Friday, July 31, 2009

Win a Poster Signed by Desmond Tutu--and check out who President Obama is honoring!

At the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we are extremely proud to have developed a strong connection with South African Nobel Peace Prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This giant in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa has been a clear and consistent voice of conscience speaking out against Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians. Watch a video of Archbishop Tutu endorsing our national anti-apartheid speaking tour, “Separate Is Never Equal: Stories of Apartheid from South Africa and Palestine,” held last year: We would like to send one lucky supporter an autographed copy of this poster. What’s the catch? Click here to find out more about this offer--and do it quick! We will be accepting raffle entries for the autographed Desmond Tutu poster until 9AM Eastern, Monday, August 3. After that, we’ll draw a winning entry and announce the winner in an email later next week. Click here to find out how you can win! On a related note, have you seen the list of honorees to whom President Obama plans to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Archbishop Tutu will be honored, as will Mary Robinson, who has been critical of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights during the 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, and Stephen Hawking, who gave the following interview to Al Jazeera in January in which he classified Israel's December-January attacks on the Gaza Strip as "out of proportion" and compared the situation in Israel/Palestine to South Africa under apartheid: Are these Medal of Freedom picks a sign that the discourse on Israeli occupation and apartheid is beginning to change in this country? Don't just hope--get engaged!

U.S. Boycott and Divestment Campaigns Get the Attention of Israeli Media

In an important sign of the growth of the boycott and divestment movement in the United States, U.S. groups have been receiving coverage of boycott actions in the Israeli press. Recently, the US Campaign's Hang Up on Motorola boycott campaign got the attention of the Ha'aretz daily newspaper after a rally in New York City organized by the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI). You can view some great video of the demonstration by clicking here. The Ha'aretz article describes Motorola's connection to the Israeli military and even notes Motorola's previous apartheid connection:
"Motorola has been active in Israel since 1964; it currently provides the IDF with a cellular network through a subsidiary, MIRS. MIRS provided the IDF with a military-encrypted cellular communication system, nicknamed "Mountain Rose," which is worth $100 million and was especially constructed for field conditions. The company's radar detectors' and surveillance systems have been reportedly installed in West Bank settlements....Motorola was previously boycotted due to its support for the apartheid regime in South Africa. The company supplied South African police with mobile radio transmitters used to suppress demonstrations against the government."
Now, US Campaign member group CODEPINK Women for Peace has gained Israeli media attention with a Washington, DC protest of Ahava beauty products, as part of their "Stolen Beauty" campaign. Ahava makes products using minerals from the Dead Sea and has a factory and a visitors center in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, which, like all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, is illegal under international law. CODEPINK's Washington, DC action got coverage in YNetNews, the online version of the most read Israeli newspaper. CODEPINK members had the chance to explain their campaign to the Israeli public, although the YNet editors couldn't restrain themselves from putting quotes around Israeli occupation:
"Rae Abileah, a member of the movement who took part in the protest, said they are leading an international campaign against the company's products, in protest of their production in the "occupied Palestinian territory". Abileah added that it is immoral and unethical to purchase or distribute products that carry such a very heavy price tag and make their profit from the occupation. She said they had entered cosmetics stores and handed the managers letters with factual information on Ahava's production process, and demanded they stop selling these products, since it is against the Geneva Convention."
This media coverage is great news for the movement for human rights and international law in Israel/Palestine, but it's not enough. How can you get involved? First of all, take a look at the database of BDS news that we're aggregating on our website. We update this regularly, along with our US Campaign in the News and Apartheid in the News sites, so it's a great way to stay abreast of the discourse surrounding boycott and divestment. Next, check out our ongoing campaigns against Motorola and Caterpillar. Sign up to be a local organizer, sign a boycott pledge, or plan an action at a local phone store or CAT dealer. And check out the BDS actions that member groups like CODEPINK and Adalah-NY are doing as well. Finally, consider coming to our National Organizers' Conference in Chicago on September 12-13. We'll be discussing the current state of our boycott and divestment work, and how to move forward as a coalition. If you're a member of an organization, check and see if your organization is a member of the US Campaign. If not, encourage them to join and send delegates to the conference. You can also click here for resources on how to start a group! Join the conversation. Join the struggle. Join the fun!

Israel investigates itself--and finds itself not guilty. Surprise?

The Israeli military has decided that it is perfectly capable of investigating itself. According to the AFP, "The Israeli military is conducting 15 criminal probes into troop conduct during its Gaza offensive, including over claims children were used as human shields, authorities said on Thursday." Not surprisingly, the Israeli foreign ministry is claiming that "the evidence thus far reflects that the IDF (armed forces) pursued legitimate objectives, with appropriate precautions." You have to wonder if the Israeli government believes that individuals accused of crimes should be allowed to investigate themselves, since institutions accused of crimes--in this case, war crimes--apparently are. Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera reports on the strategic timing of this report by the Israeli government, which came out in the wake of a report by Amnesty International and just before the UN Human Rights Council prepares to publish conclusions from its public hearings in Gaza: Unfortunately, rather than calling for an independent investigation or holding Israel accountable for its actions during the assault on the Gaza Strip, the U.S. government is rewarding war crimes by continuing provide billions in military aid to Israel. If we want accountability, we can't just wait around for Congress, the Obama Administration, or the Israeli government to do the work for us. We have to act.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ben Gurion, the Old City, and Bethlehem prison--an update from the US Campaign/IFPB Delegation in Israel/Palestine

Our interfaith group (including a few faithfully secular) landed at Ben Gurion airport on Monday, with only two exceptions it was a smooth landing. One of our group members was detained for over six hours. She was detained because of a gift from her father, her last name. While our friend had never been to Israel/Palestine before, or even been involved in much anti-occupation work in the U.S., her father's name, and relatives who she has never met in Gaza, were enough to flag her. This was the first experience that most of our group had with racial profiling, Israeli style. After escaping the airport, we settled in at our hotel in East Jerusalem. The next day we took a tour of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the surrounding West Bank area, viewing sites of homes in the Silwan neighborhood that have been destroyed to make way for Israel's "City of David" archeological park, as well as several developments planned and paid for by U.S. bingo mogul, Irving Moskowitz. We learned how Moskowitz (and others, including the Israeli state) are working to divide the West Bank with a belt of settlements extending from Jerusalem to the Jordan River. We also saw construction for the Jerusalem Light Rail Project, subject of a recent boycott & divestment victory. Today was devoted to Bethlehem and the surrounding environs. The drive to Bethlehem was interesting in itself; I previously had no concept of how compact this land is. If it weren't for the checkpoints, I wouldn't have been able to tell that we had left the Jerusalem suburbs. Of course, this is because Bethlehem and Jerusalem have been connected for millennia. Trade, travel, and family between the two cities have traditionally been intertwined, but now Israel's apartheid wall, checkpoints, and permit system have made these age-old traditions a thing of the past for Palestinians. We went to Wi'am, a community center dedicated to uplifting the citizens of Bethlehem through empowering women, youth activities, conflict transformation education, and providing mediation services. From Wi'am's office we had what must have, at one time, been a lovely view of hills speckled with olive trees. However, the view was scarred by the apartheid wall and a large Israeli settlement creeping ever closer to Bethlehem. This view gave me a new perspective on Israel's occupation, I felt surrounded, watched, and reminded of the fact that the people of Bethlehem live at the whim of the Israeli state-military apparatus. Our delegation will only spend one day in Bethlehem, I cannot imagine what this view, this perspective of powerlessness, must be like for those who call Bethlehem home. After Wi'am, we toured the Church of the Nativity and many of us prayed at the site of Jesus' birth. However, our visit to this holy place was not all quite reflection, we met a member of the city council who related his tale of being under siege in the Church in 2002, when 23 of the over 200 people seeking refuge from an Israeli invasion were killed by sniper fire. The second part of our day was dedicated to learning more about Palestinian refugees. Our delegation met with a representative from Badil, the center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. After learning about Palestinian refugees from a legal and historical perspective, we went to see the real thing, touring the Deheisheh Refugee Camp and Al-Feneiq (the Phoenix) Cultural Center. At Al-Feneiq, we spent over two hours with a Nakba survivor. Our host was a policeman in Jaffa prior to the founding of Israel and fondly reminisced on his mixed police academy class and his Jewish friends, before he was removed to a "Palestinian area" in 1948. Hearing this old man tell us about the harsh differences between the days in his twenties when he lived in harmony with his Jewish, Christian, and Muslim neighbors, and his life today as a refugee living in a cramped camp with only intermittent utility service, literally clinging to an Ottoman-issued document that certified his family's ownership of property which he is no longer allowed to visit made painfully clear the reality of Israel's apartheid policies. This man, who devoted his young life to protecting Jaffans of all religious and ethnic backgrounds, was forcibly removed from his home to a camp in an area that he had no connection to, and can now only share his heritage and memories of an integrated life with his children through his poetry, and a deed to a house that has been occupied by Israelis for 62 years. While everyone on this delegation has been very moved by our tours and meetings thus far, some have expressed a yearning for an Israeli perspective. While we should honor the fact that our settlement tour was conducted by an Israeli Jew, many felt that they still don't understand Israeli motivations for continuing occupation and apartheid practices. Hopefully tomorrow's trip to Sderot and several kibbutzim in the area will provide some insights.

Report from IFPB/US Campaign Delegation to Israel/Palestine

From the Interfaith Peace-Builders/US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation cosponsored delegation to Israel/Palestine:
"We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports. Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports. As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals. Trip reports to not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations. We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others."
Check out the first report from the delegation by clicking here, and read a more detailed report from US Campaign National Organizer Katherine Fuchs here.

US Campaign on the radio: "Will Obama’s Push For a Freeze on Israeli Settlements Work?"

This morning, US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey was interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar of Uprising Radio on KPFK 90.7 FM. Kolhatkar and Hosey discussed the Israeli settlements, Obama's push for a settlement freeze, and the response of the Israeli government. They also talked about nonviolent resistance to the expansion of settlements, such as this attempt by Israeli and Palestinian members of Combatants for Peace to set up a mock "settlement outpost" on land onto which they'd been invited. There efforts were met with repression by the Israeli army, while settlers continue to be allowed to erect structures on Palestinian land. Check out the video of this action: Click here to read a summary and listen to the segment, or here to download the audio file.

Is Israel guilty of piracy?

