Militarism and Foreign Policy :

End the Siege

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.

Statement of Solidarity on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht

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.

Out of Our Silos: To Defeat Anti-Semitism, Jews Must Unite With Others Targeted by White Supremacy (Hannah Sassaman, In These Times)

Amy Goodman Interviews Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari of Kol Tzedek synagogue

Palestine Legal Statement on Tree-of-Life-Synagogue

Jewish Voice for Peace:  Together We Heal, United We Fight

The U.S. Govt was responsible for Sabra and Shatila Massacres

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-was-responsible-for-the-1982-massacre-of-palestinians-in-beirut/

A ‘gentleman’s agreement’: How Oslo worked out as planned for Israel

13 September 2018

Twenty-five years on, analysts say Oslo didn’t fail: it offered Israel a formula to block the emergence of a Palestinian state

Jonathan Cook, Middle East Eye – 13 September 2018

There will be no anniversary celebrations this week to mark the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington 25 years ago. It is a silver jubilee for which there will be no street parties, no commemorative mugs, no specially minted coins.

Palestinians have all but ignored the landmark anniversary, while Israel’s commemoration has amounted to little more than a handful of doleful articles in the Israeli press about what went wrong.

The most significant event has been a documentary, The Oslo Diaries, aired on Israeli TV and scheduled for broadcast in the US this week. It charts the events surrounding the creation of the peace accords, signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington on 13 September 1993.

The euphoria generated by the Norwegian-initiated peace process a quarter of a century ago now seems wildly misplaced to most observers. The promised, phased withdrawals by Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories got stuck at an early stage.

And the powers of the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian government-in-waiting that came out of Oslo, never rose above managing healthcare and collecting garbage in densely populated Palestinian areas, while coordinating with Israel on security matters.

All the current efforts to draw lessons from these developments have reached the same conclusion: that Oslo was a missed opportunity for peace, that the accords were never properly implemented, and that the negotiations were killed off by Palestinian and Israeli extremists.

Occupation reorganised

But analysts Middle East Eye has spoken to take a very different view.

“It is wrong to think of Oslo being derailed, or trying to identify the moment the Oslo process died,” says Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority. “Oslo never died. It is still doing today exactly what it was set up to do.”

Michel Warschawski, an Israeli peace activist who developed strong ties with Palestinian leaders in the Oslo years, concurred.

“I and pretty much everyone else I knew at that time was taken in by the hype that the occupation was about to end. But in reality, Oslo was about reorganising the occupation, not ending it. It created a new division of labour.

“Rabin didn’t care much about whether the Palestinians got some indicators of sovereignty – a flag and maybe even a seat at the United Nations.

“But Israel was determined to continue controlling the borders, the Palestinians’ resources, the Palestinian economy. Oslo changed the division of labour by sub-contracting the hard part of Israel’s security to the Palestinians themselves.”

The accords were signed in the immediate aftermath of several years of a Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories – the First Intifada – that had proved costly to Israel, both in terms of casualties and treasure.

Under Oslo, Palestinian security forces patrolled the streets of Palestinian cities, overseen by and in close coordination with the Israeli military. The tab, meanwhile, was picked up by Europe and Washington.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper last week, Joel Singer, the Israeli government lawyer who helped to draft the accords, conceded as much. Rabin, he said, “thought it would enhance [Israeli] security to have the Palestinians as the ones fighting Hamas”.

That way, as Rabin once observed, the occupation would no longer be accountable to the “bleeding hearts” of the Israeli supreme court and Israel’s active human rights community.

Less than statehood

The widespread assumption that Oslo would lead to a Palestinian state was also mistaken, Buttu says.

She notes that nowhere in the accords was there mention of the occupation, a Palestinian state, or freedom for the Palestinians. And no action was specified against Israel’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

Instead, the stated goal of the Oslo process was implementation of two outstanding United Nations resolutions – 242 and 338. The first concerned the withdrawal of the Israeli army from “territories” occupied in the 1967 war, while the second urged negotiations leading to a “just and durable peace”.

“I spoke to both Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas [his successor as Palestinian president] about this,” said Buttu. “Their view was that clearer language, on Palestinian statehood and independence, would never have got past Rabin’s coalition.

“So Arafat treated resolutions 242 and 338 as code words. The Palestinian leadership referred to Oslo as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. Their approach was beyond naïve; it was reckless. They behaved like amateurs.”

Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University and expert on Palestinian nationalism, said the Palestinian leadership was aware from the outset that Israel was not offering real statehood.

“In his memoirs, Ahmed Qurei [one of the key architects of Oslo on the Palestinian side] admitted his shock when he started meetings with the Israeli team,” says Ghanem.

“Uri Savir [Israel’s chief negotiator] said outright that Israel did not favour a Palestinian state, and that something less was being offered. The Israelis’ attitude was ‘Take it or leave it’.”

Sympathy with settlers

All the analysts agreed that a lack of good faith on Israel’s part was starkly evident from the start, especially over the issue of the settlements.

Noticeably, rather than halt or reverse the expansion of the settlements during the supposed five-year transition period, Oslo allowed the settler population to grow at a dramatically accelerated rate.

The near-doubling of settler numbers in the West Bank and Gaza to 200,000 by the late 1990s was explained by Alan Baker, a legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry after 1996 and a settler himself, in an interview in 2003.

Most of the settlements were portrayed to the Israeli public as Israeli “blocs”, outside the control of the newly created PA. With the signing of the accords, Baker said, “we are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [the Palestinians’] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations.”

Recent interviews with settler leaders by the Haaretz newspaper hint too at the ideological sympathy between Rabin’s supposedly leftist government and the settler movement.

Israel Harel, who then headed the Yesha Council, the settlers’ governing body, described Rabin as “very accessible”. He pointed out that Zeev Hever, another settler leader, sat with Israeli military planners as they created an “Oslo map”, carving up the West Bank into various areas of control.

Referring to settlements that most had assumed would be dismantled under the accords, Harel noted: “When [Hever] was accused [by other settlers] of cooperating, he would say he saved us from disaster. They [the Israeli army] marked areas that could have isolated settlements and made them disappear.”

Israel’s Oslo lawyer, Joel Singer, confirmed the Israeli leadership’s reluctance to address the issue of the settlements.

“We fought with the Palestinians, on Rabin and [Shimon] Peres’ orders, against a [settlement] freeze,” he told Haaretz. “It was a serious mistake to permit the settlements to continue to race ahead.”

Rabin’s refusal to act

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel’s south, said the critical test of Rabin’s will to tackle the settlements came less than a year into the Oslo process. It was then that Baruch Goldstein, a settler, killed and wounded more than 150 Palestinians at worship in the Palestinian city of Hebron.

“That gave Rabin the chance to remove the 400 extremist settlers who were embedded in the centre of Hebron,” Gordon said. “But he didn’t act. He let them stay.”

The lack of response from Israel fuelled a campaign of Hamas “revenge” suicide bombings that in turn were used by Israel to justify a refusal to withdraw from more of the occupied territories.

