Is It True That Not a Single Senator – Including Progressive Dems – Cares About Palestine?

The pro-Israel letter 100 U.S. senators sent to the U.N. fails to mention Israel's illegal occupation or settlements

Ben Norton & Adam Johnson, AlterNet, May 2, 2017

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

All 100 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to the United Nations on April 27 that spread misleading pro-Israel myths. Included as signatories were the Senate’s two progressive leaders, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

AlterNet repeatedly contacted the offices of Sanders and Warren with a request for comment. Neither replied.

The 725-word letter does not mention Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian land, which marks its 50th anniversary this June. Nor does it acknowledge Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian territory through ever-expanding settlements.

Even the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has agreed at the U.N. that Israel’s occupation and settlements are flagrant violations of international law. The senators’ letter glosses over this elementary fact, and does not even acknowledge the existence of the Palestinian people.

The bipartisan senatorial campaign against the U.N. was led by hard-right neoconservative Republican Marco Rubio and Reagan-Republican-turned-Democrat Christopher Coons.

“Although, as Republicans and Democrats, we disagree on many issues, we are united in our desire to see the United Nations improve its treatment of Israel,” the senators wrote in the letter, which also demonizes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

They claimed “member states and agencies are using the U.N.’s privileged platform to advance an anti-Israel agenda.”

U.N.’s Pro-Israel Bias

In reality, the evidence shows that the U.N. has a pro-Israel bias. Emails leaked from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demonstrate how the U.S. State Department successfully exerted pressure with the goal of “deferring” U.N. action on Israeli war crimes, as previously detailed in my report on Salon.

While the State Department conceded that the 2009 U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known commonly as the Goldstone Report, was only “moderate,” it was still not pro-Israel enough for the U.S. Messages from top officials illustrate how the government pushed to water down the report, “reframing the debate” about the atrocities and “moving away from the U.N.”

Moreover, U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks show how former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon worked with the U.S. and Israeli governments to weaken the 2009 U.N. report on the war crimes Israel had committed in its recent war in Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead.

The idea that the United Nations was “singled out for special scrutiny” is conventional wisdom in U.S. political circles. Those who make this argument, as the senators do in the letter, point to Agenda Item 7—a standing agenda item on the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s docket that debates Israeli human rights violations. Crucial context missing from this talking point is that the focus on Israel’s human rights record by less powerful U.N. bodies like the Human Rights Commission is the logical byproduct of a U.N. Security Council—by far the most powerful and consequential U.N. body—doing nothing to curb Israel’s human rights abuses through the decades.

Indeed, the last time before December of last year the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution even vaguely condemning Israel was in 2002, when Resolution 1397 passed calling for a two-state solution. The United States’ “automatic veto” on all things Israel virtually guarantees even its most flagrant human rights abuses will go unchecked by the only body with the power to actually enforce anything.

Continue reading

Leaked report highlights Israel lobby’s failures

No such thing as a “Jewish and democratic state” without violations of Palestinian rights

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 28 April 2017

The Reut Institute, founded by former government advisor Gidi Grinstein, has conceded in a secret report jointly prepared with the ADL that Israel’s efforts to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement have failed. (via Facebook)

Key Israel lobby groups have conceded that they have failed to counter the Palestine solidarity movement, despite vastly increasing their spending. The admission is contained in a secret report that The Electronic Intifada has obtained.

The report, published here in full for the first time, outlines Israel’s failure to stem the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

It also sets out strategies, endorsed by the Israeli government, aimed at reversing the deterioration in Israel’s position.

But while calling for harsher measures against the Palestine solidarity movement, the report offers no new ideas to deal with how Israel is beset not by an image problem but a reality problem: its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is increasingly viewed around the world as reprehensible and unsustainable, even by many of Israel’s defenders.

The report nevertheless identifies key concerns and likely targets of Israel’s propaganda planners.

Even while attempting to come up with a formula to defeat it, the report admits that the movement for Palestinian rights is based on “appealing and sophisticated” arguments which Israel has so far failed to match.

The “20X question”

The report is spurred by what it calls the “20X question” – the fact that pro-Israel groups have increased their spending to combat the Palestine solidarity movement twenty-fold over the last six years and yet despite these tens of millions of dollars, “results remain elusive.”

The existence of the report had been revealed in February by The Jewish Daily Forward.

