Sunday, August 21, 2011

A letter to Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., about congressional trips to Israel

This letter to Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., was submitted by Jack Dresser, Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project, a coalition member of the US Campaign located in Eugene, Oregon. On August 9 the US Campaign asked all member groups and supporters to write and call their U.S. Representatives and "name and shame" the ones who are going on AIPAC-led trips to Israel during the August congressional recess.

August 16, 2010
The Honorable Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Jackson:

I am not your constituent, but in your position on the appropriations subcommittee that approves aid to Israel, you represent me as a U.S. citizen and taxpayer.  It is commendable that you wish to learn more about the situation in the Holy Land in order to responsibly discharge your duties.

However, an AIPAC sponsored pro-Israel indoctrination trip that predictably presents Jews and Israelis interchangeably as victims while minimizing or ignoring the widespread, methodical, well documented and often brutal violations of the most basic human rights of Palestinians will hardly provide you the comprehensive understanding appropriate and necessary for your Congressional responsibilities. I believe that your position requires full awareness of the serious violations of international law inflicted by Israeli policies of occupation and U.S. support for these.

On your trip I doubt you were invited to visit Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel ( to learn about the apartheid legal and institutional systems within Israel that deny a wide range of basic rights to non-Jews including arcane marriage laws, property ownership restrictions, employment limitations, reduced access to public services, separate citizenship status, and the world’s only segregated school system like those of the pre-1954 American South.  Both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu have identified Israeli policies as “apartheid,” and UCLA professor Saree Makdisi has shown how Israeli apartheid is far worse than was its South African counterpart.

You were no doubt introduced to a Fatah/Palestinian Authority official who represents less than half the Palestinians under Israel’s occupation and blockade, none of the 20% Palestinian Arab minority population of Israel, none of the Palestinians in refugee camps outside the West Bank, and none of the 4+ million Palestinian diaspora members with UN-registered land claims against Israel who hold the right of return under international law.

But I doubt you were introduced to American-Israeli anthropologist Jeff Halper who directs the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions ( and could have taught you about the 25,000 Palestinian homes illegally bulldozed by Israel as well as Israel’s systematic “matrix of control” through which it dominates the entire West Bank and its aquifers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Of course Israel’s armored D9 Caterpillar bulldozers used to illegally destroy Palestinian properties are part of the military equipment supplied by the U.S.

We also provided the F-16s, Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, hellfire missiles, corvette naval vessels, bunker buster bombs, depleted uranium and white phosphorous munitions, and numerous other weapons used to commit war crimes in Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara massacre. The latter attack killed an American citizen while abducting, robbing and imprisoning many others with neither condemnation nor sanctions by the U.S. Congress or Administration.

And we provide the M16s used by Israeli snipers to murder Palestinian children. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem - which I doubt you were invited to visit - has kept records of these children’s deaths since September 2000 which can be reviewed at

After reviewing these records, please consider this irony. Palestinians are killed by Israelis in numbers far greater than Israelis killed by Palestinians (e.g., in Operation Cast Lead 1,400 Palestinians vs. eight Israelis were killed). In a Congress free of racism and aware of these facts there would predictably be far greater concern about Palestinian than Israeli victims. Yet not only is the opposite true, but there seems to be no Congressional concern at all for the maiming and killing of thousands of Palestinians non-violently resisting occupation including many hundreds of Palestinian children.

You may have been shown the bright new Ramallah mall, an attempt by Israel to substitute economic upgrades for political rights - in effect, a fresh coat of paint on the prison walls. I’m sure you remember that a well-developed Black middle class with Black universities and Black professionals lived in the Jim Crow South, but this was not acceptable as a substitute for civil rights.  Leaders of the civil rights movement including Dr. King were members of this well-educated Black professional class who demanded freedom, justice and equality, not better shopping centers.

But I doubt you were invited to visit Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association in the West Bank (, to learn about Israel’s policy of arresting and torturing non-violent opposition leaders, with a population of 8,000-10,000 Palestinian political prisoners. This resembles the Jim Crow practice of arresting Blacks on gratuitous charges when free labor was needed for such civic projects as levee repair. Some 40% of all Palestinian males have been imprisoned at some time by Israel, not unlike the incarceration rates of Black males in our inner cities imprisoned largely for participating in the only local economy available to them.

I doubt you were invited to attend a weekly demonstration against the Wall (declared illegal by the International Court of Justice) at Bil’in or to meet protest organizer Abdullah Abu Rahma, steadfast over several years, who was imprisoned by Israel for possessing Israeli weapons after he arranged a display of spent Israeli tear gas canisters and shell casings that had been fired at demonstrating Palestinians.

I doubt you were invited to meet the Christian Peacemaker teams of at-Tuwani who escort Palestinian children to school to protect them from Israeli settler attacks.

These human rights violations, committed by misuse of our military aid, disqualify Israel for receipt of U.S. weapons and financial aid under the Arms Export Control Act and Foreign Assistance Act.

The long, sad, misrepresented history has been exposed by Israeli historians Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Shlomo Sand, and even militantly pro-Israel Benny Morris. Please read their accounts based on declassified Israeli archives and other original sources, reports by independent professional journalists such as Robert Fisk and Alan Hart, legal viewpoints of international attorneys Richard Falk and Francis Boyle, over 100 United Nations resolutions censuring Israel, and reports from Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (

These resources will inform you far more honestly, reliably, comprehensively and less expensively than the AIPAC-sponsored junket which - in addition to advancing a deliberately deceptive viewpoint - probably violated the travel provisions of the gift rule issued by the House Committee on Ethics.

One last thought. As many of your constituents lose their homes through foreclosure or eviction, how do you imagine they feel about use of their tax dollars for expulsion of Palestinians from their homes by the U.S.-supported Israeli military occupation force using U.S.-supplied weapons?

Jack Dresser, Ph.D.

Mr. Dresser is a behavioral research scientist and National Vice Chair of the Palestine Working Group of Veterans for Peace, and he co-directs Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon.