Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide


Tribunal Issues Landmark Verdict against Israel for Genocide
Global Research, December 01, 2013

To a crowded courtroom on the late afternoon of November 25, presiding Judge Lamin Mohd Yunus announced the verdict by an international panel of seven jurists:
“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, (General) Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”
The landmark ruling against Israel for its genocide against the Palestinian people rendered by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is significant for several reasons:
-          In contrast to other non-official courts of conscience on Palestinian rights, for example, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (New York 2012), the prosecution in Kuala Lumpur took a step beyond war crimes and crimes against humanity to the higher and broader charge of genocide.
-          The decision was rendered during the ongoing commission of the alleged crime by the defendant, rather than after the fact as in earlier genocide cases.
-          Instead of limiting its ruling to individuals who ordered genocidal actions, the jurists also charged the state as a defendant.
-          As a consequence, this case breaks the tradition of immunity of nation-states from criminal prosecution under international law.
-          The decision introduces a legal basis for international action to protect minorities from genocide as a lawful alternative to the current response of so-called humanitarian intervention, invasion, occupation and regime change, which have often been as illegitimate and more destructive, and in some cases as genocidal as the original violation being punished.
 The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal based its momentous decision on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which prohibits and punishes the killing, causing of harm and deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a group of people, targeted for their ethnicity, religion or race. In instances of genocide, these criminal acts are done with the specific intent of destroying as a part or in whole of the targeted group, as in this plight the Palestinian people.
The defendants, Gen. Yaron and the Israeli State , through its representatives, refused to accept the Tribunal summons and appear in court.
Prominent Israeli legal scholars also refused invitations to serve as defense counsel. The Tribunal therefore appointed an Amicus Curae (defense counsel, referred to by the Latin term for “friends of the court”), including attorneys Jason Kay Kit Leon, Larissa Cadd, Dr. Rohimi Shapiee and Matthew Witbrodt, to defend the accused. Even absent Israeli participation, the defense proved to be forceful and often made heated remarks in Israel’s defense, especially during the cross-examinations of expert witnesses.
Why Not New York , London , Paris or Berlin
One point to note is that the sponsoring Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes and its associated international Tribunal is unrelated to Malaysia and its legal system, aside from the participation of some Malaysian jurists and citizens in its proceedings. Malaysian laws are in many areas quite different from and sometimes in diametric opposition to the legal opinions of the international Tribunal. The independence of this “court of conscience” allows an approach to international law unconstrained by local norms, but this also means that the Tribunal lacks an enforcement capability.
That the first-ever Tribunal to prosecute Israel for genocide was initiated in Southeast Asia offers some indication of the continuing sensitivity within the traditional “center” of international law, Western Europe and North America, toward the circumstances behind Israel’s creation.
The Kuala Lumpur proceedings are bound to raise controversy and discomfort, especially among a reluctant West, since the historical motive behind creating a modern Jewish state in 1948 was largely a response to the abandonment of European Jewry to the pogroms and extermination program of the Third Reich, which in its early stages went unopposed by Western governments and prominent opinion leaders in the Atlantic community.
The courage to finally confront Israel after nearly seven decades of eviction and merciless brutality against the Palestinian people was summoned not by the Atlantic community but in faraway Southeast Asia , where a law case could be pursued with critical distance, logical dispassion and an absence of historical complicity. In short, an evidence-based fair trial found Israel to be guilty of genocide.
Why Israel
Why then was Israel singled out by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission on genocide charges before its Tribunal, when many other states have gone unpunished? Chief prosecutor Gurdial Singh explained:
“Other settler states, for example Australia, have offered compensation and apologized for the dispossession and harm to their indigenous populations, while Israel remains unapologetic and continues its campaign of destruction against Palestinians and to make their conditions unlivable inside and outside its borders.”
In contrast with previous special courts involving genocide charges, this Tribunal left the time frame of events open-ended, by starting just before the creation of the State of Israel until the present and, presumably, into the future until Israel ceases its expansionist campaign against the Palestinians and offers instead justice and reconciliation. By comparison in prior cases invoking the Genocide Convention, including those against former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia and Sierra Leone, the mass killings of civilians were perpetrated within a short time-frame by political leaders of the then-governing regime or by a major political faction.
The Kuala Lumpur Tribunal asserted that the modern Jewish state, in contrast to other cases, had since even before its inception pursued a genocidal program as a consistent feature and indeed a foundation of state policy. Therefore, genocide in the Israeli case cannot be solely attributed as the isolated action of a leader, political party or elected government but remains the responsibility of the state itself.
Genocide as Response
The specific intent of Israeli state policy, since even before the founding of Israel, was discussed in a live-video transmission by expert witness Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at University of Exeter in the UK and the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies. His research has revealed that a planning group of top-ranking Jewish military leaders in the Haganah militia, led by David Ben Gurion (who later became Israel’s first prime minister) devised an ethnic-cleansing program to rid the future Israel of its Arab predecessors. Called Plan Dalet (the letter “D” indicating the fourth plan of a colonialist agenda) was to be activated as soon as the British suspended the Palestine Mandate.
With the declaration of Israeli statehood in 1948, a coordinated armed campaign by Israeli military forces and paramilitary units against hundreds of Palestinian urban neighborhoods and rural villages led to the flight of an estimated 700,000 refugees from Palestine and parts of neighboring Trans-Jordan, including Jerusalem . Although the Israeli intent was intended to intimidate the Palestinians into relocating outside the borders, but before long village populations that refused to flee were mass murdered.
The forcible deportation of indigenous inhabitants from their homes and land was a criminal act of ethnic cleansing, Pappe said. That policy, however, soon metamorphosed into a systematic campaign to destroy Palestinians, that is, genocide. Under cross-examination by defense team, the historian explained, that as an Israeli citizen and son of Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-ruled Germany , it is morally, ethically and historically inconsistent to condemn the genocide against Jews while endorsing a new one against Palestinians.
 Cumulative Record of Crimes
The Israeli record of massacres, extrajudicial killings and daily harassment of Palestinian comprises a continuum of criminal behavior over the past 67 years. Given the overwhelming evidence, the prosecution team therefore decided to focus on key cases, which were extensively reported in the news media and/or were subject of investigations. These included:
-          the September 1982 massacre of Palestinians, mainly women and children, at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in a southwest district of Beirut, Lebanon;
-          lethal firing of teargas canisters and “rubber” bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests; and
-          intensive and indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008.
  Among the witnesses who testified in person or via video transmission included:
-          a former university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;
-          a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;
-          a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism; and
-          two men from the Al Sammouni clan of Gaza, which lost 21 family members, mainly children and women, in an Israeli commando raid on their home.
-          a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada;
-          Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.
 Killing Fields
Professor Pappe said that the mass killing of defenseless civilians trapped without avenues of escape within a cordon or enclosure is clear evidence of genocidal policy, as happened inside the Beirut refugee camps surrounded by Israeli tanks and hostile Phalangist militiamen and inside Gaza cities that are ringed by a wall-fence.
For the Beirut atrocity, Israeli Defense Force commander General Amos Yaron was charged in absentia for crimes against humanity and genocide. Among the witnesses who testified in person on the Camps Sabra and Shatilla events were:
-          Chahira Abouardini, a widow whose husband and three children were murdered by Israeli-allied militiamen at Camp Shatilla, provided a graphic account of the carnage, describing piles of bullet-riddled bodies and, in one case, of a pregnant women whose belly had been slit open and with her dead unborn child left on top of her corpse. She recounted how refugees were rounded up from their homes and lined against walls for summary execution by automatic weapons fire.-
-          Dr. Ang Swee Chai, a London-based Singaporean surgeon and medical volunteer at the time at a hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, with the aid of the International Committee of the Red Cross, testified that another Beirut hospital had been bombed by Israeli jets, all Palestinian facilities including schools and hospitals were deliberately destroyed by artillery barrages and explosive charges, and ambulances were intercepted and their drivers shot dead. She stated that an Israeli observation post positioned in the 7-storey Kuwaiti Embassy, located on a hilltop, had an unobstructed view of the refugee camp, indicating that the Israeli forces were directing a joint operation to exterminate the refugees left behind under the international plan to withdraw the PLO from Lebanon . In her forensic investigation of the bullet wound that injured a male nurse at her hospital, Dr. Ang determined that the sniper fire had come from the Israeli-occupied Embassy building
Considering the Israeli checkpoints on roads and its vantage points, Brigadier General Amos Yaron as field commander of the Beirut incursion and occupation, had effective control over the camps. His close liaison with the local militia leader meant that Yaron had condoned the 36-hour rampage by militiamen, which led to an estimated 3,500 civilian deaths. No orders were issued to prevent the one-sided violence, prosecutor Aziz Rahman argued before the Tribunal. A 1983 special commission report, under its chairman Nobel Laureate Sean MacBride, concluded that Israel had “complicity in genocide”. Research findings gathered since then indicate that Yaron was not merely complicit but held personal responsibility for the massacre.
A point contested by the Amicus Curae defense team was that then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, an official of superior rank, should have been prosecuted instead of Gen. Yaron. (The prosecution had earlier declined to serve notice on Sharon, who has been in a coma for many years and is unable to testify in hisown defense. Moreover, Yaron had wide sway of authority as field commander in a battle zone outside the borders of Israel .) Prosecutor Gurdial Singh pointed out that Israel not only failed to file criminal charges against Yaron and his subordinates but subsequently awarded and repeatedly promoted the general and his circle. Yaron was therefore found guilty as accused.
Responsibility of the State
International law has traditionally taken for granted the immunity of states from prosecution by a court in another country. There are several reasons for immunity of states, even for high crimes such as genocide and serious violations of various humanitarian codes.
-          International law and the treaty system are based on the principle of equality among states, which are parties to and enforcers of international agreements. The criminal conviction of a state for serious crimes would automatically weigh against the accused party, thereby causing an imbalance in relations and introducing unfairness to the international system.
-The sovereignty of states is a fundamental protection against aggression or undue interference by a foreign state or alliance of nation-states.
-          As argued by defense counsel Matthew Witbrodt, prosecution of and penalties imposed on a state would result in collective punishment of all of its citizens. (Since the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, the international community has tried to avoid forms of collective punishment, including heavy war reparations.)
 On the other side of the coin, total immunity for the state can encourage violations of international law by dictatorial, racist and/or bigoted regimes. The absence of legal challenge by foreign courts therefore leaves few legitimate means to pressure the offending state. The more “peaceful” methods include economic sanctions, which can be interpreted as a type of collective punishment against a victimized citizenry.
With no legal recourse to counter mass atrocities, other states then must launch interventions through extralegal and often illegal strategies of covert warfare,  proxy insurgencies or biased peacekeeping operations. The subsequent invasion and occupation by self-appointed saviors can be more harmful to the people, and to the principles of law, than the original violations of the offending regime.
Thus,  quoting its opinion upon the verdict, a “reason the Tribunal wishes to reject the doctrine of absolute state immunity from prosecution in matters of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is that the existing international law on war and peace, and humanitarianism, is being enforced in a grossly inequitable manner. Small, weak nations, mostly in Africa and Asia , are periodically subjected to devastating sanctions, military interventions and regime changes. At the same time, unbearable atrocities and brutalities are inflicted on the military weak nations of Latin America, Africa and Asia by powerful nations in the North Atlantic and their allies go unscrutinized and unpunished.”
The alternative to the law of the jungle applied by self-appointed unilateral powers or coalitions of the willing is the reform of international law to balance sovereignty with the responsibility of the state for high crimes such as genocide.
Restricting Sovereignty
In its opinion on the ruling, the Tribunal therefore offered a rational method for limiting sovereignty in cases of gross crimes: “Where there is a conflict between two principles of law, the one hierarchically higher in importance should prevail. To our mind, the international law doctrine against impleading (suing) a foreign state, being lower than that that of the prohibition against genocide, resulted in the charge against the State of Israel.”
The Tribunal did not spell out how a genocide ruling can be enforced or provide a model for a reconstitution of state. Presumably and theoretically, the general effect of genocide-based restrictions on sovereignty would be to dissuade and deter state administrations from perpetrating mass atrocities with impunity. Under a legal standard for common action to stop genocide, a preventive intervention could then proceed under accepted rules of engagement and with safeguards against unwarranted violence by peacekeepers. When an inherently extreme policy in embedded in the constitution or state regulations, a lawfully grounded international authority could then abolish that state structure and reconstitute a legitimate state subject to a referendum. A legal process for constitutional change is far preferable to the current method of arbitrary regime change favorable to the interests of and politically subservient to an occupation authority. This remains hypothetical, showing only that the international community is yet to seriously consider the alternative to the present unlawful model.
Restriction of state sovereignty, as the Tribunal noted, is a new and evolving trend in international law. The U.S. permits its citizens to file lawsuits in federal court against states that harbor terrorists, and although this is covered under tort law, such cases inherently restrict the sovereignty of foreign countries. The European Union has also constrained the sovereignty of member states. Under the 1978 State Immunity Act, the British privy council ruled that vessels owned by foreign governments are subject to the same liability laws as commercial vessels.