It was prepared by the Anti-Defamation League and the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank founded by former government adviser Gidi Grinstein, with the help of “experts” from Israel lobby groups and the Israeli goverment.

According to the Forward, Reut and the ADL were “only circulating print copies of the report” among selected pro-Israel operatives, and the newspaper had received it on condition that it not be published in its entirety.

The full document can be read below.

“Significant successes”

Key findings of the ADL-Reut report include:

  • Palestine solidarity activists can boast “significant successes,” including creating an “unfavorable zeitgeist around Israel” in many parts of the world.

  • The Palestine solidarity movement has “expanded from Europe to the US and many other locations worldwide” and has “deepened its alliances with major minority groups and social justice coalitions.”

  • Palestine solidarity has “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe” and “may be gaining traction” in the US.

    Continue reading

Update: Feds Drop Charges against AMP staffers

American Muslims for Palestine, April 22, 2017

(WASHINGTON DC 04.21.2017) — The federal government has dropped the charges against AMP staffers Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny. Stephen Rickard, Deputy Chief of the misdemeanors section in the U.S. Attorney’s office notified the men’s attorney Ann Wilcox on Friday evening.

Filing what is called a “nolle prosequi,” or a formal notice of abandonment, the charges have been dropped and the case is closed.

“The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, hereby notifies the court and the defense that the government is entering a nolle prosequi in this case, thereby causing the information to be dismissed without prejudice.”

“We are overjoyed,” Herzallah said. “We showed the federal government we were not going to take their biased charges silently. This really shows the power of the people to speak truth to power.”

Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were arrested in February along with four others from Code Pink and If Not Now for protesting at the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. Herzallah and El-Hosseiny — the only two Arabs and Muslims in the group — were the only two with criminal charges filed against them by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Three of the protesters were allowed to pay a small fine the same day. One had his case transferred to traffic court.

The men rejected a plea deal that would have required 32 hours of community service and included being banned from Capitol grounds for a lengthy period of time. Instead, they opted for a trial to fight the selective prosecution charges on the grounds they were based on racial, religious and ethnic bias.

El-Hosseiny added, “This proves that all the public, organizational and faith-based support sent a strong message to the federal prosecutors.”

In addition to a successful social media campaign, which was joined by several Palestinian rights and social justice organizations and that reached upwards of 1 million accounts, the Huffington Post, AJ Plus, Mondoweiss, Muftah and other media outlets kept the case in the news. The Associated Press had also started working on a story.

The American Muslims for Palestine is extremely grateful for how our partners rallied around our colleagues and supported their effort to fight the charges that amounted to selective prosecution.

“AMP thanks NLG attorney Ann Wilcox for her expertise, professionalism and willingness to fight for justice and to see this through to the end,” said Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, AMP national policy director. “We could not be prouder of our colleagues and we’re relieved at the positive outcome.”

AMP is also thankful to all the individuals and groups who helped spread the word, including the US Palestinian Community Network, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America and the 15 faith leaders who signed the letter of support, DCI-Palestine, Adalah, IfNotNow, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace national, as well as the DC and New York chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace.


American Muslims for Palestine Action Alert, April 12, 2017

We need your help to get criminal charges against AMP staffers Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny dropped at their status hearing on April 20.

Capitol Hill Police arrested six people protesting at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel on Feb. 16, 2017. Herzallah and El-Hosseiny — the only two Arabs and Muslims in the group — are also the only two facing criminal charges filed against them by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Three of the white Jewish protesters were allowed to pay a small fine the same day. One had his case transferred to traffic court.

Herzallah and El-Hosseiny face six months in jail and a $500 fine.

We feel that Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were targeted for selective prosecution.

We intend to vigorously challenge this selective prosecution, on the grounds that the charges were based on racial, religious, and ethnic bias. We need your help to support our challenge and to get the charges dropped.

This is not a Muslim vs. Jewish issue. Indeed, the Jewish protesters from Code Pink and IfNotKnow, who also were arrested, have rallied around the AMP staffers. No one should have been detained because the protesters were exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and political dissent.

Herzallah and El-Hosseiny are due to appear before DC Superior Court on April 20.

Please help us make noise to get the charges dropped.

