Thursday, December 27, 2012

U.S. Complicity in Israel's Deadly Actions in Gaza

Our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner published this piece in The Huffington Post. 

On November 18, an Israeli air force pilot flying a
U.S.-made F-16 fighter jet fired a missile at the four-story home of the al-Dalu family in Gaza City, killing ten members of the family and two from the al-Muzannar family next door. 

An on-site investigation conducted by
Human Rights Watch concluded that the attack was a "clear violation of the laws of war" and demanded that those "responsible for deliberately or recklessly committing a serious violation of the laws of war should be prosecuted for war crimes."


Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Israel's bombing of the al-Dalu home was the single deadliest attack in an eight-day offensive last month against the blockaded and occupied Palestinian Gaza Strip that killed at least 160 Palestinians, of whom 105 were civilians and 34 children, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

Two weeks ago, on International Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the United States works to advance "the universal freedoms enshrined" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the "right to life, liberty and security of person." "When governments seek to deny these liberties through repressive laws and blunt force," she intoned, "we stand against this oppression and with people around the world as they defend their rights."

Yet, when it comes to U.S. policy toward Palestinians, this rhetoric rings hollow. The United States arms Israel to the teeth, fails to uphold U.S. human rights laws when Israel uses U.S. weapons to commit abuses of Palestinians and, up to this point, has thrown around its diplomatic heft in international forums to shield Israel from the war crimes prosecutions advocated for by Human Rights Watch and others. 

Israel's recent killing of members of the al-Dalu and al-Muzannar families is a tragic reminder of why 15 leading church figures sent Congress a
letter in October arguing that "unconditional U.S. military assistance to Israel" plays a role in "sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians." These church leaders urged Congress to hold hearings into Israel's violations of the Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of U.S. weapons to "internal security" and "legitimate self-defense," and to examine Israel's eligibility for any form of U.S. assistance, given that the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits U.S. aid to countries that engage in a consistent pattern of human rights violations. 

Such a reevaluation of U.S. military aid to Israel, which is
scheduled to amount to $30 billion from 2009 to 2018, is desperately needed. Israel is by far and away the largest recipient of U.S. taxpayer-funded military aid and it is patently obvious that these U.S. weapons are being used by Israel to commit systematic human rights abuses against Palestinians. For example, the fighter jet whose missile devastated the al-Dalu and al-Muzannar families very well may have been one of the 93 F-16D fighter jets, valued at $2.5 billion, which U.S. taxpayers financed and transferred to Israel in the previous decade. 

However, far from examining Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons in its most recent attack on Gaza, much less holding it accountable, the Obama administration is moving forward with a proposed weapons deal that would replenish Israel's arsenal. While Clinton offered platitudes about standing against aggression on International Human Rights Day, the
Pentagon was busy that same day notifying Congress that it hopes to ship to Israel 6,900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions tail kits, which "convert free-fall bombs into satellite-guided ordnance," and more than 10,000 bombs to accompany them. 

On previous occasions when the international community attempted to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes -- most notably with the "Goldstone Report" issued after Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in 2008 and 2009, and after Israel killed nine humanitarian activists in international waters who were attempting to deliver goods to Gaza in 2010 -- heavy-handed U.S. diplomatic pressure and its threatened Security Council veto prevented effective action being taken. 

But now that the United Nations General Assembly has voted to make Palestine a "non-member observer state," potentially clearing the way for it to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), Israel may no longer be able to rely on U.S. protection. And as long as the United States refuses to hold Israel accountable for committing human rights abuses of Palestinians with U.S. weapons and keeps the spigot of weapons open, Palestinians should seek redress at the ICC for Israel's war crimes. Due to ongoing U.S. funding for Israel's oppression of Palestinians, it is the only route for families such as the al-Dalu and al-Muzanner to take to receive a modicum of justice.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Israel's War on Christmas

Foreign Policy published a piece earlier this week about "The World War on Christmas" describing "five places where Santa really does have to watch his back." The countries highlighted were Uzbekistan, North Korea, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba for their hostility towards various symbols of Christmas. 