Check out this video from the Free Gaza Movement and the International Solidarity Movement portraying violations of international maritime law committed by the Israeli navy: Challenge U.S. support for these violations of international law by meeting with members of Congress and organizing in your local community!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Right-wing settlers want U.S. out--but U.S. military aid in

A new short film produced by Israeli activist Joseph Dana shows right-wing Israeli settler groups protesting the arrival of US envoys to Israel with chants of "Saddam Hussein Obama" and "Mitchell Go Home". Dana comments:
"The people that attended the rally think that occupying another people and chanting racist slurs at the first black president of the United States (who was elected by a majority of American Jews who support him) is their expression of freedom and democracy....Most people we talked to did not hesitate to attack Obama and his administration, of which many are Jews themselves. The general atmosphere of the rally was that Obama is a Muslim and a racist who denies the Jewish people their right to control the Land of Israel. When asked about American aid to Israel, most replied that this was a separate issue [emphasis added]."
Check it out: The Israeli right wants to have it both ways--massive U.S. financial and political support, but no pressure from the United States to end Israel's 42-year occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. We need to put pressure on our members of Congress and organize in our local communities to hold Israel accountable for the violations of human rights and international law that are enabled by our U.S. tax dollars. Manal Tellawi presents another view on the growing settlements at A Different Perspective on the Middle East:
"Removing settlements may not be as hard as some people make it out to be. There are settlers who indeed believe that they live on Palestinian land, and their primary motive for moving to the West Bank was not an aggressive one or a desire to fulfill the dream of a greater Israel. These are points we must disclose to others, especially to those individuals who argue that the future borders of the Israeli state must include a handful of settlements along the western border of the West Bank. We must urge our politicians to lobby for U.S. support of the application of the 4th Geneva Conventions in the occupied territories, and as President Obama has stated on numerous occasions, to demand an end to all Israeli settlement construction, without exceptions for “natural growth.”"
We can change U.S. policy in the Middle East, but without pressure on our elected representatives and in our local communities, settlements will continue to expand, military aid will continue to pour in--and prospects for a just peace in Israel/Palestine will continue to fade.

Gaza March Organizers Discuss U.S. Military Aid, Boycott, Divestment

On July 14, 2009 200 people gathered at the Brecht Forum in New York City to hear members of US Campaign member group Code Pink's June delegation to Gaza report on what they had seen and heard. Additionally, others spoke to the need to accelerate activity in support of the people of Gaza. This included growing support for a Boycott-Disinvestment-Sactions campaign and the building of a massive march in December 2009, in Gaza, of thousands of people from the U.S. in opposition to Israel's blockade and siege. During the question and answer session, audience members raised important points and questions about the need to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel and to build a national movement for boycott and divestment. You can watch video of the session below, and see video of the speakers at the Palestine Video "vlog": Want to join the conversation about how to build a national movement dedicated to challenging U.S. military aid and boycotting and divesting from Israel's apartheid practices? Join us at our National Conference in Chicago on September 12-13!

Video of July 25 "Goodbye Moto" Demo

Check out this great video of the New York Campaign to Boycott Israel's (NYCBI) July 25 "Goodbye Moto" demonstration in Brooklyn's Prospect Park part of NYCBI's "Summer in the Streets to Boycott Israeli Apartheid": To learn more about NYCBI, click here. NYCBI was initiated, in part, by US Campaign member group Adalah-NY. For resources to Hang Up on Motorola in your own community, click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Interfaith Peace-Builders and US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Delegation Arrives in Israel/Palestine

Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation are pleased to announce that our 23 member delegation to Israel/Palestine entered Israel at the Ben-Gurion airport Monday afternoon. The group is now safely in Jerusalem.

The purpose of this delegation, the 31st to make the trip since 2001, is to educate North American citizens about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts. This is the second delegation that IFPB and USC have co-sponsored since 2008.

The delegation focuses on the role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the next ten days, the group will meet civil society leaders, activists and experts who will explain the role of US military, humanitarian and diplomatic aid in the region. Participants will analyze the US role in a comparative framework and examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the light of other historical conflicts such as apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South. Delegates will also hear from Palestinian and Israeli peace-builders and nonviolent activists promoting peace and reconciliation.

Despite positive rhetoric from the Obama administration, US military aid to the region continues to flow unabated. Participants on this delegation have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians and Israelis regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the US government in promoting a resolution to the conflict.

The delegation includes the following people:

Tovio Asheeke - Richmond, IN Tasneem Bootwala - Los Angeles, CA Katherine Fuchs (co-leader) - Washington, DC Steve Gilliland - Lakewood, CA Cindy Howard - Lees' Summit, MO Jeff Kipilman - Portland, OR Samya Kullab - Toronto, ON Jen Lauda - Alexandria, VA Michelle Lee - Hyde Park, MA Shannon Little - Santa Barbara, CA Kristin Loken - Falling Waters, WV Paula Martens - Nashville, TN Dave Matos - Aiken, SC Christoph Osterberg - Kassel, Germany Nancy Paraskevopoulos - Cincinnati, OH Emily Siegel - Washington, DC Laurie Siegel - Washington, DC Mark Smith - Edinburg, UK Jerry Stinson - Long Beach, CA Shakeel Syed (co-leader) - Culver City, CA Brandon West - Philadelphia, PA Cynthia Wilson - Washington Court House, OH Inanna Younan - Chicago, IL

Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation believe in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.

Upon their return to the United States, delegates will share their experiences with the public, the media, and their political representatives.

Media interested in interviewing the participants when they return, and groups wanting information about speaking engagements, should contact Interfaith Peace-Builders at media [at] ifpb [dot] org or 202.244.0821.

Keep an eye on the US Campaign blog and the IFPB website for updates from the delegation.

You can also keep up with the delegation by following the US Campaign on Twitter.

