A Bogus ‘Compromise’ Senate Bill Would Prolong Atrocities in Yemen

The Nation

The Young/Shaheen measure would allow continued US participation in Saudi war crimes. Support the Sanders/Lee/Murphy bill instead.

Mark Weisbrot, The Nation, March 13, 2018

Yemen airstrikePeople carry water tanks at the site of a Saudi-led air strike, north of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, March 8, 2018. (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

Sometimes the most important stories about what our government is doing don’t get a lot of media attention. That’s the case now, when the Senate is about to hold a historic vote that could decide whether millions of people live or die in the near future. The US military is directly participating in a war that has pushed those millions to the brink of starvation and caused the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.

The war is in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia is leading the bombing and blockade that is denying people medicine and food as well as the fuel and infrastructure they need to pump clean water. The deprivation and destruction led to the cholera epidemic, which has sickened a million people and killed thousands. American military planes are not only providing midair refueling to the Saudi bombers but helping them with intelligence and targeting.

This constitutes military involvement under the 1973 War Powers Resolution, as well as Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, neither of which allows the executive branch to engage in such hostilities without the authorization of Congress. Any doubts about the constitutionality of US participation in the Saudi attempt to “starve Yemen into submission,” as a November New York Times editorial-board headline described it, were put to rest by a vote in the House of Representatives in November. The House voted 366 to 30 for a resolution that declared US military involvement to be unauthorized.

It is therefore illegal under US law. On February 28, Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill to put an end to this illegal war. Under the War Powers Resolution, the Senate majority leaders cannot block a debate and vote on this legislation. And a number of experts believe it could pass; for one thing, the last vote in the Senate on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in June, passed by a margin of only 53-47.

But the Saudis have a powerful lobby: They spent $16 million last year on lobbying and public relations that was recorded under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This does not include other spending, such as contributions to think tanks (and that of their allies such as the United Arab Emirates). And along with the Saudis are the big military contractors that profit from these weapons sales.

On the other side, members of Congress, as well as antiwar and other public-interest groups have mounted an offensive of their own to publicize the horrors, illegality, and targeting of civilians in this war. (People can call their senators at 1-833-786-7927, with helpful talking points supplied here; and thousands have done so.)

On March 8, Republican Senator Todd Young and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a new bill that poses a grave threat to this historic effort to stop the war. The bill would require the secretary of state to submit certification to determine “whether the Government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking: (1) an urgent and good faith effort to conduct diplomatic negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen; and (2) appropriate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

Of course, the secretary of state could simply make this certification. We have seen this trick many times. In the 1980s in El Salvador, where the US-funded government sponsored death squads that were murdering civilians by the thousands, Congress passed a law saying that the president had to certify every six months that the Salvadoran government was improving its human-rights record. President Reagan did this, and the murders and other horrific atrocities, aided by US tax dollars, continued.

We can expect the same result going forward if the Young-Shaheen bill is passed. Most recently, the Trump administration has followed that same pattern in Central America: Just two days after the Honduran government was widely seen as stealing the presidential election, and despite worsening human-rights abuses, the administration certified that the government was combating corruption and supporting human rights.

Antiwar and humanitarian groups are trying to get Senators Young and Shaheen to withdraw their “compromise” bill. This is very important, because even if the Sanders-Lee bill is voted on separately—or even first—the presence of the “compromise” bill will tempt those who want the US military to continue its participation in the Saudi war to use that bill for political cover. Senator Young had been previously lauded by aid groups for his efforts to persuade the Saudis to ease their blockade on food and medicine. But these groups, as well as many other observers, will see this latest move as having the opposite effect, by helping to prolong the war. Continue reading

WA Court Dismisses Seven-Year Lawsuit Over Boycott of Israeli Goods

Center for Constitutional Rights, March 9, 2018

Olympia, WA – Today, a Washington State court ended a seven-year litigation battle against former volunteer board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 by five co-op members seeking to block the co-op’s boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members. Two of the five members pulled out of the case, and none of the defendants originally named in the case remains a board member of the co-op. The court granted the motion for summary judgment from the former board members, who were represented by Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel, finding the plaintiffs had no standing to bring a case because they failed to show the co-op was injured.

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed this meritless lawsuit. It is a relief and a vindication for our clients, and a victory for everyone who supports the right to boycott,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood, who argued today.

