The WESPAC Committee for Justice & Peace in the Middle East is a group of concerned people from the Westchester County area formed to educate the general community, promote open discussion and dialogue and advocate for just solutions to the current destructive situations in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine/Israel. WESPAC supports the call by over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations for punitive measures including boycotts, divestment, and sanctions to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian People’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law. We call for an end to all occupations in the region. The committee meets regularly and invites participation from the public. Please contact the office at 914.449.6514 or email [email protected] for more information.
Please register here for Sunday, February 21st at 3pm: https://horowitzresearch.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_pwXYHl_KRTiW39sWPJkzYg
Harry is a WESPAC member and the coordinator of the local chapter of JVP. Thank you, Congressmember Bowman, for your leadership on this. To date, Israel has vaccinated 33% of its population (over 3 million people) but has not provided vaccinations to the 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Under international pressure, the Israeli authorities have agreed to release 5,000 doses of the vaccine to frontline Palestinian health workers only.
IADL: U.S. sanctions targeting International Criminal Court are an outrage against international justice
See the statement on our website:
On 2 September 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the imposition of sanctions on Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and prosecution jurisdiction director for authorizing such an investigation, including war crimes committed by U.S. forces, for which U.S. officials bear responsibility. These sanctions were based on a declaration by U.S. President Trump of a national emergency on this subject in June of 2020.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) rejects as outrageous these sanctions on senior prosecution officials of the International Criminal Court. IADL will be investigating the best ways to challenge these sanctions.
The United States has for some time claimed that it is exempt from the laws which bind the rest of the world, seeking permanent international impunity for itself. The United States openly seeks to evade international accountability for its responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world, not only by refusing to join the Court but by U.S. President Trump declaring that the potential for an ICC investigation into international crimes in the war in Afghanistan is a “national emergency.”
That the International Criminal Court prosecutors are investigating the United States can be declared a “national emergency” makes a mockery of the word “emergency”.
Of course, such an investigation follows the United States’ illegal invasion and military occupation of Iraq after years of devastating sanctions, torture of prisoners, and devastation of the country that led directly and indirectly to the deaths of millions of Iraqis. The United States continues to illegally occupy Afghanistan, having killed and wounded thousands of Afghans over nearly 20 years of ongoing military attacks, while continuing drone strikes, extrajudicial killings and other war crimes and crimes against humanity around the world.
It must further be noted that this also comes in response to the Prosecutor’s approval of an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine, about which the U.S. and Israel have exerted tremendous pressure on both Palestinian and international actors in an effort to uphold permanent impunity for ongoing Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. It further follows the submission of a complaint by Middlesex University law professor William Schabas against Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump adviser Jared Kushner before the ICC for their support of illegal Israeli colonial settlement activities in the West Bank of occupied Palestine.
The ICC was established in order to prevent serious crimes against civilians and put an end to impunity when domestic law does not or cannot provide a remedy. For years, the bulk of ICC actions were directed at African officials, even in relatively weak cases. The US imposed sanctions are an attempt to prevent the ICC from performing a truly international or universal role, since any such court or judicial project must be able to hold the U.S. and its allies accountable for their crimes.
Sixty-seven member countries of the ICC have issued a joint statement expressing their support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution, and 10 members of the UN Security Council have done the same. It is incumbent upon all States Parties to the Rome Statute act to defend the Court and address these latest threats to the international rule of law by the United States. We further call on the UN General Assembly to condemn these U.S. actions.
It must be noted as well that these sanctions come amid the ongoing use of unilateral coercive measures, in violation of international law and the United Nations charter, by the U.S. government; for example, against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Zimbabwe. These unilateral coercive measures are a form of economic warfare and an attempt to impose regime change upon any country that rejects the dictates of the United States, and the sanctions on individual ICC prosecutors fit precisely into this framework.
The IADL rejects the US attempt to suppress international justice and any form of accountability for U.S. and Israeli officials through direct economic attack and the threat of criminal prosecution against victims and their advocates simply for pursuing justice.
We affirm that this announcement will not chill our efforts to hold U.S. officials and their allies, including Israeli officials, accountable and to support our members and colleagues working to do so in a variety of forums and venues, especially the International Criminal Court.
