Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Response to J Street statement about Seattle Ad Campaign

The following letter was written on behalf of AUPHR -- one of our member organizations -- by a member of our steering committee... Response to J Street statement about Seattle Ad Campaign Written by Peter Miller, AUPHR Thursday, 23 December 2010 Dear J Street - I am very troubled by your public statement to the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign to drop their ad campaign "Israeli War Crimes - Your Tax Dollars at Work." First off, the Seattle Campaign is being attacked in an extremely reactionary way with open calls to limit the freedom of speech and deny debate and ignore Palestinian rights while invoking the usual canard of anti-Semitism. In short, it is business as usual for the Israel right or wrong crowd. Rather than mention these threats to our democratic ideals and the expression of open discussion, you seem to put yourself on the side of those who threaten free speech and continue to deny Palestinians their rights. Second, Israel is rapidly expanding its settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and still maintaining a damaging siege on the people of Gaza. Palestinian families are being thrown out into the street and their homes are being demolished. Racism is gaining ground in Israel as government Rabbis issue edicts that Jews should not rent to Arabs. I would hope that J Street would pay more attention to these actions and behaviors, surely designed to frustrate and destroy J Street's own stated goal: a two state solution. Third, you say that the ad campaign accuses "Israel of utilizing U.S. aid to commit war crimes" as if to imply that Israel has not done so. Certainly if you peruse the Goldstone report, read reports by Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, go to B'tselem's web site, or read reports of Breaking the Silence of Israeli soldiers, you can see plenty of actions and behavior that are surely illegal under international law. U.S. weapons and equipment like Caterpillar bulldozers have been instrumental in this behavior. Why set your organization up as denying this? Fourth, you insist that the entire Palestine-Israel peace movement drop everything it may be doing and "focus their energies on supporting the bold, assertive American leadership necessary to end the conflict." Many of us have watched the Obama administration flail about while Netanyahu openly insults the US administration and moves full steam ahead with settlements. Decades of successive U.S. governments have neglected Palestinian rights and ignored Israeli abuses. When do you think a "bold, assertive, American leadership" will arise? In ten years? In twenty? How about under a right-wing Republican administration? Essentially you are asking Palestinians and those seeking solidarity with Palestinians to give over to the unrealistic hope of change from above with absolutely no evidence to show that it will be effective. According to J Street, the non-violent tools of direct action, BDS, public engagement and challenging, in short anything that will hold Israeli policies to account must be surrendered. J Street's chosen role of supporting a change in official policy could certainly be an important part of solving the challenges facing us. It would seem that, rather than spending energies attempting to place boundaries on what others chose to do, J Street should focus on its stated mission of lobbying for a two-state solution. The human rights abuses and Israel's occupation are not passive situations for which there is the luxury of time. Rather than treating groups like the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign as adversaries that need to be frustrated and corralled by your own limited strategy, you should understand that only a broad coalition with diverse strategies will have any hope of securing a just future for Israelis and Palestinians. Sincerely, Peter Miller President Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights www.auphr.org