Warschawski said Rabin could have dismantled the settlements if he had acted quickly. “The settlers were in disarray in the early stages of Oslo, but he didn’t move against them.”

After Rabin’s assassination in late 1995, his successor Shimon Peres, also widely identified as an architect of the Oslo process, changed tactics, according to Warschawski. “Peres preferred to emphasise internal reconciliation [between Israelis] rather than reconciliation with the Palestinians. After that, the religious narrative of the extremist settlers came to dominate.”

That would lead a few months later to the electoral triumph of the right under Benjamin Netanyahu.

Demographic differential

Although Netanyahu campaigned vociferously against the Oslo Accords, they proved perfect for his kind of rejectionist politics, said Gordon.

Under cover of vague promises about Palestinian statehood, “Israel was able to bolster the settlement project,” in Gordon’s view. “The statistics show that, when there are negotiations, the demographic growth of the settler population in the West Bank increases. The settlements get rapidly bigger. And when there is an intifada, they slow down.

“So Oslo was ideal for Israel’s colonial project.”

It was not only that, under the pressure of Oslo, religious settlers ran to “grab the hilltops”, as a famous army general and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon, put it. Gordon pointed to a strategy by the government of recruiting a new type of settler during the initial Oslo years.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sharon and others had tried to locate Russian-speaking new immigrants in large settlements like Ariel, in the central West Bank. “The problem was that many of the Russians had only one child,” Gordon said.

So instead, Israel began moving the ultra-Orthodox into the occupied territories. These fundamentalist religious Jews, Israel’s poorest community, typically have seven or eight children. They were desperate for housing solutions, noted Gordon, and the government readily provided incentives to lure them into two new ultra-Orthodox settlements, Modiin Ilit and Beitar Ilit.

“After that, Israel didn’t need to recruit lots of new settlers,” Gordon said. “It just needed to buy time with the Oslo process and the settler population would grow of its own accord.

“The ultra-Orthodox became Israel’s chief demographic weapon. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers have on average two more children than Palestinians – that demographic differential has an enormous impact over time.”

Palestinian dependency

Buttu pointed to another indicator of how Israel never intended the Oslo Accords to lead to a Palestinian state. Shortly before Oslo, from 1991 onwards, Israel introduced much more severe restrictions on movement, including an increasingly sophisticated permit system.

“Movement from Gaza to the West Bank became possible only in essential cases,” she said. “It stopped being a right.”

That process, Ghanem noted, has been entrenched over the past quarter century, and ultimately led to complete physical and ideological separation between Gaza and the West Bank, now ruled respectively by Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah.

Gordon observed that Oslo’s economic arrangements, governed by the 1995 Paris Protocol, stripped the Palestinians of financial autonomy too.

“The Palestinians did not get their own currency, they had to use the Israeli shekel. And a customs union made the Palestinians a dependent market for Israeli goods and empowered Israel to collect import duties on behalf of the PA. Refusing to transfer that money was a stick Israel has regularly wielded against the Palestinians.”

According to the analysts, those Palestinian leaders like Arafat who were allowed by the Oslo process to return from exile in Tunisia – sometimes referred to as the “outsiders” – were completely ignorant of the situation on the ground.

Gordon, who was at that time head of Israel’s branch of Physicians for Human Rights, recalled meeting young Palestinian-Americans and Canadians in Cairo to discuss the coming health arrangements the PA would be responsible for.

“They were bright and well-educated, but they were clueless about what was happening on the ground. They had no idea what demands to make of Israel,” he said.

“Israel, on the other hand, had experts who knew the situation intimately.”

Warschawski has similar recollections. He took a senior Palestinian recently arrived from Tunis on a tour of the settlements. The official sat in his car in stunned silence for the whole journey.

“They knew the numbers but they had no idea how deeply entrenched the settlements were, how integrated they were into Israeli society,” he said. “It was then that they started to understand the logic of the settlements for the first time, and appreciate what Israel’s real intentions were.”

Lured into a trap

Warschawski noted that the only person in his circle who rejected the hype around the Oslo Accords from the very beginning was Matti Peled, a general turned peace activist who knew Rabin well.

“When we met for discussions about the Oslo Accords, Matti laughed at us. He said there would be no Oslo, there would be no process that would lead to peace.”

Ghanem said the Palestinian leadership eventually realised that they had been lured into a trap.

“They couldn’t move forward towards statehood, because Israel blocked their way,” he said. “But equally, they couldn’t back away from the peace process either. They didn’t dare dismantle the PA, and so Israel came to control Palestinian politics.

“If Abbas leaves, someone else will take over the PA and its role will continue.”

Why did the Palestinian leadership enter the Oslo process without taking greater precautions?

According to Buttu, Arafat had reasons to feel insecure about being outside Palestine, along with other PLO leaders living in exile in Tunisia, in ways that he hoped Oslo would solve.

“He wanted a foot back in Palestine,” she said. “He felt very threatened by the ‘inside’ leadership, even though they were loyal to him. The First Intifada had shown they could lead an uprising and mobilise the people without him.

“He also craved international recognition and legitimacy.”

Trench warfare

According to Gordon, Arafat believed he would eventually be able to win concessions from Israel.

“He viewed it as trench warfare. Once he was in historic Palestine, he would move forward trench by trench.”

Warschawski noted that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders had told him they believed they would have significant leverage over Israel.

“Their view was that Israel would end the occupation in exchange for normalisation with the Arab world. Arafat saw himself as the bridge that would provide the recognition Israel wanted. His attitude was that Rabin would have to kiss his hand in return for such an important achievement.

“He was wrong.”

Gordon pointed to the early Oslo discourse about an economic dividend, in which it was assumed that peace would open up trade for Israel with the Arab world while turning Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East.

The “peace dividend”, however, was challenged by an equally appealing “war dividend”.

“Even before 9/11, Israel’s expertise in the realms of security and technology proved profitable. Israel realised there was lots of money to be made in fighting terror.”

In fact, Israel managed to take advantage of both the peace and war dividends.

Buttu noted that more than 30 countries, including Morocco and Oman, developed diplomatic or economic relations with Israel as a result of the Oslo Accords. The Arab states relented on their boycott and anti-normalisation policies, and major foreign corporations no longer feared being penalised by the Arab world for trading with Israel.

“Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan [in 1994] could never have happened without Oslo,” she said.

“Instead of clear denunciations of the occupation, the Palestinians were saddled with the language of negotiations and compromises for peace.

“The Palestinians became a charity case, seeking handouts from the Arab world so that the PA could help with the maintenance of the occupation rather than leading the resistance.

“Thanks to Oslo, Israel became normalised in the region, while paradoxically the Palestinians found themselves transformed into the foreign object.”

There is a life behind every statistic

‘There is a life behind

every statistic’

 

The real threat to Israel lies not in acts of

Palestinian violence, but in understanding

that those acts are a response to

occupation and oppression, to injustice

and dehumanisation. 