Monday, July 27, 2009

US Campaign Reps Talk Boycott & Divestment on "A Public Affair"

Last Thursday's episode of "A Public Affair" on WORT-FM in Madison, WI, hosted by Naama Nagar and Muhammad Sankari, featured a discussion of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The featured speakers included an Israeli activist, a Palestinian activist who will be speaking at the US Campaign's National Conference, and two representatives of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The first interviewee was Omar Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and also one of the featured keynote speakers at the upcoming US Campaign National Organizer's Conference this September, who spoke about the origins of the 2005 Unified Call for BDS, the history and significance of boycott as civil resistance, and his involvement in the movement as citizen of Israel. Barghouti was followed by Eilat Maoz, who is a central organizer in the Coalition of Women for Peace in Israel, the organization that initiated the Whoprofits.org project. Eilat spoke about the growing movement of support for BDS within Israel, the Whoprofits.org project and database, and the LGBTQI community within Israel. Next up was US Campaign National Organizer Katherine Fuchs, who spoke about BDS organizing within the United States, the National Organizer's Conference and the IFBP delegation to Israel/Palestine (we'll be featuring updates from the delegation throughout the next two weeks here at the US Campaign blog!) Finally, the US Campaign's Boycott and Divestment Intern Ilana Rossoff, also a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Hampshire College, spoke about BDS organizing in a campus community, such as tactics for educating and mobilizing support, as well as the recent divestment decision at Hampshire College and how student campaigns are moving forward. Click here to download and listen to the whole program.

Huwaida Arraf: "Free Gaza--and Palestine "

US Campaign Advisory Board member Huwaida Arraf writes in The Nation about her experience with the Free Gaza Movement and the attempt to sail into the Gaza Strip on the Spirit of Humanity--an attempt that was blocked by the Israeli military:
"My colleagues and I invested time and energy in this difficult journey and put our lives at risk because for too long the international community has been complicit in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. For too long, diplomats and world leaders have paid lip service to Palestinian human rights. For too long, the Palestinian people have been told to wait--wait in the checkpoint line, wait on the peace process, wait to have your rights recognized, wait for freedom"
To read the full article, click here.

Nadia Hijab: Israel's Illegal Threat Diplomacy

Check out the latest column from US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab (syndicated by Agence Global): Israel's Warships and Threat Diplomacy By Nadia Hijab Two Israeli missile class warships sailed through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Red Sea this week, some days after one of their nuclear submarines. The news barely blipped the media surface of the United States. It should have raised a few questions: Will Israel really attack Iran? What does the law have to say to Israel -- and to Egypt? Will the world act to prevent war? The idea of an Israeli attack on Iran is almost unthinkable. It could devastate Iran and have repercussions beyond a counter-attack on Israel. Nuclear fallout could affect neighboring countries. Americans in the region and elsewhere could be vulnerable. Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz through which about 20% of world oil flows, perhaps felling a global economy already on its knees. As French president Nicolas Sarkozy said at the G8 summit, such a unilateral act would be an "absolute catastrophe." Barack Obama wants a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, so perhaps all we are seeing is Israeli sabre-rattling. If this is all, it is still useful to Israel. Israeli strategists have openly said they prefer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power -- his inflammatory rhetoric is more likely to keep Iran at loggerheads with the world -- and an external threat strengthens Ahmadinejad against his reformist rivals. Israeli military maneuvers also reinforce Iran's determination to seek a nuclear deterrent, thus keeping the country isolated. And it distracts attention from Israel's relentless colonization program in the occupied Palestinian territories. Yet an attack cannot be ruled out: Israel has been known to do the unthinkable. The world cannot afford to wait and see. The United States in particular needs to take more muscular action. The Obama administration does not have to expend political capital by taking Israel on by itself. It can make use of the protection provided by the United Nations and international law. There's plenty to work with: An Israel strike against Iran would be against the law. Any state's use of force must be justified as self-defense; otherwise, it is a fundamental violation of the United Nations Charter. What's more, International law expert Richard Falk says, even the threat to use force is unlawful. Israel's "threat diplomacy" is "explicitly prohibited by the Charter," the American Jewish law professor explains, because the threat to use force can be as disruptive as the use of force itself. It constitutes a crime against peace, as it was defined at the Nuremburg Tribunal after World War II, becoming a principle of international law. It promotes an arms race and escalates tension. Today, there are tensions indeed, and they evoke eerie echoes of the June 1967 war. The weeks before the war were full of military maneuvers and tough talk that culminated in the lightning Israeli attack on and victory over Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel knew full well that the Arabs did not intend war. The late premier Menachem Begin told the Israel National Defense College in 1982: "We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack [Nasser]." The military swagger provided the cover for Israel's strike. If the world doesn't want to spend the next 42 years trying to unravel the consequences of another Israeli attack -- this time against Iran -- it must act fast. First, countries must be careful not to be complicit in Israel's "threat diplomacy." So while Egypt has no right to block the passage of Israeli vessels through the Suez Canal, Falk refers to the concept of "innocent passage" in international law. Whether Israel's deployment of its warships and nuclear submarines can be seen as innocent -- given the threats it has been making -- is a tricky question under international law. Egypt may well have a duty to the international community not to allow such passage. And if so, the international community must support it in this position. Second, countries must lay down the law. Obama was quick to deflect Joe Biden's claim that Israel, as a "sovereign nation" was entitled to decide on a strike against Iran. Obama underscored that America had "absolutely not" given Israel a green light. He even appeared to slap his vice president on the wrist by saying it was very important that his administration be as clear and "as consistent as it can be." But Obama did not go far enough. Biden's remark is not just another unguided missile: It is not consistent with international law. No state, however sovereign, has the right to threaten world peace unless it is acting in self-defense or has a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. This is what Biden should have said, what Obama must say, and what all countries, Egypt included, must uphold. Otherwise we will all pay a heavy price.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some good blog, media coverage of U.S. involvement in Israeli occupation