As argued by the Tribunal panel in their opinion, “We find it rather mind-boggling when some courts can consider commercial disputes as a reason for not allowing a state to be shielded by the state immunity principle and yet strenuously protect such a state in cases of genocide or other war crimes. Human lives cannot be less important than financial gain.”
The vigorous and often well-founded arguments by the Amicus Curae team in defense of Israel were constructive criticism that greatly helped to focus the Tribunal on the complexities of international law. In heated courtroom debate, defense counsel Jason Kay Kit Leon opined that “the elephant in the room” was Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians, for instance, the launching of unguided rockets at settlements, and that Israeli forces have acted in self-defense. The thrust of his claim was based on “In Defense of Israel” by Harvard law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz.
The jurists, however, accepted the prosecution argument. “It is our finding that much of the Palestinian-generated violence is not on Israel’s own territory, but from and on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land. Much of the violence perpetrated by Palestinians in a reaction to the brutalities of the vicious racism and genocide that is a tragic feature of Palestinian life.”
The opinion went further, by stating: “We also hold that the force of the IDF is excessive, totally disproportionate and a violation of international humanitarian law. The methods used are unspeakably inhumane and amount to war crimes.”
Internal Disputes
Earlier disputes within the Commission had led to a two-month adjournment of trial proceedings due to harsh and sometimes bitter accusations between participants. In the conflicted process, several judges recused themselves or were absent due to schedule conflicts and one prominent prosecutor resigned in protest of suspected tampering of the judicial panel. These controversies fortunately served to clarify rather than muddy the legal issues and court procedures, resulting in stronger arguments on both sides. Taking Israel to task is never an easy proposition.
Thereby, a stunning precedent in international law was achieved with the Tribunal’s unanimous decision to charge a state for the high crime of genocide. The arguments and verdict against the State of Israel will undoubted be a hotly debated test case for legal scholars over years to come. Since its Charter does not allow an appeal process, the case of “The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission Against the State of Israel” will stand as the nub of controversy for human-rights law and the principle of sovereignty for nation-states.
While citing several precedents, the strongest argument for implication of the state is outlined in the 2007 genocide case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Yugoslavia , which covered the Sebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslms by Serb-dominated federal armed forces. As Canadian jurist John Philpot, who earlier served on the Rwanda Tribunal, pointed out following the reading of the verdict “Bosnia/Herzegovina clearly laid out the culpability of the state and thus served as the precedent for our judgment against Israel .”
According to the Bosnia/Herzogovina ruling, “Genocide is a international crime entailing national and international responsibility on the part of individuals and states” and “if an organ of the state, or a person or group whose acts are legally attributable to the state, commits any of the acts proscribed by Article 3 of the (Genocide) Convention, the international responsibility of that state is incurred.
A point to note: The Rwanda and Yugoslavia genocide cases, are considered by some legal experts to be flawed by the underlying covert and illegal factor of great-power interference. These cases were cited infrequently and judiciously by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, which exercised proper case in selection of appropriate passages, while relying on a much wider range of legal precedents in regard to liability of the state.
Critique: Going Beyond Reparations
Until this genocide ruling by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal, offending states and their foreign sponsors have evaded responsibility while the entire burden of guilt has been placed on the individual agents of weak nation-states. Under the Tribunal ruling, both the core state apparatus – including the executive office, military command, intelligence agencies, supportive ministries and, in many cases, the judiciary and police – bear as much and, in some cases, more criminal responsibility for genocide as individual leaders or military officers.
Yet that is still insufficient when the primary responsibility should rest on powerful sponsor states that move from supporting the offending regime toward punishing its rebellious hubris. The nexus of powerful and ruthless states and global elites, with their machinery for war-making and arms production, creates the political state of siege, the economic strangulation and the covert weapons trade that prompt weaker states to perpetrate genocide.
Barely addressed in just one paragraph of the Tribunal opinion is the reality that powerful states oppose any dilution of their absolute state immunity with the unspoken objective of preserving their war-making powers. The dominant Atlantic allies have cited genocide solely as a pretext to expand their global domain though invasions under a broad and vague “responsibility to protect” principle and have imposed new constitutions on defeated adversaries authored by foreign legal scholars while guised as the ideals of domestic political revolutions. Meanwhile, their own genocidal state structures, centered in the national-security structure and military command, categorically reject any international controls over extralegal interventions operated under the cover of humanitarian operations.
Also, in limiting its call for remedial action to reparations from Israel , the Tribunal wasted a precious opportunity to demand full justice for the Palestinian nation. What is realistically required is an international peacekeeping force to guarantee the withdrawal of the Israeli miltary and police force from Palestinian territory until a domestic law-enforcement and security force can take over; the elimination of wall-fences, checkpoints and other barriers to the free movement of citizens; the return of occupied land in Palestine; financial restitution for the loss of lands and property inside the boundaries of Israel; and an official apology for the countless crimes committed.
Furthermore, the continuity of genocide perpetrated by the core state structure and abetted by the complicity of much of the Israeli population demands that the offending state must be reorganized under a new constitution free of religious bias and racial discrimination to ensure legal norms that prevent a repetition of genocide. This objective should require an international occupation of Israel in event that powerful elements in Israeli society refuse to comply with international law. Israel should be spared the violence unleashed against the Third Reich, but stern justice and strong rule of law are nonetheless required in situations of ideological conformity based on the goals of genocide.
  Courage and Wisdom
Whatever its few shortcomings, the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal demonstrated immense courage, foresight and wisdom in leveling the long-overdue charge of genocide against the State of Israel. The Tribunal correctly framed genocide in the context of international law rather than merely as a localized violation. The verdict along with the sophisticated judicial opinion provides an important initiative toward deterring the great powers from promoting and exploiting genocides among weaker nations and victimized peoples.
The Tribunal verdict raised not only a legal challenge to supporters of the Zionist cause in the United States and Europe but also appealed to universal moral principles in the tradition of high-minded rhetoric. “Much as we condemn violence and pray for peace, it must be stated that no power on Earth can douse the flame of freedom from the human spirit. As long as there is suppression, there will always be people prepared to die on their feet rather than live on their knees.”
 The precedent-setting decision by the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal is a giant step forward not only for dispossessed Palestinians but also for humanity as a whole.
Author: Yoichi Shimatsu, an East and Southeast Asia focused journalist, is former editor of The Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo.