 

 

 

Sara Roy 

LRB Blog

June 4, 2018

 

Gaza appears sporadically as front-page news in the context of violence and terrorism, as it has with the murder on Friday, 1 June, of Razan Ashraf al-Najjar, a 21-year-old paramedic who was fatally shot by Israeli snipers as she was treating wounded protesters along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. After a day or two of attention, usually marked by the disproportionate deaths of Palestinians, Gaza recedes from view until the next assault. Israel is part of the story but all too often cast as responding to Hamas aggression, acting in self-defence. Without excusing Hamas for its misdeeds, Gaza’s misery, isolation and hopelessness are primarily a product of Israeli policy. The form of occupation may have changed since Israel’s ‘disengagement’ in 2005, but the fact of occupation has not. One result is the dehumanisation of the men, women and children who live in Gaza, the denial of their innocence and the resultant loss of their rights.

 

I spoke to a friend in Gaza after Israel killed 60 Palestinians on 14 May. He was uncharacteristically subdued, almost inaudible. There were many silences, unusual for our conversations; some of them seemed interminable but I spoke only when spoken to. I had many questions and most remained unasked. The only time my friend became animate was when he told stories about some of the people who had been killed, people he either distantly knew or who were close friends. ‘There is a life behind every statistic,’ he said. He didn’t want to talk about politics; he only spoke about people.

 

One of the people killed on 14 May was the father of a boy whose birthday it was. Another was a 14-year-old boy, whose mother had long suffered with infertility and finally became pregnant with him after nine years of trying. The birth of their son seemed miraculous to his parents. My friend did not say so directly, and I did not ask, but he implied and I inferred that the boy was their only child. ‘He was shot in the head and died instantly. The father collapsed on him. Can you imagine these parents now, having lost their precious boy?’

 

I cannot imagine enduring the loss of a child, especially in such a monstrous way (because he wasn’t Jewish). But the story also speaks to my parent’s story. My mother had a miscarriage in the ghettos of Poland (because she was Jewish) and spent years after the Holocaust trying to get pregnant. My parents always told me that they survived in order to have me.

 

Yet for many Israelis there are ‘no innocents in Gaza’, as the defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said in response to the Great March of Return. His colleague Eli Hazan, a spokesman for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said that all 30,000 men, women and children who gathered at the Gaza border to protest (the overwhelming majority, non-violently) ‘are legitimate targets’. For too many Israelis and Jews, there are no fathers or mothers or children in Gaza; no homes or nursery schools or playgrounds; no hospitals, museums or parks; no restaurants or hotels. Rather, Gaza is where the grass grows wild and must be ‘mown’from time to time, as some Israeli analysts have put it.

 

How is the rest of the world to think about Gaza, about Palestinians? I ask because the deliberate ruination of Palestine – seen most painfully in Gaza – has been well documented. Yet Israel’s actions have been met, more often than not, with serene indifference and lack of remorse, reflecting, in the historian Gabriel Kolko’s words, the ‘absence of a greater sense of abhorrence’ – or, I would say after 14 May, with little if any abhorrence at all. One need only look at the language used in the American media to describe Palestinians and their deaths. Israeli propaganda dehumanising Palestinians has been enormously successful.

 

Why are so many among us unmoved by the contamination of a water supply that will soon lead to life-threatening epidemics among a population of nearly two million people; by the shattering of a once functioning economy through closure and blockade, depriving at least 45 per cent of the labour force (and more than 60 per cent of young workers) of the right to work – forcing most of them into dependence on food handouts and desperate young women into prostitution? The deprivation is deliberate. What purpose does Gaza’s suffering serve?

 

The real threat to Israel lies not in acts of Palestinian violence, but in understanding that those acts are a response to occupation and oppression, to injustice and dehumanisation. As an Israeli friend of mine once said, the threat to Israel lies ‘in making Palestinians intimate, in seeing the world through their eyes’. Why are we so afraid of humanising Palestinians?

 

The decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, which was driven by Israel and its supporters, should be understood as an attempt to maintain and enforce what Israel sees as its historical right to deny rights to Palestinians. The right to demand rights, which is, fundamentally, what the Palestinians at the Gaza border were claiming, is more threatening than any particular right because it speaks to the agency that makes Palestinians present and irreducible, which Israel has worked so long to regulate and annul. It is the inability to unthink rightlessness among Palestinians that must be maintained as a form of control. The ascription of rightlessness to the other is – and must remain – uncontestable, a clearly established rule that is not restrained by justice. Declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital not only purges Palestinians from the political equation and disendows them of any claims based on justice, but also ensures their continued absence in Israeli eyes.

 

In the immediate aftermath of 14 May, with 117 dead (the number has since risen to 123) and more than 13,000 injured, my friend in Gaza told me that shopkeepers went online to invite people to take whatever goods they wanted for free. Banks announced that they would forgive certain loans.

 

Gaza will not disappear. It will not ‘sink into the sea’, as the late Yitzhak Rabin once wished it would. Gaza is a human rights catastrophe and an ecologic disaster. ‘In a few years,’ Thomas Friedman wrote recently in the New York Times, ‘the next protest from Gaza will not be organised by Hamas, but by mothers because typhoid and cholera will have spread through the fetid water and Gazans will all have had to stop drinking it.’

 

Will Gaza’s mothers then be shot dead for protesting, or will they simply be allowed to die, together with their children, from typhoid and cholera? Or will their protests be heard? The answer will determine our humanity, not theirs.

 

 

Sara M. Roy is an American political economist and scholar. She is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. (Wikipedia)

 

 

Article source: 

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/06/04/sara-roy/there-is-a-life-behind-every-statistic/ 

© LRB Limited 2018 

Westchester Social Justice Forum 2018!

For all details please visit: https://www.westchestersocialforum.org/

Richard Falk speaks on Israel and the question of apartheid

http://www.peoplesworld.org/article/richard-falk-speaks-on-israel-and-the-question-of-apartheid/
 
Richard Falk speaks on Israel and the question of apartheid

Richard Falk. Eric A. Gordon | People’s World

CULVER CITY, Calif.—From 2008 to 2014 Professor Richard Falk served as United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories. He dropped a bombshell on his audience when he declared that ending the Occupation, as so many human rights activists around the world seek to do, is simply not the answer, and not enough to address what he has seen and studied for many years.

“Israel has made it clear that the end of Occupation would be the end of the conflict,” he told more than a hundred attentive listeners February 7th at this city’s Culver-Palms United Methodist Church. That would be “a way of finding some measure of normalcy,” he said, and ignoring the problems besetting the 20 percent Palestinian minority within Israel’s recognized borders, not to mention the several million Palestinians—the youngest of them now in the fifth generation since expulsion from Israel in 1948—still confined to refugee camps in the West Bank and in a number of neighboring countries, and also not to mention the uncertain fate of the Gazans if the end of Occupation dealt separately with that million-plus population.