One very obvious country missing from this list is Israel. In his Christmas message, PM Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed: "Today Christian communities around the Middle East are shrinking and in danger. This is of course not true in Israel. Here there’s a strong, growing Christian community that participates fully in the life of our country." 

Palestinian Christians living under under Israeli occupation and apartheid would choose to describe their plight differently. In his piece "Israel's colonial strangling of Bethlehem," Ben White highlights the many challenges this Palestinian city faces developing its tourist dependent economy due to the occupation, including more 30 physical barriers to Palestinian freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli military. In their 2012 Christmas message, members of Kairos Palestine wrote: 
Palestinian Christians are concentrated in an area referred to as the Christian triangle: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour. This area is being strangled – in terms of access to land, water, health services, education, general mobility, and all related rights –by the unabated wave of settlement construction. Moreover, the forcible isolation of the triangle with its center, Jerusalem, is damaging both to people in Jerusalem and in the Bethlehem area.
Palestinian Christians living within Israel are also victims. Students at Safad Academic College in the Galilee had their Christmas tree taken down because it may spark riots among Jewish students. The ban on Christmas trees from all public buildings in Upper Nazareth continues, and rabbis have issued reminders to hotels and halls: "It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals.”

Sorry Netanyahu, but Israel's "record of religious tolerance and pluralism" makes it more like the five countries waging war on Santa Claus than one that truly respects freedom of religion for all.   

Thursday, December 20, 2012

St. Louis City Board Votes to Investigate Veolia Following Public Outcry

From our member group St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee


St. Louis, Missouri — At 2:30pm on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, at a standing-room only meeting in the mayor’s office for the St. Louis City Board of Estimate & Apportionment (E & A), the Board declined to approve a city contract with Veolia Water, putting off the vote until there can be a full investigation into the company’s history. The decision came in light of new information on the company’s involvement with ethnic discrimination in Palestine, as well as a flurry of phone calls, emails, and meetings voicing “concerns about the company’s human rights practices and financial condition,” as reported by St. Louis National Public Radio.

In the six hours prior to the vote, board members had received more than 200 emails apiece asking them not to rush the contract through. Their phones rang off the hook as local activists also addressed the officials on Twitter. Members of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace attended the meeting to show their opposition to Veolia.

The board, which is comprised of the St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and President of the Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed, agreed that they could not in good conscience vote to approve a contract with so many outstanding questions. Earlier, the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee had delivered a statement and facts sheet documenting Veolia’s history of profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid policies in Palestine, and the company’s notorious environmentally disastrous activities, anti-labor practices, mismanagement, corruption, bribery, embezzlement, fraud, and failure to make good on promised improvements.

When Mayor Slay presented the contract with a motion to approve, President Reed put forward a motion to postpone the vote in order to allow time for investigation into the company’s practices. While the city’s Water Commissioner and the mayor continued to argue that Veolia was the right company for the job, Green spoke eloquently in agreement with Reed:

“We have several complaints from our citizenry. And I want to honor their complaints [and] their time and desire to ‘Investigate Veolia.’… It’s not our money; it’s their money. Period… You [the citizens] do matter. So let’s get more information.”

Reed expressed concerns that the contract had been added to the agenda at the last-minute, following outcry from environmentalists, workers, the Palestine solidarity community, and other constituencies outraged by the corporation’s abysmal track record.

In spite of the late notice, local organizers mobilized hundreds to spring into action. This victory has shown the power of everyday people standing up to multinational corporations and demanding transparency in public contracts.

Having won the first victory, St. Louisans will now redouble efforts to stop the contract once and for all. It’s time for St. Louis to dump Veolia.

Press contact: Colleen Kelly, info@stl-psc.org.

To keep appraised of developments, join the PSC FB page and/or follow @stlpsc.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

SodaStream Holiday Songs!

Check out these holiday songs put together by our member group American Friends Service Committee that you can use for your SodaStream actions! 