9 September 2020
“Well I think ultimately the right of a refugee return, not just to the West Bank but also to Israel proper. Now, one of the ways Land for All thinks about that, is through a notion of those Palestinians refugees remaining, being citizens of a Palestinian state based in West Bank and Gaza, even as they live in Israel proper, right? While Israeli settlers stay in the West Bank and retain their Israeli citizenship. Right, so this is where a confederation model could work. But I do think that the way a two-state solution has been conceived by some people, which is essentially to say, virtually no right of refugee Palestinian return to areas inside Israel proper – I have come to the view that I think that would be unlikely to be that effective of a solution. And I also think that we have to really have a conversation about the morality of telling… we are a people who for 2000 years have prayed every morning since the creation of modern liturgy, for a return to this land – how do we tell people who grew up in a place, that they don’t have the right to return to that place? So I think that one of the reasons that I would favor a confederation model over a two-state model, if I had to choose between the two at this point, is that I think it creates more opportunity for meeting people’s legitimate rights to have the option of returning. That does not mean going to someone’s house and kicking them out of their home. And I don’t think it’s the way most Palestinians I know think about it. But it means maybe compensation and it means having the right to return to the city where you were born. I mean again, one of the things that comes across to anyone who spends time with Palestinian writing and learns from the Palestinian experience, is the enormous power and the importance for people of being able to go back to places that were precious to them. And one of the things that I find appealing about the confederation model, even if one doesn’t go fully towards the one-state model, is it provides some way of realizing that. And I am saddened that in our Jewish discourse, that we are people who take so much pride in our ability to remember, to not forget, and to hold sacred memory and to try to fulfil it, are so dismissive of that when it comes to Palestinians”. Read full article here: https://mondoweiss.net/2020/07/peter-beinart-and-the-palestinian-right-of-return/
What a magnificent awards gathering the WESPAC Community had last night! Between the awardees and our keynote speaker, we were all transported to the realm of possibility and the world that we can make happen together! Take a listen: https://www.facebook.com/WESPACFOUNDATION/videos/747136596090336/?vh=e
The Antiracist Alliance, WCPR, the local chapter of NYCLU as well as WESPAC have worked together to put together this letter. We are asking for additional organizations, groups and congregations to please add your names if you support our list of specific reforms outlined in the letter. Now is the moment. If you agree, please sign on here June 5, 2020
A Call to Police Leaders
Communities across the country, including our own, are angered and appalled as we witness an unending stream of callous, disrespectful, and often deadly encounters between police and civilians. While many of these events occur elsewhere, both individual experience and published research reports tell us that there is not a community in Westchester County that is not afflicted by disturbing police-civilian encounters, racially biased policing practices, and a problematic lack of transparency by its law enforcement agencies.
This is a call for you to make a firm and public commitment to transparency, accountability, and a zero-tolerance approach to police misconduct.
While we are wary after decades of refusals to reform, we remain willing to partner with our law enforcement leaders who embrace the tenets of accountability, transparency, equal justice, and respect for all human life.
Below you will find a list of specific reforms that we wish to see implemented immediately here in Westchester. Achieving these recommendations will send a strong message to all members of our community that our leaders are committed to fundamentally redefining the relationship between our police department and our community. This is tough work, but if we commit to it, we can build a stronger community: one that is rooted in the fundamental ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In peace and commitment to partnership for the safety of all,
Residents and organizations of Westchester County (list is still in formation):
Blacks in Law Enforcement
Indivisible New Rochelle
Indivisible Westchester Districts 6 & 7
Indivisible White Plains
Indivisible Yorktown Heights
PISAB/The People’s Institute; for Survival and Beyond NY/Northeast
SURJ Westchester Coordinating Committee
Westchester Black Political Conference
Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform
Westchester for Change
Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence
We expect you, as leaders with authority and responsibility for law enforcement in Westchester County, to assume full responsibility for meeting the highest possible standard of accountability, transparency and equal protection to all residents and visitors to our county. Our specific expectations are detailed below.
Make publicly available the current policies and patrol guides of all law enforcement agencies under County jurisdiction, including but not limited to policies on: de-escalation tactics, implicit bias, use of force, department diversity, enforcement of low-level offenses, field interviews, search and seizure, use of surveillance technology, and the penalties for violating these policies.
Make public the training materials used for police officers: including hours spent training on de-escalation, implicit bias, and use of force.
Commit to collecting comprehensive data on all police stops – including the rationale for the stop and the race, ethnicity, age, and sex of people stopped – and making that data publicly available.