This past week we've seen some great blog and media coverage of the U.S. involvement in the Israeli occupation. We were excited to see coverage of the Motorola boycott in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz:
"Protesters in the New York borough of Queens held a rally last week to call for a boycott of Motorola over the firm's business dealings with the Israel Defense Forces. At the demonstration, which was organized by the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, protestors waved Palestinian flags and signs saying: "Goodbye Moto, Goodbye Apartheid," and "Boycott Motorola, Free Palestine." The groups the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Palestinian National Committee and other organizations worldwide also support a boycott of the phone company"
Rob Browne hits the mark at Mondoweiss with his discussion of the need for Obama to set a deadline on Israeli compliance with a settlement freeze:
"It is now time to for Obama to stop listening and start acting, otherwise these "experts" and "leaders" will continue to find new and destructive ways of playing out the clock."
Helena Cobban engages in an in-depth exploration of "how occupations end" at Talking Points Memo:
"Now, we know much better than we did six years years ago what occupation is, and what it always involves: bullying; mass incarcerations; the sowing of tensions through divide-and-rule policies; and the spreading of hatred, domination, and fear. We are, finally, bringing our occupation of Iraq to an end. Israel needs to end its long-lived attempts to stay in the OPTs and in Syria's Golan."
Also at Talking Points Memo, M.J. Rosenberg has an interesting perspective on the links between Obama's attempts to stand firm on health care and settlements:
"The word from the Israeli right is that their best hope of prevailing over the President is by stalling. They are watching Obama's poll numbers, praying the health reform bill collapses and with it Obama's popularity. Then they will enlist the still reluctant Israel lobby to pressure Congressional Democrats to support Netanyahu."
And John Dugard has a great op-ed in the New York Times on why--and how--the International Criminal Court should take on the case of Israeli war crimes in Gaza:
"A decision by the I.C.C. to investigate whether crimes were committed in Gaza, in the course of Israel's offensive, would... give the I.C.C. an opportunity to show that it is not infected by a double standard and that it is willing to take action against international crimes committed outside Africa."
What could be better than all this great coverage? Eyewitness reporting from the US Campaign/Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation to Israel/Palestine, of course! Stay tuned on the US Campaign blog for reports and posts from delegation members including US Campaign National Organizer Katherine Fuchs.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Israeli military, civilians contemplate the end of U.S. military aid--why don't we?

Joseph Dana and Antony Lowenstein have released a follow-up to the widely circulated Max Blumenthal video "Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem," which was banned by YouTube after receiving hundreds of thousands of hits. The new video is worth watching to get a sense of Israeli viewpoints regarding settlements and U.S. President Barack Obama, but at the US Campaign we were particularly interested in the individual interviewed at minute 4:25, who was willing to defend settlement policy even if it would lead to the end of U.S. military aid to Israel--and, seemingly, the total isolation of the country. In fact, this gentleman describes Israeli reliance on U.S. aid as "a junky waiting for a fix." Check it out: Of course, one Israeli right-winger considering a cut-off of U.S. military aid doesn't say much. Today, however, the Jerusalem Post is reporting that the Israeli military establishment has been considering what its options would be if the U.S. decides to cut off military aid due to Israeli settlement policy:
"Amid growing tension between Jerusalem and Washington, the IDF and Defense Ministry have held brainstorming sessions to discuss the possibility that the United States would cut military aid to Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.On Tuesday night, senior Defense Ministry and IDF officers gathered in Tel Aviv for a discussion on US-Israeli relations, during which they discussed new Pentagon regulations regarding the way Israel can use the almost $3 billion in military aid it receives from the US."
It's long past time that we bring a conversation that is happening in Israeli Defense Ministry meetings and on the streets of Jerusalem into the halls of Congress. Click here to schedule a meeting with your elected representatives during the August Congressional recess, and let them know that you're tired of your tax money paying for the Israeli military's violations of international law and human rights. Tell them you want your tax money going to health care, education, housing--anything other than sponsoring war and occupation. Click here to sign up for a meeting today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Exchanges over the Apartheid Wall--Real and Imagined

The Israeli cell phone company Cellcom recently released an ad showing Israeli soldiers playing a light-hearted game of soccer with invisible Palestinians over the Apartheid Wall. The ad, which takes a step beyond normalizing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land to actually portraying it as fun, has been the target of criticism from many groups and individuals who understand the destructive effects that the Wall and the entire infrastructure of the occupation has on Palestinian lives and livelihoods and on chances for a just peace in the region. Last week, the villagers of Bil'in, who have protested weekly against the construction of the Wall on their farmland for several years, lampooned the Cellcom ad by showing what actually happens if a Palestinian tries to kick a soccer ball over the Wall. Check out the original ad and the response of Bil'in village, below: Unfortunately, Cellcom isn't the only company--or even the only cell phone company--cynically trying to make money off of the destruction of Palestinian land and livelihoods. In 2008, the US Campaign brought to the attention of Motorola its complicity in Israel's human rights violations and military occupation and called on the corporation to cease selling equipment to the Israeli military to prevent its involvement in future abuses. The US Campaign launched and is coordinating a national consumer boycott of Motorola cell phones to raise awareness of its profiteering from human rights abuses and to tarnish its corporate image for doing so. This boycott was successful in pressuring Motorola to sell of its department that produced bomb fuzes for the Israeli military; however, Motorola continues to produce the Wide Area Surveillance System, MotoEagle, and other surveillance systems that are used around Israeli settlements, as well as communication equipment used by the Israeli military. Although there's been a lot of noise lately about Motorola selling off its Israeli subsidiary, MIRS, this sale will only divest Motorola from selling consumer products to settlers, not its contracts with the Israeli military. The Cellcom ad reinforces, once again, the important role that corporations and consumer products play in the normalization and support of the Israeli occupation. To counteract this role, the international movement for boycott and divestment continues to come up with new and creative methods of drawing attention to companies that are complicit in the occupation. Recently, US Campaign allies CODEPINK Women for Peace have taken up the boycott and divestment call by targeting Ahava beauty products, which are produced in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Their "Stolen Beauty" campaign seeks to bring "the struggle for a just peace" to a "store near you." The campaign against Ahava isn't limited to the United States, as attested to in this video from a protest at a Sephora in Paris. As the global BDS movement spreads, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation will continue to explore how we can educate and mobilize the U.S. public about the role of corporations, consumer goods, and institutions in the Israeli occupation, and the role that human rights activists can play in opposing corporate complicity. Want to join the conversation? Join us in Chicago on September 12-13, 2009, at our 8th Annual National Organizers' conference as we discuss how to expand the BDS work of the US Campaign in an newly exciting--and challenging--global and domestic context. Hope to see you in Chicago!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Manal Tellawi on testimonies from Israeli soldiers

