Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders get off Israel bandwagon, for once

Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, September 26, 2014

The Senate is warning Palestinians against undertaking any “negative” unilateral actions re Israel at the United Nations, and look who isn’t signing on to the letter that AIPAC has endorsed: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Folks have been pressing Warren and her staffers not to sign this letter – and she didn’t. Neither did Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Maybe the national publicity and pressure on these progressives over their Israel-Palestine positions moved them? Maybe they’re tacking ahead of 2016? Here are the 12 non-signers, from both parties:

Bernard Sanders (I), Bob Corker (R), Elizabeth Warren (D), Harry Reid*, Jeff Sessions (R), John D. Rockefeller IV*, Lisa Murkowski (R), Patrick J. Leahy* (D), Rand Paul (R), Tammy Baldwin (D), Tom Coburn (R), Tom Harkin* (D).

(*Majority leader/ senior committee chairs who don’t usually subscribe to these things)

Is this the beginning of a Senate “refuser caucus”? We can only hope. A friend who emailed the office of one liberal northeastern senator who did sign the letter got back this note:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Senator. I would like to share with you the J Street perspective on the letter if that helps.

J Street supported the letter, right alongside AIPAC. Another sign of JStreet as “AIPAC Lite” giving liberal cover for the Israel lobby agenda.

The text of the letter is up at New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte‘s site. It urges the State Department to keep Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities and governing Gaza, and to prevent the Palestinian Authority from going to the International Criminal Court.

Letter Presses Administration to Prevent Hamas from Rebuilding Military Capabilities and Calls for Gaza Demilitarization
Sep 23, 2014
Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group, announced that they’ve led a letter signed by 88 senators to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the Administration to take steps to ensure that no assistance is diverted to Hamas, support the Palestinian Authority’s effort to govern in Gaza, and discourage Palestinian unilateral measures at the United Nations and International Criminal Court that bypass direct negotiations and undermine the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The Senators wrote, “As we look ahead to the next few months, we urge you to focus on three key objectives: (1) preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities; (2) enabling the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza; and (3) preventing negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
September 23, 2014
The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry,
We were pleased to see that Hamas finally accepted an Egyptian cease-fire plan last month. Sadly, Hamas continued its attacks on Israel for weeks after Egypt’s initial proposal, leading to unnecessary and increased suffering in Gaza and Israel.
As we look ahead to the next few months, we urge you to focus on three key objectives: (1) preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities; (2) enabling the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza; and (3) preventing negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
First, we fully support the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. We must also condition reconstruction assistance on the establishment of a system to prevent Hamas from rearming and rebuilding its military capability. In the past, Hamas has diverted construction materials intended for civilian use to the construction of the tunnel networks that were used during this last conflict to smuggle weapons and attack Israelis. We must support Israeli and Egyptian efforts to implement strict, comprehensive controls so that no assistance is diverted to Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. The international community has twice spent billions to rebuild Gaza, only to see Hamas transform economic assistance into the means of war. For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike, we cannot let this happen again. Ultimately, we must seek Gaza’s demilitarization.
Second, we must support efforts to enable the Palestinian Authority to exercise real power in Gaza. Hamas has demonstrated conclusively both that it has no interest in peace with Israel and that it has no concern for the well-being of Gaza residents. Meanwhile, the West Bank has experienced periods of significant relative economic growth and stability, in part due to cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces there. All Palestinians deserve a government that will seek to advance their safety and prosperity-not use them as human shields. Real peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require a Palestinian partner that controls the West Bank and Gaza, is focused on economic development and stability in both areas, and will accept Gaza’s demilitarization. We must start this process now.
Third, while we work with the Palestinian Authority to extend its effective jurisdiction to Gaza, we must work equally hard to ensure that Palestinian officials do not take further harmful steps at the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, or the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority must avoid steps that would undermine the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. We must let Palestinian Authority President Abbas know that America’s willingness to cooperate with him will continue to depend on his willingness to return to the negotiating table with the Government of Israel and avoid unilateral measures that bypass direct negotiations.
We look forward to working with you on these critical matters, as our nation strives both to prevent another Hamas-instigated war and to create the conditions that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to move closer to peace.