Pass legislation/Require officers making police stops to provide an identification card, state the reason for the interaction, and to state that you may not be searched without your consent without probable cause.
Pass legislation/Require a full, independent investigation into any police-civilian interaction that results in civilian injury or death.
Advocate for legislation that would make the measures outlined above mandatory throughout New York State, including Repeal 50-a, (the law which currently cloaks police officers’ disciplinary records in secrecy), the Right-to-Know Act, which requires officer identification during police stops, and the Police-STAT Act, which requires that police departments collect and report data on police stops so that they can be monitored for patterns of racial profiling.
We remain committed to working to advance racial justice and hold our police officers accountable, and we invite you to join us in this fight.
Washington DC, April 23 — Last week, the redacted text of the Mueller Report dropped—into a Capitol Hill that will spend much of the rest of the present Congressional session dealing with its fallout.
Robert Mueller’s investigation was into allegations only of Russian interference in U.S. politics. But at one point his report highlights some highly questionable (Russia-related) contacts that people close to Trump’s transition team had with representatives of another government that has intervened massively in U.S. policymaking in recent years: the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE is a small but very wealthy federation of seven tiny emirates (princedoms) strung out along the coast of the Gulf. Through the wily hawkishness of its powerful Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), the UAE has played a major role in prolonging the war in Yemen, fomenting and supporting the conflicts in Syria and Libya, overthrowing (in 2013) the elected government in Egypt—and in persuading Pres. Trump to walk out of the key de-escalation/denuclearization deal the United States concluded with Iran in 2015.
MBZ may have only the title of “crown prince”, but he has dominated the UAE’s policymaking for more than a dozen years now. And back in early 2015, when the ageing King Salman became king of neighboring Saudi Arabia, MBZ reportedly played a big role in boosting the elevation of one of Salman’s younger sons, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), to the powerful role of crown prince… and we have seen some of the ruthlessness that MBS brought to that role.
Like MBS, MBZ doubtless views himself as a very “modern” crown prince. As part of that, his pursuit of his chosen, ultra-hawkish policies in the Middle East has been accompanied by massive lobbying efforts in Washington, designed to try to keep the world’s sole remaining (if somewhat fading) superpower on his side. So if the Justice Department and relevant congressional committees want to investigate interventions that foreign entities have been making in the US political process, then the role of the UAE government– as well as the Saudi and Israeli governments—should certainly also be examined.
Muzzling the discourse
“Interventions”, in this sense, should include not only direct lobbying for or against various policies but also the attempts these outside actors make to frame, skew, or on occasion outright muzzle the elite discourse in this country. These actors accomplish this in a number of ways, including by hiring PR firms and through the investments they make in various think-tanks… those specifically Washington institutions that generate and support “experts” whose analyses and views then—if the think-tank is successful—get widely quoted in the corporate media, thus becoming part of the country’s “conventional wisdom.”
Over the past decade, the UAE became a big player in the think-tank scene in Washington DC, which had previously been dominated, on matters Middle Eastern, by the large ranks of big, pro-Israeli American funders like Haim Saban—and to a lesser extent by the Saudis.
In the early 2000s Saban, an Israeli-American entertainment mogul (and close Clinton buddy), used his money to take over the previously professional Middle East studies department at the Brookings Institution, which renamed it the “Saban Center”. Saban was the guy who once told an audience in Israel that the “three ways to be influential in American politics,” were “make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.” He has also repeatedly said, “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel.”
Not surprisingly, when MBZ wanted to “be influential in American politics”, he followed as much as he could of Saban’s playbook. Not being an American citizen meant that following some of Saban’s three paths to success was a little harder and more complex—but he had two trusty lieutenants to help him out.
George [not Ralph!] Nader
One was George Nader, a veteran Lebanese-American fixer who has worked for MBZ for many years and who is also a close associate of big GOP fundraiser– and Trump buddy– Elliot Broidy. Section IV (B) 2 of Volume 1 of the Mueller report described how, just a week before Trump’s inauguration, Nader and MBZ had set up a meeting in the Seychelles between Putin intimate Kirill Dmitriev and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, whom Nader thought was close to the Trump transition (and who anyway had a long history of working with MBZ in the UAE.) But Erik Prince apparently demurred from playing any immediate further role in establishing a secret Trump-Putin “back channel.”
