Call on Congress on to oppose Jerusalem recognition and UNRWA cuts

UWNRWA aid in Gaza

 
Last month, President Trump announced his administration’s reckless, one-sided decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually move the U.S. embassy there. Now the administration is threatening to cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinians — a move that would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.

Take action today by signing the AFSC petition urging Congress
  • to reject any cuts to vital aid for Palestinians and
  • to oppose the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

 
We must oppose the administration’s actions, which undermine prospects for peace, threaten to harm security for both Israelis and Palestinians, and could make daily life harder for the most vulnerable Palestinians.

The Trump administration’s threat to cut assistance to UNRWA came after the Palestinian Authority understandably rejected the U.S. decision on Jerusalem and announced that it would no longer accept the U.S. as a mediator for peace talks.

U.S. aid to the Palestinians includes bilateral assistance for programs in the West Bank and Gaza and annual contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Although it was unclear which aid will be targeted for cuts, the administration has already announced that only $60 million of a $125 million dollar funding installment will be released to UNRWA, with conditions placed on any future U.S. funding to UNRWA.

U.S. support for UNRWA amounts to approximately one-third of the agency’s annual budget. The agency reaches roughly five million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, providing services including education, health care, and emergency assistance.

If UNRWA cannot deliver services, half a million Palestinian children will suffer, according to spokesman Chris Gunness.

While we urge Congress to protect aid for Palestinians, we must also continue to press them to address the core issue of Palestinian refugees continually denied their fundamental rights, specifically the right to return to their lands and homes.

Contact your members of Congress today and ask them to:

  • Support constructive political action to achieve a just and lasting peace that will include a fair resolution to all outstanding Israeli and Palestinian concerns, including the status of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees.

  • Advocate for the U.S. administration to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin the process of moving the embassy there.

  • Reject any cuts to U.S. funding for UNRWA.

In Peace,

Mike Merryman-Lotze
Middle East Program Director
American Friends Service Committee
 

Don’t let Trump turn his back on Palestine refugees in need


Petition Background

On January 16, 2018, the US Administration made the decision to freeze millions of dollars to UNRWA in 2018. As the single largest contributor to UNRWA globally, this is an unprecedented and extremely dangerous decision that will cause untold additional trauma and harm to Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, who rely on UNRWA’s services.

Since UNRWA began its operations in May 1950, every administration, from Truman onwards, has stood with and provided strong, generous, and committed support to the agency. This administration is the only to make the destructive decision to cut such funding.

Through UNRWA’s humanitarian and development work, it is unique in providing vital services that are akin to those normally provided through governments and does so directly through over 33,000 staff, most of whom are Palestine refugees themselves.

As a neutral and impartial UN agency, it:

    • Educates 525,000 girls and boys in 700 UNRWA schools, including education on human rights, conflict resolution, and tolerance.
    • Operates more than 140 health centers and delivers comprehensive primary health-care services, handling more than 9 million patient visits per year.
    • Provides cash assistance and shelter rehabilitation to help refugees meet their basic human needs of food, shelter, and environmental health to achieve a decent standard of living and improve infrastructure and living conditions in the 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps.
    • Provides emergency humanitarian assistance through life-saving cash, food, and shelter support in Gaza and Syria.

I implore the White House to reconsider this decision, as it is against our American principles, global security and safety, and common human interest. In line with the democratic and humanitarian values this country was founded on and stands for, the US government’s investment in UNRWA’s work must be sustained, as it affects not only the lives of the over 5 million Palestine refugees the organization serves but the future and stability of the Middle East and beyond.
 

#TalkAboutYemem


Donna Smith, Progressive Democrats of America, Nov 22, 2017

Yemen Is Suffering. Please Help.

While there is so much going on in this country and so much upheaval continues to swirl around our planet, many millions of Americans find themselves in a rush to get away from all things political long enough to find even a few moments of distraction. We all deserve and need that from time to time.

Still, I find it very difficult to distract myself from the reality of 7 million people in Yemen at risk of famine and another 900,000 facing life-threatening diseases such as cholera. Yes, that’s right. Cholera. In 2017. But the Trumpublican standard bearer in the White House and his self-proclaimed “family-values defenders” in Congress could do something, but have done almost nothing to address this human-made catastrophe.