Sincerely,

Kelly A. Ayotte
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
James M. Inhofe
Richard Blumenthal
Susan M. Collins
Edward J. Markey
Mike Crapo
Joe Manchin III
Pat Roberts
Jeanne Shaheen
Jeff Flake
Tim Kaine
David Vitter
Michael F. Bennet
John Boozman
Kirsten Gillibrand
John Thune
Tim Johnson
Jerry Moran
Debbie Stabenow
Roy Blunt
Patty Murray
John McCain
Kay R. Hagan
James E. Risch
Mark Begich
Marco Rubio
Ron Wyden
Patrick J. Toomey
Barbara Boxer
Dean Heller
Benjamin L. Cardin
John Barrasso
Mark Udall
Richard Burr
Mazie K. Hirono
Lindsey O. Graham
Brian Schatz
Mitch McConnell
Amy Klobuchar
Thad Cochran
Heidi Heitkamp
Deb Fischer
Jon Tester
John Cornyn
Sherrod Brown
Rob Portman
Mark L. Pryor
Michael B. Enzi
Barbara A. Mikulski
Mark Kirk
Maria Cantwell
Lamar Alexander
Martin Heinrich
Orrin G. Hatch
Mary L. Landrieu
Tim Scott
Tom Udall
Roger F. Wicker
Tom Carper
John Hoeven
Charles E. Schumer
Mike Lee
Joe Donnelly
Chuck Grassley
Al Franken
Ted Cruz
Christopher A. Coons
Johnny Isakson
Sheldon Whitehouse
Mike Johanns
Cory Booker
Ron Johnson
Carl Levin
Saxby Chambliss
Bill Nelson
Dan Coats
Mark R. Warner
Richard Shelby
Angus S. King, Jr.
Claire McCaskill
John Walsh
Richard J. Durbin
Chris Murphy
Robert Menendez
Jack Reed
Dianne Feinstein
Jeff Merkley

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Michele Bahl: How can we be indifferent to suffering of children in Gaza?

Michele Bahl, Cap Times, Sep 20, 2014

Dear Editor: For three days, at the Barrymore Theater Sept. 12, Fighting Bob Fest Sept. 13 and at the Willy Street Fair Sept. 14, I stood with a large cardboard panel of horrific and gruesome pictures of children who were wounded and killed in Gaza in July by Israel’s brutal assault in which 2,200 people, the majority of them civilians, were killed by bombs. We in the Madison Rafah Sister City Project call it “The Wall of Shame: Pictures from the Gaza Assault.” Politicians, even progressive ones, will not talk about these pictures.

During the 50 days of Israel’s bombardment on the people of Gaza, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an additional $225 million to Israel fund their “Iron Dome” missile system. Their vote supported Israel’s massacre on the people of Gaza.

During his speech at Fighting Bob Fest on Saturday, Chris Hedges, an author and former foreign correspondent of The New York Times, said this about Gaza: “I have stood over bodies, including the bodies of children, left behind by Israeli airstrikes and assaults. I have watched mothers and fathers cradle their dead and bloodied boys and girls in their arms, convulsed by an indescribable grief, shrieking in pitiful cries to an indifferent universe.”

How can we be indifferent? How can we walk by pictures of wounded and dead children and not even look? During the three days I was out, there were a lot of people who did look though, especially children. It was children who got close, read the headlines and were visibly impacted. But so many adults just kept on walking by. But if we keep walking by, nothing will change. Israel will continue to get billions of dollars in U.S aid every year, and more innocent Gazans will be killed.