US Campaign supporter Manal Tellawi sent us the following update about testimonies from Israeli soldiers on the conduct of the Israeli military during the December-January attack on Gaza: Breaking the Silence, an organization which collects testimony on human rights abuses conducted by the IDF, has released testimony of soldiers admiting that the Israeli military used Palestinians as human shields during its latest offensive in the Gaza Strip. This news is significant in that it is further proof of the validity of the claims made by human rights groups such as Amnesty International that Israel engaged in the horrific practice. Haaretz published one soldier’s testimony: “At every home, the soldier said, if there were armed occupants, the house was besieged, with the goal of getting the militants out of the building alive. The soldier said he was present at several such operations. In an incident his commanders told him about, three armed militants were in a house. Attack helicopters were brought in. "They ... again sent the [Palestinian] neighbor in. At first he said that nothing had happened [to the armed men]," the soldier said. "Again they brought in attack helicopters and fired. They again sent in the neighbor. He said there were two dead and one still alive. They then brought in a bulldozer and began to knock the house down on him until [the neighbor] entered." The soldier said he had been told that the only militant remaining alive was captured and turned over to the Shin Bet security service.” Although the practice of using Palestinians as human shields was banned by Israel’s Supreme Court in 2005, it is apparent from the testimonies that it continues to be practiced by even the leading authorities of the army. However, despite the sobering testimonies, the Israeli government continues to refuse to investigate the conduct of Israeli soldiers in Operation Cast Lead. The use of human shields is illegal under international law and considered a war crime. While Amnesty International has accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes, it has found no evidence that supports the claim that Hamas used Palestinian civilians as human shields. Amnesty International has called on the international community to impose an arms embargo on both Israel and Hamas. The UK most recently cut certain weapons contracts with the Israeli Defense Forces. It is now up to the US to do the same. Click here to sign up to organize a meeting with your Member of Congress in August to tell them to put pressure on the U.S. government to cut and condition military aid to Israel as long as it continues to be used to violate U.S. law, international law, and Palestinian human rights. You can also read Breaking the Silence co-founder Mikhael Manekin's explanation for why these testimonies are important at the Huffington Post, and watch some of the testimonies below (from The Guardian, courtesty of Palestine Video):

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Congress Is Blazing through the Budget Process this Year

According to our initial research findings, during the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians, often with U.S. weapons, in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. Since President Obama took office in January, we’ve been trying to press his Administration and Congress to both investigate Israel’s violations of the Arms Export Control Act and hold it accountable for these violations by cutting off or, at the minimum, conditioning future U.S. military aid. Toward that end, we published an open letter to President Obama, signed by more than 400 organizations, which echoed this demand; we also sent a similar sign-on letter to the Appropriations Committees signed by 40 prominent national organizations opposing the President’s FY2010 budget request for $2.775 billion in military aid for Israel. In previous blog postings, we let you know about our unsuccessful attempts to get into the House Appropriations Subcommittee and Committee “mark-ups” of the FY2010 budget, where U.S. military aid to Israel should have been debated but was actually put through to the next budgetary step without discussion. Unfortunately, we have more bad news about the willingness of Congress to approve suggested FY2010 military aid levels to Israel without debate. On July 9, the House moved with alacrity and passed H.R.3081, the FY2010 appropriations bill for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which includes the President’s budget request for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel. Also, on the same day, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction for foreign aid programs apparently neglected to do its job and sent the appropriations bill directly to the full appropriations committee for it to “mark-up.” In a previously unannounced session, the committee approved the budget by a vote of 29-1. The budget now goes to the always-opaque Senate calendar for the full Senate to vote on at some future date. It’s ironic that Congress took a big step towards approving nearly $3 billion in military aid to Israel in the FY2010 budget on the 5th anniversary of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that Israel’s Apartheid Wall is illegal and must be torn down. The ICJ ruled that no state may “render aid or assistance” to Israel to maintain its still-standing illegal wall. How about that for a big U.S. thumb in the eye of international law? Barring a miraculous objection by a Senator on the floor of the Senate or a Presidential veto, the FY2010 appropriations bill approving $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel is likely to be a done deal as soon as this month. Usually Congress doesn’t reach this point in the budget process until the leaves start changing colors and a fall breeze is in the air. This is good news for a crisp budget process, but bad news for our plans to try to influence the budget process this year. In fact, Congress’ new-found budget alacrity has really messed up our planning process. We had anticipated that the August Congressional recess would be the perfect time for activists to meet with their Members of Congress to discuss with them their concerns about the FY2010 budget request for $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel and to raise budget amendment language with Members of Congress to prevent U.S. military aid to Israel from being used to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians. So far, we’ve got a great response to our call for activists to schedule meetings with their Members of Congress—more than 125 people in 32 states and 90 Congressional districts are in the process of doing so. We’ve even made this really cool Google Earth map below to show you in which Congressional districts people are organizing meetings. (To view the map, you’ll need to install the Google Earth plug-in. Follow the on-screen directions and give it a few minutes to install and load.) Well, all is not lost. Even though Congress has already more or less finished the budget process for FY2010 relating to military aid to Israel, we can still use this opportunity to press for accountability and demand of our Members of Congress that previous Israeli violations of the Arms Export Control Act are investigated and reported on before this money is actually disbursed in the fall. If you would like to volunteer to set up a meeting with your Member of Congress during the August Congressional recess to discuss this issue, then please click here. It’s our responsibility as good citizens to convey our ideas and concerns to our Members of Congress. If we don’t and if we don’t make it manifest to them that they have constituents who oppose military aid to Israel, then we can’t expect otherwise than for Congress to continue approving this aid without objection. Sign up to organize a meeting with your Member of Congress in August by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UK cuts Israel weapons contracts--and we should too

