Monday, February 8, 2021

Stop taking money from the Israel Lobby

 Representative Antonio Delgado certainly has Israel as his friend. The Israel Lobby gave him a free trip to Israel at the start of this first term, and has been very kind to him ever since. The website Open Secrets has Rep. Delgado receiving $29,698 from the Lobby for 2020. 

Rep. Delgado's constituents haven't been so lucky. Four local groups (Jewish Voice for Peace - HV, Middle East Crisis, Veterans For Peace, and Women in Black - New Paltz) have been asking for a meeting with him for the last two years. According to his Junior Legislative Assistant, Matthew Gerson, Rep. Delgado has just been too busy to talk about Palestinian rights. Matthew didn't seem particularly interested either, but that might have been because he interned at the Jewish People Policy Institute, a private, non-profit in Israel that promotes the apartheid state. 


Rep. Delgado has been similarly effective in avoiding questions about Palestine in town hall Zoom meetings. He has refused to cosponsor HR 2407, the bill that protects the rights of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails. He never responded to a petition with 2,300 signatures urging him to meet with the four groups. There were numerous letters to the editor and two full page newspaper ads, and still our representative has never let the word "Palestine" slip from between his lips. 


Isn't it time for all his constituents to simply ask him to stop taking money from the Israel Lobby? We voted for Rep. Delgado to represent us, not Israel.


Fred Nagel

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

NPR "progressive except for Palestine"

 On NPR's Morning Edition (2/3/21), a guest from the Anti Defamation League was introduced to comment on racism in America. The ADF is probably the very last organization that should be given airtime to discuss racial or religious hatreds. 


From its beginning tracking neo-Nazis and other right wing groups, the ADF has devolved into attacking what it calls "Arab propaganda" on university campuses, and branding any criticism of Israel as antisemitic.


And then there is the spying the ADF has done on the ACLU, Greenpeace, NAACP, and United Farm Workers. In addition, the ADL was instrumental in opposing the building of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and the proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. 


The ADF used its links to the NYPD to insert its racist views into police training by the showing of "The Third Jihad," a virulently Islamophobic film, to 1,500 of its officers. 


NPR decision to use the ADL to comment on racial extremism in American is typical of what is now referred to as PEP, or "progressive except for Palestine." 


Fred Nagel

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Gaza’s Rockets: Weapons of Terror or Liberation?

 

Gaza’s Rockets: Weapons of Terror or Liberation?

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2020, pp. 42-43, 63

Special Report

By Gregory DeSylva

THE ROCKETS and mortars that Hamas and other Gaza militant groups fire into Israel are almost universally condemned. Most U.S. politicians blame these projectiles for the Israel-Gaza conflicts, and the U.N. and EU have condemned them. In 2014, President Barack Obama legitimized Israel’s “Protective Edge” assault on Gaza, stating, “As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people.” In November 2019, presidential candidate Joe Biden followed suit: ”Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist threats. It is intolerable that Israeli citizens live their lives under the constant fear of rocket attacks.”

Rockets are a significant reason for Gaza’s continuing split with the West Bank: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has denounced them as “counterproductive,” accomplishing little and provoking Israeli retaliation endangering Gaza civilians.

ROCKETS, LAW, AND LIBERTY

For the international community, these denunciations reflect the rockets’ perceived violation of international humanitarian law (IHL), the area of international law concerned with the means of war. Attacks intentionally targeting civilians are absolutely prohibited under the principle of noncombatant immunity (NCI). Attacks that target military assets but incidentally impact civilians are acceptable only if their civilian impacts are proportionate to their military purposes. Attacks that can’t discriminate between military targets and civilians pose unacceptable risks to civilians and are forbidden because they’re indiscriminate. Gaza’s rockets lack internal guidance systems and thus are very inaccurate. So it’s generally infeasible to make meaningful distinction with them between military targets and civilians. Ergo, they’re indiscriminate and forbidden under IHL. Ditto for Gaza’s mortars.