Earlier this week, CCR filed with the court a recently produced document (Exhibit B) in which plaintiffs celebrated the lawsuit’s success in discouraging other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.

“We’re delighted that the judge has decided to dismiss this retaliatory lawsuit and protect our clients’ First Amendment freedoms,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

In 2017, the co-op board of directors passed a resolution affirming that the litigation—which was purportedly brought on behalf of the co-op—was not approved by the co-op, is not in the co-op’s interest, and should be dismissed.

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that CCR and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. CCR and Palestine Legal report the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Between 2014 and 2016, Palestine Legal responded to 650 such incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

“We are thrilled to be found in favor of for a second time on this frivolous lawsuit. We are proud of our attorney team, and proud of our community for supporting us, and we are grateful for the outpouring of solidarity we’ve received from around the world,” said defendant Grace Cox. “Taking a stand for economic and social justice is at the heart of the co-op’s mission. Given Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights, we would have failed in this mission had we not approved a boycott.”

The case was initially dismissed, in 2011, under a Washington State statute that protected against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). The Washington Supreme Court later struck down the SLAPP law in 2015, sending the case back to the lower courts. After engaging in discovery, plaintiffs essentially abandoned the litigation until reviving it recently.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is counsel in Davis, et al., v. Cox, et al. with CCR cooperating counsel Barbara Harvey from Detroit, Michigan, along with Seattle attorneys Bruce E.H. Johnson and Brooke E. Howlett of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

For more information, visit CCR’s case page. For more information about Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, visit http://www.dwt.com.

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Open military courtroom for Ahed’s Trial


After a video of Ahed confronting Israeli soldiers outside her house went viral, she was arrested in the middle of the night. Overnight, she became a hero for young women throughout the world. Israel wants her case to be forgotten so they have closed her trial to the public. No media, no diplomats, no human rights observers.

Help us call on the US State Department to demand that Ahed’s trial be opened, and that they send a US official to monitor the trial.

Dear US State Department,

It is horrible that Israel has closed the courtroom for the military trial of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi. They are trying to hide from the international community while they try a child in a military court with an over 99% conviction rate.

Seventeen-year-old Ahed Tamimi is facing up to 10 years in prison. Each year, Israel arrests and prosecutes around 700 Palestinian children in military court. Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children must stop.

We ask you to demand that Israel open the courtroom and that you send a representative of the US government to be present throughout Ahed Tamimi’s trial.

Please sign the petition

More information on Ahed Tamimi

New billboard campaign raises awareness about child prisoners held by Israel

Palestine Advocacy Project, Mondoweiss, March 8, 2018

Billboard in Bridgeport, CT draws comparisons between apartheid in Israel and the former apartheid regime in South Africa. (Photo: Palestine Advocacy Project)

Palestine Advocacy Project’s latest billboard ad campaign intends to raise awareness about Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian activist who now faces up to 10 years in Israel’s military prison over an altercation with Israeli soldiers. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for Ahed’s immediate release.

On December 19 at 3AM, the Israeli military raided and ransacked Ahed’s home, arresting her along with her mother and cousin, and charged Ahed with 12 criminal counts, including assault and incitement.

During a protest, Ahed’s 14-year-old cousin was shot in the head at close range by an Israeli soldier. Israeli soldiers then invaded the Tamimi family’s home and threatened the entire family.

Ahed demanded the soldiers leave . After they refused, the unarmed Ahed slapped one of the heavily armed soldiers. It is clear from a video that later went viral, Ahed posed no actual threat to these soldiers.

The first billboard compares the apartheid regime in Israel with the former apartheid regime in South Africa. ​The text strikes through the name of Nelson Mandela and instead proposes Ahed Tamimi just below. Both Nelson Mandela (imprisoned for 27 years by South Africa’s apartheid government) and Ahed symbolize courageous resistance to a repressive government and apartheid systems. Ahed, who spent her 17th birthday in military prison, was arrested without charge and can be held up to 6 month with no due process rights, like so many other Palestinians. When she does go to trial, she will be in a court that has a 99.74% percent conviction rate for Palestinians. Israel’s settlers operate with virtual impunity in the Occupied West Bank.

Mona Abdo an activist with the Palestine Advocacy Project said, “Like Nelson Mandela for South Africa during apartheid, Ahed Tamimi has become a symbol of Palestine’s 50 years of resistance to Israeli’s brutal occupation and apartheid system. The world called for the release of Nelson Mandela then, and now we must call for the release of Ahed Tamimi and the 350 other child prisoners held in Israel’s military prisons.”