Call Congress: (202)-224-3121

A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country’s future that were boycotted by the rebels. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Crisis paid for by our taxes. We can’t remain silent. Act now!
Tell Congress: ”End US support for Saudi atrocities in Yemen”

Of course Trump couldn’t be bothered with real action on behalf of Yemen before jetting away to Florida for some badly needed golf time at Mar-a-Lago. Yes, he pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys in a routine symbolic gesture, but what about our fellow human beings? Cue the crickets. Trump and the Trumpublicans won’t act, but we can.

  1. Click here to find your Senators and Representative.
  2. Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202)-224-3121.
  3. An operator will connect you directly with the Senate and House offices you request.
  4. Ask to speak with the staffer assigned to defense, military and / or foreign relations issues.
  5. Leave a voice mail message if he or she is unavailable.
  6. Identify yourself by your name and town or city.
  7. Say you demand that the U.S. act to halt the Saudi aggression against the people of Yemen.
  8. Thank them for their time and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

PDA National Advisory Board Member and Code Pink Co-founder Medea Benjamin said it this way, “What does it say about us as a people that we allow our government to keep supporting the devastating Saudi bombing of Yemen, and now the blockade of humanitarian aid, that is starving children every day? As we sit around the Thanksgiving table this holiday, please think of the children of Yemen and ask your representative in Congress to speak out.” #TalkAboutYemen

We’re encouraged that the House finally passed a resolution specifying that not authorized U.S. participation in war in Yemen, but that does little to stop the unfolding, yet highly preventable catastrophe. It’s way past time for us all to demand as fellow human beings that our government stop supporting this, and we must stand with other nations to bring medical and humanitarian resources swiftly to the aid of these suffering souls. To do less is unacceptable.

Won’t you join us in calling your Congress members? You can click here to find your Senators and Representative. Call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202)-224-3121. An operator will connect you directly with the Senate and House offices you request.

Ask to speak with the staffer assigned to defense, military and / or foreign relations issues. Identify yourself by your name and town or city. Say you demand that the U.S. act to halt the Saudi aggression against the people of Yemen. Then, what a happy day of thanksgiving that will be for us all.

In peace and solidarity,

Donna Smith, PDA Executive Director, for Deb, Mike F., Judy, Mike H., Amos, Janis, Dan, Kimberly, Bryan, and Dr. Bill—your PDA National team

P.S. The midterm elections are less than a year away, and primaries are even sooner. We need you to step up big right now! Please dig deeply and give generously to help PDA elect progressives to Congress. You’ll barely notice the $20.18 (or any other amount) per month to join the Win in 2018 Team. Whatever you can afford to give, your regular contribution will make all the difference!

Israel covers up role in Myanmar crimes against Rohingya

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 September 2017


Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar officials visit arms maker Israel Aerospace Industries in September 2015. (via Facebook)

Israel is attempting to bury information about its arms sales to the military regime in Myanmar, which the UN accuses of a “brutal” campaign against the country’s Muslim Rohingya population, amounting to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled their homes as the military and Buddhist mobs burn their villages.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is committing crimes against humanity.

“The military has committed forced deportation, murder, rape and persecution against Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, resulting in countless deaths and mass displacement,” Human Rights Watch said.

Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Prize winner and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, has been the subject of growing global criticism over her evasions and justifications of the atrocities.

“Dictatorial regime”

Israeli attorney and human rights activist Eitay Mack has long campaigned to force Israel to reveal and halt its arms sales to various violent regimes.

This week, Israel’s state attorney asked the high court to retroactively classify all the records and proceedings related to Mack’s latest suit, which attempts to compel the government to end its arms sales to Myanmar.

In an emailed statement, Mack likened the request to the methods of a “dictatorial regime.”

The judges rejected the sweeping censorship request, but agreed to place a gag order on a ruling in the matter that they were due to deliver on Wednesday.

Mack said that the judges decided to classify their ruling without giving him and other parties a chance to respond to the state’s request.

At a hearing on Monday, the judges heard closed-door testimony about Israel’s relations with Myanmar. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that in the open part of the session, a government representative “refused to comment on the issue or state whether Israel would stop arming Myanmar’s military.”