Thus, compliance with IHL would require Gaza to end all use of its projectiles. But how can weak, technologically unsophisticated Gaza liberate itself from powerful, technologically advanced Israeli oppression if it’s deprived of its only possibility of impacting Israel militarily? Non-violent resistance alone won’t do—Palestinians have engaged in it for decades with little success, the most recent instance being Gaza’s “Great March of Return” that left 13,000 protesters severely wounded and over 180 dead at the hands of the Israeli military. The “peace process” has been an even greater failure.

IHL creates this conundrum by dissociating the justice of a party to the war’s cause from the means it can use in making war. Under this rubric, both aggressor and victim must comply with IHL in their means of combat. Gaza’s overwhelmingly just cause gives it no right whatsoever to utilize its projectiles against an entity that has dispossessed and oppressed it for over seven decades. Yet, foregoing them could condemn Gaza to perpetual oppression. As such, IHL is constituted to keep down the oppressed to the benefit of powerful oppressors. It also conflicts with relevant parts of international human rights law: the rights to liberty, freedom of movement and to return to one’s country.

ABSOLUTIST LAW IN EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES

IHL’s “no exceptions” divorce of the justification for war from the means of war hasn’t gone uncontested. Michael Walzer proposes a striking exception in his classic Just and Unjust Wars. If a country is in a “Supreme Emergency”—imminent danger of conquest by an aggressor that would subject it to tyrannical oppression—then this preeminent justification for war gives it the right to fight by any means it chooses, including deliberately attacking the aggressor’s civilians. This rationale was implicit in Britain’s bombing of German civilians in WW II. Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed Britain’s only chance to avoid Nazi tyranny was to target German civilians. By doing so he hoped to undermine Germany’s military and/or to arouse its civilians to overthrow the Nazis. Though the impact on Germany’s war machine was minimal and no uprising occurred, these attacks, which killed more than 300,000 civilians, were tacitly accepted by the international community.

Although Walzer proposes only the Supreme Emergency exception to IHL’s separation of cause and means of war, there’s no a priori basis for disallowing additional exceptions. Gaza isn’t facing a Supreme Emergency—it’s enduring Supreme Oppression. The full scope of what was in store for it has manifested over decades rather than in one fell stroke.

Many Palestinian refugees fled to Gaza from their homes in what is now Israel to escape the 1948 war, expecting to return when the violence abated. Israel violated—and to this day violates—their right under international human rights law to return to their country. Thus, they have been largely confined to Gaza for decades, where they have languished in rampant unemployment and poverty. In 1967, Israel occupied Gaza, subjected it to harsh military rule and began colonizing it, shoving aside the refugees and brutally suppressing their resistance. Then it fenced in Gaza, making it into a big concentration camp. All of this contributed to Hamas’ rise to power and significant rocket attacks on Israel beginning in 2006, Israel’s strangling siege and blockade in 2007, intensified rocketing, and a series of savage Israeli reprisals from 2006 to 2014.

If Supreme Emergency warrants an exception to IHL, then such Supreme Oppression also warrants it. Britain struggled against a more powerful enemy to avoid tyranny and loss of liberty; Gaza is doing so to throw off tyranny and regain liberty. Its just cause for war is at least as strong as Britain’s was, and it has at least as much right as Britain did to choose its means of war. This doesn’t mean Gaza should fight “any way it chooses.” If it seeks liberty instead of revenge, it shouldn’t intentionally target Israeli civilians as have some of its militant factions. Such bald contravention of IHL is indeed counterproductive because of the condemnation it arouses by the governments and citizens of foreign nations, by the U.N., and by NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. U.N. and NGO reports of IHL violations in the conflict have far greater bearing on Gaza’s fortunes than any military impact its projectiles might have. These assessments have contributed to its ruling Hamas party and some of its militant factions being placed on lists of terrorist organizations, resulting in crippling economic sanctions—including the blockade—against Gaza.