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Saturday, November 2, 2013

His memory goes back 2,000 years

Yossie Klein Halevi's recent talk at Marist College was a masterful performance. He began by being disarmingly blunt about the suffering of the Palestinian people. He had seen it himself during his service in the Israel Defense Force and the experience convinced him that the "left argument" was essentially correct. Palestinians deserve their own state, just like the Jews.

He warned against outside pressure to settle the conflict. In his words, the more pressure from the rest of the world, the less progress has been achieved. No, Halevi understands that the solution must involve a respectful and honest "dialogue" between two very distinct "narratives" about who deserves the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Palestinians got a late start in developing their narrative, of course. In 1948, according to Halevi, the Palestinians had no national aspirations at all. Contrast this to the 2,000 years that the Jews have considered this land to be their religious and spiritual essence. Yes, these are the "intangible issues" that a lasting peace must be built upon, starting with the realization that there is "no Jewish religion without Israel." Mr. Halevi makes no mention of the many Jewish intellectuals from Martin Buber to Judith Butler who have pointed out that this unification of religion and state is as recent as the last century, and represents an aberration in traditional Jewish teaching. 

So why are Palestinians suffering? According to Halevi, it's because Yasser Arafat blew his chance at Camp David when Israel offered almost everything the Palestinians wanted. This version of history has been so discredited that Halevi wisely moves right on. The Palestinians are suffering in Gaza "because of Hamas," and because of the "disproportionate response" that the Palestinian people have always had to Jewish attempts to build their own state. 

Halevi declares that the international community hasn't been much better, at times acting like "an intellectual Lynch mob." He refers to the many UN resolutions against the state of Israel. Doesn't this prove his point that the rest of the world has in fact "ghettoized Israel" in its relentless one sidedness? There is no mention of the numerous Israeli violations of the UN charter in the settlement of occupied lands.  

Halevi ended his talk with a poignant recounting of his own suffering. He will be giving up "who I am" to grant the Palestinians even a part of the land he has in his "historical memory." His memory goes back at least 2,000 years, so that is saying quite a lot. 


Fred Nagel

We’re Like Firemen (Times Union)

We’re Like Firemen.
31 of us, representing national and international NGOs, gathered in the Hebron RC conference room earlier this month [April 2013].  The increasing number of children being seized here by Israeli soldiers – 27 in one day, last month [March of 2013] – drew us together.  What could we do to reverse the trend and end the IDF’s abuse of Palestinian children?  The Israeli military pays no attention to Articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — which are supposedly binding on all member states of the United Nations — or to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by the government of Israel in 1991.
The US government pays scant attention to Israel’s violations of those agreements or to the organizations that have reported on what happens to children held in Israeli military custody. Most other UN member nations do little more than mount the podium occasionally and call on Israel to stop violating the rights of Palestinian children.  Does the fact that this charade has been going on for decades send any message but that Israel can – with impunity – do whatever it chooses with the lives of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
IMG_5965 going to school under occupation in Hebron
Everyday journey to school in occupied Palestine, photo by Alice Brody
Governments continually fail these children. The NGO representatives seated round the table were struggling with ways to help.  Proposals like “expose the Israeli violations against children,”  follow up legally on behalf of the children who were seized, and provide “treatment and therapy for the children” were discussed.  Listening to these ideas that have been discussed and acted on over the years, it struck me we were like firemen trying to douse a raging fire, while other more powerful actors pour fuel on that fire.
Palestinian children going to school in Hebron, photo by Alice Brody
Palestinian children going to school in Hebron, photo by Alice Brody
Of course, it’s important to continue trying to put out the flames; but isn’t it time to stop those who add fuel to the fire?  In addition to the Israeli government, two major arson accomplices are the US government, which funnels three billion of our tax dollars to the Israeli military every year, and the corporations that support and profit from the Occupation.  When other nations condemn the apartheid policies of the Israeli government, the US government is silent.  When the Israeli government imposes collective punishment that hurts Palestinian children, the US government is silent.  When respected international organizations like UNICEF, Defense for Children International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, the YMCA and Save the Children expose the damage done to children by the Israeli government, the US government responds with little more than finger shaking.
We write letters to politicians and to newspapers, we share information far and wide; but we have to do more to make those who are feeding the fire change their ways.  We need to apply economic pressure to end the occupation and the IDF’s presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Boycotts and divestments can stop those who are fueling the fire.  Don’t buy items like Ahava cosmetics and Soda Stream carbonation units…products produced in illegal Israeli settlements.  Contact those who sell such products and ask them to sell alternative competing products instead.  If you or organizations you’re part of, hold stock in companies profiting from the occupation and its illegal settlements (Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Cement Roadstone, for example), divest from those companies and tell them why you’re divesting.
Do we now have the will to stop those responsible for torching the lives of Palestinian children?
Going to school under occupation, Hebron Checkpoint, April 2013, photo by Alice Brody
Going to school under occupation, Hebron Checkpoint, April 2013, photo by Alice Brody
Palestinian children going to school under occupation.  Photo by Alice Brody
Palestinian children going to school under occupation. Photo by Alice Brody

Paul Rehm is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams who has been working in the occupied Palestinian Territories for many years.  He lives in the Capital District when he’s not traveling.
Worldwide campaigns for divestment and boycotts of companies supporting the occupation and military abuses and the illegal presence of settlements continue to gain momentum.  Here are just a few examples:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tarak's letter

First person Account of Guantanamo

After 58 days of my own hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners at Guantanamo, I have little patience for the bigotry, ignorance and gullibility of Robert Fusco, who wrote last week defending force-feeding and other criminal Obama policies concerning Guantanamo prison.

At any rate, here are some facts to keep in mind.

During its 11 years of existence, the prison has violated international human rights laws by holding prisoners without charges or right to trial and subjecting them to severe conditions, including indefinite detention, prolonged solitary confinement, physical violence, and psychological abuse.

Most Gitmo detainees were imprisoned illegally and have never been charged with a crime. Most were arbitrarily taken and turned in to the U.S. government after 9/11 by opportunists and/or disgruntled neighbors who received bounties of $2,000-$5,000 for pointing a finger at a neighbor or Arab foreigner. Over 90% of those incarcerated at Guantanamo were never even remotely connected to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Gitmo has been condemned internationally for inflicting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Interrogation tactics and practices of torture include sleep deprivation, water-boarding, shackling in stress positions, extended exposure to very cold temperatures, beatings, religious and sexual humiliation.

It is in response to such horrific conditions that prisoners resort to the extreme measure of hunger striking.

Robert Fusco’s opinionated letter stated “it is also a hunger strike done by . . . individuals who believe suicide is rewarded in the afterlife, especially if they kill a mass of innocents with them.”

One wonders how long Fusco has been mainlining Donald Rumsfeld’s brand of bigotry and hatred.

The prisoners want to be free to live, like all people, not just exist in what must be equated with hell itself.  The hunger strike is the only option they have left to call attention to their plight.

Obama and Congress’ indifference and inaction are heartless but that’s no surprise.  Diane Wilson, the writer of An Unreasonable Woman and a 58 day water-only solidarity hunger striker, said, “If the chains of American indifference continue, hard and unabated, as they currently have been, then the men of Guantanamo Bay might remain there until hell freezes over."

I just returned from the 2013 Veterans For Peace National Convention in Madison.  Captain James Yee, former prison chaplain at Guantanamo, gave a chilling account of what actually transpires at Gitmo, as well as his own experience when accused of aiding the enemy.  To watch the video, google “James Yee at VFP. “





Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letter to the editor


For the past 2 years, Syria has spiraled from what began as a peaceful call for freedom by Syrian citizens into a bloody conflict fanned by foreign fighters who have joined both sides in this war. Over 90,000 Syrians have been killed and 1,500,000 more been forced to flee the country and are living as refugees in neighboring countries.