No, Falk, insisted, it is only correct to look at the Palestinians as a coherent people, wherever they live, and not provide tacit consent to the fragmentation both geographical and political to which Israel has subjected them. Viewed in those terms, ending the Occupation alone, without addressing the larger issue afflicting the Palestinian nation, is “a misunderstood pragmatism.”

That larger issue, claims this academic, author of some twenty books, is the structure of oppression itself, including physical displacement and all the policies and practices Israel promotes toward the Palestinian people. “The conflict is not purely territorial,” Falk says. The UN report that he co-authored with Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, names that structure “apartheid,” meaning “separation” in Afrikaans.

The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid does not speak only of South Africa. There the term is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

Following Prof. Falk’s formal remarks, a questioner asked if in the case of Israel “apartheid” would be the correct term to apply, since the Jewish population of Israel it itself multi-ethnic and multi-racial, comprising not only Ashkenazic Jews from Northern and Eastern Europe, but Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews from the Mediterranean and Muslim lands, as well as Ethiopian and Indian Jews. Falk responded that Israeli law treats all these Jews the same, entitling them to the same rights and privileges that are denied to Palestinians, such as the sacred “right of return” to Israel by Jews, most of whose ancestors never inhabited Biblical Israel. “The whole rationale of Israel is to be a Jewish state, and they don’t fragment their own identity.”

Richard Falk, 87, is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, where he taught for forty years. He is chairman of both the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and serves on the editorial board of The Nation magazine. Although he retired from formal teaching in 2001, the following year he began a career as research professor at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He currently directs a Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy project.

The professor’s talk was co-sponsored by a coalition of groups inclusive of Muslims, Christians and Jews: L.A. Jews for Peace and the United Methodists’ Holy Land Task Force, along with The Markaz, Friends of Sabeel of L.A. and Orange County, People for Palestine-Israel Justice, Southern California Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, the Orange County Cousins Club, Jewish Voices for Peace, and Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP).

The Falk-Tilley report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” was released March 15, 2017, under the aegis of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Its release caused an immediate firestorm, raising accusations of anti-Semitism against the authors (Falk is Jewish incidentally), and providing space for more UN-bashing especially on the part of Israel and the United States. Although the ESCWA countries unanimously endorsed the report, and although the report was issued as representing the view of the authors alone and not the UN per se, it was removed from the UN website under threat of U.S. withdrawal of UN funding; however, it is otherwise available.

Defenders of Israel are particularly sensitive about the word “apartheid,” citing factors that existed in South Africa but which do not exist in Israel, such as separate park benches and Arab representation in the Knesset. But as anyone who follows Israeli politics knows, leading figures in Israeli life, including prime ministers, writers and journalists from both the left and the right, have consistently used this word in Hebrew, addressing fellow Israelis, warning of the consequences of a failure to make peace leading to permanent apartheid. It’s when the word gets uttered in public forums in English that Israelis and their supporters hear the whole Zionist project being attacked. Jimmy Carter and John Kerry are only two American statesmen who have felt the brunt of Israel’s condemnation.
In many other ways Israel has flouted the international community, for example, by referring to the occupied West Bank territories as “Judea and Samaria,” ancient Biblical terms which international law does not recognize as legitimate; and insisting on calling the Palestinians “Arabs,” as if to say they belong in other homelands, not in the Jewish state.

And although there are a few outstanding border questions in the world, there is no other state which doesn’t even claim its final and definitive borders: By creating more “facts on the ground” with each year’s growing settler encroachment on land that would have been the natural Palestinian state, Israel has been pushing steadily toward complete annexation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel has tried to politically separate Gaza from the larger Palestinian nation and for now seems to have abandoned that area for Jewish settlement. But at least one strand of thinking in Israel wishes to remove the Palestinians from Gaza one way or another, and free up that land for eventual incorporation into the Zionist state.

The problem of Israel, according to Falk, is that the nationalism born in Europe in the 19th century made its way to the rest of the world by the mid-20th century and helped to create many newly independent countries in the wake of colonialism. But Israel, founded in 1948, came along at the end of the nationalist wave, and the global community had become skeptical of colonial projects in the underdeveloped world.

“The Palestinian people have been made to pay the price for the crimes of the Nazis,” Falk says.

There is an inherent tension, says Falk, between Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state and its claim to be a democratic society. Especially as more and more Palestinians fall under direct or indirect Israeli control in the variously segmented entities between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, the contradiction between these two professed ideals becomes ever sharper.

In almost every case, Falk says, where an oppressed people, with inferior arms and weak social institutions, sets out to oppose their colonial or neocolonial masters, they eventually win. The Palestinians will continue to resist, “and they are right to resist,” he insists. From the Israeli point of view, the resistance is a challenge to the established order and must be put down. The United States, more substantively than anyone else in the world, gives Israel this unconditional mandate.
“Until that mandate is lifted,” says Falk, “there will be no peace. It’s our struggle here to end this destructive policy.”

Patrick Lawrence’s “A Conversation with Richard Falk,” touching on Palestinian rights, international law and world affairs, can be read here. Part 2 of that conversation is here. Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley wrote an “Open Letter to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley on Our Report on Apartheid in Israel,” which can be read here.

WESPAC Middle East Committee invites you to participate in Palestine book reading together

Yesterday the WESPAC Middle East Committee met and discussed plans for this year’s 70th Nakba Commemoration with the Westchester Palestinian Community.  
 
To gear up for a larger event later this Spring, we will be reading together Susan Abulhawa’s very fine novel “Mornings in Jenin” to better understand the Palestinian narrative.  The committee would like to invite members of the broader social justice community to join with us in this book reading.
 
We will read a third of the novel by the end of February (first 100 pages), and will convene at WESPAC on Tuesday, February 27th at 7pm to discuss the first third of the novel.  The book is available both at local libraries as well as online.  Please let us know if you will be joining us.
 

Reviews

“Every now and again a literary work changes the way people think. Abulhawa…has crafted a brilliant first novel about Palestine… [This] intensely beautiful fictionalized history… should be read by both politicians and those interested in contemporary politics.” –  Library Journal

“This complex story is beautifully told… The perspective is brutal, yet ultimately not without hope… [Abulhawa] draws us into the nightmare of her heroine’s existence with convincing passion.” –  Historical Novels Review

“Illuminating and deeply moving, Abulhawa’s epic resonates with compassion…You can’t ask more of historical fiction.” –  Brooklyn Rail

“Abulhawa’s pathos and mastery enables the reader to taste, smell and grasp the chronicles of Palestine as if one is actually there… Lovely and heartrending, this story is a must-read for those who wish to not only understand the catastrophe of the Palestinians with their heads but with their hearts.” –  Palestine Chronicle

Winner of the USA Book News Best Books Award” – 

A Sustainable US Policy for North Syria, the Kurds, Turkey, and Damascus

A Sustainable US Policy for

North Syria, the Kurds, Turkey,

and Damascus

 Joshua Landis and Matthew Barber

LobeLog

January 31, 2018

YPG_fighters_Raqqa_(December_2016)

Wikimedia Commons

This article is a “part-two” to the previous article “U.S. Policy Toward the Levant, Kurds, and Turkey“ which warned that the United State’s decision to back Kurdish nationalism in Northern Syria in an uncompromising fashion would provoke negative consequences. The push-back against this policy has begun. Turkey’s invasion of Afrin and campaign against the YPG—the U.S. backed Kurdish militia in Syria—is being launched to counter Washington’s decision to stay in Syria and arm and train a Border Guard for the emerging North Syrian state that the U.S. is sponsoring.