There are three ways you can help: Continue reading

Unlearning apartheid apologism: A Jewish response to Israeli Apartheid Week

Stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism

Article ImageRya Inman / Spectator

Sophie Edelhart, Eliza Moss-Horwitz, Jack Snyder, Columbia Daily Spectator, March 5, 2017

Nearly two years ago, the three of us arrived on this campus as Jewish teens inoculated with an intense fear of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. We had been told for years in day school and summer camp that we would be provoked by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric—presented to us as synonymous—and warned that we would be made to feel ashamed of our Jewish identities.

 What we actually found ourselves confronting when we arrived at Columbia, however, was the way our education and socialization in the mainstream Jewish world hadn’t prepared us for the conversations about Israel/Palestine happening on college campuses. We had been lied to and deceived by our teachers, parents, camp counselors, role models, and community leaders. We came to realize just how much the Jewish community has yet to reckon with the violence and dispossession that American Jews are complicit in perpetuating.

 When we first came to this campus, we felt that Israeli Apartheid Week was an affront to our very existence as Jewish students, because we had been taught to conflate criticism towards Israeli apartheid—the practices of systemic discrimination and state violence against Palestinians—with criticisms of Jewish identity. What we hadn’t learned from our combined 26 years of Jewish day school, countless hours spent in Hebrew school and synagogue, and years of Jewish summer camp, was that Judaism could flourish without the need for ethnonationalism—the supremacy of Jewish ethnic identity in the State of Israel—or racist apartheid policies. We hadn’t learned that that those policies were being enacted in our name and in the name of all Jewish people. 

We had been lied to, but more than that, we had been raised in a community that failed to face the anti-democratic reality of the State of Israel. Rather than being taught to pursue justice for all—Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and non-Jews—we had been told to defend Israel at all costs. Some of us who grew up in liberal Zionist communities had been taught a watered-down version of this: that we should care for others, for the Palestinians, and that we could criticize Israel’s racist policies so long as that criticism didn’t threaten the ethnoracial makeup of our Jewish-majority state. 

Retrospectively, it’s hard to justify why we fell for this narrative—how we could somehow stand against racism while defending a state’s ideology that privileged us as Jews above all others. It makes sense, though, because, to quote a recent monologue from the Israeli television show “Good Night with Assaf Hare,” “It doesn’t take much to sedate the satiated side of the apartheid.”

What we really needed as we were growing up was a community that confronted Israeli occupation, dispossession, and violence. We needed a community that could shout with their loudest voices against apartheid policies, racist immigration laws, and human rights violations. We needed a community that taught its children that particularistic ethnonationalism and Jewish exceptionalism have no place in Judaism, a religion that acknowledges its own liberation as inherently linked to the liberation of others. 

We needed our community to stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism and to recognize that one can criticize Israel as a geopolitical player without criticizing the Jewish people at large. This conflation only served to drive us further into our chauvinistic shells of violent nationalism and obscured the very real and increasing threat of genuine anti-Semitism on the rise.

We deserved an upbringing that didn’t hide from its complicity in Israeli apartheid, that didn’t rely on ethnonationalism as the answer to Jewish communal suffering, and that didn’t tie our very existence as Jews to a political ideology rooted in ideas of national exclusivity. But we can’t change our childhoods and our years of socialization in Jewish communities, so we must look to our campus as a place to learn, unlearn, and grow. 

Because of this, when we came to campus, we cringed at the word “apartheid” when it was used to describe Israel; we shied away from political debates surrounding Israel and Palestine. This year during Israeli Apartheid Week, we saw our fellow Jewish students do the same. We heard countless excuses for why students don’t engage, for why they don’t support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and for why they disagree with the rhetoric of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, causing them to turn their backs on campus discourse surrounding Palestinian liberation. 

We, as Jewish students of Columbia, Barnard, and Jewish Theological Seminary, must be better than this. Our history is one that is rooted in dispossession, fear, loss, and diaspora. We are Jews with lasting generational trauma. We must confront this and reckon with it; we must work with those facing similar traumas of dispossession, similar fears, similar losses, and similar diaspora today.

It makes sense why Jewish students on this campus see Israeli Apartheid Week as an affront to their Jewish identities. However, it is not because JVP, SJP, or even the BDS movement wish to delegitimize Jewish existence or peoplehood. Rather, it is due to the fact that for years the Jewish community has chosen to cover its eyes and plug its ears, screaming “I can’t hear you” at any mention of human rights violations, apartheid, state violence, expulsion, or ethnic cleansing, and has chosen to label the people who do make those claims as anti-Semites and self-hating Jews. Not only is this wrong, it dangerously conflates the violent policies of the Zionist state with a meaningful Jewish existence in the diaspora. 