This is a complex conflict. The Assad government, a heavily armed and brutal dictatorship, has repressed the majority of its people and promoted the dominance of Syrian society by a religious minority. The rebels, a heavily armed conglomeration, includes the al-Nusra Front, an ally of al-Qaeda that is pursuing a fundamentalist takeover of Syria, and the Free Syrian Army, which is a catch-all term for numerous factions, including other fundamentalists, that is dominated by ongoing internal struggles for control and has been unable to forge a cohesive strategy. Both Assad and the rebels have the support of a significant part of the citizenry. Both sides have brutally killed unarmed citizens. Both sides have committed war crimes. Both sides are supported by outside forces with their own agendas: Saudi Arabia and Iran are each using Syria to further their own ambitions to dominate the region as well as using it as a battleground for the age-old sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims; the United States, Russia, and China are using Syria as another way station in their battle for global dominance. The reality is that Syria is now a non-functioning society that is overrun with weapons and disorder.

Where to stand in this crisis? We should neither defend the brutality of the Assad regime or its right to exist, nor should we defend or support the rebels, who would also deny human rights and rule using violence and religious coercion. There are no good solutions that we, or anyone else, can impose from the outside. Syrians should decide Syrian destiny. Remaking a society in our vision, as we have tried to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a disaster for the people of those countries. What we can do is stay focused on the very people who are most threatened in this nightmare—the civilians—and reach out to them with humanitarian aid. We can and should stand in solidarity with those in Syria, who are currently marginalized within the opposition, and share a peaceful, democratic vision for their country. Care and concern for Syrian civilians should guide U.S. policy. Military action will only exacerbate the crisis. No arms to Syria.

Nicholas Abramson

Saturday, June 22, 2013

To the editor


Since the question I've asked as to whether Israel is Jewish or democratic goes unanswered, I'll have to let it be, for the nonce. I've been accused of defending Fred Nagel, and that's absolutely not true; Fred needs no defense. The rabid Jewish defenders of Israel's politics at any cost, are the ones who are the anti-semites; they present a white-washed picture of who the Jewish people are. Just like everyone else, they are capable of goodness and of evil. I helped to liberate Buchenwald, Dachau, and Flossenburg, and I know anti-semites when I see or read them. They work mightily to maintain a facade of innocence, just like the Germans I encountered during the war. They use the Holocaust and attacks on Israel to cover over anything Israel is doing today to the Palestinians. A dangerous game; they remind me of children shouting "You did it first" as an excuse. I'm old enough to remember "Lebensraum", the Nazi acquisition of other people's lands because they, the Germans, claimed they needed that land for themselves, and I've seen the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear during that regime. It's curious to me that todays Israeli's, for some reason, provide Palestinian automobiles with yellow license plates. An unfortunate choice, in a sea of ruinous choices. I still have hopes that the genius and creativity of the Jewish citizens in Israel will survive the destructiveness of the Governments there.

Jay Wenk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No Arms to Syria


There are many crises in the Middle East.  The most recent is in Syria.

Middle East Crisis Response (MECR) is opposed to the US sending military aid to the so-called "rebel" forces.  MECR deplores the violence of both the Assad government and the opposition forces.  We support the use of diplomacy and other non-violent means to resolve this bloody conflict, and we believe that it is only the Syrian people who have the right to determine their own future.

Providing more military weaponry to anyone in Syria will only enhance the possibility of more violence; unfortunately, the victims of this violence are predominantly civilians—men, women, and children who are left dead or mutilated, homeless or stateless.  Sadly, while civilians suffer and die, the only real beneficiaries of supplying weapons are the weapons manufacturers and dealers, who line their pockets, often with taxpayer money.

The US has no business engaging in regime change in the Middle East (or anywhere else).  US intervention is catastrophic and results in widespread death, destruction, and corruption; one only has to look at Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan.  The only place we should be engaged in regime change is right here in the USA.

MECR Steering Committee

Nic Abramson
Pia Alexander
Eli Kassirer
Jim Mays
Helaine Meisler
Fred Nagel
Katja and Paul Rehm
Jane Toby

Friday, June 14, 2013

To the Editor:


School children buried beneath buildings in Oklahoma - many dead and many injured. To even contemplate this is unbearable, one can only imagine the suffering, grief, and distress of the mothers and fathers of these children.

Our hearts too are broken and we understand the grief and pain of the families with dead and missing children. This tornado was indeed a cruel and brutal act of nature. Sadly, there are man-made actions that also bury children beneath buildings.

In Pakistan our drones have killed nearly 5000 people since 2001 - at least 176 were children. In 2009 Israel attacked Palestine and "Operation Cast Lead" damaged or destroyed 20,000 buildings in Gaza. 1606 children were injured and 313 died, many were buried beneath the debris of bombed buildings.

We and our media rightly express profound compassion and empathy for the fate of buried children in Oklahoma, but somehow the identical suffering of Palestinian or Pakistani children is unacknowledged and unreported. Where are the tears for those innocent children buried beneath buildings demolished by US drones or those buried by buildings bombed by Israeli pilots in F-16 jet fighters (paid for with our tax dollars) ?

Surely the families of all children whether Palestinian, Pakistani, or American suffer and grieve the loss of loved ones. The tornado in Oklahoma was an act of nature but the drone attacks and Israeli bombings are intentional. What is wrong with us that we cannot make this connection and stop intentional government acts that result in children being buried beneath bombed out buildings?

Eli Kassirer

Monday, May 20, 2013

Guantanamo Nightmare


There are still 166 prisoners at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Of these, US authorities have cleared 86 for release, some in 2009 under President Obama, and others as early as 2004 under President Bush. The US government never charged these any of these 86 with crimes of terrorism or violence. Yet, they remain in Guantanamo because of our complete disregard for their basic legal and human rights. In addition, an executive order issued by President Obama two years ago, designated 46 other prisoners for indefinite detention without charge or trial. These 46 men were deemed too dangerous to release, even though not enough evidence exists to put them on trial. This is the same President Obama, a constitutional scholar, who promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago.

More than 100 of these men are on a hunger strike, which began on February 6, in non-violent protest of worsening prison conditions, mistreatment of prisoners, religious provocations (alleged desecration of Qur’ans), and the reality that after 11 years of suffering in indefinite detention there is no end in sight. More than 29 of these prisoners are being force-fed, and 5 have been hospitalized. In a letter to the US Secretary of Defense, 20 organizations, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the NYU School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic, protested that the force-feeding of competent prisoners constitutes “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” Force-feeding violates the Geneva Conventions.