Good news from the United Kingdom: pressure from human rights groups to cut off weapons shipments to Israel given the role of foreign-provided arms in the human rights catastrophe of the December-January assault on the Gaza Strip is starting to pay off. The BBC reports that the "UK has revoked five export licences for equipment to the Israeli navy because of actions during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza this year." This decision comes after pressure on the UK government from human rights groups:
"The UK says it does not sell weapons which might be used for internal repression or external aggression. ...The British government has been challenged by human rights groups and members of the UK parliament over concerns raised by Amnesty International that British-made equipment was used illegally in Gaza."
Read the full article here. Amnesty's initial report on Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" was entitled "Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza," and is available here. The report outlined the significant role that U.S. arms, including white phosphorous shells, played in the the destruction of the Gaza Strip. More recently, Amnesty has issued a report outlining accusations of war crimes committed by the Israeli military and Hamas forces during "Operation Cast Lead." Given the significant role that U.S.-provided weapons played in Israel's brutal 22 day attack on the Gaza Strip, and given that U.S. law prohibits countries receiving U.S. weapons from using them in acts of aggression, the sort of pressure that has been brought to bear on the British government can and must be applied to the U.S. government. Click here to sign up to organize a meeting with your Member of Congress in August to tell them that the U.S. government should cut and condition military aid to Israel as long as it continues to be used to violate U.S. law, international law, and Palestinian human rights. You can also watch Democracy Now cover the story here:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why Does July 9th Matter?

Today is a very important anniversary for our movement. Five years ago today, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion ruling Israel's apartheid wall illegal. Four years ago today, myriad Palestinian civil society groups issued the Palestinian Unified Call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Join us, as we celebrate these important anniversaries, click here to learn more about how you can get involved. The Palestinian Unified Call was a direct response to the ICJ's ruling. After years of cooperation with South African anti-apartheid activists Palestinian civil society decided that the most relevent solidarity action that it could call for was economically, culturally and academically isolating Israel until they ended their military occupation and apartheid practices targeting Palestinians. For four years, the US Campaign has focused on the economic isolation component by focusing on two U.S. corporations directly profiting from Israel's violations of international law, Caterpillar and Motorola. The popularity of boycott and divestment campaigns has grown tremendously in the past four years, and especially since "Operation Cast Lead." Consumer boycott is growing with campaigns like Stolen Beauty, and Don't Buy Into Apartheid. Other aspects of the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement have also developed since the 2005 Palestinian Unified Call. Cultural boycotts, from the Yes Men withdrawing from Israeli film festivals to protests at Israeli performances in the United States, are becoming increasingly popular. Even the hotly debated idea of academic boycott is advancing with the growth of the new group US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In light of the explosion of new boycott and divestment work happening around us, we will be devoting a major part of our upcoming organizers' conference to revisiting the scope of our boycott and divestment work. Join us in honoring July 9th, and become part of the conversation by joining us at our conference in September!

Cynthia McKinney and Adam Shapiro on Democracy Now

Former Representative Cynthia McKinney (who was given our “Courage in Congress Award” at our 4th Annual National Organizers’ Conference in Atlanta in 2005), and International Solidarity Movement co-founders Adam Shapiro (who was given our “Damu Smith Memorial Activist Award” at our 6th Annual National Organizers’ Conference in Arlington, Virginia in 2007) interviewed on Democracy Now:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Settlements, the Free Gaza Movement, and International Law

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch added a much needed corrective to the discussion about settlements taking place in the U.S. media:
"The debate over Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is often framed in terms of whether they should be "frozen" or allowed to grow "naturally." But that is akin to asking whether a thief should be allowed merely to keep his ill-gotten gains or steal some more. It misses the most fundamental point: Under international law, all settlements on occupied territory are unlawful."
Read the full article here. Alan Sabrosky makes a similar point about the Free Gaza Movement boat The Spirit of Humanity:
"Israel’s hijacking last week of The Spirit of Humanity on the international high seas was a simple act of piracy. We have seen different reactions elsewhere to piracy, most notably off the coast of Somalia, or even to the kidnapping of embassy staff and humanitarian aid personnel. In this case, as in previous instances of Israeli violations of international law, nothing has been done."
Sabrosky challenges readers to confront elected representatives about repeated violations of human rights by the Israeli military, financed by U.S. taxpayers:
"This is when to pin members of Congress to the political wall – not with chanted slogans or waving placards (those have their place, and it is not here), but with precise questions from well-dressed, polite but forceful people who do not let the target pass the question to a staff member, defer it for study, or side-step the issue. Pin them down, show them slides or pictures from Gaza, give them details, know how they voted on resolutions or measures put out by AIPAC (e.g., how did they vote on the Congressional resolution endorsing Israel’s attack on Gaza), and demand an explanation. And make sure the local media takes in every detail."
Read the full article here. Interested in taking up Sabrosky's challenge? Find out how your Members of Congress voted on relevant resolutions using our Congressional Report Card. Then, sign up on our website to meet with your Members of Congress during the August recess. Don't worry if you've never done this before, we'll provide you with the resources and tools you need, and connect you with other people in your Congressional district who will be able to work with you on this important task! Click here to schedule a meeting!