Michele Bahl

Madison

Sep 25 – Nov 13, 2014
The Joe Deane Memorial Series on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Madison Central Library, Rm. 104
201 W. Mifflin

Thurs. Sept. 25th 6:30 pm
The Zionist Colonization, The British Colonial Regime, and the 1948 War and Founding of Israel

Thurs. Oct. 30th 6:30 pm
A Dispossessed People, the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Wars of 1956, 1967, and 1982, and Evolution of the Palestinian National Movement

Thurs. Nov. 13th 6:30 pm
Israeli Colonialism and Apartheid in the Occupied Territories, the U.S.-Israeli ‘Peace Process’, and the Current Impasse

Part of the Origins and Development of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: the Joe Deane Memorial Series, facilitated by David Williams and Steve Wolvin. Co-sponsored by the Peregrine Forum, the Madison Infoshop Free Skool, and Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative. Info? #284-9082

September 28, 2014
DAVID ROVICS IN CONCERT

With Clare Norelle
Sunday, September 28, 4 – 6 pm
The Brink Lounge, 701 E Washington Ave, Suite 105

$10 at the door – proceeds benefit Gaza emergency relief and scholarships for children of Arcatao, El Salvador

DAVID ROVICS grew up in a family of classical musicians and became an early fan of populist regimes. After busking full-time in the Boston subways, by the mid-90's he was traveling the world as a professional flat-picking rabble-rouser. Now living in Portland, Oregon he tours regularly on four continents, playing at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. He has appeared with a veritable who's whoof the left in two dozen countries, with his music featured on Democracy Now!, BBC, Al-Jazeera andother networks. The 200+ songs he makes available for free on the web have been downloaded more than a million times. Most importantly, he's really good. He’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you cry; he will make the revolution irresistible.

CLARE NORELLE is a local performer who sings in several languages and tells stories from around the earth, connecting with people in many places and promoting a message of acceptance and appreciation of cultural diversity.

Falasteen Habibti (Palestine My Love) – Love Songs for Palestine
A new 21-song CD of nearly all David’s songs about Palestine, a portion of sales at the concert benefits the Independent Middle East Media Center. One to be given as a door prize!

Co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (Palestine), Madison-Arcatao Sister City Project (El Salvador), Wisconsin Network for Peace & Justice, Playgrounds for Palestine – Madison, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom – Madison, and Colombia Support Network

Palestinians in Gaza are still waiting for the siege to end

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 10 September 2014

Destruction everywhere

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

A new United Nations assessment published this week lays out the massive scope of the needs facing the nearly 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza following the “unprecedented” destruction wreaked by 51 days of Israeli bombing in July and August.

Israel’s assault – which it dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” – left at least 2,133 Palestinians dead and more than eleven thousand injured. More than 100,000 are permanently homeless as some 13 percent of Gaza’s housing stock – 44,300 housing units – was affected by the attack, with five percent rendered completely uninhabitable.

The UN report “Gaza Initial Rapid Assessment,” published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), was conducted through August with the assistance of dozens of Palestinian and international aid agencies, organizations and experts.

It indicates that almost everyone in every part of Gaza faces some urgent need for basic protection, healthcare and rehabilitation, housing, water, food security or education.

The report came out the same day that the UN and the Palestinian Authority launched a $551 million emergency appeal to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.

The assessment also identifies the need for “legal support to address some of these protection needs, including pursuing accountability for alleged violations of international law resulting in deaths and injuries, as well as destruction of property as a result of the military operation.”

The siege is still the issue

These findings underscore the urgency of the call made by Palestinians in Gaza and human rights and humanitarian groups insistently: reconstruction, recovery and a normal, dignified life are impossible unless the siege is lifted.

There is a strong consensus in the international humanitarian aid industry that the siege must go.

“Only a full opening of all crossings to people and goods, including exports will enable Palestinian civilians in Gaza to restore their economy and escape the poverty the blockade has entrenched,” Oxfam has said. “The international community must press Israel for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased.”

And the International Committee of the Red Cross has long viewed the siege of Gaza as illegal collective punishment.

But since the 26 August ceasefire, uncertainty and mystery continue to shroud the understandings regarding the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza reached by Israel and Palestinian resistance organizations.

Although the ceasefire understandings were not made public, media reported that they “include opening all crossings to Gaza, allowing reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, allowing the entry of materials needed for reconstruction and permitting fishing for a distance of six to twelve nautical miles from shore.”

The parties to the deal also agreed to return to Cairo within a month to resume negotiations on a long-term truce. Those discussions have yet to begin, but a Hamas official said they would start in mid-September.

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