The second billboard picks up the focus on freeing the child prisoners in Israeli military prisons. ​According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, “Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights”. Additionally, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that ill treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process.”

Billboard in Stratford, CT focuses on child prisoners in Israeli military prisons. (Photo: Palestine Advocacy Project)

University of Manchester removes Sabra Hummus

BDS campaigners petitioned to remove the brand, slamming the university's "complicity in human rights violations"

The New Arab, 8 February, 2018

UoM’s BDS campaign described the stocking of Sabra Hummus in shops on campus as making the “university complicit in human rights violations through the funding of the ‘elite’ branch of the Israeli army”.

The ‘elite’ branch references the Golani Brigade, “who are known to commit a myriad of war crimes in Palestine”, added the statement.

Campaigners hoping to highlight the violations committed by the Israeli military force released a petition challenging the stocking of Sabra products and sent a statement to the manager of catering at the university.

Sabra, a US-based company, is owned jointly by PepsiCo and Strauss Group.

Strauss, an Israeli multinational corporation, invests and financially supports the Golani Brigade, part of Israel’s military force, according to their website.

Following the recall campaign, the statement in English was removed from the website, however it remains in Hebrew.

Strauss aids the Golani Brigade “with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path”.

The website added that they provide the unit with funding for “welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages and books and games for the soldiers’ club”.

According to the statement compiled by the campaign, the Brigade “played key roles in the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-9 during ‘Operation Cast Lead'”. The 22-day military offensive killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and devastated the coastal enclave.

Campaigners argued that a purchase is an endorsement of the company’s politics, and stressed the University of Manchester should not financially support human rights violators like the Golani Brigade.

“This is a great victory for the whole movement of BDS, however the university still holds institutional and investment links to Israel’s war crimes including shares in companies which profit from and sustain Israel’s apartheid regime.”

In response to the petition signed by students and the statement submitted, the assistant catering manager responded by saying that Sabra Hummus will be removed indefinitely from the shop, and will instead be replaced by Greek-owned company Delphi.

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Ahed Tamimi is turning 17 – demand her freedom on her birthday!

Jan 30, 2018 — Dear friend,

Tomorrow, 31 January, Ahed Tamimi, the imprisoned Palestinian teen, is turning 17. Unfortunately, due to the Israeli settler colonial occupation, she will be marking her birthday behind bars in HaSharon prison awaiting a military court hearing, forcibly separated from her mother (also imprisoned) and the rest of her family.

These days are international days of action to support Ahed. You can be a part of wishing Ahed a happy birthday and sending her greetings of solidarity and freedom!

Ahed is one of over 350 imprisoned Palestinian children and over 6,100 Palestinian prisoners in total. These actions not only demand freedom for Ahed but for all of the Palestinians subject to imprisonment, occupation, apartheid and colonialism.

You can take action online!

In only seconds, you can join an online social media action to free Ahed Tamimi by joining in the Thunderclap! On 31 January, join a global campaign to tweet for Ahed Tamimi’s birthday. It’s easy to add your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr account to the campaign: click here to join: (https://samidoun.us8.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ca6966f2db7aa619c20875634&id=a0f376c926&e=3116ec7e79).

There are many more actions you can take to support Ahed and the cause of Palestinian freedom. Check out our online action alert to learn more: (http://samidoun.net/2018/01/schedule-of-international-events-take-action-to-free-ahed-tamimi-and-all-palestinian-prisoners/)

Join us to take action in your own city, town or campus!
Join one of the many worldwide actions for Ahed Tamimi in the coming days! Add your event to the list by messaging them to us on Facebook or sending us an e-mail.

Make sure you have posters and flyers for your event: click here to download materials. We encourage you to reproduce and distribute them freely in your city! (https://samidoun.us8.list-manage.com/track/click?u=ca6966f2db7aa619c20875634&id=a58fa49701&e=3116ec7e79)

Tuesday, 30 January, Al-Khalil, Palestine. Birthday party for Ahed Tamimi, 6:00 pm, Tel Rumeida – Shuhada Street. Details: (https://www.facebook.com/events/186358621952559/)

For more information: (http://samidoun.net/)