes definition here).  The fact that Netanyahu would make such a statement is just an example of how he, and Israel in general, feel they are above international law and the critiques of outsiders who wish to get in the way of what Israel is doing.

Israel wasn’t the only group condemned in the Goldstone Report — Hamas also was listed as committing such atrocities.  But for one to make such a blatantly provocative statement continues to show just how much Netanyahu believes he can do anything he wants and face no consequence.  The U.S. government and its people need to recognize this and do something about it.

The current BDS movement is something you should check out.  It may be the only way to effectively create change in the region.


the message moves forth slowly…

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Moving (again) to a large city/metropolitan area, I’m now dealing with larger news outlets than the small circulation regional newspapers like The Crescent News I left behind in NW Ohio.  But even so, after reading this op/ed piece by Ariel Cohen in Monday’s The Baltimore Sun, I felt compelled to respond, hoping that my response might actually be printed.  Opening the paper today, I was hopeful but not too optimistic — and then surprised to see my name under a letter to the editor titled “U.S. must recognize suffering of Palestinians.”  (Click the links to see the two different pieces.)

I was happy to see it there, and not really wanting to read it since I had written it, after all.  But then I did read it, and I was again a bit disappointed at a few of the edits the paper had made, likely in consideration for “length.”  Those getting the print edition might notice, like myself, there is room enough in the letters column for at least another sentence or two, which would have been easily enough for at least one of the other main points I made.

First, I was most disappointed to see that The Sun cut off my writing just before what I’d call the thesis of my letter — certainly the main, concise zinger: “Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.”

Secondly, The Sun failed to publish an important, and I think little known, fact about the Obama administration’s peace vs. military ambitions: “The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.”

And really, the things the paper didn’t publish are the most contentious and things the public doesn’t hear much about — so why should I be so surprised that was what The Sun decided not to publish?  (Maybe I should have reversed the order of content in my letter — maybe I’ll try that next time. c:)  And did you notice the lengths of the two pieces?  If number of words are any indication of the point of view a newspaper supports, there would be a clear signal displayed in these examples.

Overall, though, I am glad that something made it in to the paper, and maybe even some who read my letter in the paper might find this post and get to read my full letter.  I hope this is another small part in getting the world to understand what is going on in Palestine and the creation of pressure for Israel and the U.S. to make changes to their policy and actions.

Here, get the opportunity to read my unedited and complete letter below:

On Monday, The Sun decided to print the slanted, pro-Israel message of Ariel Cohen just as new Israeli PM Netanyahu and new U.S. President Obama were meeting in Washington to discuss each country’s role in the Middle East.  Sun readers would be slighted if this were the only point of commentary they were to receive in relation to this meeting, so let me supply some thoughts from a differing perspective.

Ms. Cohen mentioned three mistakes she felt the current administration is making, skewing the situation for her own agenda in the process.  First, she felt the administration is ignoring hostility by Arabs and radical Muslims.  While I agree such hostility exists, I think the administration’s efforts to seek peace squarely attack that issue, for actions by both Israel and the U.S. are significant reasons (if not the reason) for such hostility.  A large part of the hostility held by the Arab world has to deal with Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank – including settlement expansion and the construction of the Wall, which in reality annexes much land to Israel – along with the continued blockade on the Gaza Strip, where Israel controls all that can enter or leave and virtually nothing does.  As for the U.S., the continued war in Iraq and a seemingly unconditional support of Israel in the past make it a major target for hostility in the Arab world.

The second mistake mentioned was a perceived “arm-twisting”of Israel to gain favor with Iran.  This, however, again seems to only be the administration’s effort to curb the hostility mentioned earlier.  Why would Iran accept any of President Obama’s gestures as sincere of U.S. continued to unquestioningly back Israel, a country with longstanding hostilities with Iran?

The third mistake Ms. Cohen mentions in the administration’s path to peace is that it rewards terrorism.  There is a cruel irony that Ms. Cohen chooses to mention “terror attacks, which killed nearly 1,200 Israelis since 2000” – a number that is still less than the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment the month leading up to President Obama taking office.  Until citizens of Israel and the U.S. begin to recognize the institutional terror and oppression carried out on Palestinians by our two countries, the hostilities held by Arabs throughout the world are likely to continue.

Like Ms. Cohen, I, too, am critical of some of the administration’s tactics.  The White House’s request to send $2.775 billion to Israel in support of their oppressive military in the upcoming fiscal year hardly seems to be in line with an administration truly working for peace in the region.

I will concede to Ms. Cohen that there are certainly no “instant solutions.”  However, until Israel begins to allow for Palestinian self-rule and self determination by ending settlement expansion, withdrawing Israeli settlers and occupation forces currently in the West Bank, ending annexation of lands through the construction of the Wall, and removing border restrictions to Gaza, the United States needs to make clear, in word and deed, that the current oppression is not acceptable and will not be tolerated of a country wishing to remain a democratic ally in good standing with the administration – and the people – of the United States.


‘unconditional support’ for Israel questioned (damn straight!)