U.S. accomplishments in the region now stand thus: No regime change has been effected in Syria. Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq all have pro-Iranian governments and Iran has more influence in the Levant/Iraq than ever before. By promoting Kurdish nationalism to “rollback Iran,” the U.S. has pushed its ally Turkey into the sphere of Russian influence and caused Turkey’s interests to align with those of Damascus. And finally, even the sole partner the U.S. has in the area—the Kurds—are now upset because they’ve lost one of their important homelands in Syria. Such is the price of a policy based around an obsession with Iran.

Trying to play the game of making the Kurds into an obstacle to Iranian influence, the U.S. has now had to sacrifice Afrin in order to assuage Turkey’s ire; simultaneously, it has to convince the Kurds to exercise restraint and not to allow Turkey to provoke them into a strong reaction. If Kurds fight with Turkey in Afrin, it will give Turkey a pretext to attack and invade Kurdish areas further east; this may very well be what Turkey hopes will happen. The PYD will probably get a message from the U.S. urging them not to resist much in Afrin, but the problem facing the U.S. is not over, as Afrin may not be where Turkey stops.

The purpose of the previous post was to highlight several essential points regarding American interests in the region. The theme here is how we are now witnessing the (hopefully reversible) loss of an important U.S. ally, Turkey. After a long civil war that has ultimately boosted Iranian influence and distanced Turkey from the U.S., the U.S. must now think about what it can salvage in terms of its longer-term interests.

U.S. policy should focus on these objectives:

  • Retaining Turkey within its orbit rather than losing it to Russian influence
  • Fulfilling our responsibility to the Syrian Kurds in a way that ensures their safety and future while also assuaging Turkey’s concerns
  • Positioning itself as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia rather than going all-in on one side
  • Promoting the recovery and rebuilding of the region, not keeping it broken and poor

How Far Will the U.S. Go in Supporting Kurdish Nationalism?

The U.S. has set up Turkey’s choices thus: either side with the U.S. and the Kurds against Iran and Russia—OR—side with Russia (and thereby Iran) against the U.S. and the Kurds. Of course, Turkey will never compromise on its national interests; the first choice is simply not an option from Turkey’s point of view and the invasion of Afrin underscores that fact. Turkey does not like Iran, but it is willing to throw in its lot with Russia (and by proxy Assad and Iran), in order to protect its own national interests. We are forcing Turkey into the embrace of Russia and Iran; this is the price of promoting Kurdish nationalism to this extreme.

Regarding Damascus’ perceptions, Syria does not want to lose the fertile and oil-rich territories in its northeast. It must rely on those resources to rebuild following this war. A U.S. policy that facilitates the complete secession of Syrian Kurdistan from the state poses a serious risk in the eyes of Damascus.

The U.S. has done the surprisingly unlikely in uniting two enemies against the U.S. itself. Turkey and Syria are not natural allies—they are opponents—yet the direction that U.S. policy has begun taking is driving them together through this shared concern. If the U.S. helps the Kurds take 25% of fertile and oil-rich Syria, we will drive Damascus and Turkey together and they will both oppose Kurdish state-building over the long-term.

In addition to losing our major ally, Turkey, to Russian influence, the fact that the Kurdish project will be opposed on all sides over the long term must be kept in mind. Will this really be the best thing for Syria’s Kurds in the long run? And continuing our current level of support for a Kurdish nationalist project will mean a minimal commitment of 30-40 years, very expensive, with an ongoing presence of U.S. military on the ground. Further, the U.S. will have to be prepared to respond to Turkey militarily if Turkey does not stop with Afrin and continues by bombing other Kurdish areas across the border.

This is a terrible policy and one lacking long-term vision.

What About Our Responsibilities to the Kurds?

The fact that the U.S. helped the Kurdish-led forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to conquer Arab-majority areas north of the Euphrates has created a dilemma. The U.S. cannot now withdraw from those areas without abandoning the Kurds.

Further, the Kurds were the most important ally in Syria in the fight against ISIS and the U.S. now has a duty to protect Kurds from revenge originating with Damascus.

Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds must be aided in coming to an understanding that will promote stability; the U.S. can broker this and help to guarantee it. In this arrangement, neither Turkey, Damascus, nor the Kurds will gain everything they want, but all three will get more than they now have. Already in places like Hasakeh province in northern Syria, the Syrian government and Kurdish authorities have worked out and respected revenue sharing

deals for oil exploitation that have been in effect during the civil war.

The U.S. can help the Kurds make an advantageous deal with Damascus that protects their autonomy. A safe future for the Kurds means a federal region. Of course the Russians and the Syrian government will make demands of their own. Such demands are likely to focus on the economy and sovereignty. The Syrian government is eager to have the main road to Baghdad opened. The U.S. presently blocks it at Tanf in order to stop Syrian trade. The Damascus government will also ask that the U.S. facilitate the opening of the main highway between Damascus and Jordan, which is also blocked by U.S. and Saudi-backed militias. Damascus needs money to rebuild. The U.S. can use its leverage over Syria’s economy to get a good deal for the Kurds. It cannot use that leverage to drive Assad from power. The U.S. does not have enough leverage through control of 28% of Syrian territory to unseat the Assad regime; it does have sufficient leverage to provide security and a useful autonomy deal for the Kurds, who have fought so hard in partnership with the United States to destroy ISIS.

Assad fears and dislikes Turkey, which serves as the main home and advocate of the Syrian opposition. By promoting an understanding between Damascus and the Kurds, the Syrian Kurds would gain a level of autonomy that they did not enjoy before the war. The Kurds will also be able to renegotiate their share of income from Syria’s oil and water from a position of strength.

For its part, Damascus will gain back some of the oil, water, and agricultural resources it needs to rebuild the country and which the U.S. now denies it. It will also ensure the unity of country.

According to this plan, the Turks will gain assurances that the Kurds will not be an independent nation and will not be free to assist the PKK separatists in Turkey militarily. Turkey, for its part, would prefer to stay in the orbit of the U.S., rather than move to Russia’s; an agreement between Damascus and the Kurds that keeps Syrian Kurdistan “Syrian” will allay some of the Turks’ fears, reduce their perceived need to attack more areas inside Syria, and begin to restore Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. Ultimately, all of these approaches will serve the objective of a gradual reaffirmation of the integrity of international borders, which the U.S. has pledged to respect.

By using its leverage to make a deal between Turkey, Syria and the Kurds, the U.S. can maximize its interests in the region. It will guarantee security for the Kurds, promote its counter-terrorism agenda by helping to create jobs and tamp down conflict, and retain Turkey as an ally and friend.