“The attempt by the ministries of defense and foreign affairs and the state attorney to silence the public and conceal Israeli involvement in crimes against humanity shall not succeed,” Mack vowed.

As he points out, evidence of the growing ties between Tel Aviv and the Myanmar military cannot easily be concealed.

Shopping spree

In 2015, Min Aung Hlaing, a senior general in the Myanmar military, visited Israel, making stops at some of its biggest arms firms, including Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.

The general posted pictures on Facebook of his visits to the arms makers and to Israeli military bases, leading Haaretz to conclude that Myanmar was planning to buy Israeli-made military patrol boats.

In the 1990s, long before Myanmar’s military junta was given a “democratic” face lift by Aung San Suu Kyi, “Israeli consultants” helped build a weapons factory for Myanmar, according to a 2007 report by Amnesty International.

That report called for a comprehensive international arms embargo on Myanmar.

Arming pariah regimes

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The United States Was Responsible for the 1982 Massacre of Palestinians in Beirut

Washington had explicitly guaranteed their safety—and recently declassified documents reveal that US diplomats were told by the Israelis what they and their allies might be up to.

Sabra Shatila Massacre
In this September 27, 1982 file photo, a Palestinian woman attending a Beirut memorial service holds the helmets worn by those who committed the Sabra and Shatila massacre. (AP Photo / Bill Foley, File)

On the night of September 16, 1982, my younger brother and I were baffled as we watched dozens of Israeli flares floating down in complete silence over the southern reaches of Beirut, for what seemed like an eternity. We knew that the Israeli army had rapidly occupied the western part of the city two days earlier. But flares are used by armies to illuminate a battlefield, and with all the PLO fighters who had resisted the Israeli army during the months-long siege of the city already evacuated from Beirut, we went to bed perplexed, wondering what enemy was left for the occupying army to hunt.

Remembering the Sabra and Shatila massacre 35 years on

Its time to end the Israeli culture of impunity that permitted the Sabra and Shatila massacre to happen 35 years ago.

, Al Jazeera, 16 Sep 2017

Massacre survivors Yousef Hamzeh and Abu Jamal walk together at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacre on the outskirts of Beirut [Caren Firouz/Reuters]Massacre survivors Yousef Hamzeh and Abu Jamal walk together at the site of the Sabra and Shatila massacre on the outskirts of Beirut [Caren Firouz/Reuters]

On September 16, 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the right-wing Christian Phalange militia stormed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut and began a massacre which ended in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mostly Palestinian civilians. I was 19 years old at the time. By chance and by luck I managed to survive. My mother and five younger sisters and brothers; and my uncle, his wife and eight kids did not.

Israel’s invasion began June 6, 1982. After much destruction, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had defended the camps since its inception, agreed to leave Lebanon in August. They were given American assurances that civilians left behind would be protected. The president-elect of Lebanon, and the leader of the Phalange, was assassinated on September 14th. The Israeli army proceeded to invade and occupy West Beirut.

Israeli troops surrounded the camps to prevent the refugees from leaving and allowed entry of the Phalange, a known enemy of the Palestinians. The Israelis fired flares throughout the night to light up the killing field – thus allowing the militiamen to see their way through the narrow alleys of the camps. The massacre went on for two days. As the bloodbath concluded, Israel supplied the bulldozers to dig mass graves. In 1983, Israel’s investigative Kahan Commission found that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister, bore “personal responsibility for the slaughter.

The massacre at Sabra and Shatila was a direct consequence of Israel’s violation of the American-brokered ceasefire and the impunity bestowed on Israel by the US and the international community. This tragic anniversary is a reminder that the international community continues to fail to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to defend the basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain.

Thirty-five years after the massacre, Israel continues to abuse Palestinian rights without consequence and to enable the violence of its proxies, whether it is the Phalange as in the past or today, illegal Israeli settlers living on occupied Palestinian land. Settler attacks on Palestinian property, lands, and persons have terrorised thousands and killed almost entire families, such as last year’s arson attack on a Palestinian home that killed a mother, father, and their 18-month baby. Palestinian complaints filed against settlers go unindicted by Israel. In fact, as documented by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, “the [Israeli] military serves the settlers by allowing the attackers to simply walk away”. When they do take action, Israeli soldiers are more likely to support the settlers, often allowing them to continue attacking Palestinians rather than shielding innocent civilians.