We have a responsibility to engage in the difficult conversations that were highlighted during Israeli Apartheid Week, to reject the status quo in Israel/Palestine and in Jewish communities here. Perhaps when we wake up, we will realize that events like Israeli Apartheid Week can be tools for self-reflection, growth, education, and change. Israeli Apartheid Week isn’t an insult to our identities as Jewish people. It’s a week dedicated to demanding that our Judaism be a Judaism of morals, that our Judaism not be tied to ethnic nationalism, and that our Judaism be a religion and culture of liberation and redemption for all.

The authors are all members of Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace. If you’re interested in engaging further with this subject or with JVP’s work, reach out to any of the authors. Sophie Edelhart is a sophomore in the double degree program between the Jewish Theological Seminary and Barnard studying history and modern Jewish studies. Jack Snyder is a sophomore in the joint program between the Jewish Theological Seminary and School of General Studies studying Jewish literature and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies. Eliza Moss-Horwitz is a sophomore at Barnard studying religion and education.

Activists pull out of Chicago LGBTQ conference over Israel pinkwashing

Jimmy Johnson, THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA, 22 January 2016

An image posted on A Wider Bridge’s Facebook page highlights the organization’s mission of promoting Israel.

Black Lives Matter Chicago has added its voice to protests over the National LGBTQ Task Force’s inclusion of an Israel lobby group in its Creating Change conference in Chicago this weekend.

Tarab-NYC, an LGBTQ and gender nonconforming group organizing in Middle Eastern and North African communities, launched the #cancelpinkwashing campaign in response to the inclusion of A Wider Bridge.

A Wider Bridge describes itself as a “pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies.”

Among its major donors is the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, which has taken a lead in efforts to combat the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The #cancelpinkwashing campaign’s Facebook page notes that A Wider Bridge partners with the Israeli consulate and the right-wing Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs to put on pinkwashing events which aim to “normalize the occupation of Palestinian land by distracting from the violent, inhumane actions of the Israeli settler state.”

Pinkwashing is a public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and war crimes and as a means to build up support for Israel among Western liberals and progressives.

On Tuesday, Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, reversed an earlier decision to exclude A Wider Bridge, citing a need for “constructive dialogue.”

On Friday evening, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago and the Coalition for a Just Peace in Israel-Palestine will host “a Queer, anti-Zionist Shabbat that resists the pinkwashing of Israeli oppression taking place at Creating Change.”

“Divest from violence”

In an online statement, Black Lives Matter Chicago says it endorses Tarab-NYC’s demand that the National LGBTQ Task Force “divest from the violence, ignorance and false ‘inclusion’ of settler-colonial pinkwashing in the name of a ‘wider’ bridge.”

“As They/We all struggle to achieve healing, safety and autonomy in our own lives, families and communities, let us commit to mobilize ourselves and honor the self-determined struggles of Palestine so as to divest from the violence of the occupation,” the statement concludes. “Black and Palestinian Lives depend on it.”

Shortly after that statement was released, the Chicago organization Brown People for Black Power cancelled its scheduled workshop at Creating Change.

It cited both its opposition to pinkwashing and a prior decision to invite the government agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to present at Creating Change.

“There is no ‘constructive dialogue’ to be had about the deliberate genocide of Palestinians, or the detainment of queer and trans people of color,” the group said. “There is nothing good that can come out of the ‘inclusion’ of those who occupy, those who kidnap, those who incarcerate and those who terrorize.”

Joint struggle

Kristian Davis Bailey, co-organizer of the ongoing Black for Palestine effort, told me by email that the Black Lives Matter Chicago statement builds on the joint struggle between segments of Black and Palestinian liberation movements.

Davis Bailey noted that the term “They/We” was designed to emphasize “that we can recognize commonalities between our struggles and support each other’s struggles without saying they’re the same.”

This is a point, Davis Bailey said, that is made in the recent Black-Palestinian solidarity video, “When I See Them, I See Us.”

Jason Tompkins, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Chicago, told me that Palestinians and Black people are increasingly subject to similar kinds of state violence.

“We see so much evidence of the same military surveillance technologies and weaponry being deployed against Palestinian civil society, that are now showing up in police departments across the US to wage war against Black communities,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins described Combined Systems and Motorola Solutions as examples of companies that “routinely profit from our death and containment.”

Continue reading