Bernie Sanders: On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians

Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, February 28, 2017

Speech to this year’s J Street conference

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Street’s 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on February 27, 2017. (Photo: Mark Wilson/AFP)

Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. It’s a pleasure to be here with J Street, which has been such a strong voice for saner, more progressive foreign policy ideas. And I am delighted to be in the company of friends from the Middle East and all over the world who I know will continue the struggle for a world of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

Let me begin by noting that in the last several months, since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, there has been a significant outbreak of anti-Semitism here in our country. I am very alarmed by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, with Jewish Community Centers being threatened around the country, and with the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League receiving a bomb threat last week.

When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government.

It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration. I hope very much that Pres. Trump and his political advisor Mr. Bannon understand that the world is watching: it is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world. This country has struggled too long against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We will not go back. We are going to go forward and fight discrimination of all forms.

I must say that I also found it very troubling that, at a recent press conference, when President Trump was given an opportunity to condemn the bigotry and anti-Semitism that has arisen in the wake of his election, he chose to respond by bragging – incorrectly, by the way – about the size of his Electoral College victory. Our society is still riven by tensions from the campaign, and Americans need a president who will try to bring us together, rather than boast about his political victory.

Let me take this opportunity to thank J Street for the bold voice that they’ve provided in support of American leadership in the Middle East and efforts towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand that, given the political climate in this capital, that has not always been easy. I also applaud them for being part of a broad coalition of groups that successfully fought for the historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and its partners and Iran.

That agreement demonstrated that real American leadership, real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems.

For many years, leaders across the world, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had sounded the alarm about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration was able to do, with the support of groups like J Street and others, was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

As a member of the United States Senate, I hear a whole lot of speechifying. I hear from many of my colleagues how “tough” the United States has got to be, and how, at the end of the day, military force is what matters.

Well, I say to those colleagues, ‘It’s easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or the House. It’s a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war. I recall vividly all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues, and some Democrats, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, it is one of the great tragedies of modern world history.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. The war in Iraq led to the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others—not to mention the pain inflicted on wives and children and parents. The war in Iraq led to, conservatively speaking, the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and the wounding and displacement of many more. It created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars—money that should have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

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Israel as the Lights Go Out

In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine. It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

ROGER COHEN, The New York Times, January 17, 2017

Elon Moreh, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, seen from the Palestinian village of Azmout, last week. (Credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The bizarre burst of diplomatic activity on IsraelPalestine in the waning days of the Obama administration has been tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything. The rest of the time political cowardice in the form of silence prevails.

In a matter of weeks we have had a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory;” a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry setting out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two-state peace agreement and defending the American abstention that allowed the U.N. resolution to pass; and a Paris peace conference that urged Israelis and Palestinians, neither of them present, to take concrete steps to get the two-state idea off life support.

None of this piety will change anything on the ground, where settlements continue to grow, the daily humiliations that constitute Palestinian life continue to accumulate, and the occupation that will mark its 50th anniversary this year continues to entrench itself. The only possible change will come with President-elect Donald Trump, whose dalliance with moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amounts to pyromania, and whose choice of ambassador, his sometime lawyer David Friedman, suggests hard-line American support for Israeli settlements.

Trump’s thirst for the “ultimate deal” in the Holy Land could not be more far-fetched, however much his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hones his skills with Henry Kissinger. There’s nobody and nothing to work with after a half-century of moral corrosion and progressive estrangement.

Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.

U.N. resolution 2334 infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who called it “shameful.” He seemed surprised that ignoring Obama’s veto of an earlier settlements resolution in 2011 would have consequences. Obama ran out of patience because, despite his forbearance, Israel went right on planning housing for tens of thousands more settlers while absorbing “more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing,” in Kerry’s words. Gratitude is not Netanyahu’s forte.

There was little new in the resolution, given America’s consistent opposition to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over several decades. In fact, the twinning of criticism of Israel with condemnation under international law of “incitement” — a reference to persistent Palestinian practice — was among the fresher elements. Still, the language was sharp. The resolution called on states to distinguish “in their relevant dealings” between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967”; and it declared that “The cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it. Annexation would be awkward; some 2.75 million Palestinians would demand the vote. Better to play games and let millions of strangers squirm.