The Alternative

The alternative is for the U.S. to trap itself in a “forever war.” If it decides to support the formation of an independent Kurdish state in North Syria with its own military, Turkey, Syria, Russia, and Iran will be forced together despite their usual rivalries in order to expel America and destroy the new state which threatens the interests of them all. The Kurds will be boycotted and kept poor, just as the US will sanction and boycott Syria in order to keep it poor and weak. Both sides will be losers; both sides will commit themselves to destroying the other; and both sides will destabilize and radicalize the region. America will play a divisive and destabilizing role, rather than a constructive and unifying role. This current policy erodes U.S. influence in the Middle East. Turkey’s invasion of Afrin is only the first salvo.

The consequences of the “rollback Iran” policy have now become evident. This policy will continue to be detrimental to long-term U.S. interests in that it will perpetuate the instability of the region. Maintaining the current approach of unrestricted support for a Kurdish nationalist project at the expense of the national interests of two large states (Turkey and Syria) will mean the loss of an important U.S. ally, ongoing sanctions, fragmented states, American troops in the Syrian desert for years, and so forth. This is a miserable, petty, and destructive path forward. This Iran-obsessed policy may serve Israeli and Saudi short-term interests—it may mollify Washington’s anger at failing to dislodge the Assad government—but it does not serve U.S. interests.

American interests are served by the reconstruction of the region. Promoting stability in Syria and Iraq will enhance long-term U.S. interests through preventing the return of ISIS and promoting the success of American counter-terrorism strategy.

What the region needs more than anything else is to revitalize its economy. But the U.S. must recognize that the only way to do this is to unleash the Iranian economy. Iran is indispensable for the restoration of the region’s economy and only Iran is capable of supporting the level of rebuilding needed after these years of war. This is why I said in the previous post that the unprecedented alignment of the governments of all four countries—Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran—presents a new opportunity for stability and recovery in the region.

The U.S. should help promote prosperity in the region, rather than working to inhibit it. Keeping the region fragmented and poor is a recipe for longer-term instability and extremism.

U.S. policy in the region since 2003 has largely facilitated a shift toward Shi’i ascendancy. America has to recognize that Iran has now come out largely victorious in the proxy conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—and it is the U.S. that has largely helped them win this victory. The U.S. has helped facilitate the emergence of a new level of Shi’i power and has seen Shi’i forces as the champion of American interests, including deposing Saddam Hussein, combatting al-Qaida, and destroying ISIS. Both President Bush and President Obama promoted Shi’i interests, arming Shi’is aligned with Iran to serve in these objectives. The U.S. Air Force pummeled one Sunni city after another: Falouja, Takrit, Ramadi, Mosul, and Raqqa. Now the Shi’is have largely won the battle for preeminence in the Northern Middle East—in no small part because of U.S. support. Washington has built up an army in Iraq that is commanded by Shi’is and is quite sectarian in outlook; consequently it looks toward Iran. It also distrusts Saudi Arabia, which has championed and supported Sunni Arab militias. This is not something that we can undo.

If this region is going to rebuild, the U.S. must recognize that Iran has won this war—and the U.S. must come to terms with the fact that it was its own policies that were largely responsible for that victory. The U.S. will do a disservice to the Iraq-Syria-Lebanon conflict zone if it simply sides with the Gulf States and Israeli interests without long-term foresight. The way forward is to follow the Obama policy of balancing Iran and Saudi Arabia. By doing this, the U.S. can protect Israel and limit any aggression of Iran toward Israel and the Gulf.

Lift sanctions on Iran and proceed with the Iranian nuclear deal. Work to engage Iran. Don’t pursue a policy that alienates our Turkish ally and requires a decades-long commitment for supporting an ethnic-nationalist project that will be opposed by every neighbor of the Kurds—this is a terribly high price to pay in order to gratify Israeli and Saudi interests and a price that Washington will eventually back away from. It will not benefit the Kurds in the long run. They are too poor to stand alone, without a U.S. no-fly zone or a military force paid for by Washington. These expenses are unsustainable. If the Trump administration absorbs costs upholding Kurdish independence that are too high, some future administration will abandon the Kurds, letting them down with a thump. The U.S. must not launch a “forever war.” The moral obligation to the Kurds can be fulfilled by making sure that they strike an advantageous deal with both Turkey and Syria for autonomy and get a healthy share of Syria’s resources. Working for a negotiated solution to Kurdish autonomy, rather than one that alienates the regional powers, isolates Washington, and beggars the Syrian people is in America’s interest.

Joshua Landis is the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Matthew Barber is PhD student at the University of Chicago. Reprinted, with permission, from Syria Comment.

Article source:

http://lobelog.com/a-sustainable-us-policy-for-north-syria-the-kurds-turkey-and-damascus/ 

 

Charlottesville Through a Glass Darkly

Charlottesville Through a Glass Darkly
 
 
Richard Falk
Global Justice in the 21st Century (blog)
August 18, 2017
 

I suggest that Zionists fond of smearing critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites’ take a sobering look at the VICE news clip of the white nationalist torch march through the campus of the University of Virginia the night before the lethal riot in Charlottesville. In this central regard, anti-Semitism, and its links to Naziism and Fascism, and now to Trumpism, are genuinely menacing, and should encourage rational minds to reconsider any willingness to being manipulated for polemic purposes by ultra Zionists. We can also only wonder about the moral, legal, and political compass of ardent Zionists who so irresponsibly label Israel’s critics and activist opponents as anti-Semites, and thus confuse and bewilder the public as to the true nature of anti-Semitism as racial hatred directed at Jews.

There must be less incendiary ways of fashioning responses to the mounting tide of criticism of Israel’s policies and practices than by deliberately distorting and confusing the nature of anti-Semitism. To charge supporters of BDS, however militant, with anti-Semitism dangerously muddies the waters, trivializing hatred of Jews by deploying ‘anti-Semitism’ as an Israeli tactic and propaganda tool of choice in a context of non-violent expressions of free speech and political advocacy, and thus challenging the rights so elemental that they have long been taken for granted by citizens in every funcitioning constitutional democracy. It is worth recalling that despite the criticisms of BDS during the South African anti-apartheid campaign, militant participants were never, ever smeared, despite being regarded as employing a controversial approach often derided as counterproductive in politically conservative circles.

And of course it is not only Zionists who have eaten of this poisonous fruit. As a result of Israel’s own willingness to encourage such tactics, as in organizing initiatives seeking to discredit, and even criminalize, the nonviolent BDS campaign, several leaders of important Western countries who should know better have swallowed this particular cool aid. A recent statement by  President of France, Emmanuel Macron: “Anti-Zionism…is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism,” and implicitly such a statement suggests that to be anti-Zionist is tantamount to criticism of Israel as a Jewish state.