And the Israeli military itself continues to commit war crimes with impunity, as evidenced by Israel’s repeated attacks on the tiny besieged Gaza Strip over the past decade, which have killed thousands of innocent Palestinians with disproportionate and indiscriminate force.

The dehumanisation of Palestinians by Israel also continues. It was this same dehumanisation that led Israel to allow vengeful militiamen to enter the Sabra and Shatila camps and that permits Israelis to occupy another people for fifty years and inflict humiliation and injury. That indifference to the fate of the Palestinians does not belong solely to Israel. Israel’s 69 years of dispossession and half-century of military rule is supported by unconditional American military aid and diplomatic backing. International bodies like the UN Security Council have repeatedly made note of Israel’s human rights violations, but done nothing more.

A fourth generation is now growing up in the squalid refugee camps in Lebanon. In Sabra and Shatila, most living spaces consist of two very small rooms: a bedroom, where the entire family sleeps, and a living room of sorts. There is no ventilation, and hardly any electricity. Most families use battery-powered lighting. Drinking tap water is prohibited, as it is full of bacteria and very salty – it actually corrodes pipes. There are poor sanitary conditions. Medications for all illnesses are in short supply. Narrow alleyways – some with sewage running through – wind through the camps. When it rains these small paths become muddy. Electrical wires hang from dwellings. Young men connect and reconnect wires; from time to time, someone is electrocuted. Foul odours emanate from those crowded conditions. Illness is rampant. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon long to return from exile to the homeland they were expelled from but are not permitted to do so by Israel, simply because they are not Jewish.

If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain.

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Ilan Pappe: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy — And Never Was

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy – And Never Was

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East.
In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin, May 5, 2017
Excerpted from Ten Myths About Israel, Verso Books

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

Before 1967, Israel definitely could not have been depicted as a democracy. As we have seen in previous chapters, the state subjected one-fifth of its citizenship to military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency regulations that denied the Palestinians any basic human or civil rights.

Local military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their houses and livelihoods, and send them to jail whenever they felt like it. Only in the late 1950s did a strong Jewish opposition to these abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian citizens.

For the Palestinians who lived in prewar Israel and those who lived in the post-1967 West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this regime allowed even the lowest-ranking soldier in the IDF to rule, and ruin, their lives. They were helpless if such a solider, or his unit or commander, decided to demolish their homes, or hold them for hours at a checkpoint, or incarcerate them without trial. There was nothing they could do.

At every moment from 1948 until today, there had been some group of Palestinians undergoing such an experience.

The first group to suffer under such a yoke was the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It began in the first two years of statehood when they were pushed into ghettos, such as the Haifa Palestinian community living on the Carmel mountain, or expelled from the towns they had inhabited for decades, such as Safad. In the case of Isdud, the whole population was expelled to the Gaza Strip.

In the countryside, the situation was even worse. The various Kibbutz movements coveted Palestinian villages on fertile land. This included the socialist Kibbutzim, Hashomer Ha-Zair, which was allegedly committed to binational solidarity.

Long after the fighting of 1948 had subsided, villagers in Ghabsiyyeh, Iqrit, Birim, Qaidta, Zaytun, and many others, were tricked into leaving their homes for a period of two weeks, the army claiming it needed their lands for training, only to find out on their return that their villages had been wiped out or handed to someone else.

This state of military terror is exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre of October 1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, forty-nine Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.

Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion of Palestinians from the whole area called the Wadi Ara and the Triangle in which the village sat. These two areas — the first a valley connecting Afula in the east and Hadera on the Mediterranean coast; the second expanding the eastern hinterland of Jerusalem — were annexed to Israel under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.

As we have seen, additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in the Palestinian population was not. Thus, at every juncture, when the state of Israel expanded, it looked for ways to restrict the Palestinian population in the recently annexed areas.

Operation “Hafarfert” (“mole”) was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of Palestinians when a new war broke out with the Arab world. Many scholars today now think that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the area could be intimidated to leave.

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