SodaStream the Settlement Product
(to the tune of “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”)

SodaStream’s a settlement product,
Made in Mishor Adumim
It’s built on stolen land,
And this really makes us scream

All of the other nations,
Boycott occupation.
So we’re outside of Macy’s
To say no to exploitation!

Sodastream hides their crimes,
So we’re here to say,
Macy’s with your store so bright,
Don’t you care about human rights?

If you deshelve SodaStream,
Then we will all shout with glee,
“Macy’s, thank you for helping,
make occupation history!”


SodaStream is Spoiling our Town
(to the tune of “Santa Claus is coming to Town”)

Oh, you’d better not shop
You’d better not buy
Each dollar spent here helps
Fund apartheid
SodaStream is spoiling, our town

We’re making them shvitz
We’ll make them think twice
We’re gonna boycott until they
Act nice
SodaStream is spoiling, our town

They’re stealing land and water
From towns in the West Bank
Although they make your drink taste good
Rots your soul for goodness sake!

Oh, you’d better not shop
You’d better not buy
Each dollar spent here helps
Fund apartheid
SodaStream is spoiling, our town!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chicago Palestine Events

Iyad Burnat Presentation and Discussion
When: Wednesday, December 12, 7:00pm
Where: School of the Art Institute, 280 S. Columbus, 2nd floor
Suggested Donation $5
Iyad Burnat is head of the Bil’in Popular Committee and a leader in the village’s non-violent popular resistance movement.  Since 2005, citizens of Bil’in have held weekly demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the community’s agricultural lands and the encroachment of illegal settlements.  The demonstrators are joined by Israeli and international peace activists, and have maintained a commitment to non-violent methods of resistance in spite of armed, military opposition that has resulted in many injuries and some deaths.
Iyad was born in Bil’in in September of 1973.  He is married and has four children.  He became involved in popular resistance as a teenager, and was arrested by the Israeli military for the first time at age 17.  He was accused of throwing stones, and imprisoned for two years.  Since then he has been arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military several more times.

During his 2012-2013 American tour, Iyad will tell the stories of Bil’in and life in the occupied West Bank, and talk about strategies for non-violent popular resistance with a goal of peace and prosperity for all people.  His presentation will be accompanied by photos and videos.
-----------
Reception Honoring Iyad Burnat
When: Thursday, December 13, 5:00pm
Where: Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn
$10 admission. Please RSVP to lynnpollack@gmail.com
Iyad Burnat is a leader of a Palestinian village's popular non-violent protest movement (the Bil'in Popular Committee) against Israeli occupation and illegal land claims and settlement.

He is in the midst of a 2-month speaking tour around the U.S., his first trip here.  Many of us have met Iyad while visiting the West Bank and experienced his family's gracious hospitality.  Iyad is traveling with hand-embroidered goods from his village, and we will have an opportunity to purchase items (just in time for the holidays!) to support Bil'in.
---------- 
Premiere Chicago Screening of the Award-Winning Film5 Broken Cameras by Emad Burnat
When: Thursday, December 13, 7:00pm
Where: School of the Art Institute, 280 S. Columbus, 2nd floor
A Film on Non-Violent Resistance Against the Israeli Occupation. Winner of the Sundance 2012 World Documentary Directing Award and a NY Times Critics Pick.
Followed by a discussion with Iyad Burnat, one of the leaders of the struggle against Israeli Occupation & the building of the apartheid wall in Bil'in, Palestine.
Suggested Donation: $5
Since 2005, residents of Bil’in have held weekly demonstrations against the building of the Israeli separation wall through the community’s agricultural lands, and the steady encroachment of illegal settlements.
These demonstrations are the subject of the recent award-winning documentary film 5 Broken Cameras, which was made by Iyad’s brother, Emad Burnat. When his fourth son, Gibreel, is born, Emad gets his first camera. For more than five years, Emad films the struggle, which is lead by two of his best friends, alongside filming how Gibreel grows. Very soon it affects his family and his own life. Daily arrests and night raids scare his family; his friends, brothers and him as well are either shot or arrested. One camera after another is shot at or smashed, each camera tells a part of his story.
All events are Open to the Public.  Limited Seating.
Co-Sponsored by: Arab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, American Friends Service Committee, Chicago Faith Coalition for Middle East Policy and Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

DC SodaStream Boycott Campaign Action


From our member group Jewish Voice for Peace-DC Metro.