After grasping this tortured reasoning, have a look at the compelling Open Letter to Macron,* written in response by the famed Israeli historian, Shlomo Sand, author of an essential book, The Invention of the Jewish People. In his letter Sand explains why he cannot himself be a Zionist given the demographic realities, historical abuse of the majority population of historic Palestine, and the racist and colonialist overtones of proclaiming a Jewish state in a Palestine that a hundred years ago was a national space containing only 60,000 Jews half of whom were actually opposed to the Zionist project. This meant that the Jewish presence in Palestine represented only about 7% of the total population, the other 700,000 being mostly Muslims and Christian Arabs. The alternative to Zionism for an Israel that abandons apartheid is not collapse but a transformed reality based on the real equality of Jews and Palestinians. Shlomo Sand gives the following substance to this non-Zionist political future for Israel: “..an Israeli republic and not a Jewish communalist state.” This is not the only morally, politically, and legally acceptable solution. A variety of humane and just alternatives to the status quo exist that are capable of embodying the overlapping rights of self-determination of these two long embattled peoples.

To avoid the (mis)impression that Charlottesville was most disturbing because of its manifestations of hatred of Jews it is helpful to take a step backward. Charlottesville was assuredly an ugly display of anti-Semitism, but it only secondarily slammed Jews. Its primary hateful resonance was its exhibition of white supremacy, American nativism, and a virtual declaration of war against Black Lives Matter and the African American and immigrant struggle against racial injustice. Jews are doing better than all right in America by almost every indicator of economic, political, and social success. African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims are not. Many of their lives are daily jeopardized by various forms of state terror, as well as by this surge of violent populism given sly, yet unmistakable, blessings by an enraged and unrepentant White House in the agonized aftermath of Charlottesville. Jews thankfully have no bereaved victims of excess uses of force by American police as have lethally victimized such African Americans as Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. Jews in America do not fear or face pre-dawn home searches, cruel family disrupting deportations, and the mental anguish of devastating forms of uncertainty that now is the everyday reality for millions of Hispanic citizens and residents.

What Charlottesville now becomes is up to the American people, and to some lesser extent to the reactions and responses throughout the world. The Charlottesville saga has already auditioned Trump and Spence as high profile apprentices of white nationalism. Whether an array of Republican tweets of disgust and disapproval gain any political traction remains to be seen, or as in the past they dissolve as bubbles in the air and soon seem best regarded as empty tropes of political correctness. What counsels skepticism about this current cascade of self-righteous pronouncements is the awareness that many of these same individuals in the past quickly renewed their conniving habits behind closed doors, working overtime to deprive the racially vulnerable in America of affordable health insurance, neighborhood security, and residence rights. As is so often the case in the political domain these days disreputable actions speak far more loudly than pious words.

If the majority of Americans can watch the torch parade and urban riot of white nationalists shouting racist slogans, dressed for combat, and legally carrying assault weapons, in silence we are done for as a nation of decency and promise. If the mainstream does not scream ‘enough’ at the top of its lung it is time to admit ‘game over.’ This undoubtedly means that the political future of this country belongs to the likes of Trump/Spence, and it also means that a national stumble into some kind of fascist reality becomes more and more unavoidable. The prospect of a fascist America can no longer be dismissed as nothing more than a shrill and desperate ploy by the moribund left to gain a bit of attention on the national stage before giving up the ghost of revolutionary progressivism once and for all.

So we must each ask ourselves and each other is this the start of the Second Civil War or just one more bloody walk in the woods?

 
 
  
Richard Falk is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University where he taught for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He initiated this blog partly in celebration of his 80th birthday. 
 
Falk is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” He has been variously criticized by U.S. ambassador Susan Rice and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon for his positions on Israel and the September 11 attacks. [Wikipedia]

GERMANS TAKE HISTORIC STANCE AGAINST ARMING DRONES

GERMANS TAKE HISTORIC STANCE AGAINST ARMING DRONES

 

For the first time in history, a national legislative body has taken a position against installing weapons on drones.

 

As reported in the linked Reuters article, German SPD party members have blocked the leasing from Israel of drones that can carry weapons.   http://www.reuters.com/article/germany-defence-drones-idUSB4N1GS015

 

This historic, remarkable decision may be revisited after German elections in September, but for now it stands as a signal victory of concern for human rights and ethics within the German Bundestag and an exemplary position in dramatic contrast to the avoidance of consideration of international human rights law as it applies to drone killing within the United States Congress.

 

The German decision is completely in line with the intent of the linked Roots Action petition that has been circulating since 2013, calling for an international ban on weaponizing drones, and the decision offers hope that other national legislatures will endorse a ban against armed drones.http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6180

 

Here is an article that gives further background on the German developments.https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4980423,00.html

 

A central figure in achieving the German decision is Elsa Rassbach, a German-Anerican anti-war organizer and CODEPINK activist who has over the last several years organized meetings between German politicians and American anti-drone war organizers.

 

Ms. Rassbach asked that the following letters be written to help persuade German parliamentarians to oppose the leasing of droneS that could be armed from Israel:

  1. From Nick Mottern, Coordinator, KnowDrones.com

Dear……….

I understand that there is a proposal before the Bundestag that will lead to the German government leasing from Israel unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, which could be weaponized.

I understand further that Germany may use these drones in Afghanistan.

I am writing you as the Coordinator of the United States website and organizing center KnowDrones.com to urge the defeat of any measure that would authorize the German government to purchase, lease or develop drones that have the capability of carrying weapons of any kind, for the following reasons:

  1. Drone stalking and assassination, as undertaken most widely in the world by the United States, violates international human rights law because these practices violate privacy and long-held principles of due process.  While Germany might not initially decide to arm its drones, the possession of drones with the capability to be armed will expose Germany to international criticism for being willing to participate in drone killing and will almost inevitably lead to the arming of the drones given the likely pressure by the United States to join it in drone killing.

I say likely pressure because, as you know, the United States is having difficulty keeping drone operators and so is having a hard time meeting the demand for drone attacks in the various theaters in which it has chosen to be at war, now covering at least seven nations.

Even if the German drones do not carry weapons Germany will be under suspicion of drone killing because it will be participating with the United States in drone activities, and the United States is notorious for its failure to tell the truth about its drone operations.

  1.   The United States first started drone killing in 2001 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan appears to have experienced more U.S. drone attacks than any other nation, according to statistics provided by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  The Bureau reports that, as of the date of this letter, the minimum number of confirmed U.S. drone attacks there was 2,214 with a total death toll of up to 3,551. 

 This is a dramatic underestimate of U.S. drone killing in Afghanistan, however, since the Bureau only began keeping these statistics in January of 2015.  The German television service ZDF estimated in their 2015 Webstory “Drohnen:Tod aus der Luft” that between 2001 and 2013 no less than 13,026 people were killed by drones in Afghanistan (based on data provided by U.S. Central Command, CENTCOM, and the book “Sudden Justice” by Chris Woods). 