IHL puts Gaza in a cruel catch-22 predicament. If it uses its projectiles in violation of IHL it can expect continued condemnation and the negative impacts it has on the Palestinian cause. If it forgoes them, it is likely to remain interminably under Israel’s knee. Humanitarian law that limits the oppressed to such intolerable options is itself inhumane and should be amended. For cases like Gaza’s, this amendment should permit regulated use of indiscriminate weapons involving reasonable relaxation of the noncombatant immunity of the oppressor’s civilians. This amendment would pertain to certain provisions of Additional Protocol I of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to other areas of IHL.

Per this amendment, “regulated use” of such indiscriminate weapons would be available only to entities enduring extreme, perpetual violation of their human rights under international law. Regulated use of such weapons must be essential to gaining those rights, and there must be no viable alternative for gaining those rights. They must not be used for extraneous purposes such as terrorism or vengeance. They must have only military objectives, although there can be no guarantee that they will not impact oppressors’ civilians or that those impacts will be proportionate to their military objectives. Oppressors bear responsibility for impacts upon their civilians because they force oppressed entities to utilize such weapons by depriving people of their lawful human rights. This responsibility would be reinforced in cases like Gaza’s in which—as documented by Amnesty International—the oppressor locates its military assets in or near its civilian areas, from which it launches attacks against the oppressed entity.

The amendment should also provide for termination of the use of such weapons as soon as an oppressor terminates its violations of an oppressed entity’s human rights. In Gaza’s case, Israel would have to end its blockade and sanctions against Gaza and permit its refugees to return to their country or—if they prefer—make restitution to them based upon expert, disinterested assessment of their losses.

WEAPONS OF LIBERATION

Whether or not IHL is so amended, Gaza has a moral right to such regulated use of its projectiles to cast off Zionist tyranny. It is suggested that its leadership clarify to the international community its right to use its projectiles based on principles such as those in the proposed amendment. Israel probably would still retaliate disproportionately, but international sentiment might then shift toward Gaza. These changes in Gaza’s means of war undoubtedly require new or reformed leadership that can unite its populace and factions in purpose and policy. Challenging though all this is, it may be Gaza’s only viable path to liberty. Such changes also could open the way for reunification with the West Bank establishment in averting the extinction of Palestinian statehood hopes, now critically endangered by Israel’s annexation agenda.


Gregory DeSylva is a board member of Deir Yassin Remembered and has written and produced six videos related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Room for all God's miscreants

The new Supreme Court has significantly expanded the rights of religions over the good of all citizens. For this court, the First Amendment "free exercise" clause includes just about anything a religious group chooses to do, no matter how detrimental that might be to the common good. Want to have hundreds at a wedding during a deadly pandemic? Now religious groups have the right to be super spreaders of COVID 19.

That is probably good news for the 40,000 fundamentalist Mormons whose practices of polygamy may now be protected. Other religions groups also have reason to be spiritually joyous. Take the Catholic Church, where the sexual abuse of children has become so commonplace that it is almost part of the religious experience. Thousands of priests have abused children for decades, and their actions have been protected right up to the Vatican. Why couldn't the church now claim that pedophilia is a part of its religious tradition, and as such is protected from criminal prosecution?

Zionists have reasons to celebrate as well. Israel is an important part of the Jewish and Evangelical Christian religions, so wouldn't the apartheid treatment of five million Palestinian now be protected by the Supreme Court? In fact shooting Palestinians, bulldozing their homes and walling them into fetid ghettos has been part of both religions for over a century. Why not celebrate it, along with bigamist Mormons and child molesting Catholics? The new religious freedoms enshrined by the Supreme Court have room for all God's miscreants.

Fred Nagel

Dear (Rep. Maloney / Sen. Gillibrand / Sen. Schumer)

The Israeli government is refusing to help administer COVID vaccinations to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza territories.  Israel should help vaccinate everyone in Israel, including Palestinians - on a humanitarian, medical and legal basis.  I’m asking for your assistance to encourage Israel to help vaccinate everyone.