Kerry’s speech was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.

It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

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What the UN Security Council resolution means for the US and Israel

Oren Liebermann, CNN, December 26, 2016

Israel has bitterly denounced the resolution
They warn it harms, not helps, the peace process

Jerusalem (CNN) — The United Nations Security Council on Friday passed a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States abstained on the resolution, allowing it to pass, rather than vetoing it — as it usually does with resolutions it sees as overly critical of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the US ambassador and launched a scathing attack Sunday on the Obama administration.

Here are nine questions about the vote at the UN.

1. What are the immediate effects of the UNSC resolution?

The resolution may have no immediate practical effects on Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or the peace process. That’s because the resolution is non-binding, effectively creating guidelines and recommendations. The resolution would require follow-up action at the United Nations for it to have an immediate effect.

Israel is concerned about exactly that type of action. Specifically, Israel is worried about a resolution that would set conditions for negotiations. Such a resolution would issue parameters for some of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including borders, the status of Jerusalem as a contested capital, Palestinian refugees, and a time-limit for negotiations.

An international peace conference in Paris scheduled for January 15 could be the forum for discussing such a resolution. That would give the international community time to introduce the resolution at the United Nations Security Council before the end of President Barack Obama’s time in office. Israel has vowed not to attend the conference. The Palestinians say they will attend.

2. What are the long-term effects?

The biggest blow is to Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This resolution has left little room for negotiation about the legality of the settlements, stating that Israel’s settlements have “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

When it comes to borders, the resolution does leave an opening for negotiations, saying there will be no changes to the June 4, 1967 “other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”
The resolution also calls on countries to recognize a difference between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories when dealing with Israel. That could lead to sanctions against products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders say they will wait to see if Israel abides by the resolution. If not, they can pursue cases against Israeli leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC) under the Geneva Convention. The ICC is already conducting an ongoing investigation into Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

3. Will President-elect Donald Trump be able to repeal the resolution?

Theoretically, yes, the incoming administration could repeal this resolution. Trump would have to introduce a new resolution that revokes this one entirely. Then he would need at least nine countries to vote for it and ensure that none of the Security Council’s other permanent members — Russia, UK, France, and China — vetoed it.

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Third Palestinian Submission to the International Criminal Court on Gaza Closure

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, November 22, 2016

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dsc_0068Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, and Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan.

Palestinian human rights organizations (Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Aldameer) held today, 22 November 2016, a press conference to announce presenting the third legal submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) titled as “Gaza Illegal Closure: Persecution and Other Inhumane Acts Committed against Civilians as a Crime Against Humanity“. The conference was held in PCHR’s head office based in Gaza City and was attended by a large number of journalists.

shawanShawan Jabareen, Director of Al-Haq, and Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms Fatou Bensouda.

Both of lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, and Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan, delivered speeches during the conference while Shawan Jabareen, Director of Al-Haq, held a meeting in the Hague with Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms Fatou Bensouda, to deliver the legal submission on behalf of the Palestinian human rights organizations. It should be noted this is the third legal submission of its kind to the ICC by the Palestinian human rights organizations.

Sourani stressed that the human rights organizations has pledged on behalf of the victims to neither forget nor forgive and to proceed with the prosecution of Israeli war criminals for all their crimes, including the Israeli closure imposed for nearly a decade that has turned the Gaza Strip into the world’s largest open-air prison and resulted in a man-made disaster.

Sourani added that the human rights organizations’ role before the ICC will not end here, however, there are further submissions on settlement activities and the harvest of human rights organizations’ legal work before the Israeli judiciary.

Issam Younis added that today is a big day in the context of seeking justice for Palestinian victims in light of long-standing denial of justice within the Israeli judiciary.  He considered resorting to the ICC as an indispensable step after the State of Palestine had acceded to the international conventions and ICC’s Rome Statute.

Younis also said that the human rights organizations consider the ICC as a resort to grant justice. He hoped that ICC would seriously investigate the Israeli crimes and then move to the most important step that is starting the court proceedings.  He said, “Where to achieve justice if not in the ICC?”

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Israeli Military Blocks Female Flotilla From Reaching Gaza

Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, October 05, 2016

Group including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire aimed ‘to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement, but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole’

Map shows the path the boat took through the Mediterranean before it was stopped by the Israeli military. (Image: Women’s Boat to Gaza)

The Israeli navy on Wednesday stopped a boat carrying international female activists, preventing them from breaking the blockade of Gaza.