  1. The United States is presumably conducting drone killings to suppress opposition to the government it has established in Afghanistan.  However, judging from the announcement yesterday that the United States will be sending thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, it appears that the military effectiveness of the United States drone surveillance and killing campaign in Afghanistan must be reevaluated.  Indeed, it is quite likely that the United States drone attacks have led to an increase in the size of the force opposing it, a concern expressed by the former commander of United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. https://www.dawn.com/news/784919/mcchrystal-opposes-drone-strikes

Germany’s use of drones of any kind in Afghanistan will expose it to charges that, rather than simply training Afghan police and troops, it is joining the new United States offensive.

Germany’s use of drones, in and of itself, is likely to increase Afghan anger over German presence and increase risk to German soldiers.

  1.   The United States drone attack campaign, in which Germany will inevitably be seen as participating, is a particularly unsavory part of a larger military campaign to subdue an indigenous force comprised of extremely poor, Muslim people.  I respectfully suggest that the German people may not want to increase their level of participation in this ignominious endeavor.

You will find supporting material for the points above at KnowDrones.com.

Thank you very much for considering this letter. 

Sincerely,

Nick Mottern – Coordinator – KnowDrones.com

 

  1. From Ed Kinane – Counter drone war organizer, Upstate (NY) Drone Action.

Dear……….

I write hoping you will do all you can to stop the plan of the German government to make Germany into a killer-drone nation like the United States. I understand that this plan, to be voted on in the Bundestag by the end of June, includes immediately leasing weaponized drones from Israel…while at the same time developing a European killer drone.

I also hope that you will do all you can within the Bundestag to remove the U.S. military from bases in Germany. My particular concern is with the base at Ramstein. Ramstein plays a key role in facilitating the U.S. drone war on so many peoples to your east, including in Afghanistan.

Admittedly I know little about political practice and reality in Germany (a country I have fond memories of, having lived on the U.S. military Caserne at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the early eighties). But I do know that Germany, thanks to its hospitable spirit has become a beacon to many abroad who have lost their homes and land and livelihood. Like many U.S. citizens I am grateful that the Bundestag has been investigating the U.S. drone program in Germany that fuels the global refugee crisis.

We know that the U.S. weaponized drone program afflicting several Mideast and West Asian countries is leading to many non-combatant fatalities. Further, the MQ9 Reaper drone, triumphantly called “Hunter/Killer” by the Pentagon, terrorizes whole communities in the Islamic oil lands. Surely such terror contributes to the flood of refugees from those nations now desperately pressing on the gates of Germany and other nations near and far.

Further I believe that the U.S. drone war, while tactically clever, is strategically counterproductive. Not only is it leading to what I call “defensive proliferation,” but it almost inevitably must lead to enormous ill will toward the U.S. and to the West generally. That hostility will have consequential reverberations –- blowback — for any nation perceived as a U.S. ally. Surely a German killer drone program would also cause untold non-combatant fatalities and would generate hatred for Germany in the targeted regions.

You may well ask: who is this Ed Kinane who presumes to address you? In 2003 I spent five months in Iraq with  Voices in the Wilderness (a mostly-U.S. NGO, now suppressed). I was in Bagdhad before, during and after the several weeks of “Shock and Awe.” I know firsthand the aerial terrorism of the Pentagon’s overseas interventions and invasions.

In 2009 when I learned that Hancock Air Force Base – almost within walking distance of my home in Syracuse, New York – was becoming a hub for the MQ9 Reaper drone attacks in Afghanistan, I was shaken. Along with others here in Upstate New York I felt that if we (who live near this hub for the 174th Attack Wing of the New York National Guard) don’t speak out against this shameful, cowardly, illegal, inhumane way of waging warfare, who else would?

In its public relations efforts to win over the local civilian community, the then Hancock commander bragged in our local daily newspaper (the Syracuse Post-Standard, www.syracuse.com) that Hancock remotely pilots weaponized Reapers over Afghanistan “24/7.” It’s likely that the Hancock Reaper may also attack targets in North Waziristan (if not elsewhere) as well.

In 2010 here in New York State grassroots activists formed the Upstate Drone Action (sometimes also known as Ground the Drones and End the Wars Coalition). We were keenly aware that, according to the post-World War Two Nuremburg Principles, we each – especially those among us who paid federal taxes – bore responsibility for the actions of our government. Hardly being in a position to physically impede the Pentagon’s predations on other countries, we realized that at least here we could help expose those actions to the general public…and help awaken the consciences of Hancock personnel. These personnel typically are very young and live within a military cocoon, cut off from direct communication with us.

Via conventional activist tactics – rallies, leafleting, letter and article writing, street theater, vigiling, lobbying our Congressional representatives, multi-day marches, etc. – Upstate Drone Action has sought to share with the public our distress. Since 2010 a handful of us have vigiled across the road from Hancock’s main entrance at the afternoon shift change on the first and third Tuesday of every month. In the years since 2010 we have also blocked Hancock’s main gate a dozen or so times. Our scrupulously nonviolent blockades have led to my own and roughly 200 other arrests. These have led to many trials and some incarcerations.

Upstate Drone Action has not been the only grassroots group protesting U.S. drone warfare. Similar, mutually inspiring campaigns have been mounted at Beale Airbase in California, Creech Airbase in Nevada, and other bases across the U.S. With a kind of relentless persistence these direct actions keep recurring despite police and judicial attempts to deter us.

Let’s be clear: what we do isn’t civil disobedience, but rather civil resistance. After all, we aren’t disobeying the law; we seek to enforce the law. In many of our direct actions we attempt to present “People’s Indictments” to the base. In these documents we cite not only the Nuremburg Principles, but also the U.N. Charter and other international law and treaties that the U.S. has signed. We also cite Article Six of the U.S. Constitution which declares that these treaties are the highest law of our land. Those among us religiously motivated also cite the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Having lived and worked in Islamic lands, I am also motivated by what I perceive is the Islamophobia of U.S. military policy – akin to the racism that so plagues our civilian society. Currently, the primary target of U.S. aerial terrorism is the people and communities and regions identified as Islamic.

 I could cite statistics regarding the untold victims of drone attacks. I could cite the number of those attacks – steeply escalating with each new U.S. president (Bush/Obama/Trump). I could provide estimates of the millions of refugees displaced from not only their communities, but from their nations. Frankly such numbers leave me numbed. I cannot fathom them.

Instead, with apologies for not writing to you in German, let me cite just one text among many (see attached bibliography of English language sources) that have helped shape my understanding of the drone scourge: the Stanford and New York Universities’ 165-page, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan” (2012). I encourage you to seek out this deeply human yet rigorously documented report at http://livingunderdrones.org/.

I write to you today, not only with urgency, but with desperation. Too many U.S. people — and their Congressional representatives, regardless of party — see the U.S. drone wars as somehow making the U.S. safer. In fact the opposite is true. My hope is that Germany will not follow the Pentagon’s lead and that Germany will end its current collaboration with that entity’s global war of terror. Any nation, especially a highly nuclearized superpower, possessing the means to assassinate any person and any leader anytime, anywhere only increases global precarity and undermines its own national soul. That nation does not need allies who facilitate its barbarity.

Sincerely,

Ed Kinane

 

 

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