When: Sunday, December 9th, 2:00-4:00pm

Where: In front of Columbia Heights Mall -- at the Columbia Heights Metro Station on 14th St.-- just north of the intersection with Irving St.

What:  Join DC’s SodaStream Boycott action during the holiday season to educate DC holiday shoppers about the injustice of the Israeli occupation, ask them to refuse to buy SodaStream products, and call on local store managers to tell their corporate headquarters to stop stocking the products. SodaSteam manufactures its beverage carbonating devices in an illegal West Bank settlement. This DC protest action will feature live music, with special SodaStream lyrics, signs and slogans, as well as an informational flyer in English and Spanish, and a card for shoppers to hand in to store owners of the four stores in the mall that carry SodaStream: Bed, Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Staples, and Target.

For more information, contact: jvpdcmetro@gmail.com or call 301-380-9224.

For more information about SodaStream see: http://www.whoprofits.org/company/sodastream-soda-club-group

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy SodaStream!

Actions from our member groups American Friends Service Committee- West Region and Sacramento Area Peace Action.

SodaStream, a gadget for making carbonated water at home, is made in an illegal Israeli settlement on stolen Palestinian land in violation of international law! Folks who care about human rights and are out shopping for the holidays, could end up inadvertently buying SodaStream because they don’t know the facts. To learn more yourself about why you should not support SodaStream, see here

♥ Please help prevent this from happening by signing this petition asking stores to stop selling SodaStream, and by asking your friends, family, colleagues, etc. to do the same!  Email them, post on Facebook, etc!

:( If you know of anyone who has unfortunately made this purchase, ask them to return SodaStream to the store, along with a letter explaining why they cannot ethically purchase this product. And refer them to one of the many SodaStream alternatives!

♦ If you see SodaStream on sale, please speak to the manager and fill out a comment card asking the store to stop selling it.  You can also contact store CEOs directly; contact information is posted at: http://sacbds.org/store-contacts/.

Stores selling SodaStream include:  Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, COSTCO, Crate & Barrel, JC Penney, Kohls, Macy’s, Sears, Staples, Sur La Table, Target, Walmart, and Williams-Sonoma.

And if you are in the mood….♫ A SodaStream musical interlude ♫ 

Thank you!!

More info:
www.StopSodaStream.org
www.globalexchange.org/sodastream 
www.HolidaySodaStreamBoycott.wordpress.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Congress, Obama Administration Standing on Wrong Side of History

Josh Ruebner is National Advocacy Director at the US Campaign. This piece was published in The Hill





Penalizing Palestinians will not help peace process

By Josh Ruebner, author, Obama and the Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Peace12/03/12 11:00 AM ET


When it comes to shielding Israeli human rights violations and squelching Palestinian freedom and self-determination, Congress never misses an opportunity to reward Israeli intransigence and punish peaceful Palestinian initiatives. 

The Senate defines a “non-germane amendment” as one “that would add new and different subject matter to, or may be irrelevant to, the bill or other measure it seeks to amend.” Senators are now piling on these “non-germane amendments” to the National Defense Authorization Act in a vindictive move designed to penalize Palestinians, the United Nations and even any country that supports Palestinian statehood following last Thursday's 138-9 vote in the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of a “non-member observer state.”

These amendments, described as “ham-fisted” by Americans for Peace Now, could cut off U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) if Palestinians join the International Criminal Court, close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington, slash U.S. funding of the General Assembly, and even reduce U.S. foreign assistance to any country which voted for Palestine’s upgraded U.N. status.

 These initiatives are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg of Congressional efforts to demonize and reprimand the Palestinians for daring to buck the demands of the United States and Israel that they remain perpetually constrained within a sham “peace process” that has failed miserably to deliver even a modicum of individual and national rights to the Palestinians, who continue to languish under Israel’s oppressive apartheid policies.