Among the 13 people on board the Women’s Boat to Gaza, a mission of the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition, were Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Ireland, retired U.S. army colonel Ann Wright, New Zealand politician Marama Davidson, and Malaysian doctor Fauziah Hasan.

“In accordance with government directives and after exhausting all diplomatic channels, the Israeli navy redirected the vessel in order to prevent breach of the lawful maritime blockade,” the military said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The visit and search of the vessel was uneventful,” it stated.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition posted on its Facebook page that the boat was “attacked by Israeli Occupation Forces in International Waters.” The U.N. Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone states that territorial waters can extend out to 12 nautical miles.

The Women’s Boat to Gaza tweeted on Wednesday: “Pls contact your Govt to demand their release and an end to the illegal blockade!” The tweet links to another page that encourages supporters to contact the Israeli military and international officials including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to “Demand that the women and the boat be freed!”

In contrast to Israel’s depiction of blockade, U.N. officials have denounced it as illegal.

The female flotilla posted an update earlier on Wednesday that the boat was roughly 100 nautical miles away from Gaza, and that it planned on arriving within 24 hours. The Israeli military reportedly boarded the boat when it was roughly 35 nautical miles from the coast.

The female initiative was undertaken, the organizers’ website states, “because we believe that it is essential to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement, but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole. We intend to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle that women in Gaza, in the West Bank, inside the Green Line, and in the diaspora, have waged and continue to wage against the Occupation.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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SOS Women’s Boat to Gaza – Contact Lost

miki_photo_zo

At 15:58 CEST (Central European Summer Time) on 5 October, we lost contact again with the Zaytouna-Oliva and presume that the Israeli Occupation Navy has surrounded it in International Waters (latest recorded position: Lat+31.906033 Lon+33.757630) and has forced it off its course to Gaza. On board are 13 women, including Mairead Maguire, the 1976 Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, Fauziah Hasan, a doctor from Malaysia, and retired US army colonel Ann Wright. Take action to protect them now – see below! Details of all of the participants are here.

SOS messages from the Zaytouna-Oliva: please scroll down to read about how to take action now!


See all of the SOS messages from participants here.

Please act now. Contact the authorities listed at Women’s Boat to Gaza and demand that they call for the safety of these women.

Follow the U.S. campaign on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Womens-Boat-to-Gaza-US-Section-996595507080925/?fref=ts

PHROC Welcomes the Launch of Women’s Boat to Gaza

Al-Haq, 26 September 2016

ZAYTOUNAThe Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) expresses its full supportof the Women’s Boat to Gaza, with the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, to break the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip. PHROC calls upon the international community to support the voyage of the Boat until it reaches Gaza’s shores in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip andin rejection of the illegal and inhumane closure imposed on the Strip for over 10 years. Theclosure  constitutes a form of collective punishment, in violation of international humanitarian law, and rises to the level ofa crime against humanity that should be terminated and thus its perpetrators should be prosecuted.

According to availableinformation, the Women’s Boat to Gaza Campaign, comprised of Al-Amal and Al-Zaituna ships, launchedon Friday, 23 September 2016, from Messina port in Italy towards the Gaza Strip. The female activists on board announced they were sailing towards the Gaza Strip with a message of peace the elimination of injustice, and solidarity with the besieged Palestinian people. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition consistsof a group of international organizations that support the Palestinian people’s right tofreedom and ending the Israeli occupation. The Coalition organized this voyage in which a group of female activists and public figures, including Nobel Peace Laureates, from around 20 countries, participated to end the inhumane closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

PHROC welcomes the Freedom Flotilla initiative which coincides with the tenth anniversary of the closure’s imposition. Furthermore PHROC believes this action is important in the face of  international silence over Israel’s continued violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.. PHROC also appreciates the international solidarity expressed by the Campaign.

PHROC calls upon civil society organizations and all Arab and international solidarity campaigns to support the safe arrival of the Women’sBoat to the Gaza shore to break the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip imposed for more than 10 years. PHROC further calls on states and international organizations to ensure that Israeli authorities respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and guarantee the safety and security of the boat and its passengers.