On May 17, as part of a national day of solidarity, 14 of your neighbors gathered on the Woodstock Village Green to protest the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo and to say, “No, not in our name.” Some of us are fasting in solidarity with them.

To what depths has our country fallen? Can we justify anything because of our fears? Do we know no bounds? Can we know about this and not be culpable? What responsibility do we have as human beings?

Please call the White House, 202-456-1111; Department of Defense, 703-571-3343; and your US representatives and senators to express your concerns about the hunger strikers, to demand freedom for those the US authorities have already cleared for release, to bring all other prisoners to speedy trials, and to insist on the closing of Guantanamo.

Nic Abramson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Our entire family is appreciative of the efforts of the Mid-Hudson Friends


Dear Friends of Rachel Corrie,

Below is some follow-up from the copy of our 2013 In Memoriam that I sent to Rachel's relatives.  Thanks again for making it possible!

Greg


-------- Begin forwarded message --------
Subject: Rachel Corrie
Date: 4/19/13 11:26:40 AM
From: "Gene Robbins"

Hi Greg,

I'm Gene Robbins (Cindy Corrie's brother-in-law).  My wife Bonnie is Cindy's sister.  We all really appreciate the interest and support you folks in Rhinebeck have shown over the years.  Rest assured none of us disagree with what was written.  Cindy is extremely busy right now and doesn't always get to her emails but has always expressed gratitude for your work in the past.   Colette and her husband Bill are likewise appreciative.  Bill (Pusateri) has spoken to Tom Shaker several times and has enjoyed their talks immensely. Bonnie and I are about to go down to Berkeley for the national Jewish Voice for Peace conference this week-end.  So many people are fighting for justice and decency in so many ways...we're all important!  Rachel has been a personal inspiration to me.  Our entire family is appreciative of the efforts of the Mid-Hudson Friends of Rachel Corrie. Thanks for contributing.

Gene

Sunday, April 21, 2013

To the Editor:

I am a fisherman in Gaza. I am hungry and my children are hungry. We go fishing in legal waters but we are attacked by Israeli gunboats and our boat is riddled with bullets. We are still hungry. Please help us.

I am Palestinian and live in the Israeli occupied West Bank. Jewish settlers stole my land and water. My children are thirsty. I dug a well but the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) destroyed it. We are still thirsty and we drink putrid, contaminated water. Please help us.

I am Palestinian and live in Jerusalem. My wife is sick and needs emergency medical care. On the way to the hospital we are detained for hours at the Israeli military check point. My wife dies while waiting at the checkpoint. Please help me.

I am a Palestinian farmer in the Israeli occupied territories. My family is hungry and my fruit trees are ripe. The IDF bulldozers crushed and burned my orchard. We are still hungry. Please help us.

I am an American. My tax dollars support Israel. I believe the Zionist myths and Israeli propaganda scares me. I support the occupation but have lost my humanity. God help me.

We are all humans. Some of us are free. Please help. Go to www.hudsonvalleybds.org to see how. Thank you.

Eli Kassirer
New Paltz

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Jewish Smorgasbord


The Jewish Smorgasbord

Building up fairy tales out of disinformation and intellectual blindness is a dangerous mixture.

And so, when did it happen that standing in the center of Woodstock, excercisng the right of free speech, became a language of hate?

Since when has exposing the billions of dollars that gratuituosly we Americans are forced to give to a country like Israel becomes a hate speech?

Israel is a country that economically is in better shape than we are here at home.  Let's see, for example, their health care plan: universal.  the envy of every American.  Construction and infrastructure surpass the American dream  (of course, out of our expense, all that construction is done on stolen Palestinian land, illegal under all universal laws and rules). Military: we are the first power, with 300 million people, Israel is the fourth power, with barely 7 million people.

And then, with that same money, we are supporting the brutality of a regime that kills children, pregnant women, and has a system of ethnically cleansing the Palestinian population, by brutally destroying their livelihoods. And that same brutality is extended to U.S. citizens who commit the "crime" of trying to protect these helpless, innocent people, like what happened to U.S. citizen Rachel Corrie from Washington State, who was bulldozed to her death by an American-made vehicle driven by an Israeli citizen while our U.S. government did absolutely nothing.

Since when has exposing these atrocities become hate speech?

And now we come to the issue of the Jewish smorgasbord.  This fusion of long-past remembrances, trying to conflate Holocaust, hate speech, yoam hashoa, antisemitism, anti-israel, "goodness for all" (excluding some), Bible tales, and then fusing it with the reality of the present genocide makes a mockery of what should be something very serious and discussed, not ignored and crushed.

Bible tales and the European Holocaust belong to the past and are old issues.  The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is a current issue; it is being conducted in front of our eyes, paid with our tax money, with the blessing of our own government and perpetrated by Israeli citizens. There is not enough space here to disentangle these two issues and put them in the same dish. 

Fanny Prizant 
Bearsville

Monday, March 18, 2013

No hope of escape?


To the Editor:

You are locked in a coffin. Constrained, constricted, and terrified by claustrophobic thoughts. Squeezed in so tightly that you can't turn around, fed at your captors whim and no hope of escape?

Many creatures live their entire lives in such nightmarish conditions. Dogs, cats, and monkeys in "scientific" experiments, rabbits and mice in cosmetics testing labs, chickens, pigs, and cows in factory farms, elephants and big cats in circuses, dolphins in Sea World warehouses. The list and the suffering are endless. All the animals experience pain, fear, profound isolation, and probably a numbing sense of hopelessness.

Of course, the world is also filled with endless human suffering and countless victims. In some ways the situation of Palestinians living in Israel's occupied territories is similar to that of the captive animals. Like the animals, the Palestinians are severely confined behind walls in Gaza, their movements in both Gaza and the West Bank are strictly controlled by the Israeli Defense Forces, and many Palestinians eat only when Israel permits food shipments to pass through the military blockade.

Sometimes it's just too painful to look at these horrors - it's easier to watch TV or listen to music or go shopping. But we are the ones who are free and we are the ones who can speak up. The victims have no voice and no choice. The suffering (both human and animal) will only end if enough of us raise our voices and make different choices. Choices like not eating meat or poultry; not going to circuses or racetracks; not buying products tested on animals; and not buying goods produced in Israel's occupied territories http://www.hudsonvalleybds.org/.

Eli Kassirer

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sequestration won't hurt anyone now in power


For those wondering what the "sequestration" will do to the economy and who it will hurt most, there is an easy answer. It won't hurt the very rich, the multinational corporations, Wall Street, or the big banks. It also won't touch the billions flowing to Israel, with more promised if our belligerent "ally" in the Middle East goes off and commits some new round of war crimes.  

