These Members of Congress Are Trying to Visit Gaza — Israel Should Let Them Do So

Representatives Mark Pocan, Dan Kildee, and Hank Johnson Jr. were denied the opportunity to witness conditions on the ground firsthand

John Nichols, The Nation, 5/14/18

Gaza masacre nakba may2018A Palestinian demonstrator shouts during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border on May 14, 2018. (Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

The Trump administration’s response to the killings of dozens of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli soldiers was to fault the organizers of mass demonstrations by people who are living in nightmarish conditions on the Gaza Strip. While a White House spokesman claimed that “the responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” the man Donald Trump has charged with renewing the Middle East peace process, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, literally faulted protesters amid reports of the mass killing and wounding of Palestinian men, women, and children who were objecting to Israeli policies. “As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Kushner claimed at a ceremony marking the opening of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem.

But responsible members of Congress—many of them with long experience observing the Middle East—saw the circumstances more clearly, and responded in more realistic terms.

    “This is horrific.”
    — Barbara Lee on the killings of Palestinians this Monday

Noting the juxtaposition of the embassy opening and the killings, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) tweeted: “This is horrific. My prayers are with those killed & injured in Gaza. The U.S. should be laying the groundwork for peace—not fueling conflict in the region with an unnecessary & counterproductive embassy move.”

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) decried the “occupation and oppression of Palestinians” and wrote that Trump-administration policies “are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”

#RightofReturn

War on Want, May 14, 2018

Palestinians in Gaza are gathering to demand their collective rights, including their Right of Return. As we commemorate 70 years since the Nakba, when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes, it is crucial that we learn about, talk about, and campaign for the right of return for refugees, as a key element of the struggle for justice and human rights for Palestinians and for all.

Gaza: Do Palestinian Lives Matter?

A Palestinian child holds a sign on Land Day.

Samir El-Omari and Barbara Olson, Madison365, May 11, 2018

For the past six weeks, Gaza has been in the news as residents have been protesting near the barbed wire fence and free-fire “no-go” zone that traps them under Israel’s siege and blockade of the impoverished territory.

The protests began on March 30, commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day” annually since 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel (including three women) protesting government confiscation of their lands for Jewish-only settlements in the Arab-majority Galilee area were shot dead by the Israeli army and police, who were not punished.

In Gaza and elsewhere this “Great March of Return” demonstration by all factions and sectors of Palestinian society asserts their international legal right to return to the villages and towns Israel expelled them from in 1948 – lands that for Gazans lie just a few miles away on the other side of the barbed wire, and to which they have been forbidden to return solely because they are not Jewish. The demonstrations are set to culminate on May 15, Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when Palestinians protest their ongoing dispossession by Israel and the western powers.

In the early hours of March 30, before any demonstrations had started, Israeli soldiers fired a tank shell at two farmers “acting suspiciously” in their fields, blowing one to pieces and injuring the other. Later that day, snipers Israel had placed behind earthworks along the fence with openly-declared shoot-to-kill orders began firing on the unarmed protesters. At least 18 were killed and more than 1400 injured that first day. As of this writing, the death toll stands at over 50, including five children and two journalists. Over 6,000 have been injured, with hundreds suffering devastating injuries caused by exploding bullets that rip through flesh and bone according to Doctors without Borders. No Israelis have been injured.

Amnesty International has demanded Israel “stop the use of lethal and other excessive force,” calling for a world-wide arms embargo on Israel. Human Rights Watch called the killings “unlawful” and “calculated,” saying Israeli officials green-lighted the killing of unarmed demonstrators and deploring “the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army.” (Israel responded by ordering the expulsion of HRW’s Jerusalem office director Omar Shakir.)

U.S. taxpayers annually give Israel $3.8 billion in military aid. The made-in-the-USA tear gas they use is the same used in “riot control” in poor American cities like Ferguson, MO. Amnesty International believes many exploding bullet injuries “bear the hallmarks of US-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body.”

The “Leahy Law” is supposed to prohibit these weapons from being used to commit human rights abuses. In reality most of the American political class from the President on down ignores the law and chooses impunity over accountability for Israel every time.

A few, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, have spoken out. Rep. Mark Pocan has called on Israel to “exercise utmost restraint in the use of deadly force and to fully comply with international law.” It is especially urgent that Senator Tammy Baldwin and others in Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation follow Pocan’s lead as we get closer to May 15, the day after Trump officially moves the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a deliberate provocation to all Palestinians that risks greater and wider bloodshed.

Veteran Israeli peace activist Amoz Gvirtz wrote that this “popular unarmed civil struggle” by Palestinians “demanding an end to the siege and justice for themselves, without endangering our lives or our security” must be supported.