Back in the 1980s, I knew Nader as an ambitious young man who cut quite a figure as the editor and publisher of a very glossy, Washington DC-based magazine called Middle East Insight. It carried intriguing interviews with a broad range of movers and shakers in Middle Eastern politics (and was suspected by many of us actual journalists in Washington of being a CIA front.) He and the magazine then dropped out of sight. Child pornography charges were reportedly involved. Years later, he resurfaced in the Czech Republic having been convicted there on several charges of child molestation… More recently, he resurfaced again as a key bagman for MBZ, including in relation to some non-trivial arms dealing.
Last year, after investigators on Mueller’s team subpoenaed the contents of Nader’s phone, he began to sing. (Scores of the footnotes to the relevant section of Mueller’s report are attributed to texts found on Nader’s phone.)
In April 2017, however, Nader was still busy doing his influence-peddling for MBZ. As the AP would later report, that was the month that Nader wired $2.5 million to Elliott Broidy through a company in Canada. The AP’s sources indicated that Nader sent the money to underwrite efforts to win US support for the campaign Saudi Arabia and the UAE were launching against Qatar. Those efforts included a Broidy-funded, anti-Qatar conference held by the ultra-right-wing think-tank, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and campaign donations of nearly $600,000 that Broidy made to anti-Qatar political bodies and campaigns.
Another, even higher-level US bagman for MBZ has long been the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba. He has also worked diligently to follow the Haim Saban playbook for how to win friends and influence policy in Washington—including the campaigns to control think-tanks.
Otaiba was named ambassador in March 2008. Just one month later an associate of Amb. (retd.) Wendy Chamberlain, the head of Washington’s venerable Middle East Institute think-tank, reportedlyreached out to ask Otaiba to support a major MEI capital campaign. Eight years later, Ms. Chamberlain finally got her reply: a $20 million donation from the UAE, which has now nearly finished completion of a large-scale refurbishment of its headquarters.
The past twelve years have seen numerous examples of such think-tank investments being made by rich Arab states—especially by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar. Sometimes, these states followed the path of “capturing”—or, heavily investing in—existing think-tanks, as Saban had at Brookings and Otaiba did with MEI. Or sometimes, they followed the path pioneered in the 1980s by the big, pro-Israeli donor Barbi Weinberg, who worked with former AIPAC staffer Martin Indyk to create her own, wholly new think-tank: the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the FARA-reported influence operations of these three Arab states in 2017-2018 totaled $90.3 million, compared with $63.5 million reported by Israel. Influence operations funded by Israel are of course generously supplemented by those funded by US individuals and entities deeply supportive of Israel, like AIPAC. On many issues, including Iran, the campaigns of Saudi Arabia and the UAE push in the same direction as those of Israel.
In the case of the big Gulf-Arab donors, their battle for influence heated up considerably in mid-2017, after MBZ and MBS decided to try to knock the Emir of Qatar off his throne and divvy up the $320 billion-worth of assets of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund that he controlled. By then, Qatar’s own pet DC think tank, the Arab Center of Washington, was already well established. But Saudi Arabia (which had also invested in MEI, and which also owned and controlled a couple of smaller think-tanks in town) and the UAE then created two entirely new think-tanks to combat Qatar: the Arabia Foundation, and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. The battle of narratives was royally joined!
(MBZ and MBS overlooked the fact that the largest number of US troops anywhere in the region are deployed in two massive bases in Qatar, and the Pentagon definitely doesn’t want to remove them. So though Pres. Trump expressed some initial support for the Saudi/Emirati plan to unseat Qatar’s Emir, the US government as a whole never followed through.)
Controlling the narrative on Yemen
All these shenanigans on the behalf of the Gulf-Arab super-rich are important– for a number of compelling reasons. First, the investments that all of them have made, over the past several years, have had a strong effect on public understanding of key issues in the Middle East, and on policy. As noted earlier, these issues include Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Iran.
Of these issues, Yemen is the one regarding which these Gulf Arabs have—recently—been least successful in controlling the narrative. Their argument that the Houthi alliance that has controlled the capital, Sanaa, and considerable surrounding areas for many years is illegitimate, is totally controlled by Iran, and is solely responsible for the country’s suffering—and that therefore Americans and everyone else should support the Saudi/UAE alliance that has been battling the Houthis, has finally been exposed on every count. Just last week, finally, the US Senate supported a resolution to end the support the US military has been giving to the Saudi war effort in Yemen. That was a real victory for the antiwar forces. Trump vetoed the resolution, but Sen. Sanders is hoping to win enough support to over-ride the veto. Stay tuned…
But MBS (help from MBZ and the Pentagon, under Obama) launched Saudi Arabia’s large-scale military push into Yemen back in March 2015. It has taken four years for the US Senate to get to where it is on the Yemen issue, which is a shockingly long time. In the meantime, more than 70,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed, and millions more face imminent threats of cholera and starvation.