In short, the sequestration won't hurt anyone now in power, because those people are running our government as well as both political parties. The drama in Washington is simply show, so that those not in power will accept their diminished dreams in this land of plenty. Stocks are going through the roof; that's how much the very rich and powerful care about what is going to happen to the rest of us.

What began with modest goals during the Reagan years has become a full fledged massacre. Unions are being destroyed, public education privatized, the post office closed, and services to children and the disabled cut way back. Obama and the CEOs of industry will be hitting the elite golf courses soon to toast the triumph of capital over the 99% who actually work for a living. 

But lurking beneath the surface is real anger, something we haven't see since the Great Depression. The elites can't rob us forever without creating resistance. You can see it in ordinary people standing up against the oil companies, the big banks, and our two dishonest political parties. 

Fred Nagel

The Gatekeepers: A Must See

The Gatekeepers: A Must See

If you care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the State of Israel’s relationship to the occupied territories; the role of the Shin Bet (the Israeli internal security agency, the anti-terrorist organization, “the defender that shall not be seen,” that was formed in 1948); democracy, equality, and justice; and Israel’s relationship with the world, I highly recommend that you go to Rhinebeck’s Upstate Theater to see Israeli journalist and director Dror Moreh’s, Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Gatekeepers.”

This film is noteworthy because it asks tough questions and provides a truth rarely expressed; it focuses on six former heads of the Shin Bet, on men who “called the shots,” as they share their first-hand accounts of Israeli state policies toward the Palestinians from the 1967 Six-Day War (when one million Palestinians came under Israeli control in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Old City of Jerusalem) until now. From my perspective, perhaps most important, is the honesty of these men as they share their humanity; their perceptions about terrorism and terrorists; their ambivalence about the roles they played in helping “secure” the state of Israel while simultaneously committing acts of terror; their opinions about the true cost of Israel’s on-going occupation; and the frightening role of the religious right in Israel.

“The Gatekeepers” asks about agencies such as the Shin Bet creating their own rules of law; using inhuman and illegal techniques of prisoner interrogation, torture, and targeted assassinations; and over-stepping lines of legality and morality.

My questions are: Does the government of the State of Israel truly want peace? Can a Jewish State be a democracy? Why are U.S. politicians attempting to silence or censor people by trying to shut down presentations? Why are leaders of synagogues reluctant to follow traditional Jewish commitment to elu v’elu, hearing different views and allowing space for wrestling with the very difficult questions about Israel/Palestine? And, why are those of us who question Israeli state policy labeled anti-Semitic?

This is a film that as many of us as possible should see and discuss.

Helaine Meisler

Friday, March 1, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Truth

I grew up proud of Israel. My whole family was. As I became more informed and more politically aware I realized that much of what we believed about Israel and the "Arab" threat was the stuff myths are made of. Gradually the unavoidable truth revealed itself to me but I think because I valued and searched for truth above ethnic or national loyalties. Otherwise I would have remained blind to reality as many still do.

A few days ago, Arafat Jaradat, a young Palestinian father of two, died after being in Israeli custody in prison for less than one week. He was in good cardiac health at the time of being taken into custody and an autopsy showed no signs of cardiac illness, yet the Shin Bet contended he died from cardiac arrest. An autopsy revealed that the father of two with another child on the way had many broken bones in his arms, spine and legs, his face was also lacerated and badly bruised. This leads one to suspect that he was tortured to death. This may or may not be the case but it is well known that "the most moral army in the world" regularly tortures Palestinians and that torture happens on a regular basis in Israeli prisons.

I asked my friend, Yonatan Shapiro, former IDF Blackhawk helicopter pilot, what was the main impediment to a just peace in Palestine? His answer was simple. "Money." He said there is too much money and profit involved in the Occupation to let it go.

Just today I read the following put out by an international Jewish peace and justice organization:

"Israelís unique skills in crowd control, forced displacement, surveillance, and military occupation have resulted in placing it at the forefront of a global industry of repression: it develops, manufactures, and markets technologies that are used by armies and police around the world for purposes of repression.

Israel's role in this industry began with the Israeli military, which first used its weapons of war against Palestinian people in historic Palestine, and against neighboring countries. In recent years, as interest in surveillance and policing technologies and techniques has grown among governments around the world, an Israeli ìhomeland securityî private service industry built on these field-tested instruments has emerged to exploit and export this interest.

In addition to the Israeli government, military, and corporations, a network of Zionist organizations provides political and economic support to the state of Israel. For example, in the United States, these organizations participate in surveillance and facilitate exchanges between the Israeli military and US police forces, federal agents, and armed forces."

Says a lot, doesn't it? By the way, please donít accept the above at face value. Do the research. Check with numerous international human rights organizations, read The Generalís Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled. Donít be afraid of the truth.

Tarak Kauff
Woodstock, NY

The stench of church and state.


When Father Daniel Berrigan was speaking in Dutchess County more than a decade ago, a priest in the audience asked him why the Catholic Church was not opposing the illegal US blockade of Iraq.

"What you are smelling is the stench that comes from the marriage of church and state," Father Berrigan replied. He went on to declare that any religion serving the interests of the state destroys its spiritual authority in the process. 

I have long been disheartened by those who have used the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people to defend Israel's barbaric treatment of the Palestinians. I think this tactic cheapens and dishonors the suffering of both peoples, while perpetuating a cycle of senseless violence.

A rabbi publicly declaring that criticism of Israel is an anti-Semitic assault on the Jewish religion, however, is an example what Father Berrigan was saying about his own church. Religion debases itself by linking its moral authority to any state, much less one that wages preemptive wars, uses high tech weaponry on civilians, and treats a minority population with racist oppression. Are all these crimes to be defended as God's work, too holy for mortals to question or criticize?

The stench of church and state.

Fred Nagel
Rhinebeck

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To the Editor:


U.S. drones kill without warning. There are no screaming jets, no whirling helicopter blades, no rumbling tanks, no boots on the ground. Incineration and death happen instantaneously. In a flash the attack is over, the flesh burned, the bones broken, lives lost. But the damage lingers forever.

Since 2004 thousands of Pakistanis have been killed by U.S. drones, many purportedly "militants" but many were innocent men, women, and children. How would you react if your mother or father, sister or brother, wife or husband, child or loved one was callously incinerated in an attack by a faceless, distant, and remote entity? These drone horrors are being visited upon innocent Pakistanis in our name, by our government, with our tax dollars. Paki Wieland recently travelled with a CodePink delegation to Pakistan and will be speaking about human rights concerns and her experiences in the region at the New Paltz Village Hall on Friday, March 1 at 7 PM. Come and find out more about what is being done in your name with your tax dollars. For more information go to www.mideastcrisis.org.