Tell your representatives that Palestinian lives do matter. Ask them to speak out, to investigate Israel’s actions in Gaza, and to enforce the Leahy Law against impunity for human rights violators. Then take action yourself in support of the growing nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to hold Israel accountable for these abuses.

Samir El-Omari and Barbara Olson are members of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Israeli lawmaker stands by call to shoot Ahed Tamimi

Tamara Nassar, The Electronic Intifada, 25 April 2018

Ahed Tamimi’s lawyer called for an investigation into sexual harassment during the teenager’s interrogation. (Oren Ziv, ActiveStills)

Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich published a tweet on 21 April calling for a Palestinian child prisoner to be shot.

Smotrich wrote that he was “very sad” that Ahed Tamimi is in jail because she “should have gotten a bullet, at least in the kneecap.”

“That would have put her under house arrest for the rest of her life,” the lawmaker added, according to the newspaper Haaretz.

Smotrich is a member of the extreme right-wing nationalist party Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).

He has advocated a plan for the expulsion of Palestinians that a noted Israeli Holocaust expert has described as potentially genocidal.

That expert also said that Smotrich’s values resemble those of the Nazi SS.

Smotrich was responding to Israeli journalist Yinon Magal, who wrote, according to Haaretz, “I’m watching this clip again and I am so glad that Tamimi is still in jail. Sometimes, it’s good that the mill of justice grinds slowly.”

Magal tweeted a video that appears to show Ahed Tamimi confronting armed Israeli occupation soldiers on a different occasion from the one for which she was arrested last December.

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Dr. Hatem Bazian Under Attack

URGENT: HELP GET DR. HATEM BAZIAN’S PETITION TO 5K SIGNATURES!

We need your urgent help defending Palestinian American professor and AMP Chairman Dr. Hatem Bazian against a vicious campaign by pro-Israel groups who are once again calling on university administrators to fire him from his position at the University of California, Berkeley.

Please read the petition below and click the “Take Action” button to sign and show your support for academic freedom and free speech when it comes to voicing support for Palestinian human rights.

Note that this petition is open to ALL supporters of justice and human rights. You do NOT have to be a student to sign it!

THEN . . . please forward the petition and share on social media to assert that Palestinians will NOT be silenced and suppressed!

We are counting on your support. Thank you!

We, the students of the University of California, Berkeley, stand in solidarity with Dr. Hatem Bazian and the UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender.

We stand in defense of Dr. Hatem Bazian for his long and consistent track record of championing justice, freedom and respect for all peoples, particularly the Palestinian people. This is not the first time Dr. Bazian has been subjected to bullying, demonization, and death threats for his work shedding light on racial justice, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian racism by Pro-Israel Zealots, nor will it be the last time.

We, students of UC Berkeley, reject the mischaracterization, bullying and blatant racism of Tikvah: the Zionist Voice at UC Berkeley and off campus Zionist organizations in their continued attempts to suppress open discussion and honest academic analysis of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as their demonization of academics and human rights activists calling for freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. Tikvah resorts and relies on post 9/11 xenophobic, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic rhetoric to demonize those who disagree with far-right Israeli policies and the maintenance of endless occupation.

As students at UC Berkeley, we have faced repeated attempts to suppress academic freedom and our freedom of speech. Time and time again, the argument of anti-Semitism has been misused as an attempt to silence Palestinian voices and legitimate criticism of Israeli state policies. UC Berkeley has become an incredibly hostile environment for Palestinians, students, faculty and staff, where they face verbal and racial abuse for their mere existence as Palestinians on this campus. Palestinian students have been labeled as terrorists and placed on racist blacklists like Canary Mission for speaking about their lived experiences. Throughout all of this, the UC Berkeley administration has stayed silent and compliclit while members of their community have been targeted by off-campus organizations and institutions and the university failed to even acknowledge the harm and violence mediated against Palestinian students and Dr. Hatem Bazian.

We, the students of UC Berkeley, demand the administration:

1. Investigate “Tikvah: the Zionist Voice” for disrupting the presentation by the Member of Israeli Knesset Haneen Zoabi.

2. Make public the action[s] taken against Tikvah.

3. Ensure that no group who violates the inherent right to free speech and academic freedom would be tolerated at the campus.

4. Support the creation of a Palestine Studies Program that is developed in partnership with communities and led by Palestinian academics.

5. Jewish and Palestinian voices that are critical of Israel should be welcomed, celebrated on campus and represent the social justice norm

We, the students of UC Berkeley, invite our fellow students, academia and all people of conscience to stand in solidarity with truth and truth-tellers and against hate, bigotry, and bullying.

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