However, this genie cannot be put back inside its bottle no matter how significant Congressional sanctions are. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice criticized Thursday’s actions as “grand pronouncements” that “will soon fade.” While the speeches may be forgotten, Palestine’s admittance to the U.N. as a “non-member state” signals the international community’s resounding vote of no confidence in U.S. domination of the “peace process.” It is U.S. diplomacy and leadership, not the international community’s growing solidarity with the Palestinian quest for freedom and self-determination, which is waning.

Sixty five years ago last Thursday the UN voted to partition Palestine into two states, assigning its Jewish minority a majority of the land against the wishes of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants. This undemocratic move recalled British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour’s infamous, yet honest, confession that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.”

Ironically enough in light of the strenuous efforts by the Obama Administration and Congress to deny Palestine its rightful place among the community of nations, the United States implicitly backed UN membership and recognition of an independent Palestinian state when it supported and arm-twisted other nations into voting for Palestine’s partition in 1947.


Yet 65 years later, thanks in large measure to unconditional U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israel, its discriminatory policies toward Palestinians remain as firmly entrenched as ever. The partition of Palestine led not only to the establishment of Israel in 1948, but also to Israel’s campaign of dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (referred to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” by Palestinians) and the resultant Palestinian refugee crisis. To this day, Israel denies five million Palestinian refugees their international-recognized right of return. Those Palestinians not forced out by Israel at its creation remain second-class citizens, subjected to discriminatory laws and widespread societal racism. And, for the past 45 years, Israel’s brutal military occupation and illegal colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip have rendered a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a remote pipe dream.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast his initiative to gain “non-member observer state” status for Palestine at the U.N. as a way to salvage the diminishing prospects of a two-state resolution. However, Israel’s response to the vote may have put the final nail in the coffin of attempts to establish an independent Palestinian state. Only hours afterward, a senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Israel had approved preliminary plans to build in the E1 region, “which would connect the large settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem and therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.”

Regardless of whether Palestine’s upgraded status at the U.N. somehow miraculously reverses Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land to enable the establishment of an independent Palestinian state or whether history is coming full circle to a one-state resolution and the “un-partitioning” of Palestine, by backing Israeli apartheid and denying Palestinian freedom and self-determination, Congress and the Obama administration are standing on the wrong side of history.    

Monday, December 3, 2012

Submit Your Song for Gaza's Ark!

From our member group 14 Friends of Palestine- Marin. You can follow the initiative @GazaArk





Gaza’s Ark is having a song contest! Submit your songs by February 1, 2013! 

We are seeking original songs to use to promote Gaza's Ark, which seeks to sail from Palestine to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Whereas previous attempts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza have been made by trying to sail boats from international waters into Gaza, Gaza’s Ark will try to break the blockade from the inside out, carrying goods to export. A boat will be refurbished by Palestinian shipbuilders in Gaza and stocked with Palestinian goods and products, then sail through international waters with both Palestinians and internationals on board. 

The goal is to challenge the ongoing, illegal Israeli blockade and focus worldwide attention on the situation in Gaza and the complicity of the governments that support it or look the other way. You can find more information at http://www.gazaark.org/


Feel free to let your creative genes go wild! 
The winning song will be used as the Gaza’s Ark theme song, and be promoted widely by the project.

Submitting the song to this address
14friendsofpalestine@gmail.com will also verify that you have reviewed and agree with the “need to know” items below.

Need to know:


-All entries submitted must be original songs and shall not infringe any copyrights or any other rights of any third parties.


-Entries will be screened by the Gaza’s Ark steering committee who will select the winner and announce on Valentine’s Day,  February 14, 2013.


-The winners will be notified by email. Winners may be required to sign a form confirming that winner's song is original.


-By submitting the song, the entrant retains all ownership rights of the song and agrees that if selected the winner, Gaza’s Ark shall have the right to use the song to promote Gaza’s Ark.