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Though it has similar thoughts to my previous post, you can read my letter to the editor for the Crescent-News (Defiance, OH) here or below.  I’m excited that more people will be hearing these truths (especially in such a part of Ohio as this!).

Many one-sided pieces regarding the current Gaza/Israel conflict have graced these editorial pages in the past weeks, and I wanted to interject some thoughts that don’t come out much in the US press which give reason to question the seemingly unconditional support given to Israel by so many.

First, I want to say that I in no way condone violence, no matter who is perpetrating it; I support neither the rockets being launched by Hamas nor Israel’s military violence made in the name of retaliation.

In the US, Israel is portrayed in politics and the press as a peace-seeking democracy, and many cite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as a good-faith act toward peace in the region. However, this was done without consultation of Palestinians, and many agree this simply has allowed Israel to focus its efforts on the occupation of the West Bank, where Palestinians continue to suffer daily (something I experienced firsthand this past Spring).

In fact, while Israel has not had anyone stationed in Gaza since the 2005 withdrawal, they have continued to control its borders, sea coast, and air space. In recent years they have created a blockade around Gaza that completely restricts or extremely limits the movement of much needed food, medical supplies, fuel, and electricity. A recent statement from the Vatican went as far as to compare Gaza to a “concentration camp.” Israel continues to ignore international law in the Fourth Geneva Convention, which requires an occupying power to provide for the welfare of the civilians it occupies (which should be applied to Gaza and certainly to the West Bank).

Most Palestinians did not choose to live in Gaza but are refugees, driven from their homes by the Israeli army at the creation of Israel in 1948. These Palestinians have never been compensated for their previous lands and homes, similar to the way Native Americans were treated in respect to the lands of this country.

Also, while Hamas is considered a terrorist entity by the US and others, it is also a political party that won Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The legality of this election is not in question. This was in large part a response to the corruption in the Palestinian government previously, not a sign that the people as a whole seek the elimination of Israel, even though this is stated in the Hamas party charters. Israel, the US, and many others continue to ignore Hamas’ right to rule based on these legitimate democratic elections.

Finally, much has been made about Israel’s “right to defend itself,” including recent resolutions passed in Congress stating just that. However, no one cares to describe the oppressive circumstances Israel has continued to place upon Gaza (and the West Bank). So while I do not agree with Hamas’ violent resistance tactics nor Israel’s retaliation, I ask: Should not Hamas have the same “right to defend itself” from an oppressive situation imposed by Israel, a right that so many give to Israel itself?

Also, check out this great piece by Rashid Khalidi last week in the NY Times with some similar sentiments.


breaking the silence

Thursday 8 January 2009

You only need to look at the size of the words “peace” and “Palestine” in the tags section on the right side of my weblog to realize that these two topics are very important to me.  However, you’ll also recognize that since Israeli bombing attacks on Gaza began on the morning of 27 December, and even when the ground attacks of Gaza began on 3 January, I haven’t written about the issue.  It’s not that I don’t care, as I surely do, but when there are no easy answers or quick sound bites to capture my feelings of support or disgust, it’s hard to really know what to write or share, what stories to underline and which to gloss over.

When there is nothing but gray, no good side to get behind, what do you do?  I am always on the side of peace, nonaggression, and nonviolence, and from the looks of it, neither Hamas (currently in charge of the Gazan Palestinians) nor the Israeli government are a good fit for someone like myself to get behind and support.  Even the UN is lacking in this conflict.  So what do you do?  Do you say nothing?  That’s what I’ve resigned to do so far, and it’s allowed me time to think things over a bit and decide what I want and need to say.

When you get down to it, it’s a bit of a “which came first” scenario, in my mind, and a recognition that violence comes in many forms.  However, the “which came first” scenario is a way in which people seek to place blame, and really, there is plenty of blame to go around.  I’ve heard, in various ways, “Can you blame the Israelis for fighting back when a group is launching rockets into its communities?”  I guess I can understand their reasoning, but can’t I still “blame” them?  In either case, it’s not something I believe in.

And, unfortunately, I think that the questions Israel (and it’s supporters) are asking overshadow some of the other questions that need to be thought about, too:
“If your country/area were blockaded, walled and fenced in like a jail, unable to receive necessary supplies of food and medicine, wouldn’t you seek some kind of way to gain attention to change that?” (A question from the Hamas point of view)
“If you saw another country being oppressed in the ways of the previous question, would you look the other way and do nothing, and (in some cases) maybe even continue to support the oppressor(s)?  Or would you take substantial steps to deal with the oppressor, maybe by either setting up sanctions or withdrawing the support that allows for such oppression in the first place?”  (Questions the U.S. and other countries, and their citizens, need to be asking)

It’s hard to be in a position where you can’t really support a tangible entity in a situation, which is kind of what I feel in this current Gaza/Israel conflict.  There are certainly those now calling for a cease fire, which is great in the short term, but we need much more than that.  How does one really support peace and reconciliation when no one involved (at least the large entities that seem to hold the power to truly make a difference) appears to truly want it themselves?  I guess that’s the question I, and many like myself, continue to ask ourselves.