Secondly, the capture by these ruthlessly ideological forces of so many of the Washington think-tanks that previously had long reputations for fair-minded, objective research means it is almost impossible these days for anyone reading their output—whether directly, or indirectly, through the way they get quoted in the media—to get anything like an accurate picture of the situation in the countries being described.
This applies particularly to Syria, where since 2011 the bought-and-paid-for think-tanks have rigidly suppressed any viewpoints that challenge the view that Pres. Bashar al-Asad is uniquely evil and has to be overthrown. As someone who has worked on Syria-related issues since the 1970s, I have seen this happen at first hand. In my last appearance at an MEI event on Syria, in summer 2011, I pointed out that Pres. Asad still retained considerably more support from Syria’s citizens than the “regime change” crowd claimed, and that the “opposition” was splintered and in disarray. I was right. But MEI notably never invited me back and even refused to host other experts on Syria whom I had suggested for their programing.
Bottom line: If you read something from someone billed as a “think-tank expert” look carefully at their institution’s funding before you judge the value of their work.
And a final takeaway from the whole sorry saga of these Gulf states’ ridiculously large investments in think tanks? Consider the opportunity costs involved. Imagine if these states had spent this amount of money funding some of the sorely-needed debates, studies, or other interventions on the Palestine Question! (Imagine what Mondoweiss, or Just World Educational, or Palestine Legal could do with $20 million…) But no. The institutions that have received hefty Gulf-Arab funding have done pitifully little programing on Palestine, leaving that “field of discourse” open for the Zionists’ continued domination.
So George Nader may have been just a minor bit-player in the Mueller investigation’s saga. But the phenomenon of Gulf-Arab intervention in US politics and discourse that he represented was a much more serious matter.
Helena Cobban is the President of Just World Educational (JWE), a non-profit organization, and the CEO of Just World Books. She has had a lengthy career as a journalist, writer, and researcher on international affairs, including 17 years as a columnist on global issues for The Christian Science Monitor. Of the seven books she’s published on international affairs, four have been on Middle Eastern topics. This new series of commentaries she’s writing, “Story/Backstory”, will have an expanded audio component published in JWE’s podcast series. They represent her own opinion and judgments, not those of any organization.
Statement of Solidarity on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht
by Howard Horowitz, member of the WESPAC Foundation Board
Tonight, we will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Great Pogrom, which the Nazis euphemistically dubbed ‘the Night of Crystal’ – Kristallnacht. This anniversary comes at a moment in history when anti-Semitism is still prevalent, and we are still plagued by evil and hatred (Rabbi Josh Weinberg).
At WESPAC Foundation we remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust with a message of “solidarity” with all those struggling for justice in these dark times. Solidarity is uplifting, meaningful and a call to action. In our thinking about this, let me share with you an excerpt from a post by Robert Herbst of Larchmont, a civil rights lawyer, a peace and justice activist and who identifies as Jewish:
“In the wake of Pittsburgh, there is no Jewish future in turning inward, either physically, spiritually, or politically, here in the United States, or in the Middle East. The insecurities of the nation and world we have made and live in since the Second World War are widely shared by all except those who have accumulated the money and power to escape them. Rather than locking ourselves away, it is to the Others we must turn – white, black and brown, Christian and Muslim, poor, working and middle class – if we are to have any hope of Tikkun Olam.”
There is an urgent and immediate need for a statement of solidarity. Echoing Charlottesville, there are those among us already muddying the waters claiming “there are bad guys on all sides—left and right.” We reject anti-Semitism in all its forms and expressions wherever and by whomever it is expressed. What happened at Tree of Life is Trump-supported, right wing white nationalism, plain and simple. It has nothing to do with left or anyone else and certainly not anywhere in the struggle for justice in Palestine.
Our struggles are bound up with the many communities facing violence and oppression during these dark times, and we call your attention to just a few of the statements of solidarity that are so needed as we commemorate Kristallnacht.