Eli Kassirer
New Paltz

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The New McCarthyism

A controversy currently threatened academic freedom and free speech at CUNY Brooklyn College. The background of this controversy is that two student groups, some community groups, and the Political Science department of BC joined together to sponsor an event scheduled to be held on February 7. The speakers, Omar Barghouti (a Palesinian human rights activist) and Judith Butler (a Jewish American philosopher and professor), are advocates of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a non-violent, international movement. The goals are: To educate and raise public awareness; to pressure Israel to comply with international law; to stop Israeli oppression of, and control over, the Palestinians; and to advocate for Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories.

In response to the proposed event, pro-Israel advocates joined forces with local NYC politicians; they claimed they are “concerned that an academic department has decided to endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue.” Interestingly, this group never raised such a concern when Brooklyn College sponsored Alan Dershowitz, a pro-Israel speaker. Not one of these people insisted that Dershowitz’s event include alternate positions and that both sides be presented. It appears that this group wants colleges (as well as other institutions and venues) to create a rule that will apply only to those who criticize the policies of the Israeli government. The New Rule: You may only allow those critical of Israel to speak when others are there to disagree with them and/or to attack them, and, in so doing, to change the terms of the debate.

Furthermore, these advocates erroneously conflate anti-Semitism with the support of equal rights and freedoms for Palestinians, criticism of Israeli governmental policies vis-à-vis Palestinians, and support of BDS (as a non-violent strategy that successfully helped to end apartheid in South Africa). Their goals—to silence and/or deligitimize anyone who is critical of the Israeli government. What better way to destroy people’s reputations and/or careers than by labeling them bigots, “self-hating Jews,” and/or “anti-Semites.”

Thankfully, colleges frequently sponsor controversial speakers to challenge and question the status quo. In fact, each speaker appears alone on stage to present his/her viewpoint(s). Likewise, colleges host panels of like-minded panelists—the purpose, to discuss topics (without having to explain or defend each sentence uttered) and, perhaps more importantly, to delve into the nuances within topics.

If one holds academic freedom and freedom of speech as core values, regardless of one’s position on BDS, or any other issue for that matter, one should be alarmed by what is happening at Brooklyn College and, unfortunately, at many other colleges.

Helaine Meisler

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To the editor:

I am Jewish. Most of my family, which includes a few Zionists, is Jewish. I have known Fred Nagel for nearly fifteen years and worked closely with him on many issues including human rights, civil rights, the environment, peace, and the economy. He is compassionate, caring, and has an unquenchable thirst for truth and justice. Fred is a tireless advocate for the rights of the oppressed and the powerless regardless of their religion.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler's attack on Mr. Nagel is both unfounded and disturbing. It defies logic that Rabbi Kligler would focus on a few words from letters months old rather than the heinous behavior of the State of Israel (supported by the Israeli lobby).

Fred Nagel's words are not the problem. Mr. Nagel's words were strong and provocative, perhaps even inflammatory, and maybe even ill- chosen. But they were words of TRUTH. Anti-Semitism thrives on distortion, deception, lies and myths. Fred Nagel is a truth teller and, as such, is the antithesis of anti- Semitism.

Every time Israel demolishes Palestinian homes, builds illegal settlements, bombs civilians, imprisons or shoots children, steals water and resources, or humiliates and degrades Palestinians at military check-points the flames of anti-Semitism are fanned. The intention of Mr. Nagel's letters seem to be to encourage Israel to stop actions that are, in fact, causing anti-Semitism.

I would humbly suggest that Rabbi Kligler owes Mr. Nagel an apology. I would further suggest a meeting of some kind between Mr. Nagel and Rabbi Kligler in an effort to clear the air and foster an open and honest dialogue. Perhaps Rabbi Kligler could extend an invitation to Mr. Nagel to participate in a forum that would discuss anti- Semitism.

Eli Kassirer

Dangerous Thinking

I knew a former Soviet film professor and cultural official who as a boy lived across the way from Sergei Nilus, the former Czarist police spy credited with having written The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Beyond paying his rent on time (or whatever cliche you want), Nilus was an unapologetic anti-Semite, the real deal, not an angry phrasemonger. Seeing Jews as bloodsucking parasites was the least of it. Instead the Protocols tried to make the case that the Jews have a master plan to take over the world, year by year and nation by nation.

Interestingly, the "plan" involves "confusing the goyim" by promoting both revolution and plutocracy, the 99 percent and the 1 percent. It also involves (as Henry Ford's editor, Willia Campbell, promoted in his version, The International Jew) an elaborate plan to "infect" and destroy other "races" through sex and intermarriage with Jews.

Through it all the creation of a Jewish homeland does not receive any real focus. It's the Jews as a PEOPLE that the racialist masters -- Nilus, Chamberlain, Ford, Hitler -- vilify through phrases, images, and fantasies -- NOT a Jewish state.

Those who see criticism of Israel's policies as dangerous anti-Semitism are barking up the wrong tree. The discourse they should examine is that of international conflict. Some of us see Israel as a drain on the USA and most of us see it as an oppressor of the Palestinians. But then again, many Israelis see the USA as both a "weak and corrupt" country and an arrogant superpower. If there is dangerous thinking involved here, it is in the language of national identity...not that of racialism.

Barry Fruchter

On Anti-Semitism and Israel

On Sunday, January 13, I attended an End The New Jim Crow event at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. When asked about the Jewish perspective on The New Jim Crow, Rabbi Kligler talked about the correspondence of racism and anti-Semitism as one of the main reasons that Jews should care about racism. 

While I take issue with that rationale as being too narrowly based in self-interest and not broadly enough based on shared humanitarian values, it was his example of anti-Semitism to which I most strongly object. He related that since its inception, of the more than 700 votes in the United Nations, over 400 of them have been over Israel, and that this, in and of itself, is anti-Semitic. Now firstly, the concatenation ofIsrael and the Jewish people is troubling. Israel is a state of almost eight million, over twenty percent of whom are Arabs. Yes, the ruling elite are Jewish and the second-class citizens are Arabs and other minorities, but to blur distinctions between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is just wrong. 

Secondly, most of the votes condemning Israel concern the ongoing abuse of the Palestinian population and the illegal occupation of their lands. Generally speaking, those votes have broken down along the same lines, more or less, as the November 2012 vote on the elevation of Palestineto non-member observer state status. On that vote, 138 nations voted with the Palestinian side (including France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland), while only 8 nations (USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau) voted with Israel, and there were 41 abstentions.

Now, while anti-Semitism certainly exists and has existed for thousands of years, and Jews certainly suffer and have historically suffered from it, to claim that most of the world is anti-Semitic because it votes against Israel's treatment of Palestinians is farfetched. To see anti-Semitism under every rock cannot possibly be correct, nor does it advance the cause of equal treatment of Jews. Those who do not blindly support Israel, those who even have the temerity to criticize Israel, those who work for Palestinian freedom, are not necessarily anti-Semitic, nor self-hating Jews, and our political and religious leaders should know and acknowledge that.

Nic Abramson