Israel defends its refusal citing the Oslo Peace Accords, which put Palestinian authorities in charge of healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza, home to 5 million people.  Some aid groups say Israel and the Palestinian Authority both share responsibility. But Palestinian authorities are facing obstacles in launching their own vaccine campaign, including a shortage of money, lack of access to vaccines and lack of infrastructure to distribute a vaccine.  The vaccine also needs to be stored at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit, which is nearly impossible in Gaza and the West Bank as residents often go for hours each day without electricity. 

In order to reach herd immunity from the virus, it’s in Israel’s interest to have Palestinians in the territories be vaccinated, as this is a densely populated area with much interaction between both groups. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers cross into Israel from the West Bank for work on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the infection rate keeps rising.

Physicians for Human Rights recently said, quote, “Israel bears moral and humanitarian responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population under its control,” unquote. Israel is vaccinating Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, yet even Palestinian medical personnel facing high-risk on the frontlines of care have not yet been vaccinated.

Amnesty International is calling on Israel to “stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

Additionally, hundreds of rabbis from multiple denominations, organized by Rabbis for Human Rights, have signed a letter arguing that Israel has a moral imperative to deliver vaccines to Palestinians, especially in Gaza.

Israel receives some $3 Billion in support of our U.S. tax dollars each year.  This money should be used to help all of the people in Israel, including the Palestinian territories. 

There has already been so much suffering and hardship due to this pandemic.
Please do what you can to help save lives and avert catastrophe by ensuring everyone in Israel and the Palestinian territories gets vaccinated.  Thank you.

Sincerely,
Tom Midgley

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The radical right sees Israel as a kindred state

 It is so disturbing to witness this latest "lynching" of a Black candidate, all in the name of fighting antisemitism. This time it is the Democratic senatorial candidate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who dared to bring up the suffering of the Palestinians. 

His words spoken at a sermon in 2018 bear repeating. "We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more anti-Semitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.”


Why is the Israel Lobby attacking Rev. Warnock for words like these? Doesn't the Lobby know how important his race in Georgia is to controlling the US Senate? Would the Lobby prefer a white supremacist over a candidate of color?


Part of the explanation is the deep ties that the Israel Lobby has with racist movements in America. For example, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) has been funding attacks on Black movements and the left for decades. More recently according to the Boston Review, the ADL has been pushing high school and university boards "to characterize Palestinian human rights demands as violations of American Jews' civil rights."


But there are other reasons as well. Israel is a racist state, built on the ethnic and religious concept of Jewish supremacy. White Christian nationalists want the same freedom to marginalize and terrorize people of the wrong faith and ethnicity here in the US. The radical right sees Israel as a kindred state, and the Israel Lobby has come to the same conclusion.  


Fred Nagel


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Sleepless nights

Another sleepless night worrying that this white supremacist president of ours will forever poison race relations in the US? Not to worry; race relations in this country have always been toxic, and politicians have always used fear and hatred to win elections.

Worried that the working class will end up losing everything, as our nation's richest people become kings and queens? That's been happening for 40 years, as corporations have taken control of almost every aspect of our government. The millions that businesses and the very rich give to politicians used to be called bribery. Thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions, such gifts are now considered freedom of speech.

We see that all the reforms that most working people really want are routinely rejected, like taxing the rich, universal healthcare, free college tuition, an end to wars in the Middle East, and holding Israel accountable for the occupation of Palestine. There is no real money behind any of these ideas, so even though most people favor them, they have no chance of being considered, even in the Democratic Platform.

The only reason to worry about Trump is that he represents the culmination of neoliberalism, the destruction of the common good by the huge corporations that rule us. Whether our next president is this dangerously unhinged demagogue, or a sleepy corporate shill, they will both serve the same plutocracy.

Yet change is happening in the streets, be it for LGBTQ, African American, or women's rights. The pressure for change always comes from below.

Fred Nagel