Friday, July 3, 2009

U.S. Military Aid to Israel: Our Tax Dollars Hard at Work Kidnapping U.S. Citizens on the High Seas

“But the important thing is, is that we clearly have an issue in this region right now, piracy, and we need to work cooperatively with a whole host of countries as best we can to prevent these things from happening, and then, of course, if they do happen, to be able to prosecute these pirates.” --Robert Wood, Acting State Department Spokesperson, April 13, 2009 Remember that old TV commercial where the cartoon kid asks the wise owl how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Well, to jog your memory in case you forgot or are too young to remember it, here it is: Just like the curious kid in the commercial, we here at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation want to know how many steps it takes to link Israel’s human rights abuses to your hard-earned tax dollars. As the owl says, “Let’s find out!” Step #1: President Obama sent his FY2010 budget request to Congress in May, which included a near-record $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel—an increase of $225 million in aid to Israel compared with this year’s budget—despite the fact that the United States is currently in its gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Based on IRS statistics, we estimate that this amounts to an average of $17.75 for each individual taxpayer in the United States. According to Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided Israel with more than $100 billion in direct military and economic aid since 1949. Step #2: Thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, Israel purchases U.S. weapons with its yearly appropriation of U.S. military aid and wealth gets transferred from ordinary citizens to the pockets of the CEO’s of war profiteering companies. No wonder we don’t have money for things such as health care reform. To take one example of how this works, let’s look at Israel’s purchases of weapons for its navy with U.S. military aid. According to our research, Armed and Dangerous: Weapons Transfers to Israel during the Bush Administration, Israel and the Pentagon agreed upon the transfer of 4 littoral combat ships and associated components from Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon in a July 2008 contract valued at $1.9 billion. The State Department also licensed more than $230 million of naval ships and components to Israel between FY2001-2007. Step #3: Israel uses the weapons it receives from the United States at tax-payer expense to commit systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians living under Israel’s illegal 42-year military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip in violation of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts. Our research cited above found that Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, often with U.S. weapons, during the Bush Administration; yet the State Department did not notify Congress once that Israel violated these laws which are supposed to sanction countries that commit human rights abuses with U.S. weapons. Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons even extends to internationals who try to prevent the human rights abuses that it commits or who attempt to alleviate the humanitarian crises that Israel’s policies produce. Back to our naval example, yesterday Israel committed an act of piracy by kidnapping 21 human rights activists and journalists in international waters who were sailing on the Free Gaza Movement boat “Spirit of Humanity” and who had hoped to deliver badly-needed humanitarian supplies to the besieged and collectively-punished people of the Gaza Strip. As of this writing, these 21 people, including former Representative Cynthia McKinney (who was given our “Courage in Congress Award” at our 4th Annual National Organizers’ Conference in Atlanta in 2005), and International Solidarity Movement co-founders Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro (who respectively serve on our Advisory Board and who was given our “Damu Smith Memorial Activist Award” at our 6th Annual National Organizers’ Conference in Arlington, Virginia in 2007), remain detained against their will by Israeli authorities who have no jurisdiction to arrest them in international waters. You can learn more and take action to free these 21 activists by clicking here. Despite the fact that President Obama himself said that, “As part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza's border crossings should be open to allow the flow of aid and commerce,” and that the State Department sent Israel a formal diplomatic note pressing it to lift its brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, so far the Obama Administration hasn’t given a hoot about this incident (sorry, we couldn’t resist the owl pun). Well, just like the owl in the commercial, it looks like we’ve managed to connect your tax dollars to Israel’s human rights abuses with three quick licks. But, we wouldn’t be doing a very good job if we just complained about Israel misusing our tax dollars to commit human rights abuses without empowering you to take action to change the situation. In previous blog postings, we’ve showed you how we tried to take action to bring this issue to the attention of Congress. Here’s what you can do: 1. Send a letter to Members of Congress who appropriate money for U.S. foreign aid programs and ask them to cut off or, at the minimum, condition military aid to Israel. 2. If you belong to an organization, then ask it to endorse our organizational open letter to Congress, calling on it to hold Israel accountable for its misuse of U.S. weapons. 3. Join together with other constituents and meet with your Members of Congress to discuss this issue during the August Congressional recess. Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before. Sign up to organize a meeting and we’ll help you to schedule and run the meeting effectively. 4. Sign up to organize in your community to challenge military aid to Israel. Since February 2008, we’ve sent more than 1,200 organizing packets with postcards, fact-sheets, stickers, and more to organizers in 48 states and more than 600 cities. Join them today by signing up to get an organizing packet. 5. Offset your tax contribution to Israeli military occupation by making a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. You can donate in increments of $17.75 to offset your tax contribution and those of family, friends, and co-workers. We’ll put your tax-deductible contribution to use by continuing our campaign to challenge military aid to Israel, so please donate today.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire was interviewed from Israeli jail by Democracy Now!, watch it by clicking here. Continue to send emails to Congress and Israeli officials by clicking here. For a fact sheet about U.S. weapons used to attack civilians in Gaza and other resources, click here. For a Reuters article about the kidnapping of the Free Gaza activists, click here.